Assignment 1 Blog 1 – Live After Death: Elvis, Tupac and a Tourist Walk Into A Bar

Weeks covered: Heritage, Archives, Moving Image

Its official, Elvis Presley will complete a fully-fledged arena tour of the UK in 2017, almost forty years after his death. Hanley (2016) suggests that the concert – which will feature archive footage of Elvis on-screen accompanied live by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – ‘will widen the boundaries in terms of the artists you can see play ‘live’ again’, and furthermore, will provide the basis for the future of the live touring business. Cull (2015) argues that the digitisation of dead music archives reaffirms the authenticity of non-digital musical forms, a notion which has been discussed thoroughly since the appearance of the Tupac hologram at 2012’s edition of Coachella, most notably by Jones, Bennett, and Cross (2015), who argue that whilst these technological advances can broaden the horizons live music can transcend to, if the technology used to create the presence of the ‘dead star’ becomes too visible to the audience, their ability to suspend their disbelief is broken and the authenticity of the performance will shatter. With the notoriety of the Tupac hologram, and the emergence of a six-date arena-tour for Elvis Presley, I would argue that the prominence of digital archiving has never been as important as it has now, especially as it enters a new era of usage due to technological advancements, and yet scholars such as Baker and Collins (2015) argue that the sustainability of popular music heritage institutions and archives face pressing issues such as funding cuts, limited space, public outreach, and various impacts of evolving digital technologies. Whilst their concerns lie mainly with the sustainability of community-led do-it-yourself archives, I would argue that the advancement of archival footage into the live music arena is the first of many doors to open for archives of all nature.

Whilst the notion of authenticity and how much of it can be created through these technologically-led performances is yet to be fully realised, I suggest that it could begin to impact the musical tourism and heritage industry due to the postmodern society we as consumers have ushered in, with this style of concert having the ability to dethrone museums as exclusive spaces for high culture where the relics of the past are on display, instead replacing it with interactive concerts that tourists – and concert goers – can use to actively create their own personalised intimate experiences (Fremaux and Fremaux, 2013; Wearing, Stevenson, and Young, 2010).

The relationship between archival material, the tourism industry, and music and the moving image – which of course is one of the most important topics for discussion here as it’s the primary way of realising the return of the ‘dead’ artist – is beneficial to examine as it reveals to us the possibilities this technological advance in live music consumption can offer the various elements. Edgar, Fairclough-Isaacs, and Halligan (2013) suggest that the traditional approach to the visualisation of music, such as the coverage of festivals on TV, presupposes the event as a one-off dialogue between artist and audience, purposed for a particular time and place, as well as a set historical and social context. However, I would argue that performances based upon archival footage such as the Elvis concerts and the Tupac hologram, are open realms of both individual and interpersonal exploration, an intimate reimagining of the relationship between the artist and the audience in which one social and historical context is relived, repurposed, or reviewed in another, which goes beyond the simple notion of it being a ‘substantial feat of phantasm’ (Arnold, 2016).

Bibliography

Arnold, R. (2016). There’s A Spectre Haunting Hip-Hop: Tupac Shakur, Holograms in Concert and the Future of Live Performance. In: C. Strong and B. Lebrun, ed., Death and the Rock Star, 1st ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Cull, F. (2016). Dead Music in Live Music Culture. In: A. Jones and R. Bennett, ed., The Digital Evolution of Live Music, 1st ed. Massachusetts: Chandos Publishing, pp.111-120.

Edgar, R., Fairclough-Isaacs, K. and Halligan, B. (2016). The Formats and Functions of the Music Documentary. In: R. Edgar, K. Fairclough-Isaacs and B. Halligan, ed., The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electro Pop, 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Fremaux, S. and Fremaux, M. (2016). Remembering the Beatles’ legacy in Hamburg’s problematic tourism strategy. [online] Journal Of Heritage Tourism. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1743873X.2013.799172 [Accessed 8 Nov. 2016].

Hanley, J. (2016). Elvis Ain’t Dead: How Presley’s UK dates could shape future of touring. [online] Music Week. Available at: http://www.musicweek.com/live/read/elvis-ain-t-dead-how-presley-s-uk-dates-could-shape-future-of-touring/066485 [Accessed 8 Nov. 2016].

Jones, A., Bennett, R. and Cross, S. (2015). Keepin’ It Real? Life, Death, and Holograms on the Live Music Stage. In: A. Jones and R. Bennett, ed., The Digital Evolution of Live Music, 1st ed. Massachusetts: Chandos Publishing, pp.123-137.

Wearing, S., Stevenson, D., & Young, T. (2010). Tourist cultures: Identity, place, and the traveller. London: Sage

 

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One thought on “Assignment 1 Blog 1 – Live After Death: Elvis, Tupac and a Tourist Walk Into A Bar

  1. I find the parts of this about authenticity the most interesting – can it be considered an authentic live performance when the performer is a hologram? Will this lead to issues with the success of heritage strategies based on tours like these after the initial novelty of seeing dead performers wears off?

    I’d recommend reading some of Philip Auslander’s literature – he tackles authenticity within live music as part of a mediatised culture, arguing that it isn’t truly ‘live’. Lucy Bennett also speaks about ‘cellcerting’, which is the dissemination of a live performance – you could argue that the hologram is an example of ‘cellcerting’, disseminating a live performance from years ago.

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