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


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Editorial Board

  • Paul Attinello (University of Newcastle)
  • Michael Beckerman (New York University)
  • Andrea F. Bohlman (UNC Chapel Hill)
  • James R. Currie (University at Buffalo)
  • Dick Flacks (University of California, Santa Barbara)
  • Shirli Gilbert (University of Southampton)
  • Nancy Guy (University of California, San Diego)
  • Patricia Hall (University of Michigan)
  • Áine Heneghan (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
  • Noriko Manabe (Temple University)
  • Chérie Rivers Ndaliko (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • Pamela Potter (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Silvio J. dos Santos (University of Florida)
  • John Street (University of East Anglia)

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Volume XIII, Number 2 (Summer 2019)
Current Issue

In Truth, the Forest Hears Each Sound: Sounding Nature and Ideology in New York’s Hudson Valley

Joshua Groffman

This article seeks an account of how sound participates in the embodied experience of New York’s Hudson River Valley: by many accounts the prototypical pastoral landscape and a beautiful place. How we hear the environment, and “sound” it ourselves in cultural discourse, reflects more than simple appreciation of the natural world. Rather, accounting for the workings of the American “pastoral ideology” is an avenue for accessing some of this country’s most critical debates. Discourse around nature often reflects a long-running trend to locate “the essential America as exurban, green, pastoral, even wild.” It therefore frequently hinges on notions of what, and who, constitutes the “essential America,” along with contested understandings of community, politics, class, and race. I argue that sound—experienced as the aural dimension of place, the cultural product known as music, and conceptions between—is an ideal medium for unpacking pastoral ideology and understanding its relation to broader political currents. Such investigation is currently more urgent than ever. Even as ecological problems increasingly demand our attention, they are made more intractable by the politicization of environmental values along the “red-blue” axis. My aim is to make explicit some of the values underlying the hearing and sounding of the natural world, and by doing so, to further the project of building a common understanding of a more sustainable future.

Shaping the Past and Creating the Future: Music, Nationalism, and the Negotiation of Cultural Memory at Macedonia’s Celebration of Twenty Years of Independence

Dave Wilson

On September 8, 2011, the Republic of Macedonia celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its peaceful declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. The celebration was a spectacle of unprecedented proportions in Macedonia and featured the unveiling of the newly redesigned center square in Skopje, an hour-long speech by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, many musical performances, and an audience of Macedonians from all over the country. With Macedonia having faced years of economic challenge, ethnic strife, and political struggle common to many ex-Yugoslav and postsocialist societies, the celebration of twenty years of independence provided Macedonians (in particular the government-appointed organizers) with an opportunity to represent themselves not only to the outside world, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to their fellow citizens. While the celebration may have seemed like a monolithic concretion of a particular representation of Macedonia, the production and preparation processes for the musical events of celebration provided myriad sites for the negotiation of this representation. At these sites––rehearsal rooms, recording studios, and informal gatherings––the varied dispositions of participants in the celebration (e.g., musicians, dancers, producers, directors) towards ideas of the nation were more legible than they were on the seemingly unified stage of the highly mediated celebration.

“Basta ya!”: Aesthetic Calibanism and Cold War-Era Context in the Protest Songs of Atahualpa Yupanqui

Julius Reder Carlson

In 1971, the Argentine singer-songwriter Atahualpa Yupanqui (1908–1992) re-recorded “Basta ya!,” an “anti-imperialist song” that he had first recorded two decades earlier, in 1950. By any definition, the 1971 version of “Basta ya!” is a protest song. In the first three stanzas, Yupanqui sings in the voice of an exploited carter, describing the travails of his workday. In the final four, he decries social inequality, augurs the liberation of the Latin American working class, and denounces the Vietnam War. The guitar accompaniment to Yupanqui’s lyric plays a powerful role in shaping its affective meaning. Following a guitar prelude evocative of setting and action, the initial, mournful verses of the song are in a plodding D minor with somber b6→5 gestures and a plaintive vocal melody. The ensuing denunciatory verses are accompanied by a rousing, D major march: “Enough already!” cries Yupanqui, reinforcing the violent tenor of his demand with an explosion of strumming.

Recent Books on Music and Politics

Compiled by James McNally

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 for possible inclusion in the next issue.