The Power of Sound: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

By: Justin Patch (Vassar College) // The modern political campaign is an emotional and sensory affair. It is not rational or reasonable, nor is it concerned with presenting best policies and practices for governance, fostering the greatest good for all, or sensibly managing the world’s largest economy. Instead, campaigns appeal to pathos, optimism, nationalism, and … Continue reading The Power of Sound: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

From Ziggy to Blackstar: David Bowie’s Musical Masks

Perhaps the most memorable images of David Bowie feature the flaming red mullet and custom Kansai Yamamoto wardrobe of this final Ziggy Stardust concert. In a 2002 interview with Terry Gross, though, Bowie bristles at the suggestion that his career consisted of a parade of dresses and makeup: “That was for eighteen months, actually . . . which out of a career of nearly forty years is not very long.” He isn’t wrong about that, but the image of Bowie as a glammed-up chameleon persists in the days after his death.

Listening to Beethoven in and Through The King’s Speech

By: Jonathan Godsall (Worcestershire, UK) // It is common for filmmakers to use pre-existing music, both within the stories of their films and as part of the narration of those stories (that is, both diegetically and non-diegetically). We can study these uses not only for what the music brings to the film, but also for what … Continue reading Listening to Beethoven in and Through The King’s Speech

James Brown and B.B. King: Mourning and Migration

When blues guitarist and singer B.B. King (b. 1925) died in May 2015, fans mourned his death and celebrated his life at two large public events. On May 27, the hearse carrying his casket began its two-state journey on Memphis’s Beale Street, one of several symbolic “birthplace-of-the-blues” locales claimed by communities throughout the U.S. South. A parade of mourners—some singing, dancing, or playing instruments—accompanied the hearse, as shown in the video above.

Coca-Cola Goes to the Opera: Lillian Nordica’s Celebrity Endorsements

By: Kristen M. Turner (North Carolina State University) // In 2013, Taylor Swift debuted a commercial for Diet Coke. The ad is a collage of shots that alternate between Swift composing her hit, “22,” and different fans in a series of mundane locations singing the tune. We hear Swift’s music, not as it appears on … Continue reading Coca-Cola Goes to the Opera: Lillian Nordica’s Celebrity Endorsements

Music and Social Change on Downton Abbey

By: Carrie Allen Tipton (Houston, TX) // The first episode of the hyper-popular BBC series Downton Abbey used the 1912 sinking of the Titanic as shorthand for the aristocratic Crawley family’s sudden and jarring transition, not only into a new epoch of its own dynasty, but from the waning and comfortable Edwardian era into a … Continue reading Music and Social Change on Downton Abbey

Race, Class, and Music in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby turned ninety last year. What does its antihero—floating dead on a bloody mattress in the pool outside his nouveau riche palace, a casualty in some indirect sense of the American dream—have to say to us? Does his tale offer any relevant cultural critique to a nation nearly a century removed from its publication?

“You Are the Lord, The Famous One”

By: Joshua Kalin Busman (University of North Carolina at Pembroke) // On New Year’s Day 2013, I filed into the lower deck of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, along with more than 65,000 young evangelical Christians from all over the United States. We were all there to attend a four-day concert known as the Passion … Continue reading “You Are the Lord, The Famous One”

“Cosmic American Music”: Religiosity and Old-Time America

By: Joshua Kalin Busman (University of North Carolina, Pembroke) // In August 1968, California rock band The Byrds released their sixth full-length recording, an album of mostly country-western cover songs called Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Up to Sweetheart’s release, The Byrds had been primarily associated with two important musical styles of the 1960s. Their first … Continue reading “Cosmic American Music”: Religiosity and Old-Time America

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the “World Beat Dilemma”

By: Joshua Kalin Busman (University of North Carolina, Pembroke) // “Here's a world beat dilemma for you: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan is one of the world's great singers, but his qawwali music is intended for Sufi Muslim religious ceremonies in Pakistan. How can Khan … be made palatable to the general listener?” —Ron Givens, Entertainment Weekly … Continue reading Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and the “World Beat Dilemma”