Updates from March, 2004 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • 9:54 am on March 28, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Weatherford rocks 


    Weatherford’s Genghis Khan and the making of the Modern World ranks 31 in Amazon.com rankings! I gotta buy one and send to my younger bro.

    [added in 2005] heh heh. what was THAT review

    If all history books were this fun I wouldn’t have flunk…, November 10, 2004
    Reviewer: Ma WenRui “soukouslover” (Minneapolis, MN USA)

    Wow! This was a great read! It covers so much history and best of all gives context and brings life to characters, administration systems, battles and feuds like few other books (which focus on silly dates and show no meaning or the reasoning behind events). Plus, you’ll be surprised how little you (probably) knew about a most visionary empire: innovations, postal systems, no taxes for doctors and teachers!, psychological warfare, international trade policies, blitzkrieg! (and you thought the Germans were smart)… I loved this book. When is the movie coming out???

  • 2:58 pm on March 10, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    Making connections with the audience: professionalism and alienation 

    Yongho Kim
    Labor’s Story through Music
    May 10, 2004. (due May 7th – three days late )

    Making connections with the audience: professionalism and alienation

    In reflecting on the production of “Forgotten”, I want to focus on the difference between the performance at the Union Hall and the one at Macalester in the level of connections it allowed student performers to make with the audience during the show itself.

    The Union Hall was not meant to be used as a performance space – it had a podium dedicated to lectures and some backstage space. Bob arranged it so that the main actors would hide behind the backstage space when they were not performing, but the worker’s chorus had to stay in the back of the hall, visible to the audience. In between scenes, and in the majority of scenes where the worker’s chorus was not present, we (the worker’s chorus) could stand in the back and listen to peoples’ reactions – laughter, exclamations, suspense, etc.

    Having not had the time to stay and chat with audiences, this was a medium through which I could connect with the audience. They laughed when the foreman said “It’s in the corner where no one else ever goes”, they were focused and silent during the introduction of “The Ford Hunger March”. I also had a chance to confirm feelings I had towards situations – a bitter taste for Lewis not listening to his wife, for example – by finding reactions or the lack of them in the audience. In the same vein, not having a proper lightning set helped view the expressions in the faces of the people present there.

    On the other hand, Macalester’s concert hall was conceived from the beginning as a performance space. There were doors that closed well (the Union Hall’s backstage was not an enclosed space, but just a wall separating the hall from the back stage) at the stage and a separate entrance hallway outside of the concert hall, which was where the students waited. Behind the thick walls, we could only follow the general melody in order to know when to enter. The intense spotlight also prevented us from seeing the audience.

    This contributed to separating the student performers from the performance experience. Although a stretch, I parallel this to a general pattern where technical professionalism matches an increased distance between artist and audience as in Rose’s account of western music isolating the musician through sheet music. As Pete Seeger’s effort to incorporate the audience in the singing was a way to break through his contradictions between the message portrayed and his own life (Filene 196), directions to the opposite pole seem to alienate the performers.

    As a side note, I would like to point out that our Thursday concert was the second time I had listened to the lyrics for the whole show attentively and could figure out what the whole story was about.

    As a result, in the brief moments that I exchanged brief commentaries with audiences after the show, I felt there were more shared emotional links in the Union Hall, not because it was a working class space, but because it was less professional and allowed for informal human expressions such as laughter to transmit both sides.

  • 2:52 pm on March 10, 2004 Permalink | Reply  

    imagined conversation between Benjamin Filene and Ruth Glasser on "authenticity" 

    Yongho Kim
    Labor’s Story through Music
    May 10, 2004 (due April 15 – 3 weeks late)

    [DJ plays “We shall not be moved” by the Almanac Singers]

    Glasser: I like how the band uses the banjo, which gives it a more folk feel. Were the instruments made in the east coast before being sold to the singers? (G 18)

    Filene: I think you are right in that it was made in the east coast through the producers.. but I look more into the intention of the singer behind using “traditional” instruments. Pete Seeger was always torn between wanting to speak out for the working class and only being able to do so through a commercial distribution process. He faced the contradiction and expressed it overtly. (F 201)

    G: Did he? Still, that sounds a bit hypocritical – if you do not come from a middle class background, why would you pretend to sound like one, and then “apologize” for doing it? Pete should have worked along with singers from true working class background – those who worked partly in music and were dedicated in daytime to mining and other working-class jobs. (G 93)

    F: It can’t be that easy… he had to negotiate with the industry in order to be heard – we could most likely not be able to discuss his music had Pete not gone commercial. (F 203)

    G: Maybe.. what about the lyrics, though? What does he mean by “we” in “we shall not be moved”, “the union is behind us”, and “we’re black and white together”, when the Almanac Singers does not come from a working class background, is not really related to the union, nor is racially diverse? Puerto Ricans bought the discs made by Puerto Ricans about Puerto Rico, not because they expected people to imitate their accents and present a self-image intended to represent them, but because they knew that these were their brothers and sisters telling their stories. (G 124) Why cannot we expect a similar background for American “folk” singers?

    [Music shifts to “Casey Jones”]

    F: With folk musicians it’s a bit of a different story – people needed to work together for common causes. Civil rights activists, for example, didn’t mind a white guy singing the struggle of African-Americans – we could say that they didn’t expect him to represent the cause, but rather to draw middle class, white sympathizers to be able to identify with the movement. (F 201) The story of Casey Jones, for example, is a case in point. Pete also brought the folk music back to the folk with his sing-alongs. (F 195)

    G: That sounds more like a transitional way of negotiating the limitations of the music industry. Shouldn’t Pete’s goal to change the fact that singers cannot reach audiences unless they are abiding by commercial demand?

    Kim: Ruth! Hello! What are you people talking about? I heard you mention Pete Seeger.

    G: It’s that Ben annoys me because he says that all musicians face contradictions by their involvement with commercialized music industry and that Pete did what he could – highlighting the limitations of folk music, without really trying to do anything about it.

    K: Oh, you should check Tricia Rose! I guess you read her.. doesn’t she say in Black Noise that hip hop’s relationship with the commodity market does not necessarily mean that hip hop is being absorbed by the system, but rather an appropriation of the conditions of production. (Rose 40). Take women graffiti writers, for example – they use colors and shapes set by society (pink color, landscapes) but not as a way of reinforcing preconceived notions, but in order to gain visibility in an area often known as male-dominated (R 44). Rappers also encourage audience participation (R 54), which is not the focus but could be seen as a continuation of Pete.

    F: Thanks for the help, Yongho. Indeed, singers to subvert commercial structures – for instance, Lead Belly sued the Lomaxes, his former [scrip] employer, for the control of revenues produces from his concerts. (F 62) It’s just that during Pete’s times the industry was very complex.

    [Yongho plugs “The Message” with Dr. Dre]

    G: But it’s still not authentic – granted, judging authenticity by merely the country the artist is from is quite silly (G 155) But what if a white, suburban, middle-class singer claims a share of black hip hop identity while hiding his backgrounds?

    F: Dylan would be a good example. He concealed his background but his songs were consciousness-raising in a number of ways.

    G: No. You don’t just justify racial masquerading by saying that the singer was trying to face contradictions in a creative way, in the same way you would do it along class lines.

    Y: [silence] I think it’s about how we’re locating the artist within society – is the artist going to merely become part of the music industry, or is the artist conceive as an active agent working with the given tools and environment? (R 63) That’s how we could see some hope for the working class people who have to deal with societal structures of exploitation on a daily basis.

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