Despite dire predictions that participatory musical traditions would inevitably decline in capitalist modernity in which producers are increasingly distinguished from consumers, Rio de Janeiro’s street carnival revival, on the rise in the past two decades, shows that participatory music can thrive under capitalist relations. Much of the street carnival revival celebrates the free events in the streets as forming an uncommodified, musical social movement that presents an alternative to the expensive, presentational, and commercialized samba school spectacle. Theories of musical participation (Keil, Turino) likewise depict participatory musical practices as emancipatory and oppositional to capitalist relations. The vitality of street carnival, however, depends on oficinas, or for-profit classes that teach a wide variety of Brazilian and international styles for students to play with professional teachers in participatory carnival ensembles (blocos). In probing teachers’ “pedagogical labor,” this article portrays oficinas as comprising a “capitalist participatory music industry.” By offering a case study on a carnival brass band community turned activist musical movement whose growth has been fueled by oficinas, I show, however, that the commodified status of oficinas does not necessarily deprive them of the capacity to build an anti-capitalist musical movement. These musicians navigate, take advantage from, and challenge capitalist realities.
Playing the System: The Capitalist Industry of Participatory Music Education in Rio de Janeiro’s Oficinas
Andrew Snyder is a musician and scholar who received his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology in 2018 at the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation focuses on a carnival-turned-activist brass movement in contemporary Rio de Janeiro amidst a period of political crisis in Brazil. He is co-editor of a forthcoming edited collection (Routledge) with Reebee Garofalo and Erin Allen on the international activist brass band movement known as HONK!. He is an avid trumpet player and co-founder of San Francisco’s Mission Delirium Brass Band, which has toured Brazil, France, Spain, Hungary, Croatia, and New Orleans. He teaches at the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific.
Andrew Snyder; Playing the System: The Capitalist Industry of Participatory Music Education in Rio de Janeiro’s Oficinas. Journal of Popular Music Studies 3 September 2019; 31 (3): 119–144. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2019.313011
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