Darrell Jonsson (jonsson) Sat 7 Aug 10 15:43
Its fair enough to realize a writer has a scope to be dealt within a finite amount of pages. For those who wish to read more about the politics of Jazz Bob Backus' book Fire Music; A Political History of Jazz, can help fill in a few blanks about the AACM, JCOA, STRATA, the Tribe, BAG and so on. Dark Tree, a book about the late Horace Tapscott, while not focused on politics certainly provides a social history of South Central L.A. with music as a central catalyst and thread. One question I have for Dick is in his book or elsewhere does he discuss the various intent or effect of 'protest'. I think I understand the idea of music as a tool of resistance against the dominant (or perceived dominant) culture and also against/for topical political issues, but what other varieties of protest exist?
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sat 7 Aug 10 18:37
Darrell, If you get to the chapter about the music of hate, you will encounter protests against equal rights, and the neo-Nazi sentiments that regard any group except "Aryans" as being worthless and hateful. Notice that the title of the book refers not to protest but to social change. Protest songs, as the term is generally used, do meet your above definition - protests against the dominant culture. But songs may also take political positions against opposing ideologies. For example, I can imagine songs that oppose Palin or the Tea Party. They aren't dominant political groups, but they certainly may lend themselves to descriptions in song. Similarly, in the Viet Nam war there were songs opposing and supporting the war. So a pro-war song might protest people burning their draft cards, and an anti-war song might protest the loss of life or the war itself.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sat 7 Aug 10 18:44
Darrell, The Tapscott book ties in, I think, with Spellman's book in the sense that it shows how difficult it is for an experimental jazz musician to survive. Tapscott, like the late John Carter and Bobby Bradford, turned to teaching young people both as a way of promoting the way and of surviving. George Lewis has a current book out that is a detailed history of the AACM. Athough the book is largely involved with music history, it does provide some information about the conflicts within AACM about whether it was appropriate to allow white musicians into the club, so to speak.' I'll look into Backus' book which I was am not familiar with. Frank Kofsky was heavily into discussions of jazz as a form of black nationalism.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sat 7 Aug 10 18:46
No one has even brought up rap, as yet. There was an interesting article in last Sunday's New York Times about the gay rap scene in New Orleans. Since rap has always had a strong macho orientation, and even a homophobic one, the article fascinated me.
David Julian Gray (djg) Sat 7 Aug 10 19:10
Thanks for the pointer to that article - here it is: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25bounce-t.html
David Wilson (dlwilson) Sat 7 Aug 10 20:38
I knew Frank Kovsky when I was at college. He fawned over John Coltrane and tried to to impose political revolutionary intent to the revolutionary aspects of the music. He knew his music history, but he was just off because of his ideological constraints. He was the first Stalinist that I ever encountered. Frank missed a once in a lifetime opportunity at the time. Dodo Marmaroso was living in Pittsburgh in a a mental hospital then. But Dodo wouldn't admit to who he was and Frank would have been interested in talking to him about music but couldn't impose his marxist framework on Dodo's part in the music. I heard that Dodo would play for the other patients in the day room and they loved him.
Barry Warren Polley (barryp) Sat 7 Aug 10 21:06
> No one has even brought up rap, as yet. Perhaps this is a reflection of age of participants here. Also perhaps the protest dimension is not the first thing that comes to mind w/ rap, which certainly has been used for social commentary but is more likely to be party music, boasting, etc. You do talk about this in the book; 'authentic' rap carries a gangsta legacy. (Interestingly, in my corner of the world, the 'authenticity' of Pasifiker hip-hop and rapping is defined almost entirely by social commentary, including criticism of misogyny within islander communities as well as racism and its consequences with the police, lack of jobs, etc.) I haven't heard much bounce but what little I've heard seems consistent with the label: music to shake ya booty to, fast....
close to the edge of basketball (jonsson) Sun 8 Aug 10 02:19
There are some old-school hip-hop/rappers b-boys b-girls that might argue that the form and early movement was about innovation and community. At least that's where my discussion with Kurtis Blow went a few years back. In someways grass-roots community is a political thing. I get the feeling though this book is more about lyrics. The reportage of the down and out might be one kind of protest, but I'm not sure if it applies here. And since Marx is being mentioned, Stalinism/Communism is one thing (hopefully now behind us). Marx's influence on how people think of cultural resistance is another. Dick do you see there is any kind of post-Marx way developing in looking at protest music and protest movements? Some other point of view other than class politics?
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sun 8 Aug 10 08:48
Barry Warren Polley, American Indian rap also is more political and less about bling, sexual conquest, and the like. Before Kofsky, Sidney Finklkestein was a Marxist critic who wrote a book about jazz. Not a bad book, but as you mentioned with Kofsky, it did impose the marxist interpretation of just about everything. The communist countries, e specially Russia, had a difficult time with jazza. On the one hand it was bourgeois pap for the masses, on the other hand it was an African-American form of music, and communists had trouble down-grading expressions of black culture. As far as the Kurtis Blow discussion, isn't that what proponents of all musical genres say? The punk people cite their community, the straight edge skinheads do the same, and so forth. Certainly the song The Message, one of the earliest rap records, contained quite a few social-political ideas in a single song. Konsson post- i don't think Marxism is exactly behind us, although communism probably is, with a few exceptions. But the whole cultural studies crowd has been heavily influenced by Marxist thought, especially the works of Gramsci. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by something other than "class" politics, so I won't comment further until I get a better idea of what you're saying. It's certainly possible to have a radical, somewhat skeptical view of the world without being an orthodox Marxist.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Sun 8 Aug 10 09:54
I think that Gramsci's concept of "hegemony" is an useful alternative to orthodox marxist analysis. It is no wonder that the cultural studies people latched onto it and made it a central part of their framework. As well as Walter Benjamin's work. Eric Hobsbawn, another marxist, wrote a series of essays on jazz under the pseudonym Francis Newton(after trumpeter Frankie Newton).
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sun 8 Aug 10 13:07
David, There an organization called IASPM, the Int'l Assoc for the Study of Popular Music. They tend to follow the people you mention above. I used to go to their meetings, but their papers and writings are riddled with terms like "bricolage," "hermaneutics," and so forth. After a while you need a smokescreen for the jargoneutics, so to speak. I have found George Lipsitz to be the most interesting person that's in that group of college professor-theorists. he seems to listen to the most varied diet of music as well. Some of the others have, as they say, been in the academy too long.
Julie Sherman (julieswn) Sun 8 Aug 10 13:58
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David Wilson (dlwilson) Sun 8 Aug 10 15:04
I know what you mean about the "pedagogical pedantics" that inflect academic discourse. Funny you should mention Georgie Lipsitz. That is his phrase he used in high school. He is a childhood friend of mine. We played in the high school band together and were usually found at the back of the band bus listening to and egging on the Puerto Rican kids who were playing rumbas.
David Julian Gray (djg) Sun 8 Aug 10 16:12
Regarding American Indian Rap being more political than ... oh, let's say "mainstream" rap - I think that's true of the great majority of rap that is not part of or aspiring to the American commercial mainstream. Rap started as and remains a genre focused on social change - if not political change (and they are not necessarily the same). There's a wonderful film on the music of Istanbul called "Crossing the Bridge" which features a fine Stambuli rap artist who speaks to this very subject, how his art is important, unlike American rap - his father nods approvingly in the background. Today's Washington Post has an article on Palestinian rap.
David Julian Gray (djg) Sun 8 Aug 10 16:20
I just got back from the pool, and there was a thought swimming through my head the whole time - _Talkin' 'Bout..._ is focused on the lyrical content of music, although each chapter has a brief stylistic history, of the musics associated with the social group presented in the chapter. But there is a subtext running through the whole book, which I wish had been more explicitly brought out - of the MUSIC itself being an agent of social change - and social change. IT is most explicit in the chapter on Rock'n'roll - but little glimmers of it appear throughout the book - I think in particular in the chapter on Latin-Americans - and the particular Caribbean crucibles of NYC and Miami ... there's a big story of "social change" in the very existance of a music called "salsa" (some of the architects of "salsa" never like the term) (and i don't mean this in the Adorno/Marcus sense that everything is fodder - I mean this quite directly, in a McCluhanist sense - Like Rock'n'roll, Salsa IS social change -
David Wilson (dlwilson) Sun 8 Aug 10 18:14
what is the big story of social change in salsa? rock n' roll was initially not embraced by the major record companies, but it was embraced by its audience, thus spurring on independents. Salsa was Cuban music, son montuno, played by Puerto Ricans. It always was embraced by its audience. They started throwing in bombas and plenas, r&b, added trombones, and altered the orchestrations somewhat. Otherwise the music was the same. The big name players were pretty faithful to Cuban forms. What social change are you talking about?
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sun 8 Aug 10 19:28
I agree with David Gray that the music itself can be seen as vehicle of social change. It's probably most obvious with rock and roll, in the sense that the breakdown of black-white separation and antipathy was often shattered by the music, the performers and the audience being both black and white. However this is a reasonably lengthy book, and rather than make it the sense of a unabridged dictionary, I made the conscious choice to use music itself as more of a backdrop than a focus, although I certainly didn't ignore it. There easily could be a whole other book written about how dance styles in music have influenced cultural attitudes and provoked changes. I'm thinking of rock, of disco and the gay dance clubs, and of the Latin dance styles. AS far as salsa goes, salsa was notoriously a-political, with the exception, mostly of Ruben Blades, who like Wyclef Jean wanted to pursue a political career as well as a musical one. The difference being that Ruben is a lawyer and a serious political radical whose songs always announced his political inclinations. There are also both films and books about heavy metal music in Islam, and several books that discuss rap in various cultures around the world.
David Julian Gray (djg) Mon 9 Aug 10 07:07
Ruben Blades got nearly 20% of the vote when he ran for President of Panama in ... um was it 2001? - it earned him a cabinet position, Minister of Tourism, in which he served from 2004 to 2009, with one three month leave of absence for a European tour with a band from Costa Rica ... The roots of what is called "salsa" are in a protest music from the late 18th Century... but my point in saying "salsa" has been a music of social change is to stress that "social change" is not just "political" and/or protest. Forgive my audaciousness here - but I think the book approaches but doesn't quite adopt that view - although Dick has said here, and does say in the book that Music of Social Change is more than just "Protest Music" - Here's a good example - Little Richard's "Tutti-Fruity" - not the least bit politcal - but maybe one of the most effective "protest" songs of all time and a WORLD of social change ... I live in the society that song changed and I'm glad of it! I don't know much about the Latin Music scene, - but "salsa" appears to be a music of liberation and unification to me ... it's Pan Caribbean/Central American/New York ... and we can't forget the strong strains of African and German influence in this music (yes German - particularly in the Central American strains) ... I also know that those colleagues of mine in my life as a performing musician who DO know about Nuyorican and other Latin American musics always express exasperation when folks talk of "salsa" as if it's a thing ... as opposed to a huge bucket with many things, some of which are only vaguely related to each other ...
Ari Davidow (ari) Mon 9 Aug 10 08:11
I thought Dick made that conceptual point in the book, esp. in his conclusion where he talks about the jazz music of people like John Coltrane as having as much to do with social change as lyrics.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Mon 9 Aug 10 09:10
Dick already made the point that "salsa" is basically apolitical. The only protest I know about is they object to the name salsa. It is pretty well understood that Havana is center the latin/caribbean musical universe. Just like New Orleans is for jazz. Or the South Bronx for hip hop. The musical forms developed there are taken as the standard throughout the region. That doesn't mean that parallel forms didn't develop independently elsewhere. Or like Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinadad, Columbia, and New York they play the dominant forms and inject their local conventions into the music. Same thing with Kansas City, Chicago, and New York for jazz. If you are looking for political content in latin music, look at the trouve(troubador) music in Cuba or the corridos in Mexico. Or look at how hip hop has been embraced in the area. They have been mining a political vein since they learned about scratching, turntabling, and rapping.
Ari Davidow (ari) Mon 9 Aug 10 09:27
Indeed, there is a nice section on corridos and narcocorridos in the Spanish-music section in Dick's book.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Mon 9 Aug 10 10:31
In you're going to bring in the social content of Central-South American music, (which is not part of the book,) the political music of Chile, reggae in Jamaica, and, to an extent calypso music in Trinidad are all relevant. Reggae has =a similar discussion to rap, in that you hear reggae or traces of it everywhere, including the Hopi reservation. There are so many Cuban musicians, I would venture a guess that there's underground anti-communist music in Cuba. A friend of mine named Rey Sanchez, who teaches at Miami U., wrote a hilarious song, called Viva Fidel. The song thanks Fidel for getting Rey to Florida, and enabling him to have a nice house, two cars, and a good job. Most of the cultural theorists are in the words of a previous post "post Marxist," and I suspect they have little enthusiasm for investigating anti-Castro music, just as they don't seem to research neo-Nazi music.
David Julian Gray (djg) Mon 9 Aug 10 12:56
re: > It is pretty well understood that Havana is center the latin/caribbean musical universe. Just like New Orleans is for jazz. I'm a bit confused by tense usage above - *is* New Orleans the center of the jazz musical universe? Now, in 2010? Yeah, New Orleans years ago (and it was a Caribbean City as much as a Mississippi City before the railroads), Havana years ago ... ./
Barry Warren Polley (barryp) Mon 9 Aug 10 18:42
Pretty strong linkage between NoLa and Havana, tradewise and musicwise (clave links the two as an artifact of the slave trade). But that *was* and I'm not sure that anyplace *is* the centre of the jazz universe anymore. The wind carried the seeds and a thousand flowers bloomed; the centre of MY jazz universe is Scandinavia, and no doubt YMMV. The book has a few personal anecdotes that are not at all distracting. I hope Dick is willing to share how he came to play backup for Anita Bryant!
David Wilson (dlwilson) Mon 9 Aug 10 18:52
Of course (barryp) is right. I meant historical centers. N.O and Havana were where the music first emerged to the world at large.
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