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uni'alumni 2015_ENG

From the 1950s on, the man from northern Germany spent every last bit of his spending money on pop music records – from German-language singers like Peter Alexander and Rex Gildo to international pop stars like the Beatles and the Bee Gees. In the end, his collec- tion encompassed 20,000 singles. The colorful file folders the music lover kept his vinyl treasures in now fill two walls full of bookshelves at the Freiburg Center for Popular Culture and Music (ZPKM). Another room contains stacks of gray- bound sheet music from the 19th century. One door further is a line of dozens of card catalogs with tens of thousands of hand-written index cards. The ZPKM, which evolved out of the German Folk Song Archive, is a treasure trove of popular music culture. The collec- tion of the center and the research topics it tackles are diverse: from 17th century street ballads and music-making in bour- geois households of the 19th century to current pop hits. Popular is sometimes hard to define. For Managing Director Dr. Dr. Michael Fischer, “broad appeal, potential for economic exploitation, and distribution to large audiences” are the defining features of popular music – criteria that also apply to some of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach or Wolf- gang Amadeus Mozart. Fischer agrees that some classical music certainly can be understood as popular music: “Our goal is to study music as a social and cultural practice.” A Thirst for Novelty In addition to lyrics and melody, the literary scholar and theologian sees performance as having always been an integral part of popular music. “With Conchita Wurst, everybody talked about the beard. The significance of such staging elements was essentially the same in the 17th century.” Another thing that hasn’t changed is people’s thirst for novelty. “Songs, even religious ones, had to be ‘new’ to sell well.” The ZPKM was integrated into the Uni- versity of Freiburg as a research institute in April 2014. However, it had already been in existence for some time: The German Folk Song Archive was founded in 1914 by the German literary scholar and folklorist John Meier, who collected folk songs – and also soldiers’ songs after the outbreak of the war. The collection grew continually. Shortly before his death in 1953, Meier bequeathed the archive to the State of Baden-Württemberg. His for- mer residence long served as the home of the German Folk Song Archive. The institution moved to a more appro- priate space on Rosastraße at the start of the year 2012. The academic spectrum of the archive, at which Fischer supervises musicologists, literary scholars, and media researchers, has been expanded continu- ally over the years: In the 1960s scholars discovered singer-songwriters and the political song, and at the turn of the millennium contemporary music culture and media topics became topics of research. In 2010 the German Musical Archive was integrated into the ZPKM. At the moment, an international pop music archive is being established. The institute publishes two online lexica and has launched a new serial publication titled Populäre Kultur und Musik (“Popular Culture and Music”). Meanwhile, the center continues its work on the valuable collections, which were placed on the national register of his- toric objects in 2013. Anyone is welcome to add to the growing pop music archives: If you have old records you don’t listen to or need anymore, the ZPKM will gladly take them off your hands. Verena Adt » A LOOK BACK 28 Treasure Trove of Music Culture In the 100th year of its existence, the German Folk Song Archive becomes the Freiburg Center for Popular Culture and Music Colorful and valuable: The collections at the Freiburg Center for Popular Culture and Music are on the national register of historic objects. Photos: Patrick Seeger It takes more than just lyrics and melody to make a piece of music popular – also important is how it’s performed, says Director Michael Fischer.