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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  • 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 XII, Number 2 (Summer 2018) Current Issue

“Music is Music”: Anton Ivanovich is Upset (1941) and Soviet Musical Politics

Peter Kupfer

In this article I analyze the musical politics of the 1941 Soviet film Anton Ivanovich serditsya (Anton Ivanovich Is Upset), directed by Aleksandr Ivanovsky, original score by Dmitry Kabalevsky. The film tells the story of the musical “enlightenment” of the eponymous Anton Ivanovich Voronov, an old, stodgy organ professor who is interested only in the “serious” music of J.S. Bach. His daughter, Sima, however, wishes to become an operetta singer and falls in love with a composer of “light” music, Aleksey Mukhin, which upsets the professor greatly. Thanks to a miraculous intervention by Bach himself, Anton Ivanovich ultimately sees his error and accepts Muhkin, going so far as to perform the organ part in Mukhin’s new symphonic poem. While largely a lighthearted and fun tale, the caricature and censure of another young, but veiled “formalist” composer, Kerosinov, reflects the darker side of contemporary Soviet musical aesthetics. In the way that it does and does not work out the uneasy relationship between serious, light, and formalist music, I argue that Anton Ivanovich serditsya realistically reflects the paradoxical nature of Soviet musical politics in the late 1930s.

Pedagogical Community: Music Education as Social Movement

Lauren Eldridge

In this article, I explore how three distinct contemporary sites deploy an activism of aesthetics through establishing pedagogical communities of music, networks that coalesce around the aims of teaching and learning as liberatory practice. The faculty of the Musical Arts Institute, unnamed protestors at a rally, and members of the Morehouse College Glee Club might initially seem unconnected, but they are related through their common use of music as an expressive force, imbued with the power to overcome structural and ideological barriers.

Caught Between the Spectacular and the Vernacular: The Illusory Demos of the Popular Music Museum

Charles Fairchild

Popular music museums seek to produce a particular version of an ideal demos by explicitly constructing and articulating a collective understanding of popular music made material through rich, cross-media, sensory environments. In recent years, the pursuit of these goals has been carried out through the construction of extensive collections of high-tech displays set in high-profile buildings in the presumed Œmusical capitals¹ of the world, such as Los Angeles, Liverpool, and Nashville. However, while some research has begun to consider the politics that fills the displays and exhibitions of these institutions, none has yet looked at the politics that built the museums themselves. This article shows that most major popular music museums are part of larger entertainment districts whose development has coursed along the exclusionary lines of neoliberal politics and economics. As such they produce a foundational disjuncture between the strategic deployment of the vernacular elements of popular music practice and experience as codified within a demonstratively spectacular logic of visual, aural, and material display. These institutions demand the translation of the demotic experience of musical sociality into spectacular environments in ways that must be compelling enough to obscure the tensions produced their material foundations and development.

One Brotherhood in Aotearoa New Zealand: Protest, Resistance and Pacific Reggae

Elizabeth Turner

The band Herbs has recently been formally recognized in Aotearoa New Zealand for its cultural expression and influence, and for the musicians’ political stance in an important period of activism. The band’s highly original and influential first EP, What’s Be Happen? (1981), is a musical fusion of roots reggae and Pacific sounds. It was the country’s first Pacific reggae album and is regarded as a defining moment in the history of New Zealand popular music. This article examines “One Brotherhood,” one of the most overtly political songs from that album, in relation to its political and social context. Written by band member Phil Toms, the song makes a powerful political statement by connecting protest against a national rugby tour of New Zealand by a racially selected team from Apartheid South Africa with struggles for the return of Māori land. I draw on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism and his conceptualization of utterances as ethical acts in the analysis of this popular song and the ways in which subordinate voices are represented in its creative construction of protest and resistance to injustice and social oppression.

On Luigi Nono’s Political Thought: Emancipation Struggles, Socialist Hegemony and the Ethic Behind the Composition of Für Paul Dessau

Luis Velasco-Pufleau

The musical activism of the Italian composer Luigi Nono (1924–1990) is one of the most fascinating examples of the relationship between music and politics in the second half of the twentieth century. A member of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) from 1952, he considered music as a tool for the establishment of socialist hegemony. In this article, I first examine how concepts from Antonio Gramsci underlie Nono’s political thought, the relationship between his conception of social justice struggles and violence, and the ethic behind his compositional practice. Secondly, I analyze how Nono addressed his political and ethical commitment in his last work for magnetic tape, Für Paul Dessau (1974). This article aims to contribute to the discussion on Nono’s appropriation of Gramsci’s ideas, shedding light on how Nono addressed the memory of antifascism, Cold War politics, and Third World international liberation struggles in works from the 1950s to the early 1970s.