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Frivolous Discords: Politics of Musical Aversion in Contemporary Hong Kong

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Abstract

In recent years, the forming, sharing, and debating of personal opinions through ridicule and distaste has been noticeably intensified in Hong Kong. As multicultural engagements and clashes between local citizens, mainland Chinese tourists, and new immigrants proliferate in the city, music and politics are increasingly intertwined in contemporary listening practices through aversion. This thesis explores how the hyper-politicized society in contemporary Hong Kong necessitates exploring new approaches to inquire how music, sounds, and politics continuously function, or equally importantly, continuously fail to function. Through examining the proclaimed aversion towards, on the one hand, public singing and dancing performances by middle-aged ladies in urban Hong Kong and, on the other, a specific vocal technique that is ridiculed through viral memes, I articulate the political labor that the related operations of mockery and hatred perform in contemporary Hong Kong listening practices, both online and in real life. Why do some sounds, despite being viewed and listened to by many as undesirable and thus failed their intended function, nonetheless get constantly replayed, re-ridiculed, and re-hated? How do the persistent circulation, ridicule, and criticism of these sounds intersect with, reinforce, and challenge existing political contestations in Hong Kong? How do the dynamic interactions between the ephemerality of sound and the enduring existence of both physical and digital spaces produce intriguing new meanings? Why is it that auditory perceptions, envisioned in different contexts as sound, music, or noise, lend themselves particularly well to the politicization of the listening public?

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This item is under embargo until September 30, 2024.