Towards a society of control? Transformations in functional music and biopolitical modulation of everyday experiences
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The present study constitutes an attempt to flesh out and render visible some of the peculiarly concealed yet effective ways in which power and control are exercised in contemporary societies through a historical investigation of functional music. To that end, it identifies four specific historical stages – namely, pre-industrial, industrial, post-industrial, and digital – wherein different forms of functional music, each embodying a unique set of attributes and programming techniques, act as key agents and mediators in the organization of the social, political and economic structures of their respective periods. Taking this regulatory affordance of functional music as its theoretical framework, the study then proceeds to demonstrate the particular characteristics, uses, and functions of each type of functional music. One of the most significant contributions this research makes to the existing body of literature is to contextualize the recently popularized modes of online musical experience and user interactions with digital music streaming services as a continuation and part of the evolutionary trajectory of functional music as opposed to considering them as a separate social and cultural phenomenon like most studies in the field has thus far done. An analysis of these new techniques of digital production and consumption of functional music from a broader historical perspective suggests that the recent surge in uses of online media, in accordance with Deleuze’s (1992) previous observations, is indicative of a transition from disciplinary societies towards “societies of control”, which entails that power and control move beyond the confines of enclosed spaces and begin to be exercised in less discernible yet more diffuse and mobile manners. However, such expansion in the scope and domain of technologies of control also brings with it, often in unforeseen ways, novel and experimental forms of resistance by users, who frequently utilize digital functional music as part of an on-going self-care project, whereby they innovatively use playlists to modulate their physical and mental well-being as well as sonically enriching and aestheticizing their everyday contexts and otherwise mundane routine activities.