music as social action :: Blog
South by Southwest is an annual music conference and festival — a event at which artists and their record companies can showcase themselves in a kind of one-stop shopping for the music industry and media. Todd Martens, a great critic at the L.A. Times who covers SXSW each year, posted this piece in advance of this week's five-day festival. His thesis is that SXSW this year also will be showcasing a great deal of political communication via the music.
As you read his article, note where our course theory pops up — in the way a couple of artists describe the inevitability of their writing songs of social protest given current events, in the ways artists are thinking about (and afraid of) feedback with their audiences, and in claims such as "these songs are about building a community."
Participation! Why would current events seem inevitable for the production of protest songs? Setting aside personal political responses to that, think about it in terms of our course theories. Why, in an era of so many varied means of communication, would people turn to music for this type of expression? Answer with an example of a very recent protest song — why is it a particularly effective means of communication? (For sources, see this video reel of numerous recent tracks, or this piece about new protest songs.)
3/16/2018 09:42:28 am
Current events seem inevitable for artists to produce protest songs because of pressure coming from fans and having to remain/reaffirm their certain image/brand. I think people turn to music for this type of expression because it's easier to encode your message (feelings, beliefs, political/social stances) and easier for the audience to decode the distributed message because we can hear/feel an artists' pain/suffering/ideas. "Quiet" by MILCK is a great example of a recent protest song that is effective because it became the emotional rally cry for self-empowerment and unity during the 2017 Women's March.
Jae Hyung Lee
3/17/2018 09:05:31 pm
3/23/2018 01:25:11 pm
I think that current events are inevitable for the production of protest songs because the media is such a large component of our existence in this digital era, that it is actually hard to function as a normal citizen in everyday life without encountering a social justice issue or political agenda in the face at least once per day. Specifically, people would turn to music for this type of expression because music evokes a strong, primal emotional response that words without rhythm can't seem to do alone. Additionally, in a world where connection is everything, issues are becoming known globally; amidst all the different languages, music as a universal form of communication that those around the world can understand and get behind. In terms of corporate plays, music can pave its way to becoming widely played so that it permeates markets on a global scale which helps in promoting a specific message. Take "this is me" by Kesha for example. This song, written as a reaction against sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and sung with a newfound confidence by the singer, was featured in a blockbuster movie, "The Greatest Showman" which garnered more views and interaction with the song due to its exposure through central movie theaters. Because it is so catchy, the song spread quickly and even won the 2017 Golden Globe award for best original song.
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