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Bull, Locke, and McLeod

This week’s readings address the current issues the music industry, and music consumers, are grappling with.

I’m sure just about everyone can relate to Bull’s article on the iPod. I got my first iPod sophomore year of high school and I definitely used it to isolate myself and give off that “full engaged” impression when on the bus. I still remember how unbelievably distraught I would be if I forgot to charge my iPod or if it died on the way home. I’m not as attached to my iPod as I was before but when I have it with me in the subway it’s just as Bull writes, I am reclaiming my time. Between work and school and home life, the subway is a place where no one can contact me and I appreciate that seclusion for 2 hours out of my entire day. I also noticed that the days I don’t have my iPod, a lot more people approach me for directions. At first I thought this was because I looked like a seasoned New Yorker, but then I realized it’s because I’m probably one of few people not enclosed in their individual iPod bubbles. Bull refers to this as “gating,” which I think is an interesting concept, and it’s definitely changed some of our social norms.

Locke addresses music in the digital era. I think it’s so true that this generation’s mindset is “why would I pay 99 cents (or even 25 cents) for that if I can get it for free?” But there still are a lot of people who want to actually own their music, because it’s a way of forming and communicating their identity. The same someone’s iPod playlists says a lot about them, their mood, and even their life. But the issue of the devaluation of music is a difficult one to sort out. People have become so used to getting their music for free that it’s hard to convince them it’s worth paying for it. I think there has to be some compromise on all sides, but even before that, there has to be an acceptance and embrace of the fact that that times have changed, that CDs are soon to suffer the same fate as the cassette tape, and that a new system will have to be worked out. Locke’s 25 cent model seems to have potential.

Finally, Mcleod brings up another issue with no clear-cut answer: copyright laws versus creativity. With the Internet and easy to use programs, it’s possible for almost anyone to deconstruction and reinterpret music to create mash-ups. But according to current copyright law, which Mcleod deems outdated, this type of sampling is considered illegal. I think it’s difficult to control what people do with music, especially how they choose to interpret it. No law can make people accept music the way the artist intended it and I don’t think it’s right to limit the audience’s creative potential. We can’t have everything be a one-way medium, there has to be ways for people to interact and respond to the things they receive through media. It’s like the impact Internet had on television in the sense that people formed online communities to try to figure out what would happen on a show and voice their opinions about what they think should happen. I especially liked Mcleod’s point about how mash-ups blur lines between high and low culture as well as masculinity and femininity to disrupt taste hierarchies and gender ideologies. It serves as a reminder that those things are socially constructed and there’s nothing really concrete dividing high culture from low culture or masculinity from femininity.

December 12th, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink


Rap Music: Rosa, Fuchs, Forman, and Woldu

In hip-hop culture, identity is imperative. Tricia Rosa writes about graffiti, break dancing, and rap, three main aspects of hip-hip culture, and the role identity plays in each. All three parts of hip-hip culture involve crews and groups, which influence the identity of its members. Futhermore, to be included in hip-hop culture, one needs to sport the appropriate style, which also is important in identity formation. Dance crews have become popular in the mainstream entertainment industry, with shows like “Americas Best Dance Crew” and movies like “Stomp the Yard,” which always depict crews in coordinated clothing. Also, its common for rap lyrics and music videos often address the rapper with his crew or “homies.”

The issue of identity is central to Cynthia Fuchs’ piece about Jay-Z. We see how carefully the rapper’s identity was crafted to market himself to audiences. We also see the role style, particularly clothing, plays in communicating his changing identity. Jay-Z went from wearing do-rags and basketball shoes to button downs and pants. I also find it interesting how Jay-Z tried to retain the identity as the boy from the hood, who could relate to and speak for those who grew up in the same conditions he did. Despite his wealth and fame, Jay-Z reminds listeners, he’s still a boy from the projects. This protects him from being perceived as a poser, as we spoke about with punk and other genres of music. In hip-hop culture, this type of authenticity, or “street cred,” is necessary to get people to take one’s music seriously.

Rosa notes the marginal role women played in graffiti, break dancing, and rap. Gail Woldu goes into depth about prominent female rappers like Lil Kim and the things they choose to rap about in comparison to male rappers. She writes about the term “bitch” and the multiple meanings it can have in rap music. While men used it largely as an offensive term, female rappers tried to reframe it into a term of empowerment and sisterhood. Also, female rappers often emphasize independence, both financial and sexual. Female rappers can use these empowering images as a marketable tool to carve a niche for themselves in the male dominated rap industry. One of the biggest female rappers in the game right now is Nicki Minaj. She plays with her voice to switch between a hard, masculine image to a soft, feminine one and constantly juxtaposes the two.

Murray Forman writes about the crossover of rap into the mainstream, especially among white teenagers. As we have seen throughout the semester, the relationship between major and indie labels was crucial to popularizing rap. He also talks about musical hybrids, like the mixing of rap and rock. With rap’s history in sampling, several hybrid forms emerged and continue to emerge today. Collaborations between rock and rap artists are fairly common, as is drawing from old popular songs and international styles.

November 20th, 2010 at 11:12 am | Comments & Trackbacks (17) | Permalink


Musical Analysis: Edited

The artist Pink is internationally known for being tough and wild, but it wasn’t until her song “Dear Mr. President” came out that she showed audiences the politically and socially conscious side of her. While retaining her bad girl image but adding a tone of soft sincerity, Pink relays an unmistakable message to former President Bush. Unlike other protest songs at the time which mainly focused on the war, Pink bluntly addresses a wide range of issues that she believes were created or enforced under the Bush Administration.

“Dear Mr. President” was a track on Pink’s fourth album entitled “I’m Not Dead Yet,” with the record label LaFace. The song, released at the end of 2006, features the Indigo Girls, and was written and produced by Pink and Billy Mann.

The only instrument used in the song is the guitar, played by Emily Sailers of the Indigo Girls. The use of just one instrument is an important feature, as it directs the listener to focus on the lyrics. Though I am not familiar with guitar chords, an analysis of the song reveals how the instrumentals continuously complement the lyrics.

The song begins with the guitar strumming a slow, melancholy tone. Pink begins “Dear Mr. President/ Come take a walk with me.” The guitar stops playing as the line “Come take a walk with me” is repeated. For the duration of the first verse, the guitar somberly plays the same three chords and stops at certain points so that all you hear are the lyrics. For example, for the lyrics “you’re not better than me” and “speak honestly,” all we hear is the vocalist with no background instrumentals. This highlights those lyrics and portrays their significance to the message being conveyed.

For the second verse, the tempo picks up slightly, but the melancholy tone is retained. The guitar is strumming a different set of chords from the first verse, as Pink begins asking a sting of questions that will continue for the remainder of the song. The verse begins with “What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street? / Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?” and concludes with “Are you proud?” The questions jump out when juxtaposed with the low guitar strumming the same chords over and over again.

The song’s tempo picks up as the chorus begins. The guitar is gets louder, as does Pink’s voice. Slowly, the depressing tone is changing into what sounds more like anger, but not completely as of yet. The chorus asks, “How do you sleep while the rest of us cry? / How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?” Here, Pink is referring to the soldiers lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the grieving families. The chorus ends with “Can you even look me in the eye and tell me why?” Here we are brought back to the very beginning of the song where Pink plainly asks to be treated as the President’s equal and be given some honest explanations.

The guitar returns to its original slow, somber tone. One can imagine the artist having gotten a load off of her chest and then calming down. It’s like she took a deep breath and told herself to stay composed as she starts again with “Dear Mr. President/ Were you a lonely boy? (Were you a lonely boy?)/ Are you a lonely boy? (Are you a lonely boy?)” The juxtaposition of referring to him as Mr. President and then a lonely boy is quite powerful, especially since “lonely boy” is repeated four times. She is forcing the listener to forget about the power the title holds. She continues with “How can you say no child is left behind? / We’re not dumb and we’re not blind.” In this line Pink directly addresses the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act, which was implemented as an attempt to mend the nation’s ailing education system, but to no avail.

For the fourth verse, the guitar gets more powerful, mirroring the tougher questions Pink asks. “What kind of father would take his own daughter’s rights away? / And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay? / I can only imagine what the First Lady has to say.” Here, Pink is addressing former President Bush’s stance on abortion as well as gay rights, in light of Dick Cheney’s situation with his daughter. Pink wonders how The First Lady, being a woman, feels about these issues.

In the bridge of the song, the listener hears the instrumentals and vocals climb to a climactic anger. Pink sings:

“Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don’t know nothing ’bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work”

This part of the song is especially stirring, as Pink paints a powerful picture of poverty. This is also the one part of the song where political affiliations can be set aside, as we think about the undeniable adversities less fortunate people in America and abroad face. Those who come from affluent backgrounds can admit that they have not faced those kinds of difficulties, in that their simple fundamental needs were always met.

The anger dissipates as the guitar strums quietly; closing the song in the melancholy tone it began in. Pink asks her final question: “Dear Mr. President/ You’d never take a walk with me/ Would you?” She has come to a realization that she will never receive the truthful responses she desires.

Following 9/11, there were many songs expressing discontent with the government, anti-war sentiments, and the need for unity. Pink’s song is unique because it is one of the few that asks for truthful explanations to get to the root of all the depression and anger expressed in other songs. Furthermore, unlike other political songs at the time, Pink addresses several prevalent issues, not just war.  Although war was definitely a large part of people’s dissatisfaction at the time, she reminds us of the domestic problems, like education and poverty, which are perpetuated when resources are poured into foreign causes.

A major part of this song’s significance is due to the fact that it was written and recorded by women, Pink and the Indigo Girls, the latter artists being largely recognized as a politically active, lesbian duo. Other popular socially conscious songs at the time were by John Meyer, Green Day, Eminem, and the Black Eyed Peas; all males. As one of few female perspectives in the mix, Pink and the Indigo Girls are the only ones to address abortion, gay rights, and education. This also explains Pink’s repeated plea in the song to be treated as an equal who deserves answers.

In an interview on the show Jimmy Kimmel Live on April 10, 2007, Pink thanks Kimmel because his was the only show that would allow her to perform “Dear Mr. President” and adds that she can’t even talk about the song on the radio. This fact alone sets it apart from the aforementioned political songs by mainstream artists. Unlike the other songs, the instrumentals, vocals, and lyrics of “Dear Mr. President” all demand the audience to focus on the lyrics, think about the questions and issues being addressed, and feel a mix of sadness and anger for the current state of things in America. Not everyone will agree with the political messages, but no one can deny the sorrow military families experience or the hardships endured by those living in poverty, and the song calls attention to that. Though the song did not make it on American radio stations, it was an international hit, especially in Europe, Australia, and Canada. In this sense, the song served as a voice to the rest of the world for Americans who didn’t agree with all of the government’s policies.

“Dear Mr. President” is a significant song in popular music, as it comments on the most prevalent, and sometimes controversial, political and social issues of the time. It is unique from other protest songs in that it addresses a wide range of issues people were dealing with, not just the war. With the guitar as the only instrument used, listeners are directed to pay close attention to the message. The song’s explicit but sincere lyrics ask for one thing: the truth.

Works Cited

“Dear Mr. President.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. 1 October 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dear_Mr._President>

“Gulf War(s), Iraq, 9/11, and the War on Terror.” List of anti-war songs. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. 1 October 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-war_songs#Gulf_War.28s.29.2C_Iraq.2C_9.2F11.2C_and_the_War_on_Terror>

Kimmel, Jimmy and Pink. “Pink Live Interview- Jimmy Kimmel.” Jimmy Kimmel Live. Interview. 10 April 2007. Youtube. 1 October 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtRGhdP9uns>

November 7th, 2010 at 5:53 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (7) | Permalink


Millard 308-312, ch 15 and 17, Dyer, and Lawrence

This weeks readings discuss punk, disco, and rap, as well as the move into the digital age.

Millard does not give a great impression of disco. According to him, most people considered it mainstream garbage that relied on technology to produce, and was therefore inauthentic. The use of the synthesizer and other equipment made it an emotionless musical experience. At the same time, rock and other forms were becoming increasingly mainstream and losing their edge. As an alternative, punk music was introduced to go against everything that was mainstream; no technology was used to create it and the lyrics often contained antiestablishment or protest messages. Punk was raw music and an emotional experience when watched live. The contrast between punk and “professional” rock or disco falls into the debate between fidelity and authenticity we discussed earlier in the semester. While the technology produced music with a higher fidelity, rock was accused of becoming too professional and thus less authentic. On the other hand, punk used no technology and had low fidelity, but it was real and unique, and therefore authentic.

Dyer offers a compelling defense for disco as well as a mini lesson on Marxist theory of capitalism. Disco has been criticized as something that was just churned out by capital to profit off of, but as Dyer correctly notes, “capital constructs the disco experience, but it does not necessarily know what it is doing, apart from making money.” While some people may have bought the preferred reading of disco, others, like gay people, saw an alternative meaning in it. Gay people read disco as physical and erotic. It can be argued that to take something capital produced, twist it, and use it in a way not intended by capital is just as much subversive as punk music’s rejection of technology. On the same note, rap music’s origins with sampling and DJs used cassette tapes and turntables in ways the producers of the products never intended them to be used. While punk is overtly antiestablishment, these alternative readings subtly screw with the system.

Lawrence gives quite a detailed account of the evolution of gay discotheques. I still had Marx in my head while I read this so it particularly struck me how the mix of people in these nightclubs constantly changed. It began with Pines, an elitist club only for affluent gays, then Baths where everyone got in and you didn’t know who you were dancing with so class distinctions totally dissolved, and finally there was Loft which had the most mixed crowd of all. According to Marxist theory, capital’s success depends on class distinction and class conflict so we see again a subversive reading of disco that challenges it’s own capitalistic roots.

Finally, Millard brings us into the digital age. It’s funny to see how history repeats itself. Decades ago, companies tried to compete with each other by using different types of discs so one’s phonograph would only play the discs made by the same company; there was no standardized form. As we moved into the digital age, a similar thing happened with CDs, MDs, and other formats. As we all know, the CD came out on top, but it wouldn’t be too long before mp3’s came around and changed the game once again. Furthermore, we see again a consumer preference for convenience and portability, which would drive companies to create devices that were increasingly smaller and user-friendly.

November 6th, 2010 at 9:19 am | Comments & Trackbacks (10) | Permalink


Research Proposal

For my reasearch paper and presentation I would like to focus on the hip hop industry and it’s influence on Bollywood. We all know that recent reappers have borrowed from and been inspired by Indian music and beats, but Bollywood music has borrowed from American hip hop as well. I will analyze the affect hip hop has had not only on Bollywood music, but on the dress, dialogue, and attitudes in Bollywood movies as well.

October 17th, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink


Millard chapter 10, p.285-295, and Bebop

In Chapter 10, Millard explains further advancements in the recording industry, including magnetic tape recorders, long-playing microgroove records, and transistor radios.  But of course, there were many obstacles along the way. One was the issue of standardization of tape recorders. Because of all the competition between companies, a standard format could not be agreed upon so people could only get the music available in the library of the company that they got their tape player from. I can’t imagine how frustrating this must have been. I know I wouldn’t be pleased if Apple had some special format and didn’t allow other mp3s to be downloaded onto their Ipods.

Another development was audiofiles. Once upon a time sound quality was sacrificed for convenience and Thomas Edison’s hard work went unappreciated. Several years later, audiofiles show that there is a niche that appreciates high fidelity sound and that Edison was not alone. Then there was the transistor radio, the Ipod’s ancestor. Who knew that these portable devices would keep getting smaller and smaller until you could eventually slip them in your pocket! It’s interesting to read about Sony’s first portable devices when I had a Sony walkman myself in junior high school.  The past sound developments we read about, like the first phonographs, seemed so archaic that I couldn’t relate to them. But now we’re reading about the first transistor radios and I think about the boomboxes and walkmen we used to use as children; I can relate better and thus find it more interesting.

Recording studios became larger and more complex to keep up with the complexity of advancing sound technology. But those weren’t the only changes. Social hierarchies- where engineers and managers held power over the artists- were broken down as musicians like Buddy Holly familiarized themselves with recording technology and copyright policies were established to give ownership of music to its creator. We also see the important role independents played in starting off Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry’s career as well as experimenting with new recording methods.

Porter’s article on Bebop identifies the musical style as one that was free from boundaries, unlike its predecessor jazz. Porter argues that bebop reflected attitudes of empowerment, intellect, and militancy in the African-American community. Resisting the boundaries often put on jazz music was symbolic of resisting the social and political boundaries of their race. Bebop seemed to represent different things at different times, though. At one moment it created a subculture of youth that emulated the style of intellectuals to undermine false stereotypes of the black race but the next moment it came to represent juvenile delinquency and militancy. This shows the mainstreams power in demonizing and destroying any type of subversive culture, as the association of bebop with delinquecy would lead to its eventual unpopulatrity. When jazz music first became popular, the mainstream “sanitized” it to fit the tastes of white audiences. But the idea of “selling out” in bebop was taken more seriously, which shows the depth to the music and an exemplifies the social consciousness of the bebop musicians. Porter says that bebop was not a unified ideological movement and I think this is representative of the different wings of the Civil Rights movement that would mobilize some years later, some tried to fit in with the white race while others wanted to separate from them, some fought peacefully and others violently. Most bebop artists weren’t political activists and some asserted that there was no political intent behind there music. This just goes to show how music can be used for different purposes and how it can be interpreted by audiences in various ways. Some artists wanted to send an important message and some just wanted people to get up and dance.

October 16th, 2010 at 9:34 am | Comments & Trackbacks (11) | Permalink


Musical Analysis: “Dear Mr. President”

The artist Pink is internationally known for being tough and wild, but it wasn’t until her song “Dear Mr. President” came out that she showed audiences the politically and socially conscious side of her. While retaining her bad girl image but adding a tone of soft sincerity, Pink relays an unmistakable message to former President Bush. As one of the only mainstream female artists to release such a song at the time, she touches on several important issues that other artists had not.

“Dear Mr. President” was a track on Pink’s fourth album entitled “I’m Not Dead Yet,” with the record label LaFace. The song, released at the end of 2006, features the Indigo Girls, and was written and produced by Pink and Billy Mann.

The only instrument used in the song is the guitar, played by Emily Sailers of the Indigo Girls. The use of just one instrument is an important feature, as it directs the listener to focus on the lyrics. Though I am not familiar with guitar chords, an analysis of the song reveals how the instrumentals continuously complement the lyrics.

The song begins with the guitar strumming a slow, melancholy tone. Pink begins “Dear Mr. President/ Come take a walk with me.” The guitar stops playing as the line “Come take a walk with me” is repeated. For the duration of the first verse, the guitar somberly plays the same three chords and stops at certain points so that all you hear are the lyrics. For example, for the lyrics “you’re not better than me” and “speak honestly,” all we hear is the vocalist with no background instrumentals. This highlights those lyrics and portrays their significance to the message being conveyed.

For the second verse, the tempo picks up slightly, but the melancholy tone is retained. The guitar is strumming a different set of chords from the first verse, as Pink begins asking a sting of questions that will continue for the remainder of the song. The verse begins with “What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street? / Who do you pray for at night before you go to sleep?” and concludes with “Are you proud?” The questions jump out when juxtaposed with the low guitar strumming the same chords over and over again.

The song’s tempo picks up as the chorus begins. The guitar is gets louder, as does Pink’s voice. Slowly, the depressing tone is changing into what sounds more like anger, but not completely as of yet. The chorus asks, “How do you sleep while the rest of us cry? / How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye?” Here, Pink is referring to the soldiers lost in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the grieving families. The chorus ends with “Can you even look me in the eye and tell me why?” Here we are brought back to the very beginning of the song where Pink plainly asks to be treated as the President’s equal and be given some honest explanations.

The guitar returns to its original slow, somber tone. One can imagine the artist having gotten a load off of her chest and then calming down. It’s like she took a deep breath and told herself to stay composed as she starts again with “Dear Mr. President/ Were you a lonely boy? (Were you a lonely boy?)/ Are you a lonely boy? (Are you a lonely boy?)” The juxtaposition of referring to him as Mr. President and then a lonely boy is quite powerful, especially since “lonely boy” is repeated four times. She is forcing the listener to forget about the power the title holds. She continues with “How can you say no child is left behind? / We’re not dumb and we’re not blind.” In this line Pink directly addresses the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind Act, which was implemented as an attempt to mend the nation’s ailing education system, but to no avail.

For the fourth verse, the guitar gets more powerful, mirroring the tougher questions Pink asks. “What kind of father would take his own daughter’s rights away? / And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay? / I can only imagine what the First Lady has to say.” Here, Pink is addressing former President Bush’s stance on abortion as well as gay rights, in light of Dick Cheney’s situation with his daughter. Pink wonders how The First Lady, being a woman, feels about these issues.

In the bridge of the song, the listener hears the instrumentals and vocals climb to a climactic anger. Pink sings:

“Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you ’bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work
You don’t know nothing ’bout hard work
Hard work
Hard work”

This part of the song is especially stirring, as Pink paints a powerful picture of poverty. This is also the one part of the song where political affiliations can be set aside, as we think about the undeniable adversities less fortunate people in America and abroad face. Those who come from affluent backgrounds can admit that they have not faced those kinds of difficulties, in that their simple fundamental needs were always met.

The anger dissipates as the guitar strums quietly; closing the song in the melancholy tone it began in. Pink asks her final question: “Dear Mr. President/ You’d never take a walk with me/ Would you?” She has come to a realization that she will never receive the truthful responses she desires.

Following 9/11, there were many songs expressing discontent with the government, anti-war sentiments, and the need for unity. Pink’s song is unique because it is one of the few that asks for truthful explanations to get to the root of all the depression and anger expressed in other songs. Furthermore, unlike other political songs at the time, Pink addresses several prevalent issues, not just war.  Although war was definitely a large part of people’s dissatisfaction at the time, she reminds us of the domestic problems, like education and poverty, which are perpetuated when resources are poured into foreign causes.

A major part of this song’s significance is due to the fact that it was written and recorded by women, Pink and the Indigo Girls, the latter artists being largely recognized as a politically active, lesbian duo. Other popular socially conscious songs at the time were by John Meyer, Green Day, Eminem, and the Black Eyed Peas; all males. As the only well known female perspective on the topic, Pink and the Indigo Girls are the only ones to address abortion, gay rights, and education. It also explains Pink’s repeated plea in the song to be treated as an equal who deserves answers.

In an interview on the show Jimmy Kimmel Live on April 10, 2007, Pink thanks Kimmel because his was the only show that would allow her to perform “Dear Mr. President” and adds that she can’t even talk about the song on the radio. This fact alone sets it apart from the aforementioned political songs by mainstream artists. Unlike the other songs, the instrumentals, vocals, and lyrics of “Dear Mr. President” all demand the audience to focus on the lyrics, think about the questions and issues being addressed, and feel a mix of sadness and anger for the current state of things in America. Not everyone will agree with the political messages, but no one can deny the sorrow military families experience or the hardships endured by those living in poverty, and the song calls attention to that. Though the song did not make it on American radio stations, it was an international hit, especially in Europe, Australia, and Canada. In this sense, the song served as a voice to the rest of the world for Americans who didn’t agree with all of the government’s policies.

“Dear Mr. President” is a significant song in popular music, as it comments on the most prevalent, and sometimes controversial, political and social issues of the time. It was the only popular song of its kind to be written and recorded by females, which gave the topic a new angle and fresh perspective. Its explicit but sincere lyrics ask for one thing: the truth.

Works Cited

“Dear Mr. President.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. 1 October 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dear_Mr._President>

“List of anti-war songs.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. 1 October 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_anti-war_songs#Gulf_War.28s.29.2C_Iraq.2C_9.2F11.2C_and_the_War_on_Terror>

Kimmel, Jimmy and Pink. “Pink Live Interview- Jimmy Kimmel.” Jimmy Kimmel Live. Interview. 10 April 2007. Youtube. 1 October 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtRGhdP9uns>


October 3rd, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (27) | Permalink


Empires of Sound, Swing Music, and the Studio

In chapter 5, “Empires of Sound,” Millard talks about the beginning of conglomeration. Companies like Warner Bros. not only had their hand in film, but also started buying up music producers and record labels. Others followed suit and soon only four big companies ruled the film industry Warner Bros, RKO, Fox, Paramount, and Loews/MGM. This left little room for independent film producers who could not match the resources and power these giants had.

Media conglomeration has continued since then and we’ve gotten to the point where just a few (I believe it’s six) corporations own most of the media industry. Today’s media giants (like News Corp and Disney) not only own film companies and radio stations, but also books, newspapers, magazines, television channels, and any other type of media out there. This issue is especially important to me because I have worked with a non-profit independent media organization for several years now and our goal is to get the voices from overlooked communities out in the media. There are too many issues and viewpoints that don’t get heard because the media giants that run the industry can’t or won’t show them.

Anyways, back to music! The next chapter discusses the swing era.  I find it amazing that one type of music could appeal to such a wide audience from young to old, black to white, high culture to low culture, America to abroad. It’s difficult for me to think of a genre today that has the same kind of appeal. Unfortunately, as we saw in the Jazz Age, African Americans musicians were not credited with their creations and swing music was watered-down to appeal to white tastes. Radio networks needed swing to appeal to a mass audience, so it became a “highly commercial, formulaic sound.” This sounds an awful lot like what most radio networks play today, Top 40 hits by cookie-cutter artists that all sound the same. Related to what I said about media conglomerates before, the empires of sound were all playing this highly popular music, which meant the exclusion of diverse, ethnic music.

The studio, the microphone, electric recording; it was all great for synchronizing sound and film, but not for the artist. With the increasing responsibilities and skills required of the technician to strike the best balance of sounds, artists were treated like puppets; expected to “follow orders and get the job done as quickly as possible.” The recording manager made all major decisions and eventually the artists had no say. The studio system didn’t care about music, their main concern was corporate strategy- commercial factors, technical factors, and of course, mass production. We see here the beginnings of what the music industry has come to today, record labels incessantly intrude in artists’ creative processes to ensure that their work will sell. Artists can’t try new things or take risks because profit is the first priority, not authentic music. In these three chapters, we see how the changes in the industry affect the artist. Before, artists had to master three different types of media to be successful, and the companies were dependent on their talent to make money. But with advancing technology, it was less about talent and more about the technical aspects, and the artists lost control of their work.

The last point I want to make is about sound on film. I feel like a lot of the time sound is undervalued; we are quick to commend the visual aspects of film and how camera movements, continuity editing, and special effects make movies so realistic. But we see at the end of this chapter the importance sound has in evoking emotions and producing the illusion of reality.

September 24th, 2010 at 11:52 am | Comments & Trackbacks (14) | Permalink


The Jazz Age

Millard’s chapter on the Jazz Age gives a thorough account of just how influential this musical style was in shaping American culture. Unfortunately, not only were African Americans not given their deserved profit and credit for their musical contributions, but their original creations were diluted to be more suitable for popular culture. I find it particularly interesting that while jazz had such a huge impact in America and abroad, it seems to have done little to improve race relations. There were still stereotypical and distorted perceptions of African Americans in songs and opposition to the suggestive dancing styles.

While reading the chapter, I noticed many connections between jazz and rap. Like jazz, rap was originally a lot of improvisation, with kids often engaging in freestyle battles. Also, rap was also feared as a threat to the establishment, not only for suggestive or explicit language, but also because it was a form of social protest that brought awareness to several overlooked issues in African American communities. Millard notes that jazz was more than music; it was part of a “cultural package” (106). Similarly, rap influenced things like new clothing styles and slang. Finally, like jazz, rap music has definitely had an international impact.

Ted Vincent’s article “The Community that Gave Jazz to Chicago” adds another component to the history of jazz, by informing readers that it wasn’t only rhythm and dance moves that African Americans contributed, it was the also entrepreneurial endeavors in Chicago that started it all. African American-run businesses structured their businesses with their communities in mind; they made it convenient and affordable for everyone to attend. They also welcomed all races into their clubs, which was met with great opposition by racists who were uncomfortable with mixed races dancing together. Unfortunately, commercial interests took over these community businesses and revamped them in order to appeal to upper-class white tastes. This meant costly clubs that local members of the community could no longer afford to get into. This article shows that is wasn’t just music that was taken and altered to suit white tastes, the very clubs and cafes in African American communities suffered the same fate.

In the electrical area, we see yet more experimentation and development of technology. Like the newspaper and the car, the phonograph was originally an expensive product that only the rich could afford, but shortly after was produced for the masses. Thanks to people like Thomas Edison, experimentation was continued in order to enhance the quality of sound. I wonder: what would the world be like today if these people were content with what they had already accomplished and didn’t constantly aspire to push the envelope? In this sense, competition is good because it requires companies to be innovative and fresh in order to stay in business. Although Edison clearly wasn’t thinking about the business when he continued to work on the phonograph while the consumers preferred the convenience of discs.

The emergence of radio is another example of the benefits of competition. The companies that had already invested so much in the development of the phonograph scrambled to find an efficient way to synchronize film and sound in order to eliminate the growing threat that was radio.

September 17th, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (10) | Permalink


Hello!

Hi everyone, my name is Marya and I’m a Media Studies major with minors in Business and Psychology. I’m a senior here at Queens College and will be graduating in May. Hope everyone had a relaxing long weekend!

September 12th, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Comments & Trackbacks (6) | Permalink