Chilean New Song (la Nueva Canción chilena) entranced and uplifted a country that struggled for social change during the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s, until the 1973 coup that overthrew democratic socialist president Salvador Allende. This powerful musical style—with its poetic lyrics and haunting blend of traditional indigenous wind and stringed instruments—was born of and expressed the aspirations of rising classes. It promised a socially just future as it forged social bonding.
In Chilean New Song, J. Patrice McSherry deftly combines a political-historical view of Chile with a narrative of its cultural development. She examines the democratizing power of this music and, through interviews with key protagonists, the social roles of politically committed artists who participated in a movement for change. McSherry explores the impact of Chilean New Song and the way this artistic/cultural phenomenon related to contemporary politics to capture the passion, pain, and hope of millions of Chileans.
A sound track of Germany in the early twentieth century might conjure military music and the voice of Adolf Hitler rising above a cheering crowd. In A National Acoustics, Brian Currid challenges this reductive characterization by investigating the transformations of music in mass culture from the Weimar Republic to the end of the Nazi regime.
Offering a nuanced analysis of how publicity was constructed through radio programming, print media, popular song, and film, Currid examines how German citizens developed an emotional investment in the nation and other forms of collectivity that were tied to the sonic experience. Reading in detail popular genres of music—the Schlager (or “hit”), so-called gypsy music, and jazz—he offers a complex view of how they played a part in the creation of German culture.
A National Acoustics contributes to a new understanding of what constitutes the public sphere. In doing so, it illustrates the contradictions between Germany’s social and cultural histories and how the technologies of recording not only were vital to the emergence of a national imaginary but also exposed the fault lines in the contested terrain of mass communication.
Brian Currid is an independent scholar who lives in Berlin.
As a measure of individual and collective identity, music offers both striking metaphors and tangible data for understanding societies in transition—and nowhere is this clearer than in the recent case of the Eastern Bloc. Retuning Culture presents an extraordinary picture of this phenomenon. This pioneering set of studies traces the tumultuous and momentous shifts in the music cultures of Central and Eastern Europe from the first harbingers of change in the 1970s through the revolutionary period of 1989–90 to more recent developments. During the period of state socialism, both the reinterpretation of the folk music heritage and the domestication of Western forms of music offered ways to resist and redefine imposed identities. With the removal of state control and support, music was free to channel and to shape emerging forms of cultural identity. Stressing both continuity and disjuncture in a period of enormous social and cultural change, this volume focuses on the importance and evolution of traditional and popular musics in peasant communities and urban environments in Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. Written by longtime specialists in the region and considering both religious and secular trends, these essays examine music as a means of expressing diverse aesthetics and ideologies, participating in the formation of national identities, and strengthening ethnic affiliation. Retuning Culture provides a rich understanding of music’s role at a particular cultural and historical moment. Its broad range of perspectives will attract readers with interests in cultural studies, music, and Central and Eastern Europe.
Contributors. Michael Beckerman, Donna Buchanan, Anna Czekanowska, Judit Frigyesi, Barbara Rose Lange, Mirjana Lausevic, Theodore Levin, Margarita Mazo, Steluta Popa, Ljerka Vidic Rasmussen, Timothy Rice, Carol Silverman, Catherine Wanner
Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1965 until 1997, was fond of saying “happy are those who sing and dance,” and his regime energetically promoted the notion of culture as a national resource. During this period Zairian popular dance music (often referred to as la rumba zaïroise) became a sort of musica franca in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. But how did this privileged form of cultural expression, one primarily known for a sound of sweetness and joy, flourish under one of the continent’s most brutal authoritarian regimes? In Rumba Rules, the first ethnography of popular music in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bob W. White examines not only the economic and political conditions that brought this powerful music industry to its knees, but also the ways that popular musicians sought to remain socially relevant in a time of increasing insecurity.
Drawing partly on his experiences as a member of a local dance band in the country’s capital city Kinshasa, White offers extraordinarily vivid accounts of the live music scene, including the relatively recent phenomenon of libanga, which involves shouting the names of wealthy or powerful people during performances in exchange for financial support or protection. With dynamic descriptions of how bands practiced, performed, and splintered, White highlights how the ways that power was sought and understood in Kinshasa’s popular music scene mirrored the charismatic authoritarianism of Mobutu’s rule. In Rumba Rules, Congolese speak candidly about political leadership, social mobility, and what it meant to be a bon chef (good leader) in Mobutu’s Zaire.
At its peak the Federal Music Project (FMP) employed nearly 16,000 people who reached millions of Americans through performances, composing, teaching, and folksong collection and transcription. In Sounds of the New Deal, Peter Gough explores how the FMP's activities in the West shaped a new national appreciation for the diversity of American musical expression.
From the onset, administrators and artists debated whether to represent highbrow, popular, or folk music in FMP activities. Though the administration privileged using "good" music to educate the public, in the West local preferences regularly trumped national priorities and allowed diverse vernacular musics to be heard. African American and Hispanic music found unprecedented popularity while the cultural mosaic illuminated by American folksong exemplified the spirit of the Popular Front movement. These new musical expressions combined the radical sensibilities of an invigorated Left with nationalistic impulses. At the same time, they blended traditional patriotic themes with an awareness of the country's varied ethnic musical heritage and vast--but endangered--store of grassroots music.