Music and Politics is an open access, peer-reviewed, academic journal first published in 2007. More...

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Please send all inquiries and submissions to musicandpolitics@umich.edu.

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Editorial Board

  • Paul Anderson (University of Michigan)
  • Paul Attinello (University of Newcastle)
  • Laura Basini (California State University)
  • Michael Beckerman (New York University)
  • Timothy J. Cooley (UC Santa Barbara)
  • James R. Currie (University at Buffalo)
  • Dick Flacks (UC Santa Barbara)
  • Shirli Gilbert (University of Michigan)
  • Nancy Guy (UC San Diego)
  • Áine Heneghan (University of Washington)
  • Pamela Potter (University of Wisconsin)
  • Tricia Rose (Brown University)
  • Silvio J. dos Santos (University of Florida)
  • Jeremy Smith (University of Colorado)
  • Joseph N. Straus (CUNY)

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Volume VIII, Number 1 (2014) Current Issue

The Slow Sublime and 9/11: Insecurity and Fear in William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops

Ellis Jones

In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, public response was characterised by an inability to accept the reality of the situation. Contemporary cultural theorists Jean Baudrillard and Slavoj Zizek have suggested that the bombing of the World Trade Centre in particular constituted a symbolic destruction of an entire construction of reality. William Basinski's ambient music series The Disintegration Loops was released in this context, becoming part of a post-9/11 cultural discourse that allowed emotional response to take shape. This essay draws on Kant's theory of the sublime (as expanded upon by Thomas Weiskel) in order to examine how the relationship between noise and silence in The Disintegration Loops offers a means by which to deconstruct the sublime 'blockage' of 9/11; it presents change as a dialectical process, rather than as an incomprehensible single event.

Mr. Simpático: Dean Reed, Pop Culture, and the Cold War in Chile

Jedrek Mularski

This article reveals the complexities of Latin America’s Cold War experience by examining the process by which North American rock and roll singer Dean Reed became a polarizing figure in Chile. It argues that Reed became part of an international cultural movement that was not simply the product of United States-Soviet competition, but a more complex convergence of various political and cultural movements from across the Americas and beyond. In doing so, it provides a vivid example of rock and roll, a product of United States and European popular culture industries, being appropriated for anti-capitalist purposes in the midst of the Cold War.

Five to One: Rethinking the Doors and the Sixties Counterculture

Christopher Crenshaw

While historians have examined the complexity and nuance of the 1960s counterculture, their analyses of the popular culture that was intimately connected to it continue to focus on “hippie” culture from San Francisco. The Doors represent a different side of the experience. They were influenced by ideas that were influential across the movements that coalesced into the popular resistance front of the late sixties, but the band articulated an unorthodox brand of countercultural resistance that affirmed or rejected different aspects of the culture as it was discussed at the time and as it would later be constructed in popular memory. They advocated “sex as a weapon,” while subtly eschewing “psychedelia” and rejecting the more overt elements of hippie culture, especially Woodstock, in favor of “darkness” and “constant revolution.” The band’s extreme popularity in the late sixties points to the wide appeal of their particular countercultural brand.

Border Songs: Bringing the Immigration Crisis to the Classroom with Music

Robert Neustadt

The current humanitarian crisis on the U.S.–Mexico border remains hidden from view, leaving many people, including students, completely unaware that thousands of impoverished people have died, and that others continue to die, while attempting to cross the border from Mexico into the United States. This article begins with descriptions of several unusual musical occurrences that the author and students encountered while on field trips to the border, and highlights the manner in which these musical experiences catalyzed further learning about political issues. The article then focuses on the Border Songs CD (2012), a double album of music and spoken word about the border and immigration—a powerful instructional tool that provides material to bring a nuanced understanding of border issues to the classroom. The album, in many ways, is a musical journey that leads listeners to “see” the humanitarian crisis on the border and to understand its root causes. The album might serve as a “text” in any number of courses—Border Studies, English Composition, Ethnic Studies, Latin American Studies, Literature, Spanish Language Skills—essentially any class that explores the concepts of ethnicity, privilege, identity, and power. Border Songs allows listeners to see and hear much of what is occurring on the border and within our country from a variety of perspectives and to explore critically the consequences of current immigration policy and border enforcement strategies.

Exilic Suffering: Music, Nation, and Protestantism in Cold War South Korea

Hyun Kyong Hannah Chang

In Cold War South Korea, the unmarked term “music” (eumak) came to signify Western classical music, and a host of ambiguous terms, including “folk music” (minsogeumak), “traditional music” (jeontongeumak), “indigenous music” (hyangtoeumak), and “national music” (gugak), emerged to categorize traditional practices that were rapidly disappearing from everyday cultural terrain. This West-centric development in musical culture has been euphemistically called “cosmopolitanism,” and in some cases, considered an index of national progress in the “race to modernization.” This paper attempts a critical reckoning of a specifically Cold-War form of cosmopolitanism by examining musicians who were at the center of this mid-century development: Christian Korean composers who left the North to flee the persecution of Christians by communist officials between 1945 (Korea’s independence from Japan) and 1953 (the end of the Korean War). I argue that the exiled composers were strategically positioned to construct secular and sacred music practices that reinforced the official cultural policy of the nascent U.S.-South Korea coalition. This exilic cultural work involved not just reconciling anticommunist nationalism with Western music idioms but also a related project of discouraging alternative conceptions of national (and nationally important) music. I first investigate how Christian exiles became the poetic voice of Cold War official culture through their elevated status in this culture’s institutions and narratives. Secondly, I consider the politics of this official culture, examining the music styles, genres, and compositions that were promoted or repressed. As I will show, Cold War music culture in South Korea was shaped by a confluence of mid-century international and intra-national politics, and Christian exiled composers were situated at the convergence of these mid-century concerns.

Recent Books on Music and Politics

Eunice Schroeder

The books listed in this column address music as it relates to political expression or focus to a significant degree on power relationships between individual musicians or musical communities and a governing authority. Readers are welcome to submit additional titles to schroeder@library.ucsb.edu for possible inclusion in the next issue.