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date: 05 June 2020

(p. ix) Preface to Volume 1

(p. ix) Preface to Volume 1

It is a rather commonplace notion that the early twenty-first century is the era of “mobility.” We are told, over and over, that the world is “on the move,” that it is “in motion,” and that it is perpetually “in flux.” Indeed, the mobility trope is so pervasive that it has, in many senses, ceased to function as a persuasive referent or descriptor, its specificity gobbled up by the vast range and innumerable instances of its employment.

Why “mobility” then? It is precisely the ubiquity of the term that provides an opening for research, allowing scholars to reframe and reimagine many kinds of inquiry. Such ubiquity, moreover, neatly dovetails with conspicuous and even alarming transformations in the material world. The so-called mobile device has become a basic fact and near-necessity of contemporary modernity, and it is hard to imagine everyday life without some link to services or products that are deemed “mobile.” All manner of human activity—the way we walk, talk, create, consume, love, listen—is increasingly tracked along and through various trajectories of movement and, indeed, is very often redefined by movement. The motion of humans is mirrored by and tethered to other forms of motion: that of informational signals via the telecommunications system, of bulky commodities threading value chains that crisscross the world’s transportation networks, of social and political forms and practices born in one place and quickly adopted and adapted in others.

This, the first volume of the Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies, takes as its gambit the idea that there occurred an important shift in the mobilization of music and sound over the course of a long century, one extending from the rise of new sound reproduction technologies in the late nineteenth century to the digital moment of the early twenty-first. Music has been mobile since time immemorial; sound is mobile by definition. In the present dispensation, both music and sound are bound up with ideologies of mobility (read: cosmopolitanism, free-market economics, globalization) and ideologemes of mobility (read: “freedom,” “fluidity,” “flexibility,” “ubiquity,” “instantaneity,” “constant contact,” and various imaginaries of traveling—globetrotting, journeying, expeditioning, touring). The ideologic and ideologemic coalesce in master marketing tropes such as “anytime, anywhere” and “on the move ” that buttress the diverse variants of capital accumulation extracted from the surplus value of continuous listening-labor. Billions of people take for granted the perpetual access to recorded music and are immersed in soundscapes saturated with the sonic emissions of all manner of devices; the consequences of these conditions are vast, unprecedented, and profound. This reality makes the task of understanding musical and sonic mobility all the more urgent, even if such a broadly conceptualized framework is not uniquely applicable to the contemporary, digital, networked world.

(p. x) The twenty-two chapters in this volume, while not comprehensive (mobile music is too immense a theme to be encompassed even in two large volumes), do nevertheless provide a précis for thinking about a vast range of issues that concern scholars of music and mobility. The volume’s chapters coalesce around a few broad thematic areas: devices (the boombox, the transistor radio, the iPod, the field recorder, the cochlear implant, the mobile phone); formats and infrastructures (the MP3, the automated call center, text-messaging, ringtones); markets (particularly the national mobile music economies of Mexico, India, Japan, and Brazil and, compellingly, local niches of consumption, such as those found in schools and in warzones); and theories (including attempts to define and historicize “mobile music,” to periodize its various regimes, to understand it vis-à-vis the economies of cloud computing or the legal ramifications of downloading sound files). Many of the chapters, however, do not fit neatly into any single category and instead incorporate a number of different perspectives and orientations, including those just mentioned.

Our hope is that the chapters of this volume be considered with their brethren in Volume 2. The project was originally conceptualized as a rather monumental whole, but as the number of essays (and their concomitant word counts) multiplied, it became necessary to divide the contributions into two separate volumes. Nonetheless, Volume 1 can be read on its own and, given that much of this content will appear in Oxford University Press’s online databases, we suspect—and, indeed, welcome—that many readers will produce their own maps of and paths through the wide-ranging material offered up by our contributors.

Many people and institutions contributed to the making of these volumes. First and foremost we’d like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Danielle Kuntz, who served as the primary assistant editor for both volumes of the Handbook. Without her help and diligence, this project simply would not have come to completion. We would also like to thank the other research assistants, Emily Lechner and Brian Schmidt, both of whom made absolutely essential contributions.

Two editors at Oxford University Press, Suzanne Ryan and Norman Hirschy, made this project possible in the first place and they are due our immense gratitude. As lead editor, Norm repeatedly went above and beyond the call of duty when handling our numerous concerns, and we are eternally grateful for his efforts, patience, and hefty critical acumen. Several editorial assistants at the Press have been involved with the project over the years, and we’d like to thank them for their fastidious work: Katharine Boone, Caelyn Cobb, Adam Cohen, Lisbeth Redfield, and Madelyn Sutton. Our deepest thanks also go to Sujatha Karthikeyan and Sreejith Viswanathan at Newgen Knowledge Works in Chennai, India for their help in moving the volumes through production.

This Handbook emerged in part through a pair of conferences at which some of its contributions were developed and/or presented in embryo. First, Georgina Born and Tom Rice hosted the conference titled “Music, Sound, and the Reconfiguration of Public and Private Space” in April 2008 at Cambridge University’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), and they invited us to present a talk (subsequently a chapter in Born’s edited collection Music, Sound, (p. xi) and Space) that was inextricably bound up with the present project. Our paper on the Nike Sport Kit was perfectly placed on a panel entitled “Urban and Mobile Music/Sound,” and we extend our gratitude to the panel’s other participants: Michael Bull, Steven Connor, John Drever, and Byron Dueck. Second, Ali Momeni and Sumanth Gopinath received a generous grant from the Minnesota Futures Grant Program at the University of Minnesota and in May 2009 hosted a conference titled “Mobile Music for Everyday People,” at which several of the our contributors presented versions of their chapters. Many thanks go to Katie Kuelbs and Ali Momeni for handling the logistics of that conference, to the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Advanced Study, Department of Art, School of Music, Collaborative Arts Department, and College of Liberal Arts for providing further support for it, and to all of the faculty participants at the University of Minnesota who chaired panel sessions or participated in other capacities (including the contributions of Minneapolis Art on Wheels): Maria Damon, John Keston, Diyah Larasati, Scott Lipscomb, Ali Momeni, Jenny Schmid, Anna Schultz, Susannah Smith, David Steinman, and Andrea Steudel.

In addition, we would like to acknowledge the support we have received from our employers—the University of Minnesota (School of Music and College of Liberal Arts), New York University (Department of Music), and the Faculty of Music and St. John’s College at the University of Oxford. Crucial funding was provided by an Imagine Fund grant from the University of Minnesota and from NYU’s Department of Music. Lawren Young and Pauline Lum at NYU were particularly helpful at various crucial junctures. The Stanford Humanities Center offered enormous support and special gratitude is due to specific members of the Center’s staff: Robert Barrick, Zoe Bower, Nicole Coleman, Aron Rodrigue, Najwa Salame, Susan Sebbard, Beth Stutsman, and Matthew Tiews.

We would like to thank our interviewees and interlocutors, who aided in the writing of our own quasi-introductory chapters: Yuya Ozawa at Groundriddim, Shingo Annen, Lalya Gaye, and Aurelie Tu. Moreover, numerous friends, family members and colleagues allowed us to bounce ideas off of them at various stages of the project, and we cannot thank them enough for their involvement, love, and support—especially Beth Hartman, Daisy Hung, and our parents. Finally, we would like to thank our contributors for their excellent work and patience as the project took shape over the last few years: we hope that the end result is to their liking, but we take responsibility for any errors and deficiencies that remain. (p. xii)