Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationColumbia U.
Grant numberGr. 10305
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleGrear, Maxwell (Columbia U.) "Streaming the Reparto: Anticipated listening and the aesthetics of compression in inland Havana"
Contemporary platform capitalism is marked by intensified compression and speculation. Today, compression describes the quantitative and qualitative reduction of data—such as digital audio files—and metaphorically evokes late-modern perceptions of spatiotemporal collapse. Media “streaming” platforms like Spotify collect mass consumer data to enhance predictive algorithms; meanwhile, listeners experience sensuous effects like saturation and anticipation, as pop songs seem to get louder and automated recommendations alternately delight and disappoint. My research explores social practices of listening in the global platform era. I approach this theme from the perspectives of musicians in Havana, where difficult-to-access streaming platforms appeal to cosmopolitan aspirations. I learn from young musicians in the city’s racialized, lower-class inland perimeter who fuse Afrodescendant tradition and digital production, seeking virtual mobility amidst physical enclosure. There, musicians’ intimate knowledge of insular listeners—accumulated through offline, peer-to-peer circulation—is giving way to the corporate black box of streaming services. Lacking information about reception overseas, how and why do Havana-based musicians imagine deterritorialized listeners? What desires are expressed in and through such anticipated listenings? Why are certain elements (WAV files) amenable to reduction whereas others (Afro-Atlantic rhythmic complexities) are not? I contribute to anthropological studies on listening and aesthetics as social mediums of exchange and desire.