music as social action ::
For those of you selecting the interview option for the final project, as mentioned, I'm happy to meet and discuss basic interview strategies before your scheduled chat. You'll want to overprepare for the interview and maximize your time in order to get as much data from the subject(s) as possible. When the time comes to sit down and start writing, it's better to have too many notes than not enough!
In the meantime, you may find this helpful: a few years ago, for another UCSD Comm course, I prepared this guide to basic interviewing skills. It covers how to research and prepare, how to plan your questions (to get more than "yes or no" answers), how to facilitate those questions and follow-up during the interview (plan ahead so that on the spot you can listen and react), some tips on note-taking vs. recording, etc. Holler if you have any questions.
Since our quick hopscotch through various musical mega-events in the 1970s and especially ’80s, several of you have asked follow-up questions about the ultimate impact (politically but also financially, which was its chief stated mission) of the Live Aid concerts in 1985.
I'll refer you to two pieces:
— This media article from The Atlantic a couple of years ago is a fair retrospective of Live Aid's cultural legacy, such as how the concerts crafted a template other fundraisers have followed.
— This scholarly article from a journal attempts to survey Ethiopians who would have been infants at the time of the famine (and, as we saw, such imagery was a prime motivational tool in the fundraiser's marketing) and gauge how their lives were impacted by the relief efforts. The short answer: not much.
We've never enough time in this survey course to cover hip-hop to the level of depth students often crave. If you're left wanting more — or needing sources for your final project — be sure to check out the optional readings and viewings suggested on the schedule page. Jeff Chang's book is frequently regarded as a seminal summation of the genre's history, and The Anthology of Rap is notable not only for being a publishing milestone but also for its controversial errors (to which one of the editors responded in an interesting, lengthy interview).
Also, check out this list of "8 Books That Define and Defy the Canon of Hip Hop Literature." Wimsatt's Bomb the Suburbs, listed there, is a bonkers book in all the right ways — really worth checking out (which you can here!).
Got other recommendations? Post in the comments!
The following post contains some technical resources available to those recording songs for the final project ...
The Media Teaching Lab in Comm
In the Communication bldg. is the campus Media Teaching Lab, a resource for audio-visual equipment and editing software. The storeroom for checking out equipment is downstairs on the first floor; the office and editing bays are upstairs. To access any of these services, you MUST adhere to their strict policies …
Before accessing anything in the Media Lab, you must register your student ID here.
(Do this immediately so that it will be processed soon!)
Checking out equipment — Once registered, any UCSD undergrad may check out a variety of multimedia gear from the lab, including video cameras, microphones, and digital audio recorders. A good option for many of you will be the Tascam DR-05, a fairly simple and intuitive digital audio recorder, from which you can easily upload files to your computer for later editing and/or final delivery. View available equipment and check it out here. (Equipment tends to be difficult to come by toward the end of the quarter, so plan and work early!)
Tim Heidecker is an actor, comedian, and musician. In addition to his comedy duo and roles in TV and film, he makes occasional recordings and tours. His music, in a variety of styles, also leans toward the comic but in a topical, social-messaging way. A year after President Trump's election, he released the album Too Dumb for Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs.
This week, he rush-released a track online in response to the escalating legislation against abortion in many states throughout the country. (Many musicians have, if not yet rushed songs out about it, weighed in through social media etc. about the issue.) A simple song featuring strummed guitar and a basic verse structure (a good model for those planning to write a song for their final project!), "To the Men" addresses lawmakers who voted for the bills by narrating details of young women in the targeted states.
Hear the song here, and lyrics are here ...
Participation! "To the Men" is about women — but not specific women. Instead Heidecker writes his characters loosely as a kind of composite. Instead of telling an individual tale that names a victim and describes a subjective situation, he broadens the narrative and rounds the characters. How does this tactic contribute to or detract from his messaging? Which of our criteria does it serve, and for whom?
Below are all the embeds (that I have) curated by the class for the annotated playlist assignment.
As a body of work, the lists show both interesting common threads (y'all love the Kendrick Lamar, that's for sure!) and intriguing detours for our context (Carrie Underwood! Imagine Dragons! a rapper actually named Propaganda!!).
Peruse them and discuss — in class or (Participation!) in comments below — any through-lines you spot: what are the commonalities to the songs students selected? Importantly, how would you suggest that these service our evolving list of social-action functions?
At the bottom of this post, I embedded a possibly related playlist of my own ...
The focus of this course is pop music — usually spotlighting individuals at the mic, or bands, at the most. But what is different or (to align with some of our readings) useful about music made by larger groups of people? Bob Dylan singing a song is one thing, but we've already seen how the effect and even the messaging itself can change when, say, "Blowin' in the Wind" is sung instead by a hundred people at a protest march.
To wit: the San Diego Women's Chorus performs two shows this weekend of direct interest to some of our discussions. The concert, "Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration of Stonewall," acknowledges this year's 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn protests, which made public the social movement for gay rights. The music being performed an an eight-movement piece commissioned for the occasion, which tells the story of the Stonewall events through music, plus a few other selections.
Tickets can be purchased here — $18 for students, but add the promo code "UCSD" to obtain what I'm told may be a significant discount. The shows are at 7 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln High School, 4777 Imperial Ave.
Well, this was kind of the universe: As we prepare today to transition from punk to hip-hop, here's a brand new podcast about the Clash narrated by Chuck D! "Stay Free: The Story of the Clash" is a new eight-part series developed by the BBC for Spotify.
In this course, we focus our discussions primarily on the content of pop music's communication. We rarely talk about the ontologies of the various media delivering that communication. Amid our discussion of disco, I mentioned the following mini-documentary, which delves into precisely how some of the content of that genre was altered by a significant material change in its packaging as a product. This is interesting for our overall theories (and may be of interest if you're curious about vinyl records, past or present) ...
Participation! What are the differences for the experience of music messaging between physical media and streaming access? That is, previous generations had the option of acquiring and owning physical products (records, cassettes, CDs) in order to hear recorded music, or they could simply listen to what was played on the (free) radio. How does that compare with today's primary options of buying digital music files and paying for access to streaming services? How does either experience improve or limit the messaging, especially of political subjects?
"Real Time with Bill Maher" is a weekly current-events chat show on HBO, hosted by the namesake comedian/pundit. Apropos of perhaps little, in the segment below — an extra Q&A he does with his guests especially for YouTube — Maher reads a viewer's question for the pop musician Moby, "Do musicians have a responsibility to use their platforms to influence politics?" (starting at 2:40) ...
Moby's response is quick and highly subjective, but it's interesting for us in the ways it highlights something we've mentioned a few times but not drilled down on. We've discussed the commercial aspects of making and selling music with political messages, but in a broader sense. Moby makes it personal, focusing on those who might not want to make political waves for fear of upsetting their income and career, for the sake of their family.