Changing Discourses of Popular Music Stardom
GO TO OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR MORE INFO on our recent conference:
History of Stardom Reconsidered
A three day
conference organized by the
speakers: Professor Richard Dyer (
Online proceedings book forthcoming.
During the conference a new institute was established. Please visit the link for International Institute for Popular Culture (IIPC).
This research project deals with the relationship between the star phenomenon and popular music. The main questions of the project are: How is popular music stardom constructed at specific historical moments? What kind of meanings popular music stars incorporate? Stardom is characterised by different media-oriented public actions which form a web-like texture. The project calls this discursion the starnet. In order to understand traditions and changes in this discursion, as well as the triumph of stardom in the latter part of twentieth-century, the project produces three studies. Docent Kari Kallioniemi examines the democratization of eccentricism in British stardom and popular music. MA Kimi Kärki focuses on Anglo-American stage designing and the multifaceted relationship between “stadium rock stardom” and technology. Dr Janne Mäkelä explores how Finland’s quest for international popular music stardom in the late twentieth-century was connected to globalisation processes and national identity. Kallioniemi and Mäkelä have acquired partial funding for their sub-projects.
The research project will have its
domain in the Department of Cultural History (
Tutkimusprojekti tarkastelee 1900-luvun jälkipuoliskon tähti-ilmiön ja populaarimusiikin välistä suhdetta. Pääkysymykset ovat: Millä tavoin tähteys rakentuu tiettyinä historiallisina aikoina? Millaisia merkityksiä tähtiin sisältyy populaarimusiikin kentällä? Tähteyttä määrittävät erilaiset medioihin liittyvät julkiset toiminnat, jotka muodostavat verkkomaisen rakennelman. Tutkimusprojekti kutsuu tätä diskurssia tähtiverkoksi (starnet). Projekti lähestyy tähtidiskurssiin liittyviä traditioita ja muutoksia ja tutkii tähteyden voittokulkua 1900-luvun jälkipuoliskolla kolmen eri tutkimuksen kautta. Dosentti Kari Kallioniemi tutkii eksentriyden demokratisoitumista brittiläisessä tähteydessä ja populaarimusiikissa. FM Kimi Kärki keskittyy angloamerikkalaisen lavasuunnittelun, stadionrocktähteyden ja teknologian väliseen suhteeseen. FT Janne Mäkelä tutkii, miten 1900-luvun lopun suomalaisessa populaarimusiikissa kansainvälisen tähteyden pakkomielle kytkeytyi globalisaatioprosesseihin ja kansalliseen identiteettiin. Kallioniemellä ja Mäkelällä on jo osarahoitusta.
Tutkimusprojektia johdetaan Turun yliopiston kulttuurihistorian oppiaineesta. FT Mäkelän tutkimuspaikkana on Helsingin yliopiston Renvall-instituutti. Merkittävimmät ulkomaiset yhteistyötahot ovat International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), Manchester Institute for Popular Culture ja Institute of Popular Music (University of Liverpool). Suomalaisista tahoista tärkeimmät ovat Renvall-instituutti, Turun yliopiston mediatutkimus ja Suomen etnomusikologinen seura. Projektilla on kansainvälinen ohjausryhmä, johon kuuluu kuusi populaarikulttuurin tutkijaa: Martin Cloonan (University of Glasgow), Richard Dyer (University of Warwick), Bruce Johnson (University of New South Wales), Helmi Järviluoma (Turun yliopisto), Vesa Kurkela (Sibelius-Akatemia) ja Justin O?Connor (Manchester Institute for Popular Culture). Projekti tuottaa yhden väitöskirjan, kaksi monografiaa, artikkeleita kv. kausijulkaisuihin sekä artikkelikokoelman, jonka tekemiseen osallistuvat myös kulttuurihistorian ja Renvall-instituutin jatko-opiskelijat.
Dr., Docent of the History of Popular Culture, Kari Kallioniemi: Eccentricism and the Democratisation of Popular Music Stardom
That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of our time. (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859)
Eccentric behaviour has often been seen as deviating from conventional or established form of behaviour. In short, eccentrics have been perceived as “odd”, as different from the majority of the people. The Oxford English Reference Dictionary defines eccentricity as capriciousness and whimsicality. Eccentric people are impulsive and puerile. Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases associates eccentricism with madness and fanaticism, closely relating it to religious or political fundamentalism. In this sense, an eccentric is a nonconformist, fanatic or extremist, whose actions are directed by obsession, infatuation and monomania.
Therefore, eccentricism has been perceived either as a positive, forthright enthusiasm, closely linked with creativity and performance; or negatively, an ‘alien’, or ‘other’ characteristic. Traditionally, the eccentric has been viewed in diverse terms, as a lunatic/village idiot on one hand, or an aristocratic collector, inventor or explorer on the other. The latter has often been associated with the individualistic feats in English self-definition. This view has also often been superimposed on popular music and rock stardom, where eccentricity is used in defining the extremities, arrogant bohemianism and authenticity of a (rock) star.
It could be argued, that this historical and previously privileged trait of eccentricism is now widely displayed in our popular/mass culture. It could be noted that in twentieth-century modernity the eccentric has been commodified. At the same time, our modernity is the inverse of the Baudelairean notion of modernity: eccentricity has been made into a self-evident value within popular culture and consumption.
Docent Kallioniemi’s main question in this sub-project is: what does the democratization of eccentricism/bohemianism mean in terms of popular music stardom? Does the transformation of eccentricity from the privileged trait to commodified quotidian celebrity culture also mean the radical renegotiation of our experience and understanding of stardom? Kallioniemi will look at this in detail in case studies which will deal with the history of popular music stardom and its changing relationship to the notions of eccentricity and bohemianism.
will produce a series of articles and a quality monograph on the subject by
the end of year 2007. Heslingin Sanomain
100-vuotissäätiö has granted him a one-year stipend (August 2004-July 2005)
for the study period in
Phil. Lic. Kimi Kärki: Reconstructing Stadium Stardom Aesthetics: Stage Performance Designing in Anglo-American Popular Music, 1965-2001
Indeed, most stadium
concerts are now accompanied by simultaneous video replay onto large screens.
Attending a live performance by a pop megastar these days is often roughly
the experience of listening to prerecorded music (taped or sequenced) while
watching a small, noisy TV set in a large, crowded field. (Goodwin, Andrew:
Sample and Hold. Pop Music in the Digital Age of Reproducing. Orig. Critical
Quarterly 30 (3) 1988. In On Record. Rock, Pop, and the Written Word. Ed. by
Simon Frith & Andrew Goodwin. Routledge:
Rock music performance has gone through massive changes since its beginning in the Anglo-American club-circuit. In the 1960s and 1970s, cultural changes were combined with growing technological possibilities, which brought strong visual and theatrical elements in rock performances. Rock spectacles grew together with performing venues, and the mass-audience’s potential as a consumer of rock was realised by the recording industry. The use of gigantic venues changed rock performances into total(itarian) mass-art, in which rock stardom was preserved and created by technological means and clever use of nostalgic elements. Aesthetics of the stadium spectacle has developed from this need to exaggerate and fortify audiovisual gestures and narratives through technology.
To examine this change in audiovisual stadium stardom, Mr. Kärki focuses on the history of Anglo-American stage designing through three primary examples, namely Pink Floyd (U.K.), The Rolling Stones (U.K.), and U2 (Ireland). Their performances are excellent examples of audiovisual ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ , a unified work of art, in which the music and visual presentation intertwine. An important unifying factor between these seminal ‘stadium groups’ is British stage designer and architectural engineer Mark Fisher. He is one of the most experienced and utilized stadium spectacle designers who has planned stages for Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, U2, R.E.M., Cher, Jean-Michael Jarre, among others, and the Millennium Dome opening spectacle.
Pink Floyd, being one of the forerunners of audiovisual rock-performance, were in the beginning a psychedelic band with cult reputation; later – since the 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon – they became one of the biggest stadium scale attractions. Since its formation, Pink Floyd has been recognised as an unconventional rock group in terms of stardom, using the technology of the stadium spectacle to mask the performers and avoid contact with the audience. This applies particularly to their British Winter Tour (1975), In the Flesh tour (1977), and The Wall tour (1980-81), and, to an extent, to A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987-89) and Division Bell (1995) tours. The Rolling Stones, being the longest surviving rock band in the world, have been the embodiment of corporal mass spectacle, particularly with their Steel Wheels (1989), Voodoo Lounge (1994), and Bridges To Babylon (1997) tours. U2 have used the theatrical and technological possibilities of rock performance to provide harsh cultural and political critique against the globalisation processes in Zoo-TV (1992), Pop Mart (1996), and All You Can’t Leave Behind (2001) tours.
This sub-project will discuss how these performers have remained extreme examples of groups using non-musical stage equipment: liquid slides and lights, videos, lasers and gigantic puppets etc. Kärki will analyse these technological innovations and changes in the audiovisual stardom of Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, and U2 from two points of view. First, the groups’ contribution to stadium rock aesthetics; second, their dependence on the new technology. These bands have been perceived both as the embodiment of stadium superstardom and as critics of the modern mass media culture, which paradoxically has created such stardom. Kärki analyses their stage performances as an influential and multifaceted bond between stadium stardom, modern culture, and technology. Since Mr. Kärki has already collected most of his primary sources, he will be able to finish his doctoral thesis in planned time, December 2007.
PhD, Docent of the History of Popular Culture Janne Mäkelä: Almost Famous. The Pursuit of International Fame in Finnish Popular Music Culture, 1961–1999
The starting point for the research is the
idea that the pursuit of international fame played an important role in late
twentieth century Finnish popular music culture. When Bomfunk
MC’s, Darude and HIM
conquered music charts worldwide in 2000, the public reaction in
The study is divided in three parts.
The first part starts from Finland’s first attendance in the Eurovision Song
Contest in 1961 and deals with what
is here called the dream of international fame in the 1960s and the early
1970s. The second part, the desire for international fame between the
mid-1970s and late 1980s, concentrates on expectations and possibilities for
Finnish rock groups to break through outside
Almost Famous: the Pursuit of
International Fame in Finnish Popular Music Culture, 1961–1999 developes arguments that Dr. Mäkelä has presented
in his previous works, particularly in his monograph John Lennon Imagined:
Cultural History of a Rock Star (New York: Peter Lang 2004). He is at the
moment an acting assistant in the Department of Cultural History,
The research project will have its
domain in the Department of Cultural History,
In international co-operation, the most
important link is the IASPM (International Association for the Study of
Popular Music) which had its conference Looking Back, Looking Ahead — Popular Music
Studies 20 Years Later held in
Turku in June 6–10, 2001. In
association with the Departments of Musicology at the
The two other primary international
links include Manchester Institute for Popular Culture (
The research project will be supervised
by an international advisory board, consisting of well-known scholars of
popular culture. The members of the group include Professor Richard Dyer (
As our project deals with the theories
which are familiar, not only to scholars and research teams of popular
In addition to the two above-mentioned
Departments of Musicology in
In May 2005 we arranged a panel seminar which brought some of the above-mentioned parties together to discuss contemporary issues of popular culture studies. This took place under the title "Changing notions of stardom in popular culture".
The future seminars of the project will be predominantly arranged in terms of motivating and expanding post-graduate research in this field.
Our preliminary plan is to organise a three-day IASPM-Norden conference in the autumn 2006, entitled "History of Stardom Reconsidered". See the further information at the beginning of this page.
The project will feature a strict and multifaceted postgraduate study and writing programme for Mr. Kärki, who is supervised by the advisory board of the project, as well as by docent Kallioniemi. Docent Kallioniemi and Dr. Mäkelä will actively supervise post-graduate students, while fellow researcher Kärki will teach popular culture studies in undergraduate level.