This is the final week of our introductory unit and the first week of unit 2: Music and Revolutions. For Monday, we will focus on warfare and conflict by reading two chapters from Steve Goodman’s Sonic Warfare and Bill Rolston’s essay about the Irish conflict in rock music. As you read these, I want you to focus on how their perspective on music’s efficacy differs from what we have read so far. Remember, every author we have covered in this unit has fundamental disagreements about how music acts in the context of resistance and social protest.
Thursday marks the beginning of our second unit on Music and Revolutions. We begin that unit with Part IV from Annabelle Sreberny- Mohammadi and Ali Mohammadi’s Small Media, Big Revolution on the Iranian Revolution. While this is the beginning of our Revolutions unit, this reading also acts as a theoretical text for how different media act in political revolutions.
UPDATE: Here is a link to the music.
In the title chapter from Publics and Counterpublics, queer theorist and literary scholar Michael Warner offers us a different rubric for understanding social resistance from what we have discussed so far in our class. (For an excellent general discussion on the thesis of his work, listen to this CBC podcast.) During today’s make-up class, 5 students and I discussed how his concepts differ from the Marxist subversion and resistance as described in the readings by Attali and Williams. For those of you who could not attend today’s make-up class, here are some ideas to consider as you approach his work on your own.
- The chapter is divided into 7 main points about publics and counterpublics: 1) a public is self-organized; 2) a public is a relation among strangers; 3) the address of public speech is both personal and impersonal; 4) a public is constituted through mere attention; 5) a public is the social space created by the reflexive circulation of discourse; 6) publics act historically according to the temporality of their circulation; 7) a public is poetic world making. The last section is pivotal because that is where he offers up some details about how counterpublics work (starting on page 115).
- Warner spends quite a bit of space describing the differences between different types of attention, circulation and discourse. In particular, he focuses on how personal correspondence, lyric poetry, gossip and sermons are not addressed to “publics” but rather depend on different engagement between social actors. What are the limits of this perspective? How is contemporary social media pushing at the boundaries of public and private?
- Often the music of counterpublics is not immediately interpreted as such by the dominant public. What are some examples that you can name where artists have relied upon the coding and slipperiness between these categories? Do these artists depend on a certain illegibility?
- How is this perspective on publics and social interactions informed by Warner’s background as a queer theorist? How is it informed by his emphasis in literary studies?
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I have to cancel Monday’s class. Please prepare the Raymond Williams readings for Thursday. We will decide later about scheduling a make-up class.
This week is mostly theory. For Monday, we are reading two chapters from Raymond Williams’ Marxism and Literature, which can be found here. We’ll end our theory week with a chapter from Michael Warner’s Publics and Counterpublics (available here). Both are more involved readings, and I very much look forward to your thoughts. I’ll have more to say about both authors during the weekend.
Happy PCP / Inauguration weekend!!
Here is the video I showed in class about the use of music by the Freedom Riders.
The listening for this week is meant to elaborate on the theoretical concepts in the reading. Thus, it is more eclectic than it normally would be. You will notice that I have provided an audio recording of Wilhem Furtwängler and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra performing the end of the Finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 on April 19, 1942. Here is the accompanying video which should make the accompanying German introduction make more sense. (A recording of the full symphony as recorded one month prior is available on youtube.)
The campus bookstore now has copies of Rockin’ The Boat. They ordered fewer books than there are students in the class, so get them while the getting is hot. The other text is on order and should be there within the next week. Those of you who are not able to get the book through the bookstore should contact me privately and we will work out what to do next.
For next Monday, we will be reading Thomas Turino’s chapter, “Music and Political Movements” from Music and Social Life. (This is from the same textbook I used in last spring’s “Music and the Global Metropolis.”) Turino’s juxtaposition of two famous instances of music and political change in the 20th century is jarring, but it makes sense for the particular aspects he discusses.
For Thursday, will tackle two chapters Jacques Attali’s Noise: The Political Economy of Music from 1977 (translated in English in 1985). It is a longer and more challenging chunk of reading, but Noise is full of notable quotes. For the first assigned chapter, focus your attention on the front part of the chapter where he lays out his argument before moving on to the rest. Remember that Attali’s is one of the optional texts for the first writing assignment, so it will yield rewards to invest a fair amount of time for reading his tome.
Yesterday’s discussion on pop-star activism (and earnestness) since the age of MTV inspired some of you to make connections to other artists you like. Here are some video responses:
Comedian Tim Minchin’s, “F*ck The Poor,” is a biting critique of self-serving attitudes towards charity and the poor. Is it satire or is it genuine?
Heavy Metal artists also had their own version of “We Are the World” in Hear N’ Aid’s “Stars”. The chorus, “We are stars,” conveys a very different sentiment than “We are the world.”
Keep ’em coming guys…
As promised, here is a link to the listening for the first week. I have included three multi-artist activist recordings. While “We Are The World” is the most famous of the bunch, there is also “Sun City” and Sean Lennon’s remake of “Give Peace a Chance,” a little-remembered protest of the first Gulf War (the really short, popular gulf war). For many of these multi-artist recordings, it can be a fun game of pop music trivia to figure out whose voice you hear for a verse without seeing the accompanying video.
For Thursday, we are reading Reebee Garofalo’s essay, “Understanding Mega-Events: If We Are the World, Then How Do We Change It,” from Rockin’ The Boat: Mass Music and Mass Movements. Apologies again for the strangeness of the PDF. I will replace it with a better PDF if possible. As you read, see if you can connect the tensions at the heart of pop star activism with the broader goal of social change.