Sound and circulation: Immobility and obduracy in South African electronic music

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13 Scopus citations


This paper responds to the common assumption in much recent ethnomusicology that today music is more accessible, ubiquitous and mobile than ever before. In particular, I argue that this assumption runs aground when confronted with sonic practices in South Africa. Based on fieldwork with electronic musicians in Johannesburg and its surrounding areas, I ask how music is practiced and experienced in a context where musical equipment and storage devices constantly break down and where people are largely immobile. I focus on four factors: the physical layout of urban spaces; the immanence of crime and theft; the breakdown of musical equipment; and the interruption of information storage and transfer. By examining these factors, I elucidate the ways in which breakdown, obduracy and failure have generative as well as negative effects on music production and experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-123
Number of pages22
JournalEthnomusicology Forum
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Music


  • Circulation
  • Electronic music
  • Failure
  • Obduracy
  • Soweto


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