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Times and Spaces of Listening

Times and Spaces of Listening

(p.188) Seven Times and Spaces of Listening
Kwaito's Promise
Gavin Steingo
University of Chicago Press

In Soweto, people listen to music constantly. Because unemployment is rife in the townships, listening to music cannot be adequately apprehended as a “leisure” activity. Instead, the very division of labor and leisure is inappropriate in the South African context. Music plays a crucial role in the perception and construction of time in Soweto. Moreover, music listening often takes place under the conditions of sedentariness and immobility described in previous chapters. Taken together, the unstructured passage of time and the cloistering of space have serious implications for music listening. This chapter examines the three main places in which kwaito is heard: informal taverns, large outdoor gatherings, and automobiles. In each of these cases, music is more than a structure; it is a physical and material force that demarcates and produces space. Due to the relatively high density of townships, it is not uncommon to hear several songs simultaneously at any given time. In such contexts, the human ear becomes the primary locus of musical production, the site in which complex relations of sound and space take emergent form.

Keywords:   listening, acoustemology, sound studies, automobile, production of space, dance

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