Für Kenner und Liebhaber 2.0: Modes of expertise in online file-sharing communities

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Für Kenner und Liebhaber 2.0: Modes of expertise in online file-sharing communities 

Olga Panteleeva (Music)

ABSTRACT By the 20th century the qualitative distinction between expert and amateur listening modes had become decisive for the Western classical canon. Originating in the German enlightenment, the imperative that a Liebhaber should be cultivated into a Kenner was developed by the Romantics over the course of the 19th century (notably by Hanslick, in his opposition of elemental and structural listening) and became entrenched in the art music practice.

This paper shows how that distinction manifests itself in listening to classical music in the 21st century. I will argue that online communities, devoted to sharing and discussing art music, are better conceptualized as perpetuating traditional modes of elitism and connoisseurship rather than a novel artifact of the contemporary digital culture.

In contrast to the widespread perception of virtual reality as ignorant and omnivore, as in Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur, I suggest that classical music communities are defined precisely by the qualities whose disappearance Keen laments – namely, high expertise and authoritative opinion.

Despite the fact that most members of these online communities are not professional musicians, the old ideals of expert listening still propel Liebhabersto become Kenners. Their social interactions are marked by snobbery, the requirement to observe etiquette,  and the sense of belonging to a select minority of Brahmins. Analyzing several discussions from a Russian community and an international one, I will identify different kinds of musical knowledge and aural skills that are valued and nurtured during the members' online “listening careers.”

Current scholarship on the online musical exchange deals predominantly with popular music repertories and focuses on the changes wrought by new media (e.g. Patrick Burkart's Music and Cyberliberties). However, analyzing the classical branch of the online listening culture reveals continuity – the conservative values of art music and its emphasis on close listening  that have proved resistant to change even when transferred into a new environment.

Event details
Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 2:00pm - 3:00pm
BCNM Commons (340 Moffitt Library)