Ritwik Banerji at AMS/SMT 2018

28 Nov, 2018

Ritwik Banerji at AMS/SMT 2018

The American Musicological Society Society for Music Theory took place on November 1-4 in San Antonio. Ritwik Banerki of BCNM presented that Saturday morning.

Read his project abstract below:

The Opportunity Cost of Experimentalism: Cultural Economics, Popular Music, and the Avant-Garde in Salvador, Brazil
Ritwik Banerji (University of California, Berkeley)

Alongside consideration of its formal or technical innovations, studies of experimental music have increasingly attended to the economic arrangements required for producing such projects. At the same time, little attention has been paid to the inherent opportunity cost created in the choice to involve oneself in the production of experimental music as a performer, composer, or organizer. Regardless of one’s role,investing time and energy in such projects at least partially excludes the opportunity to earn a more viable livelihood from either popular music or other more lucrative non-musical labor.

This paper addresses the impact of the opportunity costs created by popular music on the realization of experimental work through a biographical ethnography of Brazilian percussionist and composer Nei Sacramento. Born, raised, and based in a favela in the city of Salvador, Bahia, Sacramento leads several projects which radically re-work the repertoire of Afro-Brazilian musical traditions while preserving their basic structures (e.g., melodic contour, rhythmic cycles) and thus the Bahian listener’s ability to recognize their source despite their recomposition. In experimenting with traditional sources as the basis of a black, Brazilian modernism, Sacramento seeks to performatively critique the Bahian culture industries’ reduction of musical blackness to an accessory for party and pleasure in tourism and nightlife and a legacy fundamentally lacking in intellectual sophistication or cultural value.

However, while many musicians in Sacramento’s social network are sympathetic to his goals, the inherent challenge of economic survival and providing food, water, electricity, and shelter for their families in a favela often forces these potential collaborators to choose higher-paying work playing popular genres like axé or samba-reggae. Though they possess the competence required by his technically demanding compositions, they cannot afford the time and money lost in several rehearsals for a lowpaying performance. Hence this case-study illustrates the cardinal significance of the opportunity costs created by the economic landscape of popular music in the sociocultural study of experimental artistic projects as well as the global inequalities which contribute to the uneven geographic distribution of these practices internationally.

See the rest of the programs and abstracts from AMS/SMT here.