Menrath - Parafiction in Music (Studies): Performance Ethnography beyond the Practice/Performance Turn


Parafiction in Music (Studies): Performance Ethnography beyond the Practice/Performance Turn

Stefanie Kiwi Menrath


1. Ursula Bogner

The compilation Ursula Bogner Recordings 1969 – 1988 was released in 2008. It contains liner notes, from which one can deduce the following: electronica artist Ursula Bogner was born 1946 and raised in Dortmund; after finishing her studies in pharmacy in Berlin she worked for pharmaceutical producer Schering; in addition to her working life, she developed a keen interest in electronic music and «throughout her early twenties, she followed the activities of Cologne-based "Studio für elektronische Musik", attended seminars by studio founder Herbert Eimert, exhibited great enthusiasm for Musique Concrète and, later on, shared her children's enthusiasm for British New Wave Pop» [Jelinek 2008, 2]. As compiler Jan Jelinek remarked in the liner notes to Ursula Bogner's first CD: «[Ursula Bogner's] obsession with electronic music [...] drove her to build her own studio for extensive recording and experimentation [...] in the parental home [...]. Nevertheless, Ursula Bogner never involved herself in any scene, never made her music public» [Jelinek 2008, 2].

How, then, do we know about Ursula Bogner at all?

«By chance», Berlin-based electronic musician Jan Jelinek met Ursula Bogner's son, Sebastian Bogner on a flight. «The usual small talk soon led to the topic» [Jelinek 2011, 2] of his late mother Ursula, who – it turned out – «also liked to play with synthesizers». And «Sebastian Bogner was generous enough» to grant Jelinek access to the reels and supplied him «with invaluable insights into his mother's life» [Jelinek 2008, 3]. Since then Jelinek has investigated Bogner's archive by releasing her recordings, performing compositions based on Bogner's original notations with fellow musicians, as well as organizing retrospectives of Bogner's interartistic oeuvre in art galleries. In 2011, a second album release of Ursula Bogner's music was compiled by electronic musician Andrew Pekler. The book accompanying this compilation, Sonne = Blackbox, contains additional drawings and printings by Ursula Bogner. The latest output of Ursula Bogner's music Winkel Pong was "edited" by electronic musician Lucrecia Dalt in 2017.

The media reception of the first Ursula Bogner release in 2008 was already dominated by suspicions that she might not have been a historical person. Indeed, Ursula fits (perhaps all too) neatly into an international lineage of innovative female electronic music composers such as Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, and Else Marie Pade – women whose pioneering works from the 1950s onwards have only become widely acknowledged and appreciated within the last fifteen years. Is Ursula Bogner the missing German musician in this line of long "overlooked" woman composers? Do we consider her story plausible and why? What forms of discourse do we conduct about electronic music – in journalism and in academia, in the pop music and in the art music field? Why has, until now, no woman composer made it into the canon of electronic music in Germany?

The Ursula Bogner project addresses blind spots in our knowledge production and in the history of electronic music. However, therein it deliberately maintains certain ambiguities: the historical existence of Ursula Bogner is continually kept in doubt – and has until now not been definitively resolved. This project provokes a series of epistemological destabilizations. As an object of research the Ursula Bogner project eludes any detached investigation: what is fact and what is fiction? It also crosses various fields within the studies of music (and beyond): touching on pop and art music, the social and the political aspects in music, as well as visual art. Where to start?



2. Parafiction

From the perspective of visual culture studies, the Ursula Bogner project belongs to the larger group of parafictions which «is related to but not quite a member of the category of fiction as established in literary and dramatic art. It remains a bit outside. [...] [I]n parafiction, real and/or imaginary personages and stories intersect with the world as it is being lived» [Lambert-Beatty 2009, 54]. Parafictions are produced by artists and activists across various disciplines, and employ both artistic and information media. From among the different strategies for the production of parafictions, I would like to highlight two in particular here, namely collaborative imagination and fake.



3. Fake

The actions of the American artist duo The Yes Men are often described as exemplary of fakes. Their best-known fake consists in a representative of Dow Chemicals appearing for a BBC World interview in 2004, on the twentieth anniversary of the chemical catastrophe in Bhopal/India in which thousands of people had died or became ill without receiving any adequate compensation. The alleged Dow Chemicals representative announced in the BBC television interview that the company was willing to pay the victims a generous compensation (Fig. 1). It then took two hours until the BBC found out they had been misled: it was later revealed that the interviewee was not a Dow representative but a member of The Yes Men. With his expertly chosen jargon and appropriate clothing he had made the world believe for two hours that he held a position of authority at Dow Chemicals and that the company would finally assume its responsibilities.

Through its ultimate disclosure, the fake criticizes a given field's existing rules of discourse and opens up spaces of freedom within power relations. In the case cited above, the public was made aware of what constitutes serious speech and permissible discourse among multinational companies and global journalism. A fake is a deception that is meant to be revealed; this is its definition in art studies and media activism [Römer 2001; autonome a.f.r.i.k.a. gruppe 1997, 65-97]. A specific feature of fakes is their clearly sequential structure: first deception, then some time later disclosure.[1] The Yes Men sent a disclaimer to the press after their appearance on TV.

In the case of fake, the disclosure is intended and planned from the beginning. Indeed, the unveiling itself is constitutive for fake because it is precisely this uncovering that brings about the desired effect: the implicit epistemologies of certain discourses – the regularities of knowledge production – which the discourse agents may take for granted, are exposed. Even if it is only a question of «minimal redesign and image corrections», fakes open a space for manoeuvering to «further questioning the matter-of-course» and «transforming» of power relations [Doll 2012, 415, transl. Menrath].

Menrath – Fig 01

Fig. 1. The Yes Men, Dow Does the Right Thing, 2004. Still from the video The Yes Men Fix the World.

4. Collaborative Imagination

However, the situation with Ursula Bogner is different. Here, the audience is not to be deceived with maximum plausibility for a certain period of time in order to explicate its involuntary imaginations in retrospect. Instead, here the audience imagines knowingly and reflexively, and constantly in doubt about the threshold of reality and fiction.

This is already evident from the press photo that was initially included in the project – an eccentric representation of the person Ursula Bogner raised doubts among some recipients (Fig. 2). To this day, the question of Ursula Bogner's historical existence is kept in a limbo – at festivals where Ursula Bogner's music is presented and interpreted, discussions continue about whether she really did exist or is instead perhaps a collective pseudonym for other artists since her work is being continually "rediscovered" by several musicians. Because participation is voluntary from the perspective of the audience, I call this strategy – in contrast to fake – collaborative imagination.[2]


Menrath – Fig 02

Fig. 2. "Ursula Bogner, 1978". Press photo faitiche 01cd, 2008. Source: Faitiche.

Strategies of parafiction in general work with the help of imaginations and illusions, which are – at some point – laid open or reflected upon. The fake exposes illusions in retrospect, whereas the collaborative imagination uses reflexive imagination from the very beginning – i.e., reflexive imagination practices which are conscious of themselves [Kamper 1986].

Such reflexive imaginations have, nevertheless, to be carefully orchestrated. Parallel to its operations in the media space, the Ursula Bogner project is realized in live performances. Since the Ursula Bogner releases, there have been two different series of performance routines, the specific configurations of which have to be considered. In the first series of performances, the Ursula Bogner project was presented in small galleries or clubs with six (usually including one female) electronic musicians performing an archival Bogner score for six signal generators.[3] The performances did not take place on stage but rather on the floor level, surrounded by the audience and without the use of stage lighting (Figg. 3-4).


Menrath – Fig 03

Menrath – Fig 04

Figg. 3-4. Performance "Ursula Bogner. Schleusen" at the opening of the exhibition "Ursula Bogner. Pluto has a Moon", Laura Mars Gallery, Berlin (11/12/2009).

On these occasions, the suspicion that Ursula Bogner was an imagination arose due to the participating audience having been drawn to the event by music- and art-specific media, which had included information about the doubts and suspicions in their announcement of the performance. In fact, a role reversal between audience and producers was incited: participants began to spin the Ursula Bogner story further, with one (elderly) gallery visitor even reporting to Gundula Schmitz, the curator of Laura Mars Gallery in Berlin, to "very probably" have met with Ursula Bogner in the 1960s at the "Studio für elektronische Musik" in Cologne [Schmitz 2010].

This collaborative Bogner live production was also realized within larger electronic music context, such as for example the CTM Festival (2010) in Berlin. Here, the performers appeared before an audience whose members in most cases had no prior knowledge of the Ursula Bogner back-story. In the context of music festivals one finds diverse spectatorial communities, whose members are informed about the events to widely varying degrees and therefore may not be aware of the suspicions that have circulated in connection with Bogner's name.

In the live productions following the second Bogner release from 2011 audiences were provided with more background information: besides images of Bogner herself, imagery of index card material, drawings and contextual information was presented in a slide-show projected behind the two electronic musicians Jan Jelinek and Andrew Pekler (Figg. 5-6). Live footage of their improvisation with what was advertised as «Bogner's original tape loops» was also projected in close-up on a second screen next to the musicians (Fig. 7).


Menrath – Fig 05

Menrath – Fig 06

Figg. 5-6. Jan Jelinek & Andrew Pekler performing Sonne = Black Box. Voice and tape music by Ursula Bogner at Haus der Kulturen der Welt Berlin (03/12/2011).


Menrath – Fig 07

Fig. 7. Bogner's performance at Künstlerhaus Friese Hamburg (26/10/2011), slide & reconstructed tape loops.

In such a laboratory-like setting, the discrepancies and the mediatedness of Bogner's biography become apparent to an attentive concert audience (and even more readily, to media-informed, already suspicious attendees of galleries and club spaces). Yet, for the broader, more heterogeneous audiences watching a performance on the large festival stages, the discrepancies are more likely to be indecipherable.[4] Without carefully addressing its diverse spectatorial communities, the ironic quotations in the Bogner live performance run the risk of simply re-inscribing or reinforcing the «very representations [they] supposedly deconstruct» [Auslander 1992, 23]. Because the "imaginary" has both a productive and a reproductive side [Kamper 1986, 71], imagination is not only an anthropological capacity of creatively making appear a new image of something that neither is or was [Castoriadis 1990 (1975), 218], it is also a negotiation with the vast archive of images and socially shared imaginations. Balancing these two sides is a venturous enterprise for the artist producers.

While fakes with their deferred disclosures are epistemologically destabilizing for their recipients only in retrospect, collaborative imaginations aim to transgress the distinction between producers and recipients for a more inclusive form of knowledge production from the very beginning. Fakes reveal an illusion to a formerly “passive” audience. Collaborative imaginations aim to provide a platform for participatory knowledge production by their audience. Therefore, collaborative imaginations are more likely to activate and involve audiences for reflecting on their own involvement in the construction process of imaginations.

In one way or another, parafictions are epistemologically destabilizing.[5] Yet notably, parafictions not only target art or music audiences but also scholarly and journalistic discourse itself. Being powerful institutions of knowledge production in music, whose methodologies and vocabularies have social, political and ideological implications for art and music practices, journalism and academia are prime targets for parafiction projects. Prominent examples for projects targeting journalistic discourse are mockumentaries – such as This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984) or Fraktus – Das letzte Kapitel der Musikgeschichte (Larss Jessen et al., 2012)[6] – which openly mimic the pop journalism discourse of ingenuity, individual authorship and superlativity. That pop music itself regularly fictionalizes the identities of musician artists with the (inter-medial) pop/musical persona [Frith 1996, 205; Auslander 2004, 2006], has also been addressed by projects such as anonymous art pop band The Residents or virtually-animated concept band Gorillaz [cf. Kelly 2007]. Electronic pop music in particular has a long history of anonymity practices challenging the journalist-industrial urge of marketing music via the identities of the musicians [Hesmondhalgh 1998; Cookney 2015].

Besides these examples that predominantly target journalistic discourse, the activist dimension of parafiction also challenges art and music scholarship. Such a challenge on epistemological and even ontological terrain has nevertheless remained relatively untouched in music studies so far, despite many alleged turns to practice and performance.


5. Sonne = Blackbox

In musicology Georgina Born [2010, 213ff.] has diagnosed a continually «halting state of affairs» in questioning the given epistemological and ontological foundations of the discipline.[7] The Ursula Bogner project, with its intrinsic inter- and transdisciplinarity, calls for a more adventurous turn: not only is the proper object of (music) research called into question, but also its scientific methodologies.

In the Ursula Bogner material itself one finds many allusions to processes of research: an Ursula Bogner archive is mentioned as a place of material collection and exploration for the compilers; allusions are made to personal contacts with Ursula Bogner's contemporaries for the purpose of collecting material and information.[8] The second Ursula Bogner compilation, Sonne = Blackbox, contains liner notes which present parts of this "research process" (Fig. 8).[9] Here, the compiler Andrew Pekler goes on at length about how he excavated the «recording notes that accompanied some of the tape reels» [Pekler 2011, 114], which Ursula Bogner used «not only for technical notes but also to jot down fragmentary ideas, associations and perhaps the sources of inspiration for the music on the tapes» [ibid.], as well as index cards from a filing system «which [Ursula Bogner] used to record thoughts, concepts, text fragments and word games» [ibid., 116]. The photographs of these recording notes and the index cards are reproduced in the book that accompanies the CD as an extended form of liner notes (Fig. 9). Parts of this archive including the index cards box have also been displayed in galleries and other art spaces in the context of exhibitions of Ursula Bogner's work (Fig. 10).


Menrath – Fig 08

Fig. 8. Ursula Bogner, Sonne = Black Box, faitiche 05, CD + Book, Maas Media Verlag, Vol. 43, 2011.


Menrath – Fig 09

Fig. 9. Andrew Pekler, Trabant recording notes & tape reel 1970, liner notes to Sonne = Black Box [Pekler 2011, 12].


Menrath – Fig 10

Fig. 10. Ursula Bogner, Filing system of index cards, exhibited at Laura Mars Gallery, Berlin, 2008.

The process of research evoked in the Ursula Bogner documents clearly does not conform to positivist models. Jelinek [2011, 6] himself states in the introduction to the book: «Whoever is looking for information about the "true" identity of Ursula Bogner in these opening remarks will be disappointed»; and he declares that «no texts have been selected to verify her identity in this volume», as this would be a reduced selective approach, namely the «establishment of truth».

Nevertheless, the post-positivist approach taken here seems to also go decidedly beyond an ideological critique of positivist discourse. While an ideology-critical mockery, such as a fake, would set up an act of revealing that draws a clear line between a (solitary) agent of a critical disclosure – the subject of knowledge – and an audience that merely "receives" the disclosed knowledge, collaborative imagination establishes other forms of relationship between individual and collective by enabling new forms of knowledge practice.[10] A fake may introduce a reflexivity, yet adheres to a practice – however self-critical – of representation. By contrast, the Ursula Bogner project seems to be aiming for a transgression of representation.

The process of research is presented in the Sonne = Blackbox book as a decidedly polyphonical endeavour by established experts from the field including texts by the blogger Momus, by the musicians compiling Ursula Bogner's musical work, by a curator who exhibited Ursula Bogner's drawings and photographic work as well as by cultural theorists. As editor of the book, Jelinek [2011, 8] also stresses that since Ursula Bogner's biography has become «a data stream of countless alternative narratives [...] [, i]n the end one can only hope that in the future speculations will continue to encircle Ursula Bogner's identity». A collaborative effort is established by transgressing the borders of fictionality and factuality, yet without resorting to a further demarcation between subjects of knowledge and their objects. The Bogner book oscillates between the factual and the fictional by "mockumenting" (fabricating the musician Bogner in the manner of documentation, curatorial contextualisation and theoretisation), but also by "mystifying" (itself functioning as part of a work that invents and fictionalizes its own author). Thus, the book documents the amount of "knowledge" about the "object" Bogner, which is only produced in the process of reading and receiving the book itself.

In other words, the object here does not exist without the process of research and its (social, political, cultural or institutional) mediations. This is a pointed way of addressing the question of what music is (and therefore what will be studied) which is so hotly debated between the subdisciplines of music studies. «[T]he ontological assumption that "music's" core being has nothing to do with the "social" [...] [and] that the appropriate focus in music scholarship is self-evidently on the "music itself"» [Born 2009, 208] is a dualism profoundly based in classical musicology, while popular music studies, the sociology of music, as well as cultural studies of music and anthropology are more open to adressing music as immanently social or cultural.[11] Nevertheless, all of these musical disciplines fall short of acknowledging the knowledge practices of (music) scholars themselves as social acts. With the Ursula Bogner project, discussions on the ontological status of the music object are reduced to absurdity and led back to the question of epistemology: how does music studies constitute its object of research?


6. The epistemological critique of parafiction

Activist problematization of the ontological status of music is nevertheless not exclusively limited to artistic practice; it can also occasionally be found in the academic realm. Beginning in the twentieth century, music-reference works such as encyclopedias and dictionaries sometimes included so-called nihilartikels – incorrect entries on fictitious objects, deliberately submitted by adventurous authors or even by members of the editorial staff themselves. David Fallows [2001] surveyed such nihilartikels (nihil = "nothing", Lat.) in an entry he named "Spoof Articles" in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 7.[12] In historical music-reference books one finds, for example, articles on the fictitious "Otto Jägermeier" [see Gaub 2003],[13] "Guglielmo Baldini", "Dag Henrik Esrum-Hellerup" or "P.D.Q. Bach" [Fallows 2001]. One can only speculate on the motivation of spoof articles' authors; musicologists producing such articles for a music dictionary might aim to criticize a disputable review system or the superficiality of knowledge presented in encyclopadias (which in turn might put the musicologists' own rigorous academic work in a better light) [Fallows 2001]. Yet, through a fake entry about a non-existent person, the text's author or subject not only generates an "object" of the text, but the author also performs or comes into being in the text itself. Music-reference books are written for an academic readership, and the entries and articles always conclude with the contributors' names or initials. It might be an extraordinary motivation for someone to submit and see a fake article printed, since its disclosure is capable of revealing not only the universalist ideology of neutral and objectivist encyclopedia language as such, but also the performative character of personality itself – the fictitious person's personality as much as the encyclopedia author's her/himself.[14] It can be argued that these articles also serve to deconstruct precisely the musicologists' own subject positions and make the performative and medial nature of the self apparent. Presenting oneself as a trickster to one's academic peers destabilizes musicologists' authority in several dimensions as this not only puts the rhetoricity of academic texts in general on display but also calls into question the assumed coherence of the academic (author) subject. Multiple-use names from other fields of theory, such as for example Hakim Bey, Nicolas Bourbaki or Luther Blissett already provide compatible scenarios for a more collective knowledge production.


7. Music as practice and performance

Parafictions such as Ursula Bogner or fake entries in music encyclopedias might move us to consider a more radical performative turn than the one we have seen in the existing practice and performance turn in music studies.

In the 1990s, when the prevailing concept of "music as text" in studies of music drew criticism for being limited to authored works [Goehr 1992], and to the expertise of those who could decode their semiotics [deNora 2000, 21 ff.], the linguistic and cognitive focus of music studies, inherited from nineteenth-century formulations of musicology was challenged by approaches which focussed on musical "practices" and musical "experiences" [Finnegan 2003]. While this focus on musical activities rather than works or texts manifested itself within music sociology in a terminology of musical "practices", music-oriented cultural studies centred on a terminology of "performance" [see Cook 2003]. Frith [1996] and Cook [1995-1996; 2001; 2003], focussing on popular and classical music respectively,[15] were at the forefront of a performance studies-inspired turn within music studies towards a conception of music as performance. Crucially, performance here is not a reproduction of something [Cook 2003, 204-205] but music itself is understood as performance-oriented practice in and of itself. With this ontological transformation from text to event, the emphasis turned onto the performative act over the textual work and onto process over product.

To me, the performance approach suggests two perspectival transformations: from work to event and from work to process. However, scholars engaging with performance in music tend to concentrate on performance as a practical activity, and/or on empirical approaches to discrete performance events in real time, or recordings of performance events. What Georgina Born [2010] has criticized in the (sociological) practice turn holds equally true for the (cultural studies) performance turn in music studies: it abstains from engaging with the genuinely pressing epistemological and ontological questions of music studies. The lens of practice or performance is narrowed down to perspectives on the micro-social of events and the social relations within music, while leaving the conception of music as such and as a distinct object intact. Music might no longer be addressed as a text, but it is still considered a concrete, easily discernible empirical object: now often a live event or the recording of an event serves as unit of investigation. The emphasis on a concrete event – where music self-evidently is performance – often abets obsolete, positivist empiricisms and leaves the entanglement of a music event within wider social, political and cultural processes of production, mediation and distribution of music mostly out of the picture. Even popular music "objects" are approached with such a micro-oriented framework [see Cook 2003, 204-210; Inglis 2006; Kelly 2007; Pattie 2007].[16] Furthermore, performance-oriented music studies tend to emphasize the role of performing individuals, as when Philip Auslander professes a "performer-centric" paradigm [Auslander 2006, 103; see also Auslander 2004].[17]

The practice and performance turn in music studies has basically neglected the second important perspectival transformation of the performance approach: from work to process. Leaving the macro-social and the «large-scale political, economic, institutional and cultural processes that condition musical experience» [Born 2010, 219] out of the framework, also obscures other important «sources of renewal in music scholarship: those from the social sciences and history, their methodologies and theoretical resources» [ibid., 230]. Strategies and conceptualizations from music and artistic practice itself (for example parafictions) might be considered just such another source of renewal.


8. Performance Ethnography

For an intensification of the performance turn in music studies I suggest considering an approach from cultural anthropology: the perspective of "performative anthropology", which since the 1970s has established performance not only as a subject of study but «as a method by which research [itself] would be conducted» [Salter 2010, xxiv-xxv].

Descending itself from critical ethnography, performative anthropology led to the development of a "performative science" approach at the core of which is the assertion that science does not neutrally represent a pre-given reality but also enacts this reality by the very performance of scholarly practice. Reminiscent of both post-positivist and ethnomusicological disputes surrounding the possibility of detached observation [e.g. Cook 2008], the performative science approach has parallels within music studies in historical analysis positions that question the possibility of a «central point of intelligibility» or an undisputedly «privileged position of the spectator» [Korsyn 1999, 65]. Approaches inspired by performative science ultimately differ from traditional ethnomusicological approaches in so far as the former,[18] instead of aiming for an ultimately objective understanding of musico-cultural practices, take into equal consideration what Bohlman [1993, 432] called «the descriptive and prescriptive act of musical analysis», and the insight, which Born [2010, 205] announced as inevitable: «The production of knowledge about music is, of course, performative [...]: it acts, both reflecting and forming our musical values, practices and institutions». Understanding scholarly acts themselves as performative generates both new "objects" of research and new methods. The former are addressed in reflexive interrogations of music scholarship – its historical formation and institutions,[19] the performativity of its discursive acts [cf. Horner 2008] and the relationality of its various subdiscplines [cf. Born 2010]. The latter potentially skews scholarship towards activism.

Performance ethnography of anthropological provenance has advocated such an activist orientation since at least the 2000s. According to Conquergood [2002, 152], in performance ethnography the scholar engages in a triad of theory, analysis and activity. This notably includes an application of performance as activity or intervention by the researcher her/himself.[20] Activist Performance Ethnography challenges the prevailing subject-object-dichotomy of scholarly inquiry by focussing on collaboration. In the case of ethnography, this means collaboration with the former "object", i.e. subjects of "other cultures" under study. Rather than providing a distanced, objective, authoritative analysis of musical practices, the analyst can stress her/his personal participation in the generation of meaning and thus collapse the binary opposition between ethnographer and her/his "objects" into an understanding of «co-performers» [Madison 2005, 168]. For one thing, this "performance ethnography" operation of co-performance as a method of cultural inquiry resulted in «dialogical performance» [Conquergood 1982, 9] as a dialogue-oriented research design for the conduct of field conversations and interviews. Most importantly, it resulted in the imperative for the scholar to engage and act.


9. Collaborative imagination in music studies

The second Ursula Bogner compilation from 2011, with its copious liner notes (a 126-page book!), also makes reference to empirical, ethnography-oriented research. The extended liner notes are characteristic of music collections that compile ethnic, gendered and historical musics – compilations of the type that in pop music have enjoyed increasing popularity since the 2000s. These kinds of compilation projects focussing on musics of the past and musics of the "others" commonly follow a rather "traditional" and "naturalistic" modality of anthropological fieldwork that explores "local", "other" or "former" cultures.[21] Contemporary ethnographic practices, in contrast, develop new strategies for collaborative research and knowledge production [Marcus 2007, 2010]. This includes practices of collaboration that take the form of polyvocality (with para-ethnographers, the former "native" or "local" object of research) or even a bi-focality between fiction and fact (as is typical of projects in spanning art and anthropology). The Ursula Bogner project also suggests such a new scenario of knowledge production about music; here a research object is deliberately (and collaboratively) invented. As I had developed an interest in the Ursula Bogner case, I also became part of this collaboration and submitted texts to the Sonne = Blackbox publication [Menrath 2011a; 2011b]. In these collaborations, self-reflexivity on the limitations of music research becomes externalized and takes a form: the imaginary music object.

Such a collaborative and methodical production of imaginary objects is clearly an experimental form of research and far from a stable or universally applicable methodology. Here, the «commingling of analytical and artistic ways of knowing» [Conquergood 2002, 151] as much as the active engagement of the researcher brings the researcher – as in in any performance ethnography – into the strenuous situation of constantly re-balancing obligations – to the field, to academia, to a wider audience. Approaching the subject of Ursula Bogner brought me as a researcher in the precarious situation that I must constantly ask myself, what Lambert-Beatty [2009, 83] has suggested: «Have I pulled back all the onion-skins of fiction? [...] [M]ust I unveil every aspect of the works I've uncovered, if to do so would damage their future functioning?». The collaborative investigation of imaginary research objects nevertheless might be the adequate form of knowledge production for certain phenomena that – due to a specific sensitivity or ephemerality – require a strong self-reflexivity from the researcher and criticality towards the politics of knowledge production. Parafictions as research objects call for such "minor" forms of research that understand themselves as provisional and precarious: «How much research would be enough?» [Lambert-Beatty 2009, 83].


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[1] Here, my definition of fake differs from the one by Stefan Römer [2001]. In my understanding, which follows the cultural studies scholar Martin Doll [2012], fakes exclusively use a temporal dramaturgy of sequentially following deception and disclosure, and not a synchronical presence of deception and disbelief.

[2] Lambert-Beatty [2009, 71] also differentiates two tendencies in parafiction – one she positions closer to activism (where revelation is key) and one closer to «what is conventionally considered art» (where revelation is either withheld or impossible to provide).

[3] A live recording (excerpt) of Schleusen. Konzert für 6 Signalgeneratoren by Ursula Bogner, performed on 11th December 2009 at Laura Mars Gallery, Berlin, can be found at: https://youtu.be/FY1RPOcCfMM (last accessed: 23/05/2018).

[4] For a critical review of a performance by Ursula Bogner at the international music festival MUTEK (Montreal 2012), see Morgan [2012].

[5] Besides its epistemological impact, the fake is also emotionally destabilizing [Lambert-Beatty 2009, 82 ff.; Zimmermann 2014, 45 ff.] and «ethically risky» [Lambert-Beatty 2009, 66]. For further discussions on the «class[ing]» of the audience [Lambert-Beatty 2009, 79] in fakes, see Menrath [2011a].

[6] See the Fraktus project's website.

[7] Born [2010, 211] suggests intensified agonistic relations between musicology, ethnomusicology, popular music studies, the sociology and psychology of music for an «interdisciplinarity [that] springs form a self-conscious dialogue with, criticism of, or opposition to the [various] limits of the established disciplines, or the status of academic research in general».

[8] For example, Jelinek mentions his personal contact with the Bogner family [Jelinek 2008, 2 ff.] and documents his interview with a Wilhelm Reich scholar on «orgone research» [Jelinek 2011, 90], a field of interest that also fascinated Ursula Bogner. In his liner notes, Jelinek [2008, 3] also refers to the technicalities of accessing the reels.

[9] The liner notes are printed on the back cover of the vinyl edition and come in an extended version with the CD-edition as a 126-page book accompanying the album.

[10] With the notion of "knowledge practice", I draw on culturalizations of concepts of knowledge that have been developed in science studies [Latour 1987; Knorr-Cetina 2002], and on their specific focus on the practices that first of all constitute knowledge formations.

[11] Within popular music studies, the sociality of music has been addressed explicitly and integrally. Nevertheless the turn to "sound" in popular music studies, especially in the case of electronic music, has also brought back a similar dualism [see Menrath 2018 forthcoming].

[12] Fallows [2001] presented his text as an entry on "Spoof Articles", which itself replaces false articles that have circulated and were printed in the New Grove 6 [1980].

[13] Since the 1980s, the Otto Jägermeier Society Berlin e.V. has actively supported the memory of Otto Jägermeier through a conference and other events and activities.

[14] Among fake entries, biographical articles are the most frequent. This might also be due to the fact that the writing style of biographies is often literary and their grand narrative encompassing a small factual basis is deceptively easy to imitate.

[15] See Nicholas Cook [2001] documenting this process of moving from treating music and performance as separate entities to studying music as performance [Auslander 2006, 100, 118].

[16] This is all the more surprising, as music has in pop music studies long been understood as processive – in the sense of its popular and everyday origin as well as of its consecutive production mode and distribution across different media [Toynbee 2000, 55].

[17] Even Christopher Small [1998, 8] might be read as supporting such a reduction of "performance" to the concrete activity of "performers", when arguing for an inversion of the musicological matrix by advocating an orientation towards individual subjects: «Performance does not exist in order to present musical works, but rather, musical works exist in order to give performers something to do».

[18] Blacking [1987, 3] for example points out the centrality of performance in the field of ethnomusicology when understanding it as «a method, rather than an area of study» and «an approach to understanding all musics and music-making in the contexts of performance». However, what interests him is not the performance of the analyst but what «composers, performers and listeners bring to what they define as musical situations».

[19] For a review of inventive work in this direction, see Born [2010, 225 ff.].

[20] Conceptions of performance ethnography that stem from music studies or ethnomusicology, in contrast, lack such an element: "Performance ethnography" in these musical performance studies incorporates (live) performance participation as method of analysis (for example, live music performance as research technique) [see Krüger 2008], it may include composing, musical performance, ethnographic writing and ethnographic film making [Krüger 2009, 161], but – again – reduces the notion of performance to a "real-time" event and therefore lacks deeper consideration of the processual/social and performative dimension of the researcher’s activity or intervention.

[21] Such liner notes typically contain the biography of the rediscovered musician or the history of the scence or musical culture that is documented, a personal history of how the compiler gained access to the material and sometimes technicalities about the compilation process.



Copyright (c) 2018 Stefanie Kiwi Menrath

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