The European Union is looking for new narratives of Europe. But which was the old one and was there really just one? Do narratives of Europe in the so-called ‘new’ east Europe offer alternatives for redefining European identity? In order to approach these issues, this paper looks at how Europe is narrated in east European popular music, focusing the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC).
A wide range of symbols struggle for identifying or signifying Europe (Fornäs 2012). The post-1989 EU enlargement has intensified such redefinition efforts. Popular music offers a fascinating field for such narrative identifications, with the ESC as an influential arena, linking cultural, social and political discourses. Music matters (Hesmondhalgh 2013) to people on many influential levels, combining emotive pleasure with social interaction in ways that offer rich resources for identifying practices. Being perhaps the most successful pan-European venture, the ESC is therefore an excellent source for investigating narratives of Europe.
Written within an interdisciplinary project on east European ‘Narratives of Europe’, this paper analyses songs from ESC finals since 1989. Using a methodological model for analysing narratives, inspired by Genette (1972/1980), Ricoeur (1981) and Ryan (2004), it looks for who acts in a narrative (setup), what happens in which order (process), how or in what format the story is told (mode) and what identity it constructs for Europe (meaning).
More than 70 songs were chosen, 40 of them from east Europe. Preliminary results indicate an overwhelming dominance of one master narrative of redemptive resurrection, with a set of sub-variants. In other contexts than the ESC, popular songs may depict Europe as an eternally happy place or as falling from greatness into misery, but the ESC format strongly favours a narrative where Europe had a glorious past but then has been deeply torn by internal strife, wars and suffering, from which it now finally will recover by uniting in mutual co-operation and love. Some variants say little or nothing about the initial golden age, some less triumphantly place the resurrection as a dream for the future, and some east European song narratives add freedom from oppression to peace after internal war as core values, but the master narrative is never really abandoned.
This resurrection narrative resonates with the founding myth expressed in EU’s key symbols. The inclusion of former Soviet Bloc countries into the European integration process has given new impetus to those founding narratives, and the ESC’s east European narratives indicate important continuities between the old and the new.
While offering a methodological example of narrative analysis of media texts in the seldom-studied format of televised popular music, the paper also contributes to the understanding of how east European voices construct Europe’s history and future in the processes of transformation that challenge inherited ideas of what Europe means.
Universidade Lusófona , 2014. 267- p.
Eurovision Song Contest ESC, East Europe, narrative, identity, popular music, European Union EU