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Noising forth social change: the Orfeón Socialista de Madrid, 1900–1936

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The following discussion is focused on performances by the Orfeón Socialista de Madrid (OSM, 1900–1936). As they created and appropriated acoustic territories in the city, these performances contributed to the making of local political identities in Madrid in ways that offset the prevalence of journalistic and political discourse, which served primarily middle-class interests. The OSM’s performances lend themselves to being analyzed through the prism of studies on noise because, in order to advance the cause of socialism, they challenged the binary opposition between sound and noise that structured the politics of sound hygiene in Madrid. The latter depended on the ability to manipulate and capitalize on the perception that certain sounds are more acceptable, agreeable and “hygienic” than others, which were in turn perceived as “polluting”, disruptive and unpleasant. The examples discussed here show how, by using noise as a productive force, the OSM tried to resist a well-established tendency to marginalize and persecute those social groups whose sounds or musical practices were tagged as discordant or unharmonious. The likelihood of the OSM’s performances being perceived as “noise” increased as the workers’ movement and its supporting ideologies (socialism and anarchism) came to be seen as a fundamental threat to social order. In this context the OSM used their performances to counter negative biases, raise awareness and negotiate their presence in Madrid’s public space. Analysis of the OSM and other workers’ choral societies can thus offer a unique insight into the ways in which the affective force and transformative potential of choral singing empowered disadvantaged social groups.
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Keywords: Madrid; Noise; choirs; hygiene; socialism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Arts, Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Publication date: July 3, 2019

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