Conclusion: Folk Pop’s Sonic Affect Between Space and Place


Our analysis of the affective dimensions of Slovenian folk pop points to an uneasy relationship between sonic affect that exceeds spatial anchors, and its strange, lingering stickiness, which persists in realigning it with factually debatable, but socially pervasive ideas about Slovenianness as opposed Others. 


Focusing on the case of a certain musician's interpretation of Slovenian and Balkan sounds and a right-wing Prime Minister’s hijacking of music for his political goals, we have tried to demonstrate how affect sticks as sonic stimulation that is translated into cultural interpretations and aesthetic judgments. As this case demonstrates, Slovenian folk pop music's affect can be (and has frequently been) captured by (or territorialized as) a form of national, even nationalistic, emotions. This political use can be seen in the differentiation between the joyous emotional character of Slovenian folk pop music and the melancholic emotional character of the Balkans (particularly the Southern Balkans); the different sonic qualities have been translated into hierarchized social categories. 


This perspective on the construction of borders and nations through sound can also shed light on the question why, despite the apparent constructed nature of the emotional character of Slovenian folk pop, it is still seen as an expression of authentic, uncurbed affectivity. The authentic, as in the folk pop sonic realm, must be produced and constantly renegotiated by means of territorialization, in the same vein as the modern nation state. There is a relation between popular music and nationality. As Revill argues, the “aurality of folk culture [is] a source of sonic authenticity for nationalist composers” (Revill 2000, 602), and sound plays an important role in the discursive constitution of modern subjectivity on a more general level:


The sound of folk music was seen to be a true expression of ordinary country life for a variety of reasons. Folk songs are transmitted orally, without a definitive version; such music was viewed as democratic and freely adaptable to the desires of the people. The rhythmic and melodic characteristics of songs and dances are frequently based on the labour process, such as sowing and reaping, or the social activities of community life, such as courtship dances. Most importantly, folk songs and dances were believed to be founded on the rhythmic and melodic traits of native language. Vaughan Williams said that folk music is the most direct expression of personal and intimate emotion because ‘it is the natural development of excited speech.’ Folk songs spring up ‘like wild flowers among the people of a nation’ (Kennedy 1964: 31). Thus, music derived from folk elements encapsulates in sound the essential expressivity of the nation. (Revill 2000: 602)


Similarly, Slovenian folk pop music is an invention in the field of popular music, and it functions as the sonic manifestation of the invented tradition of Slovenian national identity. If popular music (and folk pop as a part of it) is an industry of affects and if affect has particular importance in contemporary capitalism, it also means that national identification and differentiation can be enacted on the level of popular music. The collective nature of sonic affects creates sonic territories, which are an assemblage of sonic relations within itself and with other sonic territories. This means that the territorializing force of sonic affects is inseparable from the mechanism of coding in the form of socially recognized feelings. Our example has demonstrated that the sonic affects of Slovenian folk pop has predominantly been coded as the feeling of merriness, entering the domain of nationalist politics as an ideological distinction from other cultural territories of the former Yugoslavia. It is important to note that the nationalization and politicization of Slovenian folk pop affects are enacted in the context of post-Yugoslav sonic territories and that Yugoslav (and in the widest sense Balkan) folk pop has functioned as political affect since the 1980s. In this vein, we intend to continue our investigation of the genealogy of sonic affect and emotional states in the context of Slovenian folk pop music. In doing so, we hope to be able to offer theoretical insights that might transgress the problematic ideological perspectives covered within this essay, and to indicate new vectors in the sonically interesting territory of the Balkans.