Annual report MaM 2019

IMS meets IMS:
Annual Report Study Group Music & Media (MaM), 2019:

In 2019, IMS Study group MaM organized its 11th annual meeting at the Linnæus University Växjö (LNU), Sweden, from June 7 to 9.

The meeting was hosted by the LNU research center “Intermedial and multimodal studies” (also known as IMS). The topic this year was Sounds of Mass Media: Music in Journalism and Propaganda. The conference committee consisted of Dr. Tobias Pontara (Gothenburg University), Dr. Tobias Plebuch, (Uppsala University), Dr. Ulrik Volgsten (Örebro University), Dr. Martin Knust (Linnæus University Växjö), and Prof. Emile Wennekes (Utrecht University / Chair of MaM). Keynote speaker was Dr. Emilio Audissino (University of Southampton).

Music in propaganda and journalism can serve both educational and demagogic features and functions. It is this border area between information and disinformation of the masses that the 11th MaM meeting was aiming for and which could, for example, be detected when analyzing the music on newsreel soundtracks of the 1930s and 1940s, in TV reports about war and conflict in the 1990s or in documentaries about and produced by the political far right in the 2010s. The degree of truthfulness in audio-visual journalism is sometimes difficult if not impossible to determine when looking at so-called infotainment journalism. Journalist segments can be – or appear to be – biased, involuntarily or voluntarily. The presentation of facts in journalism can become partisan or manipulative and in such contexts, music plays a crucial role.

The recent thirty years have seen a quantitative rise in the use of music in journalist formats on radio, TV and the web. As a matter of fact, music has been a part of journalism from the onset of the audio and audio-visual mass media of the 1910s, for instance, in the newsreel. Moreover, the design of journalism and of propaganda have intersected on many occasions. Mass media propaganda, for instance, in film, relied – and still relies – on employing music. Neither journalism or media scholars, nor musicologists have paid attention to music in journalism to a significant extent. There is only a handful of research publications concerning this topic. Given the recent and ongoing rise of music use in journalism, a discussion about the implications of music in non-fictional contexts is overdue.

MaM XI addressed this topic via Emilio Audissino’s key note talk ‘Sound-logos, Olympics, Presidents, and Other Celebrations. When John Williams Scores for Mass Media’, as well as through the following sub-topics: ’Music and Nationalist Agendas’, ’Propagandistic Writing about Music’, ‘Propagandist Film Music’, ‘Music and Fascist Propaganda’, ‘Music in Journalism’, and ‘Music in Documentaries’. Papers were presented by Stefan Sandmeier, Juan Liu, Deniz Ertan, Andrea van der Smissen, Signe Kjær Jensen & Beate Schirrmacher, Daniele Palma, Paolo Somigli, Jörg Holzmann, Martin Knust, Anna Eveliina Hänninen, Javier Rivas Rodríguez, Svetlana Toivakka & Henna Tujula, Heidi Hart, and Emile Wennekes. Special thanks goes to Martin Knust for hosting a well-organized event.

The next MaM meeting will take place in Cleveland, Ohio (USA) on June 5 and 6 at Cleveland State University and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The topic this year will be Pre-existing music in screen-media: Problems, questions, challenges. The call for papers is still open.

Prof. Dr. Emile Wennekes,
Chair MaM