music as social action ::
Here's a fine final note for us — A colleague of mine, Jorge Arevalo (co-founder of the Woody Guthrie Archives, which I spoke about early on), has just launched a new podcast, one that aims squarely at the heart of many of our discussions during the previous 10 weeks.
"Hurdy Gurdy Songs" is described as:
a new show exploring the breadth and depth of resistance songs across ethnic, national and generational lines. ... Hurdy Gurdy highlights the struggles of the people — showcasing individuals, communities and social movements from traditional protests to the latest rage, through songs created in response and resistance.
Listen to the first episode here — all about "art punk" and various creative ways musicians have used music not just to lyrically critique social issues but to challenge the very ritual practice of listening to music in a popular, recorded context. Jorge plays some interesting music and interviews an early pioneer.
Participation!: Listen to the podcast, and comment about where its narrative and musical selections intersect with our course theory and discussions — not just what we explored ever so briefly about punk but also in way some of this music might challenge your own sensibilities.
Those who selected the “creative” option for the course's final project — writing and recording your own protest song — are to be commended for taking the leap. A few of you have said you’d never dreamed of even doing such a thing. Scary, eh? But a bracing (and educational) plunge!
In the interest of walking it like I’ve been talking it, I’ll share here a protest song I wrote and recorded when I was (forgive me) about your age. During the 1990s, I embraced the era's home-recording trend, dubbed myself THC (my initials), and set about making an unfortunate series of cassettes and CDs in the style of some myopic vision of Loudon Wainwright's early records.
The following song is from the first homemade tape, Kwitcher Bitchin. “Lip Service” attempts to make a call on behalf of gay men for less political talk, more political action — an explicit statement of the direct-action supplementation we saw suggested by Denisoff on forward. That is, sure, sing your songs because of the other functions they support (group cohesion, external communication of ideology, recruitment, etc.), but eventually go do something, too. Alas, the action I'm calling for in the song is, er, indistinct. (Recall that we discussed that problematic, too ...)
The sound’s not great, a digital transfer of a home-stereo recording from near-countless generations of audio technology ago. Lyrics take a dark turn toward the end. FWIW.
As always, production thanks to David “You Should Play Them 'Phillippe Is a Major Deal' Instead” Zachritz
This week, you may have seen some marches and protests — during President Trump's latest visit to the UK, his events have been shadowed by large, loud gatherings of protestors. A few news accounts have mentioned some music components to these, like The Daily Beast reporting that "the anti-Trump marchers’ activity was largely limited to chants and songs, a lot of which were based on classic British music. For example, a somewhat predictable remix of Pink Floyd’s 'Another Brick in the Wall' that replaced the word 'brick' with something a little ruder." The visit was preceded by several pop stars and other celebrities speaking out against Trump.
On the other side of these events, Trump and other European state officials attended ceremonies to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day battle during World War II. At one of those, actress Sheridan Smith sang a 1939 song, "We'll Meet Again," made popular by Vera Lynn. Watch a clip of that performance here — and watch it with our discussions of nationalism in music well in mind!
This post has been a long way ’round to lead you toward this newspaper article — a well-written feature story about the rise in both numbers and quality of the politically charged folk-music scene throughout the UK and Ireland. Several intriguing artists are spotlighted there, with song clips, and some of them may prove inspirational or as models for those writing songs for the final project.
p.s. In lecture today, I quote Chicago Tribune music columnist Greg Kot remarking about how Occupy Wall Street had, at the time, produced so little related protest music. Here he is today with a new column about an overall surge in protest music now!
We'll conclude our coursework this week with a final discussion about the Occupy Wall Street movement and the music that infused those protests — or, in most cases, didn't. For some extra background on the movement and its connections to previous social actions, this article offers a well-written history.
We'll talk about the drum circles at Occupy and link them to other discussions we've had about wordless musical contributions to social protest. We won't, however, get to another element of Occupy's particular modes of communication that is worth considering in connection to our examinations of music: the human microphone, a tactic in which audience members repeat the words of a speaker in waves through a crowd, "amplifying" the speaker when no electronic PA system is present. It's a creative strategy that facilitates large assemblies and contributes to their mobility. See some post-Occupy examples of its use here.