HONK!United: A Virtual Global Festival of Activist Brass Bands during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Andrew Graver Snyder, Erin Allen, Reebee Garofalo

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While many social activities abruptly went online due to the pandemic, the HONK! Festivals of Activist Brass Bands would seem an unlikely candidate for going virtual. The global network of HONK! Festivals that emerged in Boston in 2006 fills public spaces around the world with crowds and acoustic music, promoting live, “unmediated” musical experiences. As such gatherings became impossible in 2020, this global festival network conceived of a virtual festival that would connect the diffuse festivals, which had generally been limited to local, ephemeral events. In the course of fifty hours over eight days in October 2020, HONK!United brought together musicians and activists from all seven continents to share music videos, documentaries, live chats, workshops, and panels, providing an opportunity
for these disparate communities to gain unprecedented self-consciousness as a global movement. Drawing on the works of Judith Butler and Anna Tsing, this article discusses the practical and conceptual implications of making an in-person event virtual, the politics of public assembly in a virtual format, and frictions between diverse musical communities in global conversation. We argue that although the pandemic presented tremendous challenges to the sustainability of live music cultures, it also provided previously unimaginable opportunities for musical movement
building across the world.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16/1
Pages (from-to)1-28
Number of pages28
JournalMusic and Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2022


  • HONK!
  • Brass bands
  • Pandemic
  • Virtual festival
  • Activism


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