Music in the Post 9/11 World

Music in the Post-9/11 World Ed. Jonathan Ritter and J. Martin Daughtry New York” Routledge, 2007.

Sound travels at 770 miles per hour. On the bright morning of September 11, 2001, when tragedy struck lower Manhattan and Washington, D.C., sounds of shock, grief and fear reverberated widely and quickly. Media brought the violence close that morning. Wherever we were, it cast us, near and far, as witnesses to a vivid and disturbing spectacle: a harsh disruption of our world. Above where I stood that morning, about five miles from the acrid smoke and dust rising from the collapse of the World Trade Center, a military jet raced low, rocketing noisily toward the city. Like the pulse and sonic trace from that jet, this book presents echoes. It recalls the songs and voices rising from many quarters following the impact of these events and challenges us to think about a world of diverse responses. As an earthquake brings aftershocks, ripples, and rumblings, so the distressing events of September 11, 2001 brought responses across the United States and around the world that registered in music, media, and public consciousness. The disparate essays that comprise this collection study the cultural aftermath, both in and outside the United States, and the global repercussions and interpretations that emerged alongside subsequent conflicts. This volume eloquently sounds reflection on the politics, memorializing, commercializing, and redefining of this significant moment in history. On the book’s cover rise two towers of 100 plus colorful and anonymous CD: a world of music recalling the vertical reach of the twin towers. Like the signals that once bounced off those towers, carrying music and voices, these twelve essays, forward, and introduction, also send messages. Emerging from an ethnomusicological study, this book appears to call to a Western or American readership that is keenly aware of music and media and remains curious about how these intersected with the commercial and political atmosphere of the United States after September 11, 2001. For most readers, the book’s second section will move them from the familiar to the less familiar. From Peru to Egypt and from Morocco and Senegal to Mexico, this book moves on to the wider world in which a “cosmopolitan orientation has permeated the lives of people in even the most seemingly remote and traditional societies.” In his introduction, J, Martin Daughtry suggests that we read these essays by “placing them in dialogue with each other.” This invites an intertextual exchange and reader participation that welcomes us as a community of interpreters and encourages reading a variety of discourses through a method of comparison and contrast. Insofar as the “America: A Tribute to Heroes” concert was, as Kip Pegley and Susan Fast note in their essay, “an attempt to reconfigure an imagined community that had been distorted by the trauma,” so too this book suggests the possibilities for enhancing ‘community’ through a reflective dialogue on music and cultural media. As Daughtry says at the close of his introduction, this is “a reflection on the historical moment in which this volume was produced and the place of musical scholarship in the post 9/11 world.” It appears to hold the hope that this world of ours is not only engaged in a “clash of civilizations,” as Samuel Huntington (1996) has remarked but also bears potential for a global dialogue. It appears to be a premise of this book that the increasing proximity of economies and ideologies we sometimes call globalization calls for a reinvestigation and reanimation of the traditional role of the humanities: to further humanize our world with critical multiculturalism as we listen to each other and share our music and our lives. While these contributors observe our contemporary encounter with the use of music in nationalistic contexts that may be potentially divisive, their essays also move one to recognize the hope that music might act as a vehicle for healing in our world. Reebee Garofalo starts us off with an overture that sets forth themes that will be picked up in the next seven essays in the first section: America’s national politics, societal values, and the contradictory functions that music has served in American history. The “American mediascape” is viewed alongside the “new political context.” As she points out, music’s social role after 9/11 emerged with the “gentle patriotism” of the “America: A tribute to Heroes” broadcast and continued with the “Concert for New York City.” The latter, she observes, carried amid assertions of confidence a theme of revenge that was amplified by Bon Jovi’s song “Wanted Dead of Alive” and The Who’s “Won’t get Fooled Again.” Garofalo adds that “artists who would have been identified with an oppositional stance in a previous era adopted new positions in response to a new political reality.” (Of course, time shows sonme of this to have been temporary and of the moment. ) Garofalo next turns to country music matters asnd goes on to express the view that corporate radio stifled dissent. These themes are repeated by subsequent essays by James Deaville, Martin Scherzinger, and and Peter J. Schmelz. Garofalo contends that “the restrictive and at times partisan practices of corporate radio were not the only reasons behind the lack of protest music on the national airwaves.” She probes whether the patriot Act “created a climate of intolerance for opposing viewpoints and caused many artists to censor themselves.” (This is the subject of Scherzinger’s essay.) Garofalo notes that “many artists interested in protesting the war turned to the Internet, often posting protest songs as MP3’s available for free download.” Then she reflects on Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising: the subject of a fine essay in this collection by Bryan Garman. Finally, Garofalo notes “hints of … dissatisfaction within the rap community” and recognizes rap and hip-hop : as the site of the most provocative political commentary in an otherwise timid and muted post 9/11 environment.” While Darryl Worley’s country song “Have You Forgotten,” analyzed here by Schmelz, can hardly be called timid, the initial essays of this collection appear to underscore Garofalo’s assertion of “the suppression and marginalization of voices resistant to dominant ideologies” in popular music in 2001-2003. In Pegley and Fast’s essay , attention is given to “the uncertain political and social climate” and the “role of popular music” after September 11, 2001. Conscious of music’s “ability to channel powerful emotions, they remind us that musical tributes and recollections could be found in every major media event in America: the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and the Academy Awards among them. “America: A tribute to Heroes” is described as an event on 35 cable television networks and 8,000 radio stations that “through the power of celebrity, music and gesture… attempted to forge a unified American community.” Yet, as they write, Pegley and Fast explicitly acknowledge their own outsider subject positions as Canadians and recognize the merits of their access to both Canadian and American media. The effects of distance are perhaps more fully acknowledged here than in many of the essays of the book’s second section, in which the events of 9/11 are indeed seen from a distance and interpreted through a local lens. Pegley and Fast analyze “America: A Tribute to Heroes” and discuss its attempt to foreground community. They point out that this image of unified American community was reinforced by metaphors for community like the appearance of singer/songwriters like Neil Young or Bruce Springsteen with vocal choirs. This book itself may be seen as a similar metaphor for expanded community, as it urges openness to a broad spectrum of voices throughout the world. This collection takes up these initial threads and weaves them in interesting ways across the next several essays. James Deaville considers the sounds of television in the US and Canada, while martin Scherzinger reflects upon how some sounds may not have reached us because of self-censorshgip by artists or corporate censorship. The patriotic and commercial turns of commemoration receive Peter J. Schmelz’s keen examination, while the expression of classical music remembrance is considered by Peter Tregear. In between, we are treated by Bryan Garman to a well-written assessment of Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising with “the politics of fear, fame and faith”, his Christian themes, and his hope for moral and spiritual renewal. No one can miss James Deaville’s topic. Turn the page and it appears in caps and boldface. A discussion of the politics of the news media is soon followed by an examination of the use of music for the news. We are offered an analysis of how music is incorporated into news media formats. The advertisers that Deaville refers to appear rather pragmatic about this: for them, music is a persuasive medium. However, such programming carries with it some assumptions about how the music will be heard by different listeners. Whereas Leonard Meyer (1956) expertly considered the subject of music and emotion, these production companies confidently- and perhaps naively- express an approach to mood engineering through music in which musical styles are described as “majestic,” “hard hitting,” “jazz oriented,” and “timeless”: words that few musicologists would use without qualification. In contrast with Eduard Hanslick’s nineteenth-century aesthetics of music as objective form, this is music as the Brave New World will put it to use. Deaville inquires into whether “musical tapping into personal narrative can actually influence the audio-viewer of television news.” He asks, “Does television news music simply reinforce pre-existing audience sentiments in hopes of increasing market share, or does it actually convince audio-viewers of a specific position on the news?” Deaville asserts that, following 9/11, network executives expressed a strategy to argue for “just war” and to construct propaganda elements. The attention to the politics of popular broadcasting continues as Deaville takes up an examination of CNN’s musical theme. He believes that this theme “suited and indeed worked to engender an aggressive retaliatory politics.” We are given a musical transcription of CNN’s “fear and anger” theme: High strings send us to a high D and tympani and drums pursue an insistent pulse of sixteenth notes and triplets. Presumably, the “aggressive” music communicates message and meaning for an audio- viewer when it is attached to visuals and other sounds. One may ask, does music itself promote aggressive retaliatory emotions? Or, does this depend upon the context in which it is set? Deaville directs our attention primarily to the placement of this music. What is quite interesting is his observation that the same music and imagery was received differently by Canadian viewers and listeners and American ones. In Deaville’s view, whereas American media appeared to foster “a climate of fear,” Canadian networks prompted sympathy. While not a great deal of empirical evidence appears here to support this, it is a very interesting perception. We read through the lens of this comparison as if we are glancing across the border on the bridge beside the chasm of Niagara Falls: This is the reaction of the U.S. side. This is the view from Canada. Deaville takes us to the view from Canada’s CBC Newsworld and its trademark “cymbal swells and rolls” and he reasserts that CNN and CBC “reveal contrasting subject positions through distinct musical responses to 9/11,” positions that “helped shape the mood of each nation.” Martin Scherzinger inquires into the “invisible and interiorized” phenomenon of self-censorship by artists and expresses concern about corporate censorship on broadcast channels. He is concerned with “the paradoxical nature of musical censorship… its double voices” and the silencing of dissent. He considers the removal of the Dixie Chicks from the ariwaves by several radio programmers in 2003. Then he considers the Boston Symphony’s decision to cancel a performance of John Adams’s The death of Klinghoeffer. Scherzinger critiques the silencing of public dissent in the public space of radio, including Clear Channel radio’s “don’t play” list of 156 songs. He challenges that broadcasting corporation’s contention that their decision was based upon grassroots censorship. In his view, “while grassroots flak probably played some role,” corporate ownership influences media content and there was a “bond between the owners of Clear Channel and the Bush administration.” For us, the question arises as to how this affects art, free speech, cultural expression, and what is available to audiences. Scherzinger’s concern with “signs of musical constraint” and “the limits of artistic expression” post 9/11 are paralleled by Peter J. Schmelz’s intensive analysis of Darryl Worley’s song “Have You Forgotten?” Schmelz’s investigation further accentuates Scherzinger’s thoughts on “how the behavior of culture commodities in a particular climate discloses the political standards of our times.” Schmelz documents how the meanings and reception of Worley’s song went through changes. Thus, he explores the song’s “role as a political agent” in support of “dominant political actions and ideologies.” His goal is to look at how this country song and its performance connected with the political moment. With this analysis, he says that he is exploring “country music’s audience and country music’s possible meanings, as well as broader questions of signification and representation in popular music.” Of course, country music is not univocal and the genre’s “increasingly visible links with conservative politics” is offset to some degree by groups like The Dixie Chicks. Schmelz takes us through the public life of Worley’s song from his Ole Opry performances in January 11-12, 2003 and its live version to the later success of his studio version. He provides evidence that the “political environment directly affected the recording and the video.” The video is examined in some detail. Schmelz also provides an analysis of Worley’s vocal delivery, the timing of the song’s release, and some aspects of the song’s musical arrangement. He notes, for example, that “the glissando suggests a rocket attack or missile shot, the countrified sounds of war.” Schmelz acknowledges that “there is no way to measure the direct influence of Worley’s song on public opinion (but) given its ubiquity it certainly played a noteworthy role in the media environment...” His essay calls for “further examination of the political and class roles of country music” in recent years. It attests to the view that popular music can support “dominant ideologies” and that “official’ voices “deserve as much scrutiny as the resistant voices on the margins, if not more so.” The subject of music and commemoration returns in Peter Tregear’s essay “For Alle Menschen?” which concludes the book’s first section. Tregear investigates the public uses of classical compositions to add a quality of gravity and sublimity to memorials for the victims of September 11. As one reads of the public use of Bach’s Suite for Unaccompanied Cello in C minor, Mozart’s Requiem Mass, and John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls, one may be prompted to ask what the use of these pieces says about popular perceptions of classical music or classical music’s role in cultural memory. In what sense is transcendence suggested by these compositions? Is classical music repertoire to be reduced to a mere commemorative function? Tregear reflects upon music’s role in making public rituals approach the condition of cinema. He points out that “Music is by its very nature radically removed from the events it might be chosen to accompany.” That is, absolute music – music without words. program, or image- “avoids a direct mimetic relationship with historical events.” However, this aesthetic view that music in itself stands outside “any unambiguous assertion of fact or feeling” does not exempt it from political or historical interrogation. As Tregear notes, “the use of this music… remains undeniably a political act worthy of interrogation, notwithstanding both the magnitude and depth of grief that it might be seen to help to articulate or console.” We are led to examine this music as a kind of post-nationalist discourse, suggesting a space where music meets the universal, an expression on these occasions that gestures toward a communal authenticity. Or, as Tregear puts it, the “presumed otherworldliness” of this music and “qualities such as nobility or theological gravitas” lies behind its use. Like other authors in this volume, Tregear perceives “how musical artifacts help to define a sense of collective identity.” In Part Two, we are given a global picture through ethnomusicology. As J. Martin Daughtry says in his introduction, we are invited to “a sonic world that will be startlingly new to most readers.” We are here welcomed to hear voices of people outside the United States who have “reread and interpreted through the lenses of decidedly local cultural practices.” We travel with these essays to the rural Andes in Peru where, as Jonathan Ritter notes, “one’s local existence is shot through with traces of distant worlds.” On we go to Morocco and Senegal, to Mexico, Egypt, and Afghanistan to consider how the events of September 11, 2001 and afterward have been [perceived and translated into musical and cultural expression in these diverse locations. As Ritter explains, these emergent narratives offer instances of discourse that reveal “disjunctures of global communications” and “global fissures within a variety of responses to mass media. These writers investigate the different ways in which the events of 9/11 have been understood in multiple sites of interpretation. They demonstrate to us how the view changes according to “where one sits.” Ritter’s essay probes how peasants in a remote area of the Andes reflected upon 9/11 for a song contest and saw it through the lens of the turbulence and violence that they have been faced with in their own experience. For all of their geographic distance from the events, the deep authenticity of their response in anchored in their own struggle. In Ayacudo’s Fajardo Province carnival song contests, or concursos, provided them with an arena for their efforts to make sense of that experience. Carnival also provided a public space where they could protest dehumanization and attempt to transform it through art, music, and sound. Tellingly, Ritter also discusses his personal odyssey in which he, the questioning ethnographer, was now asked questions about the 9/11 events in America by concerned people in the city of Ayacucho and in the rural Fajardo province. The personal anecdote here well conveys the intersubjective space of empathy he speaks of. Ritter demonstrates how Andean peasants “position themselves as global citizens, emergent cosmopolitans, knowledgable and willing to comment on world affairs” As he writes, “These songs reflect an effort to place ‘their’ and ‘our’ experiences of terror on the same dialogic ground, promoting an ethics of empathy.” One might add that this may well be a rationale for this entire book. The dialogue continues as ---- Blumenfeld offers oinsights into Moroccan and Senagalese music that accompanies spiritual traditions. He suggests that his colleagues at Columbia University came to the conclusion that cultural solutions may have a chance to succeed in fostering dialogue whereas other means have not succeeded. The first striking tones of his essay are sounded in the captions which precede it. Notably, there are Hazrat Inayat Kahn’s claims of a spiritual or universal dimension to music and Susan Sontag’s rejection of what she has called “the disconnect between Tuesday’s monstrous dose of the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and T.V. commentators.” Blumenfeld suggests that “the simplicity with which they framed the event and its aftermath” soon “appeared to stifle intelligent, open, and complex discussions of the issues at hand.” Blumenfeld appears to support the apparent intent of this collection to be open to multiple perspectives when he observes that there are “vast gray areas of identity and intent” which were not included, or were perhaps negated by certain sectors of politics and media. The writer thus joins the voices of those contributors who early in this collection roundly criticize this univocal media. Meanwhile, we are welcomed to a discussion of “the mysterious Islamic traditions of Sufiism” that are being explored by Senagalese singer Youssou N’Dour and at the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco. The work of this musical artist and this world music event are explored as expressions of this diversity of perspective. They are situated as examples of “the efficacy of music as a tool to bridge cultural and religious rifts.” Blumenfeld quotes Faouzi Skali, a Fez-Sufi scholar, who has pursued the use of the arts and a film festival “to initiate a direct dialogue between people and cultures, not through the news media.” The author recalls Hazrat Inayat Khan’s view that music is “the divine art” and that “Sound alone is free of form.” The spirit of Fez in America is something that Blumenfeld sees as a potent form exceeding “the customary contexts for so-called world music.” These spiritual traditions are given further attention in Blumenfeld’s inquiry into the work of Youssou N’Dour, an artist whose voice in multinational discourse draws upon ancient modes of Sufi, Sengalese griot, and contemporary communications. There is hope in these examples that music and cultural expression can say far more than Islamic fundamentalist rhetoric and may be a vehicle to encourage reconciliation. John Holmes McDowell, a professor of folklore and ethnomusicologist, is the next voice that we hear from. McDowell explores Mexican ballads sung in response to 9/11. These laments emerge in their won context and express attitudes of folk commemoration. They also emerge from traditions of folk song as social-political commentary. We learn from McDowell some of the history of this, as he takes a look at five post 9/11 corridos, observing that they do not speak in a single voice. James R. Grippo, an ethnomusicologist who performs Mid- Eastern music, next investigates Egyptian sha’bi and listens to his Egyptian interlocutors saying, “I’ll tell you why we hate you.” On a personal level, Grippo recalls the sincerity of the people he spoke with in Egypt and their sympathetic comments following 9/11. He tells us that he felt “humbled by those who felt the need to apologize to me” as an American. However, such sympathetic attitudes have shifted following U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is “a reaction to a reaction,” he says. An Egyptian love for American pop culture notwithstanding, he perceives among these Egyptians a “mistrust of… the way 9/11 has been used to advance… U.S. foreign policy.” In the final essay, Veronica Doubleday focuses on Afghan singers’ use of music to denounce the Taliban and its Pakistani supporters. The history of Afghani musical traditions are presented carefully in relation to the emergent politics of this war torn region. We hear of solo heroic epics that now receive political treatments. Doubleday points out that Afghan political music is composed mostly by men. However, we learn of some of the songs that have been coming from refugee camps in Pakistan. There are themes of lamentation emerging from Persian and Pashto poetry and art. Doubleday also discusses works that have emerged past the conflict period to express satire, wit, and verbal inventiveness in storytelling. She shows how the use of the technique of asking questions, using animal imagery, and expressing traditions provide reference to a shared milieu and assist in the work of social criticism. Doubleday considers the exiled musicians of Afghanistan and their impact in the world. She notes music education initiatives in Kabul. She probes the tensions between conservative Islamic values and secularized modernity and Western influence with respect to music and cultural expression. Overall, this book itself is a response. The editors have provided here a launching pad for critical thought on the diversity of responses in the post- 9/11 world. On the whole, this is a book of global hope. It is a book that is engaged not only in examining the complexities of music and media but also in encouraging us in the venture of transcultural dialogue. It enlists us in the hope for a community that will listen carefully to the sounds of social difference, political engagement, and interpersonal connection.

 

 

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