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Practical matters How to find us M.M. (Melanie) Schiller, Dr

M.M. (Melanie) Schiller, Dr

Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Popular Music
Profielfoto van M.M. (Melanie) Schiller, Dr
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Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe (2018-2022)

As an everyday cultural practice music is intricately tied to self-expression, collective identity, spatial belonging, ethnicity, nationality, and authenticity. Hence, music is central to significant cultural and political transformations such as the recent rise of populism in Europe. In recent years, popular tunes have been increasingly appropriated for populist political ends. At the same time, mainstream sounds with populist messages have gained widespread popularity. However, researchers know very little about how audiences actually receive these musics, which are open to diverse interpretations. In a nutshell, this empirical research project explores the interactions between music and its listeners in a societal context which is increasingly shaped by populisms. To account for the transnational variety of populisms the applicants examine cases from Hungary, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Sweden from a comparative perspective. The project concentrates on the following questions: How does popular music afford populist interpretations across Hungary, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Sweden? How is popular music that affords populist interpretations received at the micro-level in these countries? What are the similarities and differences between the interactions of music and populism across Hungary, Austria, Italy, Germany, and Sweden? In order to address these questions, the applicants combine musicological with sociological methods, including musicological group analysis, field research, narrative interviews, and focus groups. By so doing, they intend to illuminate the cultural underpinnings of a fundamental societal transformation in the European Union. Moreover, whilst they focus on five specific countries, the results will also be relevant for other European polities facing similar challenges. Finally, the insights gained from their investigation will be useful for cultural educators to advance new methods to deal with music's multivocality and build critical awareness of populist cultures.

Popular Music and the Rise of Populism in Europe during the Corona Crisis (Additional Coronal-related funding)

How do populist actors and musicians actively shape new societal conditions through their political and musical responses to the Corona crisis? This module promises much-needed insights into how populist actors and musicians realign their goals and strategies, seeking to establish a hegemonic position in society. Whereas current research on populist responses to Covid-19 focuses primarily on party politics and radical subcultures, this module sheds light on how mainstream music culture helps to forge new populist coalitions and normalize populist ideologies in milieus hitherto distant from populist politics. Through an analysis of the changing political, cultural, and economic context, participant observation in online concerts and populist events, as well as the musicological analysis of "Corona songs", this project module illuminates how the Corona crisis offers new opportunities yet also poses new challenges for the normalization of populist discourses, especially in connection with popular music.

In collaboration with Mario Dunkel (project P.I.) at University of Oldenburg (Germany), Emilia Barna and Ágnes Patakfalvi-Czirják at Budapest University of Technology and Economics (Hungary), Manuela Caiani and Enrico Padoan at Scuola Normale Superiore (Italy), and André Doehring and Kai Ginkel at University of Music and Performing Arts Graz (Austria).

Financed by the Volkswagen Foundation: 

Det är Sverige just idag – from land of the lucky to the assembly of idiots: discourses on contemporary Swedishness in popular music (post-doc project, completed)

In the face of the historically unprecedented scale of immigration in Sweden, questions of (redefining its) national identity seem more urgent than ever. Popular music is one realm where national belonging and narration are contested and performed.

In this research project Schiller investigates what current tropes of Swedishness emerge in popular music and she looks at how contemporary national identity is negotiated, contested and constituted in and through popular music as commodity and social practice. Furthermore Schiller aims to map the popular musical roots of discourses on Swedish identity that are being employed in contemporary sonic narratives of Swedishness.

This 6 months project was carried out at the Swedish Performing Arts Agency with support from Bernadotte-programmet (Kungl. Musikaliska akademien, Konstakademien, Kungl. Vitterhetsakademien, Svenska akademien och Kungl. Gustav Adolfs akademien för svensk folkkultur).

Sound-tracking Germany: 70 years of imagining the nation from Schlager to Techno (PhD project, completed)

In the mid-seventies, Kraftwerk asked, "What is the sound of the German Bundesrepublik?" and answered with their international über-hit "Autobahn". In the eighties, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft [DAF] ordered the dance-obsessed New German Wave youth to "shake your ass and do the Adolf Hitler!" - and caused a national scandal. Twenty years later, Trance superstar DJ Paul van Dyk and Synth Pop singer Peter Heppner celebrated German pride in their anthem "Wir sind Wir", and today—seventy years after the end of World War II and twenty-five years after the German reunification—resident Teutons Rammstein successfully promote sales by having confidently entitled their greatest hits collection Made in Germany. Clearly, the nation has been a central theme in the history of German pop music. But popular music - as commodity and social practice - also plays an important role in the imagination of the nation. By tracking different national narratives throughout seventy years of German pop and across diverse genres like Schlager, Beat, Krautrock, Neue Deutsche Welle, Techno and Heavy Metal, this thesis shows how pop is constituted in and constitutive of discourses of Germanness.

This project was carried out at the dept. of Mediastudies at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), with additional financial support from the Swedish Institute (SI) under the supervision of Jeroen de Kloet and Jaap Kooijman. 

Last modified:25 June 2022 4.39 p.m.