Midsummers is two weeks away. What a perfect time to listen to the research material I gathered during last Christmas (sic!), during the 71 days of the #joululaulubingo (Christmas song bingo).
I will present a paper next week in the Urban-Related Sensoria: Environments, Technologies, Sensobiographies conference, see program here: https://www3.uef.fi/fi/web/urbansensoria2020/program. Here’s my abstract:
‘Tis the season to do listening walks: A methodological approach to seasonal music and urban environments
The tradition of creating a Christmassy atmosphere in city space is a calendrical soundscape event spanning from late November to the end of December in various cities around the world, with different religious backgrounds. This paper focuses on the experience of Christmassy background music in Finnish towns. With local, contextual and changing expectations concerning timing, choice of music, volume, and temporary PA solutions, the public discussion around Christmas background music is vivid and often affective. The end of the year season is an exception in background music practices in the urban commercial space, and this makes it an interesting phenomenon to study as it points to changes in the accepted, overlooked and often willfully ignored musical environment in cities.
In this research Christmas background music is being studied as being an integral part of urban soundscapes, urban space and musical cultures in Finland. The methodology is a combination of sound diaries, listening walks and autoethnography. The preliminary data gathering method was to make note of all music identifiable as Christmas background music I personally heard in my daily life while in public or commercial space during November 1, 2019 to 10 January, 2020. I would detect the piece by using the Shazam mobile application (if possible) and make various notes on what I could hear. Another part of the data collecting method was to ask the public to “report” to me if they heard Christmas music while they were out in town. This material consists of numerous reports from acquaintances and members of the public of where and when they have heard music that they recognize as Christmas music and at times identification of the particular pieces of music. Reports were seldom neutral, but had a note on some aspect of the heard experience or even reports on not hearing any music. During 71 days I kept an online public diary on what I heard and what was reported to me.
As often happens during ethnographic field research, what was anticipated to be encountered during the field work were not according to the researchers expectations. This study presents a reading of Christmas background music as a sonic ritual of decoration, of consumerist sensory agency, and of sensory labor.
I’m collating the list of songs from the material to a Spotify playlist (under construction, much more songs to be added).