3 - Airwaves in London
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 March 2020
FOR twentieth-century music in the global West, institutions matter. They act as mediators and distributors of music, as commissioning bodies and as enablers of musical production. The economic power as well as cultural and socio-political capital afforded to and by musical institutions has widely been acknowledged by musicologists. Many studies respond to, or are based on, implicitly or explicitly, the pioneering work of scholars like Georgina Born, who has contributed perhaps the most powerfully formulated and in-depth assessment of musical institutions. As Born reminds us, institutions function as crucial actors in Western cultural organisation, re-inscribing and maintaining genre boundaries and seeking to legitimise their own cultural production, intent on preserving their status. Institutions, then, are not only enablers. They are also gatekeepers. They represent hubs of culture which artists who seek to promote their creativity must negotiate.
If cultural institutions matter for musical life in general, they certainly do so for migrants. For immigrant artists, especially those arriving in a country as refugees or displaced persons, gaining a foothold in artistic circles is as vital as it is urgent. Migrant musicians rely on institutions not just for employment and economic opportunity. In aiding dissemination of their music, for example, cultural organisations can also be entry points for gaining social capital and acceptance. Nadia Kiwan and Ulrike Meinhof have emphasised the importance of hubs for migrants, which have the potential to provide fixed points along the network of migrant flows, creating a nexus of transnational and transcultural migration. Kiwan and Meinhof differentiate between spatial, human, and accidental hubs, encompassing key locations of departure and arrival such as capital cities, established international migrant networks and local migrant communities, and those created as a side effect of migration research itself. Of most interest for this chapter is the category of strategic hubs – concert organisers, non-governmental organisations, and cultural institutions – which, according to Kiwan and Meinhof, play a crucial role in helping migrant voices to be heard.
There is no doubt that the most influential institution for music in Britain in the mid-twentieth century was the British Broadcasting Corporation. No musicological study on music in Britain over the last century or so is complete without paying at least some attention to the role of the BBC, an assessment that transcends boundaries of genre, class, and race.
- Publisher: Boydell & BrewerPrint publication year: 2019