This ground-breaking case study examines record production as ethnographic work. Since its founding in 2003, Seattle-based record label Sublime Frequencies has produced world music recordings that have been received as radical, sometimes problematic critiques of the practices of sound ethnography. Founded by punk rocker brothers Alan and Richard Bishop, along with filmmaker Hisham Mayet, the label's releases encompass collagist sound travelogues; individual artist compilations; national, regional and genre surveys, and DVDs-all designed in a distinctive graphic style recalling the DIY aesthetic of punk and indie rock. Sublime Frequencies' producers position themselves as heirs to canonical ethnographic labels such as Folkways, Nonesuch, and Musique du Monde, but their aesthetic and philosophical roots in punk, indie rock, and experimental music effectively distinguish their work from more conventional ethnographic norms. Situated at the intersection of ethnomusicology, sound studies, cultural anthropology, and popular music studies, the essays in this volume explore the issues surrounding the label-including appropriation and intellectual property-while providing critical commentary and charting the impact of the label through listener interviews.
MICHAEL E. VEAL is a musician and professor of ethnomusicology at Yale University. He is the author of several books, including Fela: The Life and Times of an African Musical Icon and Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. E. TAMMY KIM is a writer and member of The New Yorker's editorial staff. She previously worked as a staff writer at Al Jazeera America and a social justice lawyer.