Five years ago, I taught a class I loved at USC called "Music as Communication." I've substantially revamped the syllabus, and am now teaching "Musical Cultures and Industries" to my Rutgers undergrads this Spring.
Below is a draft of the syllabus. I welcome your comments.
1/25: I Am What I Play: Music and Identity
Turnbull, C. M. (1968). The Forest People. Chapter 4, pp 73-93.
Lipsitz, G. (1990). Cruising around the historical bloc: postmodern and popular music in East Los Angeles. In K. Gelder and S. Thornton (Eds.), The Subcultures Reader. pp. 350-359.
Sacks, O. (2008). Musicophilia, Chapter 29, pp. 371-388
Mingus, C. (1971). Beneath the Underdog. New York: Vintage. Chapter 31, pp. 283-304.
2/1: Blinding You With Science: What Makes Music Work?
Levitin, D. This is Your Brain on Music. Chapters 1 & 3
Sacks, O. (2008). Musicophilia, Chapter 4
2/8: The Song Remains the Same: Where Music Comes From
D'Olivet, F. (1997). The Secret Lore of Music (J. Godwin, trans.). Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions. Chapter 4.
Dylan, B. (2004). Chronicles, Volume One. Chapter 5.
Carter, S. (2010). Jay-Z: Decoded, pp. 22-31; 54-59
Demers, J. (2006). Steal This Music. Chapter 2
2/15: A Love Supreme: Music and Spirituality
Hebdige, D. (1987). Cut 'n' mix: cultural identity and Caribbean music. London: Comedia, Chapters 5-6, pp. 29-44)
Berendt, J.-E. (1983). The World is Sound: Nada Brahma (Insla Verla, trans.). Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. Chapter 11, pp. 173-182
Shaw, G. B. (1990). “A Messiah for Heathens” in J. Sullivan (ed.), Words on Music. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. pp. 76-79
d'Olivet, Chapter 6-7, pp. 94-109
2/22: Babylon Burning: Music and Politics
Guest: Vivien Goldman, Veteran Punk Journalist
Goldman, V. (2006). The Book of Exodus. Chapter 9.
Scherzinger, M., & Smith, S. (2007). From blatant to latent protest (and back again): on the politics of theatrical spectacle in Madonna's ‘American Life’. Popular Music, 26(2), 211-29.
Crist, S. A. (2009). Jazz as Democracy? Dave Brubeck and Cold War Politics. The Journal of Musicology, 26(2), pp. 133-174.
3/1: Music Industry, Side A: 20th Century Lockdown
Caves, R. E. (2002) Creative Industries. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Chapters 3 & 9 &18 (music sections thereof), pp. 61-67, 146-160, 286-296
Dannen, F. (1990). Hit men: power brokers and fast money inside the music business. New York: Times Books. Chapter 1, pp. 3-17.
Albini, S. (1997). The Problem of Music. In Thomas Frank and Matt Weiland (eds.) Commodify your dissent: salvos from the Baffler. New York: Norton. pp. 164-176.
3/8: Music Industry, Side B: 21st Century Freakout
Guest: [name redacted], VP, VH1
Sinnreich, A. (2011). Written testimony in Arista Records v. Lime Group.
Charnas, D.(2010). The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop. Chapter 8.
3/22: FIELD TRIP: TBA
Take-home Midterm Due
3/29: Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Music and Race
Kun, J. Audiotopia: Music, Race and America. Chapter 2.
Cateforis, T. Performing the Avant-Garde Groove: Devo and the Whiteness of the New Wave. American Music, 22(4), 564-588.
Kelley, R. D. G. (1994). Race Rebels: Culture, Politics and the Black Working Class. Chapter 8.
Saul, S. (2003). Freedom Is, Freedom Ain’t: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties. By Scott Saul. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Chapter 2, pp. 61-96
4/5: I Wanna Be a Macho Man: Music, Gender and Sexuality
Frank, G. (2007). Discophobia: Antigay Prejudice and the 1979 Backlash against Disco. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 15(2), pp. 276-306
Ehrenreich, et al. (1992). Beatlemania: A Sexually Defiant Consumer Subculture? In K. Gelder and S. Thornton (Eds.), The Subcultures Reader. pp. 350-359.
Peter Watrous (1994). Why Women Remain At the Back of the Bus. New York Times
Von Bingen, H. (1994). The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen (J. L. Baird & R. K. Ehrman, trans.). New York: Oxford. Letter # 23, pp. 76-80.
4/12: Do You Believe in Bed Intruders? Music, Authenticity and Technology
Barthes, R. (1977) Image, Music, Text (Stephen Heath, Ed. and trans.). New York: Hill. Chapter: “The Grain of the Voice,” pp. 179-189
Sterne, J. (2003). The Audible Past. Chapter 5.
Auner, J. (2003). Sing it for me: Posthuman ventriloquism in recent popular music. Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 128, 98-122.
4/19: Two Turntables and a Microphone: Mixing and Mashing
Sinnreich, A. (2010). Mashed Up: Music, Technology, and the Rise of Configurable Culture. University of Massachusetts Press.
New York Times, 2011. The Recombinant DNA of the Mash-Up.
This isn't particularly clever, or even new, but when my family and I needed a laugh this weekend, this video came through like gangbusters.
Amazing what a little creative censorship can add... your brain fills in the naughty parts, making it far funnier than either the pre-censored version, or any actual dirty version could be. Kind of like the way revealing underwear can make someone look sexier than they do in the nude. Thanks, brain! And thanks, cousin Mark!
As often happens with grad classes, I felt that my students had an excellent understanding of the subject matter, but not much historical contextualization.
I thought it would be interesting to discuss the griefer methodology, namely interrupting the normal flow of behaviors and protocols in online social environments, as a descendant of Guy Debord and the Situationists. (Similarly, my friends and colleagues Doug Thomas and Biella Coleman have both chronicled the Yippie origins of the hacker movement).
But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to me that griefers are really anti-situationists. What do I mean by this? Dubord and company were revolutionaries, attempting to forge a "new culture, independent of the political and union organizations which currently exist," through their theatrical disruptions. By contrast, griefers are (mostly) a bunch of white, male, middle-class, middle-Americans who use racist avatars (such as the "Patriotic Nigras") to disrupt furries, fantasists, and other "deviants" and dreamers from enacting their alternative lifestyles online.
In other words, griefers use the methods of the Situationists, and the tools of hackers, to enact a reactionary political agenda that is anathema to the Situationist movement, and to most hacker cultures. In a way, they are almost agents-provocateur, giving a bad name to the online environments and communities which threaten their "real world" hegemonic power.
In a way, then, the Situationist claim that we should treasure "the value of the game, of life freely constructed" is opposite in both literal meaning and political valence to the griefer battle cry that "the Internet is serious business."
Just a thought, at the moment, but hopefully when I get a little time, I can work this up into a more formal journal article.
My friend Alice just published a great article in FirstMonday (an online peer-reviewed academic journal) about the persistence of moral panic over the sexual vulnerability of kids and teens online -- from the great cyberporn panic of 1996 to the tizzy in a teapot over MySpace predators today.
The article's especially timely, given the recent news that Verizon, Sprint and TWC will now be monitoring the bits they carry, and blocking users' access to newsgroups that have been identified as child porn destinations.
Now, I'm against child pornography in all forms, but I hardly think an ineffective witch hunt (honestly, how many microseconds will it take for the pervs to create a viable workaround?) is sufficient justification to destroy the legislatively-enforced protection that ISPs have against culpability for the actions of their users, and to further erode what little privacy we have left in this country.
What's next -- the telcos being held responsible for monitoring the content of our private phone conversations? Oh, wait a second...
Thus, I conclude that the furor over MySpace is disproportionate to the
amount of harm produced by the site. Indeed, the furor over online
predators seems also to be disproportionate. Rather than focusing on
nebulous “predators,” it seems that parents, teachers, and social
workers should emphasize identifying and preventing abuse in specific,
local community settings.
I really don't know what to say about this, other than:
1. I think that the rise of the "furries" subculture has something to do with configurability and our desire to extend the pleasure and freedom of online avatar-building into the physical (and sexual) realm.
2. Back in my college days, I had a whole riff about how we were the "Muppet generation" because the show sowed the seeds of postmodern critique via children's entertainment.
3. Disney now owns Henson, and they can't be happy about this. I can't believe it's been up without a takedown notice for two whole days (Passover weekend must take a lot of lawyers off the bench).
Here's a sample, in case the ad is down by the time you read this:
"Some time ago, I found an original full head rubber Miss Piggy mask,
circa 1977, complete with a full head of long blond hair. I am looking
for a tall, sexy BBW, preferably over 300 pounds, to wear this mask to
bed. She should also be open to playing with plastic wrap and liquid