inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #76 of 130: Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Mon 9 Aug 10 21:16
    
If there is a center for jazz, it's probably New York.  Whether you
like Wynton Marsalis or not, Lincoln Center has the best-financed and
most far-reaching program.  NY doesn't really have anything comparable
to the AACM in Chicago, but notice that when most non-US jazz musicians
come to the US, New York is where they end up. 
I'm bewildered at the college jazz programs, especially Berklee and
North Texas State, who turn out dozens of big band musicians for
non-existent big bands.  They all know their scales and modes!  Then ,
of course, there is the problem that the audience for jazz is mostly
white, and the best musicians are (still) mostly black.   

The Anita Bryant story is simple.  A contractor in Denver called me to
play at the state fair  They needed someone who could read and play
five string banjo (and guitar,) and Denver wasn't over-flowing with
people who met that description.  Pretty typical situation.  Fifteen
musicians went down in a chartered bus. Did about an hour of rehearsal.
The conductor was good, and only rehearsed the parts that he knew
might cause trouble. The opening act was Up With People. Just another
day in the musical hood.  
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #77 of 130: Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Tue 10 Aug 10 06:53
    
I will be doing an author's appearance in Seattle on Friday, Aug.
13th, 7Pm at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle, if anyone reading these
posts is from Seattle.

That day I'll try to get on The Well from Seattle, but I may not be
able to do it.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #78 of 130: Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Wed 11 Aug 10 08:57
    
Barry,
What is YMMV?
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #79 of 130: David Gans (tnf) Wed 11 Aug 10 09:03
    
"Your Mileage May Vary."
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #80 of 130: Lisa Harris (lrph) Wed 11 Aug 10 13:18
    
(it could also stand for, Your Music May Vary)  And thanks for posting your
appearance update.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #81 of 130: Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Wed 11 Aug 10 18:32
    
How about MAMV?

My acronym may vary!
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #82 of 130: David Julian Gray (djg) Thu 12 Aug 10 06:18
    
By happenstance I was reading an interview with Barry Melton, retired Public
Defender for Yolo County and, perhaps as he is better known, "The Fish"
of Country Joe and - not just a public defender and foundational psychedelic
guitarist, but long time "musician for social change" - as were most of
the original "Fish" -
The interviewer commented on how central protest and activism were with the
music of the 1960's and why this may be so much less the case, Melton
suggested this was because The Internet had largely usurped this position
in the lives of the socially active todya -
Do you think the Internet, and perhaps especially the "social networking"
sites play the role in protest and social activism music may have once
played?
Not just in the 1960's - but throughout history?
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #83 of 130: Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Thu 12 Aug 10 07:22
    
My opinion is that the internet, at best, offers the sort of
opportunity that the Soviet samizdat agitation did.  (The sub rosa
duplication of underground cassettes opposing Soviet repression.)
Even a set web site, like Neil Young's Gulf War music site, probably
doesn't influence many people who don't already feel concerned about
the wars.

This raises a whole other set of questions.  Pete Seeger has devoted a
substantial part of his long and well-spent life to the use of music
as a tool for social change.  Yet the people that he sings for,
especially since the days of the Blacklistt, are generally people that
already agree with him. I'm not trying to minimize his stature, or his
honorable life, but trying to evaluate it from a standpoint of
political effectiveness,  One of the points that I try to make in the
book is that when music has come out of an on-going movement from the
people who are in the movement, it seems to be more effective than when
outsiders come in and agitate through song.  The music of the Civil
Rights movement is probably the outstanding example.  People singing on
picket lines and in jail cells.  And I don't mean Phil Ochs or Bob
Dylan or Seeger visiting them and singing their own songs.

Similarly in the coal mines and textile mills in the 1920's and 1930's
there were worker-musicians singing songs about work.   In the case of
the textile workers some of these songs were played on local radio
stations, sometimes live, by people who were working in the mills. And
of course music was intimately intertwined with the IWW.  But that was
a hnndred years ago! 

Obama's campaign galvanized the country in 2008.  Many musicians
played for his rallies.  Yet it wasn't the music that got people
excited, it was Obama. He was new and fresh, and the symbolism of his
being a black political leader was powerful.   Seeger tried to do this
with Henry Wallace in 1948, when he was basically Wallace's troubadour.
It was a noble effort, but people didn't warm to Wallace's message.  

It's obviously complicated. There are subtle forms of changes.  Curtis
Mayfield immediately comes to mind.  Songs like People Get Ready,
Choice of Colors, Keep On Pushing- they were almost like traditional
spirituals, with coded messages. Until Curtis wrote This Is My COuntry.
The message was too direct and specific.  A black man's national
anthem.  Radio wouldn't play it.  It didn't sell.   

Would it be fair to say that music offers reinforcement for
social-political ideas, rather than inspiring ideas in itself?  And yet
the Chilean dictators felt the need to murder Victor Jara, China and
Dutch-british South Africa censor music, as do other countries to this
day.  
 
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #84 of 130: Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 12 Aug 10 07:54
    
Hmmm. It's a question I think about a lot. I think that songs can 
galvanize sentiment that is ready to be put into words. One of the few 
things that Longshoreman-Philsopher Eric Hoffer wrote that I still 
remember was about how the Soviet Union imprisoned its dissident poets and 
in America we ignored their message. 

You draw an interesting comparison in the book between songs that come 
from movements--like the miners or mill-workers you mentioned above, and 
the Almanacs bussing themselves in and singing trying to help organize the 
same. Songs are not usually going to overcome most people's feelings about 
being told what to think/feel/do by outsiders.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #85 of 130: David Julian Gray (djg) Thu 12 Aug 10 15:14
    
I think it's true that the power of song as an agent of social change is
when the right song is planted in fertile soil -
I wanted to believe that a song could change the world - but I think it's
much more likely to be fuel fuel for an engine that is already running -
"We Shall Overcome" was huge and galvanizing - I know it had a LOT to do
with my own consciousness raising about race and social justice in my
nonage (I was 10 in 1963).
"Anarchy in the UK" didn't effect me at all - but I witnessed how it stirred
up what looked like an entire generation - a generation ready to hear that -
can't quite call it a message - more an emotion - but it was also
galvanizing -
There are other examples, but the songs we might want to think changed the
world were perhaps more symptom than cause - a sign of how fertile the soil.

And if social networking has usurped some of the "mind-share" that music 
once had - it is not *in place* of music - but *in addition* to music.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #86 of 130: Barry Polley (barryp) Thu 12 Aug 10 19:09
    
The Sex Pistols had very clear messages in the context from which they
arose: a society half-buried in rubbish, the old wage/effort bargain
overturned in manufacturing work, and massive youth unemployment. "No
future" as a message had a resonance even with people who hated the
band.

If you didn't come from the mid-Seventies UK, the messages weren't the
same and the political stuff faded into the background. There was
still the anti-fashion fashion to follow, rebellion against virtuosity
for its own sake, and that good ole rock-and-roll piss-off-your-parents
appeal.

I don't see music having that same impact anymore, precisely on
account of the internet and portable devices. The public experience of
music is far less frequent, and when do we actually build solidarity by
singing together?
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #87 of 130: Scott Underwood (esau) Thu 12 Aug 10 19:57
    
Punk's political stance aside, it did spark a sea change in music and I
think its biggest legacy could be called DIY. If at the time it seemed
to prog-rock-listening dweebs like me that the music was all unfocused
anger and noise, at least one thing came through: you can go buy a
guitar TODAY and make that same noise yourself. So it was a reaction
against music being a slick commerical product as well as an elite
exercise open to only a few -- which seems not that far from Pete
Seeger and the folk music idea, if different in execution.

Oddly, though John Lydon seemed to be genuinely, poetically angry, the
Sex Pistols largely served Malcolm McLaren's commercial interests, so
the message was a little mixed for anyone not in its thrall.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #88 of 130: Ed Ward (captward) Fri 13 Aug 10 03:04
    
The other DIY aspect of punk was that no record company would touch
it, so starting with the Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP, a lot of people
just started making their own records outside the system. If there's a
single important legacy of punk today, that's it.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #89 of 130: David Gans (tnf) Fri 13 Aug 10 06:27
    

And not long after the rise of Punk (and DIY), the record companies raised
the bar to entry with MTV.  And MTV obligingly made a rule that plain old
performance videos weren't allowed.  So you couldn't just play music in front
of a camera.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #90 of 130: Scott Underwood (esau) Fri 13 Aug 10 06:59
    
I never heard that!
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #91 of 130: Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sat 14 Aug 10 22:05
    
Interesting that no one has mentioned riot grrrl music, which I think
had a strong effect on the way many women looked at music, and sort of
built on the punk sensibility.  It is much more common now to see women
playing "unfeminine instruments" like horns and electric guitar and
drums than before the Olympia and DC movement started.  

A sad development that is part of our consumption culture is that
whenever a musical style emerges from the underground it is bowdlerized
and simplified.  So punk became new wave, and riot grrl in a sense was
co-opted by The Spice Girls, and the various psuedo-strong women who
were angry, and had anti-male poses, but without much positive purpose
to anything but their financial futures (Morrisette, Liz Phair, and so
forth.) 

Similarly rap is used to bold commercial empires for moguls like Puffy
and the former political spokesmen like Ice T and Ice Cube become
movie stars.  

There are very few Ian Mackaye's out there who try to limit ticket
prices, and to avoid the whole star syndrome.  The two latest books
about Pete Seeger seem to paint him as a prophet, rather than a human
being, unlike David Dunaway's earlier, more nuanced biography.  

Speaking of MTV, MTV played no black artists until Columbia Records 
exerted tremendous pressure on the network to play the Thriller
videos.  
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #92 of 130: Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 14 Aug 10 22:42
    
I agree with everything there except 

        A sad development that is part of our consumption culture is
        that whenever a musical style emerges from the underground it
        is bowdlerized and simplified.

I don't think it's sad at all, but natural and necessary. I'm perhaps
too influenced by the Elijah Wald books just now, but it also coincides
with my gut feeling. *Every* musical style "emerges from the
underground," as it were, and all of it is remixed ("bowderlized" is
too judgmental) and simplified. The point of Wahl's last book is that
the Beatles "simplified" rock 'n' roll (mixing it with everything from
music hall to classical quotes) and made it accessible and acceptable
to a much larger audience, but no less than nearly every other popular
artist before them.

Aficionados like to hear and promote the roots of popular styles as
more pure forms of the "debased" music of the masses, but each cycle
feeds the next and the popular stuff isn't bad just because it's
successful at attracting a large audience.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #93 of 130: David Gans (tnf) Sun 15 Aug 10 05:33
    

> Speaking of MTV, MTV played no black artists until Columbia Records
 exerted tremendous pressure on the network to play the Thriller
 videos.

That battle was waged in the halls of Rolling Stone, too.  I was on the staff
of Record Magazine in those years, and we fought to put Michael Jackson or
Stevie Wonder on the cover.  "Black faces don't sell music magazines," we
were told.  Until Michael Jackson became undeniable.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #94 of 130: Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 15 Aug 10 06:41
    
That's a interesting switch, when an outlet like RS or MTV changes from
"we're showing you what's cool" to "this is what we think you think is
cool." At least, that's the transformation I felt as my tastes grew beyond
both of those voices in separate decades.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #95 of 130: David Wilson (dlwilson) Sun 15 Aug 10 07:01
    
I don't agree with your basic premise <esau> because you don't include
emotional content.  What you say about how music emerges and is
co-opted is true *on the surface.*  However the emotion that the
performers put into their music and the the emotions that it stirs up
in the audience is where the revolutionary content has the potential to
reside.  The further they move away from the emotion or the more they
just simulate it, the more commercialized and commodified it becomes.

What is the music expressing?  Little Richard was expressing something
very different from what Pat Boone was doing.  Grandmaster Flash and
Kurtis Blow chose to talk about life around them rather than the
fantasies and hormonal outbursts of the  gansta rap entrepreneures.
Which version will have lasting power *in the music* and *in the
culture*? Which version will be remembered as a footnote?

I believe that we should pay attention to expression more than form
when looking for revolutionary potential.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #96 of 130: Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 15 Aug 10 07:42
    
Yeah, but Little Richard didn't burst forth from nothing, and he wasn't
expressing himself without thought of commercial gain. He's a performer
more than an artist, *not that that's a bad thing*. But his mixture of
theatrics and gospel shouts made some obscure predecessor's work more
palatable, and I'm sure there were people who rolled their eyes to see
him recycle stuff they'd seen before.

You don't get to hear the revolution unless it sells records. Everyone
is mixing what they heard before with their own emotional expression of
it, looking for that sweet spot that causes people to ask for more.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #97 of 130: Full spectrum brainstorming hairspray (jonsson) Sun 15 Aug 10 08:01
    

Slipped I like <esau>'s analogy as a big part of the fun is
finding the sweet spots between the roots and the other end
of the trajectory, where production sometimes lifts, enables
and amplifies the emotion. Some artists then go full circle 
refreshed (and or exasperated) and back to their roots and 
that's great too.

But wanted also to comment on an earlier <musicmusic>'s post...

>Would it be fair to say that music offers reinforcement for
>social-political ideas, rather than inspiring ideas in itself? 

That's one of those questions that bugs me too. And in a pre-literate
culture or post-literate culture it may be entirely different.
Such questions may best be answered on a case by case historical
and location basis. 

Another question that bugs me -- is the "protest" process a dragon
eating its tail on one level while perhaps on another level something
completely different is going on?

Because much may not really have much to do with politics at all
for those in the middle of the expression, but rather linguistic
survival, cultural bonding on a small or large scale (samizdat?), or
simply the basic need of expression (punk?). 

Then there are instances of non-musical forces projecting 
interpretations on a cultural or musical wave to capitalize 
their own political agenda. 

One stark example is the 'Beatles are a communist plot' type 
fervor that existed in the 60s. (And yes somebody actually 
made money on that one.)

Or paradoxically here in the former Soviet invaded zone the ironic
idea that prog-rockers (lyrically inspired by Slavonic metaphysical
poets and theology) were a capitalist plot.

That's one reason why earlier I posed the question if any post-marxist
(or post-internet or post-?) POV of this mechanism was evolving in the
discussion of "protest". 

Because from my POV the realm of "protest" or cultural resistance or
whatever its called has other facets or nuances (other than ie. topical
politics or class struggle) that are part of the picture.

I'm curious if Wiesman's book gets into this, or sheds light on this
or if Wiesman has encountered similar questions or found references, 
frameworks, points of view that explore what looks like at times an
ouroboros matched with a maze in the world of musical
protest/resistance.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #98 of 130: Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sun 15 Aug 10 14:53
    
Various replies.

1) Underwood  I don't know what you mean by natural.  Do you think
Brittany or Christine Aguilera, etc. showing skin really advances
feminist concepts as put forth by say the riot grrls?  My point was
that when music becomes mass-mediated, it has to please radio to get to
the masses.  radio isn't fond of revolutionary  notions. I think
Walds' notion here is simplistic.  The Beatles were interesting because
they pushed music into new areas of experimentation, at least in terms
of pop.  It's also interesting that this particular contribution
didn't continue after the group broke up  
Wilson   "Emotion" is a slippery slope.  What person A thinks is deep
emotion, to person B is obvious and crude manipulation.  Guns and Roses
were intense, but were they "emotional" and revolutionary?  I have a
wonderful Axl Rose story for you if you'd like to pursue that one.

Jonsson 1)  A recent book called Understanding Society Through Popular
Music claims that the Polish government in the 80's promoted metal and
hard rock because they thought it was a nice distraction for young
people for keeping them out of politics. 
2)  My name is Weissman.     
3)  An ouroboros, for idiots like me who only have been through
graduate school is a dragon that swallows its own tail.  You seem to be
looking for a specific theoretical base to solve all problems of
social analysis.  I don't have one.  As far as cultural resistance,
sure there are lots of examples of how music accomplishes this without
lyrics, or even a specific musical content.  Such as inter-racial
dancing and dating, a sort of logical result of the rock-rhythm and
blues world. Or women's music bringing women together in large groups,
instead of primarily focusing on men.   People in drum circles believe
their music does this, and I imagine the Anglo Indian flute players
feel that way too. You may or may not agree with them, or feel that
what they do isn't meaningful.  The closest I've seen to anything
resembling a reasonably unified method for looking at music in relation
to politics is George Lipsitz's books (Dangerous Crossroads, Footsteps
in the Dark, etc.)  

Thought for the contributors We definitely need some women to comment
here, because most of the writers either don't know or don't care about
feminist issues!   
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #99 of 130: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Sun 15 Aug 10 15:31
    
"My point was that when music becomes mass-mediated, it has to please radio
 to get to the masses."

Forgive me, but that's so 20th century.  Radio Radio no longer has
hegemony.  Hell, for people under 30, even CDs are history.   Come to think
of it, I've probably only bought 4 new CDs in the last 2 years and I never
listen to music on the radio.  And yet I'm constantly getting new music.
The old structures are dying.
  
inkwell.vue.389 : Dick Weissman, Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution
permalink #100 of 130: Scott Underwood (esau) Sun 15 Aug 10 15:40
    
I don't know enough about feminism or the Riot Grrl movement to comment on
them, but if the Riot Grrl bands took their influences from the Runaways and
Patti Smith -- that is, they took symbols of female empowerment ("we can
rock just as hard") and made harder rock that was more overtly political,
they in turn influenced another wave of female rockers to make more
palatable, less political music -- that's what I mean about natural.

I don't see how Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera connect to the Riot
Grrl bands; rather, they seem to be Madonna's followers, who arguably
represented a different form of female empowerment -- one of provocation and
sexuality that (again, arguably) influenced far more behavior in dress and
attitude than the Riot Grrls. That most of what Spears et al. took from
Madonna is the titillation part is the natural evolution inaction, and now
comes Lady Gaga to outdo them in provocaton.
  

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