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TitleMUSIC IN YOUNG MALTESE WOMEN'S LIVES by Tatjana Chircop A Thesis presented in fulfilment ...
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Abstract

by

Tatjana Chircop

This study explores how young Maltese women give meaning to the music they listen to

and how this music is incorporated in everyday discourses and identities within the

differing local contexts of their lives. This area of research has not attracted the attention of

researchers and this study starts to fill this gap.

The research was carried out in Malta, a post-colonial island with a population of

approximately 400,000 people. Through purposive sampling and snowballing, 20 in-depth

interviews were carried out with young Maltese women aged 16-34, from different social

backgrounds. By looking at young Maltese women’s identities through their engagements

with music, this study shows how girls experience the tensions between the opposing

forces of Maltese traditional music and more modern globalised musical forms. Music was

found to be a means of conspicuous leisure as well as a means of maintaining social

difference and distinction. Musical taste and the social practices associated with that

particular music was found to be a primary indicator of social class for Maltese girls.

The significance of this study lies in the exploration of a topic that has not yet been

properly researched. It combines the Maltese context and the gendered nature of identity

formation in Malta’s music scene. The framework of categorisation of respondents is also

significant since rather than categorising respondents according to the music they listen to,

it categorises respondents through the ways in which they engage with their music. By

developing Willis’s (1978) analytical framework, participants were placed into four

categories of Fully Committed, Committed, Active Drifters and Passive Drifters. For each

category, the most prominent characteristics of participants’ music identities are analysed.

These include their understandings of social and cultural capital, structure and agency,

negotiations of social boundaries and identity formation. The idea of distinct music

subcultures is questioned as, in their everyday lives, young women in Malta rarely conform

with distinct cultural groups but form parts of multiple groups within the contexts of their

lives. Moreover, processes of hybridization seem to have erased what might have been

understood as a subculture’s distinguishing characteristics. These have often become

adopted and eventually absorbed by mainstream culture making distinct subcultures

problematic. The findings of the research imply tensions between traditional and modern

lifestyles that are, in turn, associated with different strata of social class.











KEY WORDS: processes of identity formation, hybrid identities, cultural capital, social

capital, subculture, global and local, private and public.

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possibly emerges from English being spoken by the educated people who are not low class

and therefore, usually such words are spoken by people positioned in the higher strata of

society and are socially associated with the educated, upper classes of society. On the other

hand, Maltese is spoken mostly by the lower classes and therefore, such words are

associated with these classes. The complexity of social constructs linked to language use in

Malta reflects the negotiation of social boundaries and positioning, as well as the fluidity

of meanings of words, depending on the context in which they are used.

Social practices linked to cultural groups include language. For respondents, the

combination of taste, image and language indicates the person’s social class. As Theresa

said,



I mean, I cannot imagine a real Maltese metal head

speaking to his ‘brothers’ in English...that would be

hilarious! As if…or goths getting drunk in English in

Malta! No way! I mean if I go to a disco or party and look

at the crowd, I can tell what they are, if I hear them talking

outside or in the bathrooms, I can tell what types they are,

either really ‘ħamalli’ or snobs etc… Then without wanting

to, you associate that language with that music because at

that time, those types of people would be liking that music

and frequenting those places. Things might change but that

is why you need to be up to date with what is happening in

the Maltese music scene. (Theresa, lecturer)



Theresa points out that some types of music are therefore associated with a certain class of

people who speak a certain language or in a certain way. She also explains how the links

between taste and language are formed in her view. Later on in the interview she mentions

that it is also a question of majority in that, the taste and style of the majority of enthusiasts

of a type of music, is linked to the music normally. In every music scene, you do find those

who are different, but they are few and usually drop out since they do not feel at ease.

For young Maltese women therefore, it is not just the type of language and the choice of

words which people speak, through which are formed taste, style and social class, but it is

also the actual language that people speak, be it English or Maltese, in combination with

the music they like, which indicates taste, style and social class. The different standards

and criteria which are applicable to males and females are quite complex as is the

relationship between social class and English or Maltese language.

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5.3 Young women’s embodiment of music

Embodiment is another strong indicator of an individual’s class. As discussed earlier, the

interrelationship of embodiment, together with style, taste and language shape social

identity.

The effects that music has on the individual, is often manifested through the body

of the individual. The power that music has over the body seems like an uncontrollable

force that acts on the body. This is not a contemporary phenomenon. In 1912, Durkheim’s

research on the evolution of ritual suggested that when individuals were gathered together,

an emotion arose which was expressed collectively. For such collective expression to take

place in some kind of order, gestures and sounds tended to fall into a regular rhythm and

thus songs and dances were created. Freeman (2000) argued that music and dance

originated through biological evolution of brain chemistry interacting with the evolution of

behaviour, making changes in habits, beliefs and personality possible. The state of trance

or ‘meltdown’ is important for the formation of social groups which are formed by

bonding.

5.3.1 Moving to the music

The function that the music has on the bonding of social groups was highlighted by young

Maltese women in the present study. They expressed the awareness that music has the

power to make a person move to the music especially in contexts such as discos and clubs

when they feel it is inevitable to dance, joining with the others, imitating the moves and

feeling the general excitement, taking part in the ritualised social practices of the cultural

group. Frequently, such respondents maintained this practice even when alone at home.

Creating an atmosphere as similar as possible to the disco and drawing on memories of

their nights at the disco or club, they reported that very often they danced to the music

alone in their room, replaying the social and drawing on the social practices and rituals in

which they participated in, when they dance to the music collectively. Those respondents

who did not frequent discos still felt the urge to move to the music at home while they

listen to a favourite song to which they dance and sing their heads off to the mirror.



When you listen to music…well you feel it inside you… My

Turkish friends for example we go to the park and we listen

to this music and we clap to the music…when you listen to

the music it is like you are saying something…how can I

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Glossary of Terms



Blues: Music of black southern African -American folk origin, usually in slow tempo and

using the twelve-bar sequence.



Classical: What is also known as serious or conventional music which conforms to

established forms and principles.



Death metal: An extreme subgenre of heavy metal. Characterised by use of dark, violent

and gory imagery, heavily distorted guitars, tremolo picking and deep growling from the

vocals, blast beat drumming and complex song structures.



Doom metal: (Also known as drone doom or drone metal). An extreme form of heavy

metal using slower tempos, low-tuned guitars and characterised by a gloomy atmosphere

and the use of drones which are sustained notes or chords repeated throughout the song.



Folk music: Music originating among the common people of a nation or region usually

characterised by simple tunes and that is usually passed on through the oral tradition, often

with considerable variation.



Garage band: Typically an amateur rock band rehearsing in a garage and having a local

audience. The term garage rock originates from such bands and was synonymous with

punk rock before it developed into a raw form of rock and roll first popular in the USA and

Canada in the 1960s.



Għana: Traditional Maltese music characterised by guitars and vocals with lyrics being

rhymed spontaneously over established harmonies in established form. This tradition was

passed on orally over generations.



Gothic rock: (Also known as goth rock or goth). A musical subgenre of post-punk and

alternative rock that originated in the late 1970s. Characterised by a combination of dark

music usually heavily distributed on the keyboards with introspective dark lyrics.



Heavy metal: (Also known as metal). Originated in the late 1960s with bands such as

Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, this music is characterised by flashy guitar playing, high-

pitched male vocals and lyrics reflecting the dark side of the human experience.



Hip Hop: Closely associated with rap music and with the style and fashion of African-

America inner-city residents. A culture of self-expression that consisted of graffiti art,

DJing, MCing and breaking.



House: A style of electronic dance music that uses the 4/4 beat, originating in Chicago,

USA in the early 1980s, developed by dance club DJs. House music includes several

subgenres such as funky house, electro house, disco house and groovy house.



Indie: Indie, in short for indie rock is a genre of alternative rock originating in the UK and

the USA in the 1980s. It is very diverse with sub-genres that include indie pop, jangle pop

and so on.

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