for Brooks Hickman

"...we were just stuck in one of those
musical recessions
we used to have once in a while..."
(Lester Bangs, pg. 5)

1 Dec 2000
Brooks and I talked about various musical possibilities in the realm of 'protest' music --which broadens to include musics that deal with questions of identity and commitment. I thought immediately of René Lussier, and I'm sure I'll think of others. I said I'd start accumulating materials for him. For now this is just a placeholder for what I'll eventually do. I gave him the Cui Jian materials.

Ambiances Magnetiques occurred to me... though René Lussier's Le Trésor de la Langue is probably the only one directly relevant

and so did Rembetika (see Matt Barrett, or Balkan Music Online for quick intro)

and Raï (take a look at Rod Skilbeck, with sound files, and some others )

and I talked a bit about musical half-lives and age cohorts, ideas well worth elaborating here.

4 Dec
A set of lyrics to accompany a tape/CD compilation, with some preliminary remarks on the genres involved

Some must-reads (or at least must-look-ats --I haven't read them all myself, but especially Greil Marcus and Robert Palmer are essential, and the others are things I've either seen or read about):

CALL NO.     ML200 .H17.
AUTHOR       Hamm, Charles.
TITLE        Music in the New World / by Charles Hamm.
IMPRINT      New York : Norton, 1982.

CALL NO.     ML420.J15 R66 1999.
AUTHOR       Romalis, Shelly, 1939-
TITLE        Pistol packin' Mama : Aunt Molly Jackson and the politics of 
               folksong / Shelly Romalis.
IMPRINT      Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c1999.

CALL NO.     ML3561.P6 R6.
AUTHOR       Rodnitzky, Jerome L., 1936-
TITLE        Minstrels of the dawn : the folk-protest singer as a cultural 
               hero / Jerome L. Rodnitzky.
IMPRINT      Chicago : Nelson-Hall, c1976.

CALL NO.     ML285 .P18 1988.
AUTHOR       Palmer, Roy, 1932-
TITLE        The sound of history : songs and social comment / Roy Palmer.
IMPRINT      Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1988.

CALL NO.     ML3561.P6 D45.
AUTHOR       Denisoff, R. Serge.
TITLE        Sing a song of social significance [by] R. Serge Denisoff.
IMPRINT      [Bowling Green, Ohio] Bowling Green University Popular Press  [1972]

CALL NO.     ML3795 .W58 1989.
TITLE        World music, politics, and social change : papers from the 
               International Association for the Study of Popular Music / 
               edited by Simon Frith.
IMPRINT      Manchester, UK ; New York : Manchester University Press ; New 
               York, NY : Distributed exclusively in the USA and Canada by St.
               Martin's Press, c1989 (1991 printing)

CALL NO.     ML420.D98 M16 1997.
AUTHOR       Marcus, Greil.
TITLE        Invisible republic : Bob Dylan's basement tapes / Greil Marcus.
IMPRINT      New York : Henry Holt, 1997.

CALL NO.     CB428 .M356 1989.
AUTHOR       Marcus, Greil.
TITLE        Lipstick traces : a secret history of the twentieth century / 
               Greil Marcus.
IMPRINT      Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1988, c1989.

CALL NO.     ML3534 .B315 1987.
AUTHOR       Bangs, Lester.
TITLE        Psychotic reactions and carburetor dung / by Lester Bangs ; 
               edited by Greil Marcus.
IMPRINT      New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1987.

CALL NO.     ML394 .G95 1994.
AUTHOR       Guralnick, Peter.
TITLE        Lost highway : journeys & arrivals of American musicians / Peter 
IMPRINT      New York, N.Y. : HarperPerennial, 1994.

CALL NO.     ML3521 .P34.
AUTHOR       Palmer, Robert.
TITLE        Deep blues / Robert Palmer.
IMPRINT      New York : Viking Press, 1981.

CALL NO.     ML3799 .E78 1994.
TITLE        Ethnicity, identity, and music : the musical construction of place /  
                 edited by Martin Stokes.
IMPRINT      Oxford, UK ; Providence, R.I. : Berg, 1994.

An excellent provocative piece on the Irish scene: All the Way from Tuam to Zooropa: Traditionalism and Homelessness in Contemporary Irish Music(1997) Dr Kieran Keohane

Some notes to myself, for things to follow up and develop:

It's truly awe-inspiring (and eternally flummoxing) how rapidly the landscape of Music changes. Bands and performers come and go... and the media of transmission alter (MP3... minidisk... DVD... CD... LP... cassette... 8-track... reel-to-reel... 45... 78... etc., not to speak of the conniptions of radio)

Nobody seems to be connecting this with the age cohorts that provide the ears. And nobody seems to be very adept at wide-angle vision that takes in and connects up the landscape of genres (though there have been noteworthy writers about particular genres, like Robert Palmer and Greil Marcus and Peter Guralnick)

By the time a NEW musical scene is ready for mass distribution it's already lost its creative edge
(I wonder if that's really true. Certainly by the time the CD-buying public is ready to consume, the scene that produced the innovation has moved on --thus, what is going on with the edge of music now in Beijing? What happened to the 1992 Cui Jian scene that's evidently caught in the film Beijing Bastards?)

Music as provocation --taking on/confronting taboos and redline subjects... derisive, confrontational, in-yer-face, satirical, subversive, ironic...

The agendas and concerns of one year look pretty ragged a couple of years later, and are so antique five years later that they're difficult to explain to the new age cohort. And a decade is HISTORY. Almost nobody can STAY on the curl, though some try by reinvention. And some move with a cohort.

A long series of developments associated with specific cities and points in time --Minneapolis and Prince, Detroit and Motown, Seattle and grunge rock and Nirvana, and so on each case, the outside world catches on well after the development process is underway, and sometimes after it's vanished from the place to some other place. There's a musical space-time that would be fascinating to see documented.

"...a sure-fire way to exclude adults" (Frith 141)

Musics of Exclusion --codes, rules broken

"...a walking signifier of the rebellion against strict English class codes" (Frith 147, on Teddy Boys)
"scandalizing suburban values" (Frith 194)

So how does one go about building a background understanding of important protest/identity/commitment musics, as a basis for hunting up what's going on NOW?

Clearly there are some genres to explore and integrate, ones that have developed the elements fully. Blues is obviously one such --the epitome of lyrics crystallizing out of the surroundings (Robert Palmer: "floating formulas" pg 68), FORM and variations on the canonical. Often indirect, masked, allusive lyrics...
And the history of cooptation of/borrowing from (especially) Black musics... it continues, but now it's RAP/Hip-Hop that's being appropriated/adapted. A short article in Index on Censorship ("In the land of Rai" (Rap music is taking over from the traditional Rai in Algeria) Amari C INDEX ON CENSORSHIP 28: (3) 168-171 MAY-JUN 1999) offers a number of short translations.
(and this is probably the Watson project --seek out naturalizations of rap and hip-hop and collect their texts, but in the context of "music of protest and identity"). E-zines may be the most useful single source of information on the present and recent past... see as an example of a non-American portal into this world. And also check out Alliance Ethnik