Creating Light Music at the Festival of Song: Politics, Personhood, and Cultural Production in Tirana, Albania (1944-present)

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Tochka, Nicholas
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
Though different orders organize subjects in audibly distinguishable ways, only rarely have ethnomusicologists theorized how musical practice articulates to practices of government. Through a diachronic case study of Tirana, Albania, this dissertation interrogates how the production of popular music has supported the production of popular consent to illiberal regimes both socialist (1944-1992) and capitalist (1992-present). While previous ethnomusicological and musicological studies of eastern bloc musical practice have focused (respectively) on professionalized folk music and concert music, my research examines the composition, performance, and reception of the popular genre "light music" (Alb. muzik?_ e leht?_) at an annual song competition the Festival of Song (Festivali i K?_ng?_s, 1962-present). An eclectic genre blending jazz, Anglo-American pop, Italian song, socialist realist concert music, and folkloric material, light music provided attractive visions of Albanian-ness--and an ideologically "correct" leisure activity--to socialist-era listeners isolated from the rest of the world. Since Albania's transition from socialism in 1992, a privatized music industry has decentralized light music's production, transforming musicians' and listeners' social space as it reinserts them into now-hegemonic "democratic" political projects. While socialism depended on transforming individuals' consciousness to create a "new person" for the "society of the future," Albanian neoliberalism's "return to Europe" today depends on the molding of capitalist subjects. Through archival research and ethnographic fieldwork, I reconstruct a genealogy of Albanian popular music production in order to survey and link the aesthetic-cultural projects of state-funded music intellectuals to the political programs of governing elites. I argue that the musical and cultural projects through which elites have sought to inculcate in individuals successive forms of "modern" personhood, or modes by which one might recognize him- or herself as a national political subject, have functioned as strategies of governance under both socialist and capitalist orders. Linking notions of personhood to processes of state hegemony, this case study parses the relationship between musical practice and post-1945 political-economic structures by combining critical perspectives on governmentality, national cultural policy, and the postwar state.
375 pg.