Tami Gadir

Analysing Agency: Perspectives from the DJ Booth

The emphasis on the agency of musical performers is prevalent across fields of music spanning the philosophical to the scientific. Indeed, it is one of the goals of our panel to represent these varying perspectives on this topic. In my presentation, I wish to use a combined musicological and sociological lens to interrogate the notion of agency, posing a series of related questions about the roots of the idea. Through these questions, I aim to point toward theoretical implications of conceptualising musical performers and listeners as agents. Throughout the presentation I will also attempt to come to terms with my subjectivity as a performer. My role as a DJ (and classical pianist) might be interpreted as a means of agency, and my examination of the above issues will inevitably be coloured by this experience.
Specifically, I will begin my examination of agency by tracing the broader meanings of this idea to Max Weber and the subjectivity of individual social actors. I will follow this with an exploration of musical agency that queries whether music (as sound rather than score) can contribute to the agency of listeners and performers. The possible incorporation of autonomy and empowerment into understandings of agency is also worth addressing in the musical contexts that will be discussed. Included in the above questions is also the issue of distinction between a person’s sense of their own agency and the projections of others. In order to address such questions I will draw upon analyses of electronically-produced dance music and DJ performances to be presented in the form of audio and video excerpts. Ultimately, through the broadening of this discussion, I hope that we might collectively consider the ways in which agency can be both a helpful and problematic framework for the analysis of music and music-making.