Welcome to The International Association for the Study of Popular Music UK and Ireland Branch

Popular Music and the Moving Image in Eastern Europe

Posted: April 25th, 2017 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Special issue of Studies in Eastern European Cinema guest-edited by Zsolt Győri

A special issue of SEEC calls for contributions (not exceeding 6000 words) on the uses of popular music in the moving image in Eastern Europe – including musicals, other types of fiction film, music videos, documentary and experimental films – from the postwar period to contemporary times. The focus includes but also reaches beyond poetic considerations of film music, and articles about the social, cultural, and production contexts of music in screen culture are especially welcome.

During the period of state socialism the moving image was an important tool of promoting music in the respective countries and creating popular cinema. At the same time, prejudice towards popular culture resulted in neglect of this type of production by both the authorities and scholars. Most importantly, filmmakers specialising in musicals had a lower status than the countries’ leading ‘auteurs’ and there was almost no scholarly attention devoted to music videos. However, after the fall of state socialism musicals have fared better, often being used as a vehicle to convey postcommunist nostalgia. Moreover, many leading directors engaged in producing music videos; it became a sign of their professionalism and prestige. This is reflected in recent research on Eastern European musicals and music videos, although typically in local languages, rather than English.

In the early period of state socialism musical films tend to present utopian socialist communities exemplified by the Hungarian Life is Beautiful If You Sing Along (1950) and the Polish Adventure on Marienstadt (1954).  From the 1960s popular music and star performers were featured more openly in films targeting teenagers right across the Eastern Europe, ranging from Romania (A Charming Girl(1966), through Hungary These Youngsters! (1967) to Czechoslovakia, where Jan Němec’s Martyrs of Love (1966) and Jiří Menzel’s Crime in a Nightclub (1968). In some films from the late 1960s popular music also signified political protest and infection with western culture. With the passage of time, as authoritarian control over popular culture eased and western cultural products were easier to obtain, the music element became more prominent in film as demonstrated by including members of local music scenes and a burgeoning music video culture. With the neoliberal transformation and the emerging free market, popular culture achieved full legitimacy and specific Eastern European ethno pop genres gained more screen presence. The use of music inspired screen culture either began to compete with global trends,  often at the cost of aesthetic self-colonization, or tried to establish its autonomy by revitalizing local traditions of folksy-ness as demonstrated by Polish disco polo, Romanian manele, Bulgarian chalga, Serbian turbo folk  or the Bosnian sevdalinka. Another key area where the music-cinema interface produced uniquely Eastern European phenomena are music films  – including Jan Hrebejk’sBig Beat (1993), Filip Renc’s Rebelove (2001), Péter Tímár’s Dollybirds (1997),  Leander Haussmann’sSonnenalle (1999) and Gergely Fonyó’s Made in Hungaria (2008) – that look back on the state-socialist past with beat and rockabilly their focus.

This cross-disciplinary issue is meant to fill a gap in the research by examining the relationship between popular music and the moving image in fiction films, including musicals, music videos, documentaries and experimental films. Possible topics of articles include:

  • The poetics and politics of musicals under state socialism
  • Post-socialist musicals and nostalgia
  • Western and eastern influences on Eastern European music films
  • Politicized/depoliticized screen representations of popular music
  • Representations of local music scenes, performers, bands in cinema
  • The use of popular music in experimental films
  • Production contexts of musicals and music videos
  • Music video and video-inspired films from/about Eastern Europe
  • Transnational patterns in music videos regarding form and content
  • Screening local social and cultural environments in music videos

Please send 200 word proposals for papers with short bios to gyorizs@yahoo.co.uk or Ewa Mazierska to [email protected] by 15 June 2017. The deadline for full articles is 15 October 2017.

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