Friday, December 25, 2009

"Going Surfing for Christmas" ? : Noisy Planet Artist Review

Jingle bells, eggnog, snow, and Santa Clause. Is this what Christmas really is? Decorating your house with Christmas ornaments and colorful lights, rushing through malls to buy presents, singing Christmas carols, and of course, spending time with loved ones. Okay, but where does it state to follow this traditional and socially-expected event of Christmas? Sorry mom, not this time. First of all, I'm broke, and don't want to tackle through "hungry for discounts shoppers" during last minute shopping. I'd rather be doing something different, something out of the ordinary; maybe like biking around town, or watching surfers on Christmas day!
"I don't need Santa to take my worries away" sings Noisy Planet Artist, Todd Rosenberg, also known as Feelgood Todd, in the holiday song, "Going Surfing for Christmas." Santa is NOT going to tell me what to do this year! This acoustic, rag-time, and playful song encourages us to do what we enjoy, and does not lavish the stereotypical and romanticized Christmas idea of what many holiday songs suggests.

Lucky bunches, local Santa Barbara musicians (because they can go surfing during Christmas in sunny Santa Barbara), Todd Rosenberg, and from The Mad Caddies: Chuck Robertson, Eduardo Hernandez, Keith Douglas, and Sascha Lazor, Graham Palmer from Kinothek, and Ray Fortune from Wil Ridge, perform this song in hopes of getting it circulating through radio stations and reaching it to a Christmas classic. This is where Noisy Planet, Inc. comes in.

Importantly, the song comes at a good time when many of us folks are fed up with having a bunch of the superfluous excess of commercialization on street ads and television. Todd says "People are pretty much sick and tired of a bunch of BS on television...It's time to get real!" This vibrant and good-humored song definitely sets the platform for this. It suggests for the counter mainstream Christmas peeps, to have a real good time! For sure…

listen on

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mexico’s 1968 Student Movement and The New Song

This is an expansion of a previous blog posted on October 2nd, 2008.

Similar to Chile’s protest musicians, Mexico’s nueva canción was a heroic act to change the homogeneity of the elite through songs. These musicians influenced many other people, and artists, to become politically active for generations to come. They took active roles in conscientisizing the public by singing about controversial ideas and statements and proclaiming revolution, exposing government corruption and its oppressive behavior. During the 1968 student movement, the new song was a catalyst for inspiring the masses to protest against the government’s lack of student attention due to the Olympics held that year. These protests caused national attention which led the government to commit one of the most scandalous acts.
October 2nd of 1968 has remained one of the first major atrocities of Mexican authorities. The student movements of the U.S. and Europe that same year had a profound impact in Mexico, where the memory of them would prove to be enduring. The emergence of Mexico’s student movement began in the summer of 1968. The student movement was inspired from six demands that formed the actual framework of the students’ official petition. They were: 1) freedom for political prisoners, 2) elimination of Article 145 of the Penal Code, 3) abolition of the tactical police corps (granaderos), 4) dismissal of the Mexico City chiefs of police, 5) indemnification for victims of repression, and 6) justice against those responsible for repression (Zolov: 1999; 121). The students wanted to exploit the attention focused on the Olympics.

However, President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz was determined to stop all sorts of demonstrations by taking it to the federal level, instead of letting the local police handle it. The government took strong interests since this caused embarrassment due to heavy tourism because of the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City. Alas, the government decided to solve the situation of outspoken students by shooting one of the school’s doors off with a bazooka during a student conference. Instead of diminishing the authority’s problem maturely, it caused a bigger dispute and other schools got involved causing massive demonstrations. Because the government had a brutal repression towards its students, and their refusal to meet with the students needs, logically the rallies grew exponentially. The masses increased from 20,000 students to 200,000 students, and finally to half a million people demonstrating at the heart of the city, Zocalo. The image of the nation was out of control, especially since the whole world had its eye on Mexico City, due to the Olympics.

Early October 2nd, ten days before the big day of the Olympics, students called out a rally to inspire people to demonstrate and meet with the leaders of the state. This demonstration was held on the Plaza de tres culturas. The setting was a symbolical landmark located in Tlatelolco since the plaza has three cultures in one space: Aztecs ruins, a Spanish colonial cathedral, and modern buildings of the time by the ruling Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI). For this demonstration, about 10,000 people showed up. Strangely, there was a very unusual and suspicious vibe around; a heavy police and army presence, and boxed in plaza with no easy exit. There were undercover police and military members dressed in civilian clothing; however, each wore a single white glove indicating they were not civilians. Dreadfully in this demonstration, the protesters paid their consequences for “embarrassing the country” during international attention. Commanded by president of the time, Díaz Ordaz, the protesters were forcefully trapped in the plaza. The snipers with the white gloves fired into the crowds slaughtering activists who strove for national justice along with innocent residents including children and elders. Tremendous amounts of people were heartbroken, frightened, yet raged. The Mexican government had reported eighteen deaths of people in the massacre of Tlatelolco, which in truth resulted to be around 300 to 400 deaths.

Folk singers, or nueva canión activists, started chronically narrating this movement, the 1968 student movement. Because as mentioned before, the ruling political party, PRI, would not allow any officially distributed news to favor or sympathize these students, any media representation expressed towards this movement were all in a negative light. Several new song musician/activists who created a counter narration of the events are Jose de Molina, Oscar Chavez, Judith Reyes, Pedro Calderon, and Angel Parra. In the case of Judith Reyes, she was another musician who was abducted and held imprisoned under the strict custody of presidential guards, where she remained in complete darkness under physical and psychological torture. Her release was obtained after major protests demanding it.

These outspoken and innovating musician/activists, or in Gramscian terms ‘organic intellectuals,’ paved the way to other upcoming musicians to touch upon this particular event. This was a boom of musicians singing about Mexico 1968 of folk-rock, punk, and rock en español genres. They include Masacre 68 (punk group named after the massacre), Maldita Vecindad, Panteon Rococó, Tres Botones, Banda Bostik, La Parranda Magna, Rodrigo Gonzalez, amongst others. A major theme reoccurring within lyrics was the concept of “October 2nd will never be forgotten.”
Major reasons of why once controversial folk music survives today are largely because of the growing technological expressions for media representations reaching the hands of the rest of the population. Old footage retrieved that documents these events and songs, like Calderon’s song (see his footnote), and added on social media networks, shared through P2P file sharing, and other forms of media expressions, have constituted forms of resistance and raised consciousness for such events badly represented by official modes of communication.

When music uncovers and spreads the message of oppression, injustices, public militaristic executions, and state massacres, the rest of society starts questioning the governing of the nation and the media. When repressive and physical coercion reaches a point of breakage, such as how these folk revivals disrupted the hegemonic system, then those in control have to reinvent methods to keep society controlled, oppressed, and watched. Although the commodification of music had already existed during this folk revival, hence one of the reasons for its emergence, then technology and media furthermore tie in stronger to aim towards public consent and ideological coercion.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"My Guitar Is Not For The Rich" (Taffet's Title): The New Chilean Song Movement

Culture and music in Chile during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s provide us a famous illustration of challenging the elite’s cultural hegemony. This case study retraces briefly retraces the actions of the New Chilean Song Movement, also known as the NCCh. This was a move made by a group of traveling musicians and activists that oversaw the extreme oppression, marginalization, and injustices of the working class. During this time in Chile, foreign and pop music to some degree distracted Chileans from worrying about real life issues, such as poverty, indigenous marginalization, and political injustices. The administration of the time allowed large proportions of foreign cultural production to invade Chile, such as U.S. films, popular music, television programs, and popular magazines. The music was also standardized and those Chileans who had airtime allowed by the State were those who imitated these foreign bands, otherwise pop lyrics without any means of threatening content and all sung in English. This was a mechanism for control as Adorno quarrels, “The products of the culture industry are such that they can be alertly consumed even in a state of distraction. But each one is a model of the gigantic economic machinery, which from the first, keeps everyone on their toes, both at work and in the leisure time which resembles is (1969: 46).
U.S. and Latin America Researcher, Jeffrey Taffet, in his article, “My Guitar is Not for the Rich,” examines the concept of cultural hegemony during Chile’s foreign cultural invasion, it “posited the control of national culture [to] strengthen the elite’s hold on power” (1997; 92). By controlling culture, the elite manage a far more stable domination, and eliminate the subordinate ’s capacity to conjure up the conceptual tools to defy the structure of the system. Founders and members of the NCCh such as Violeta Parra and Victor Jara, challenged this cultural hegemony by redefining the establishment of popular culture and reinforcing ethnic and folkloric Chilean music. This music was not spread through mechanical means, but orally and “aurally.” They used traditional instruments instead of typical foreign rock’s electric guitars, drums, and such. NCCh’s musical lyrics were about social commentaries and protest songs, commonly called la nueva canción, or the new song movement, where it also favored certain leftist political ideas and strove for anti-imperialism, anti-monopoly and anti-Americanism.
As the NCCh gained large amounts of popularity with their radically alternative music versus the imperialist mainstream music, the movement was becoming a minor threat to the government. Consequently, lead activist of NCCh, Victor Jara was captured by the coup and executed by militaristic forces. This was to put and end to the movement when dictator and fascist ruler Augusto Pinochet arrived to power. Jara’s body was savagely thrown out on the street. His fingerers were tortured and mutilated. The myth goes that while he was captured, he was forced to play those songs that caused a threat to the governing system. Subsequently, while playing those songs, the guards cut them off. Taffet concludes, “Unfortunately for the left, that power was strong enough to threaten the elite, but not to destroy it” (100).

The song “Manifiesto” was one of Jara’s last written songs, and it was somewhat prophetic that in his lyrics he states “A man who will die singing.” Extreme cases have led to artists being tortured and as far as their being executed for publically conscientizising their listeners about governments’ dishonesty and corruption. Music has encouraged and inspired revolutions; thus governments tortured musicians like Victor Jara in hopes to destroy a song by silencing the composer and maintaining its power.

The NCCh without mass reproduction or distribution of its music, but with word of mouth, the songs were able to awake the Chilean working class without integrating into the culture industry.

Yo no canto por cantar
ni por tener buena voz,
canto porque la guitarra
tiene sentido y razón.

Tiene corazón de tierra
y alas de palomita,
es como el agua bendita
santigua glorias y penas.

Aquí se encajó mi canto
como dijera Violeta
guitarra trabajadora
con olor a primavera.

Que no es guitarra de ricos
ni cosa que se parezca
mi canto es de los andamios
para alcanzar las estrellas,
que el canto tiene sentido
cuando palpita en las venas
del que morirá cantando
las verdades verdaderas,
no las lisonjas fugaces
ni las famas extranjeras
sino el canto de una lonja
hasta el fondo de la tierra.

Ahí donde llega todo
y donde todo comienza
canto que ha sido valiente
siempre será canción nueva.
Victor Jara, "Manifiesto" (1973)

[English Translation]
"I don't sing for love of singing
or to show off my voice
but for the statements
made by my honest guitar
for its heart is of earth
and like the dove it goes flying
tenderly as holy water
blessing the brave and the dying
so my song has found a purpose
as Violetta Parra would say
yes, my guitar is a worker
shining and smelling of spring
my guitar is not for killers
greedy for money and power
but for the people who labour
so that future may flower
for a song takes on a meaning
when its own heartbeat is strong
sung by a man who will die singing
truthfully singing his song

I don't sing for adulation
or so that strangers may weep
I sing for a far strip of country
narrow but endlessly deep
in the earth in which we begin
in the earth in which we end
brave songs will give birth
to a song which will always be new"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Something Is Happening Here, But You Don’t Know What It Is

Eavesdropping, censorship, recording, and surveillance are weapons of power…Recorded noise and eavesdropping – these are the dreams of political scientists and the fantasies of men in power: to listen, to memorize – this is the ability to interpret and control history, to manipulate the culture of a people, to channel its violence and hopes.
Attali, Noise, pp. 7

Since the earliest philosophical writings tell us, music before the Common Era, and probably even longer, has served as a substance of control. NYU, Media and Communications Professor, Aram Sinnreich analyses it from the origins since Plato’s days until more recent configurable movements. He describes that since the beginning of recorded history, music has constituted modalities of control. The Athens certainly were aware of this 2,300 years ago (when Plato’s Republic was written; 360 BC). He states that, “The Republic suggests that music should be regulated legally, codified through political mandates and policed by the states” (Ch. 1, pp. 4). Sinnreich examines Part III of the Republic. While Socrates is philosophizing with another Athens citizen, they agree that only two harmonic modes are of importance to the State. One is the Dorian, which during wartime is valuable because it builds courage to its listeners. The other one is Phrygian, since it inspires peacetime and encourages obedience. Other rhythms, such as Ionian and Lydian, Socrates suggests, should be vanished from the state as they promote drunkenness, softness, and indolence – these rhythms are too ‘relaxed’ and therefore they are no use to the state. Schafer expands on this point by stating that “A society too drunk with music is incapable of other operational achievements, and the ruler who wishes to stay in power knows how to stimulate music and when to withhold it” (30). Shafer continues, “Music is probably more informative. I refer, of course, to pop music, which is really the only kind permitted in the free world. (Any other kind of music might be, and on occasion has been, considered conspiratorial.)” (29). Sinnreich points out that while Socrates’ concern of music being a modality of control, he only focused on the aesthetic perspective: the rhythm, harmony and timbral (ibid). Although music can serve as a powerful tool for control and regulation, nonetheless, acoustic environments such as caves became inevitably controlling to humans for listening to sounds since ancient times, as well as eavesdropping, and latter other methods of state surveillance.

Dionysius of Syracuse (430-367 BC) the brutal and tyrant leader, rose to power because of war achievements, and famous for his technique on listening. It is speculated, as Schafer’s section “The Ear of Dionysius” describes, that the Tyrant designed prisons in concealed points of observation and with acoustic means to not only monitor prisoners’ actions but listen to their conversations and whispers (28). While the cave, the Ear of Dionysius, actually exists today, it has become a metaphor for all sources of acoustic surveillance conducted by the government as the panopticon and the internet today. Schafer declares, “The ears of the state have never been more curious and open. Everyone has a voiceprint and somewhere everyone’s voice print is on file” (29). Sinnreich distinguishes, “In the case of music, there are at least two other methods of regulation that often come into play: ideological regulation, in which one set of ideas about music is given primacy over another; and commercial regulation in which companies such as broadcasters or record labels serve as “gateways” between musical producers and consumers” (ibid). As technology advanced, techniques of surveillance became inevitably apparent. Shafer continues, “Not all of this listening is carried on in secret. This is no longer necessary once mechanisms are created for society to express itself openly on every possible issue” (29). Sinnreich states, “[A] strategy for coping with institutionalized surveillance…is to participate in the surveillance processes (both as surveillant and object of surveillance)” (Ch. 11, pp. 12). Radio shows and opinion polls then became a more modern way to monitor people when conducting surveys questions for marketing. When media, such as television and radio shows, became popularized, the masses were more willing to participate and share their lives in order to receive exposure.

Even more recent, the internet is looked upon as the new panopticon, or the ultimate form of surveillance while having society’s consent. With new media and the new social networks revolution, we volunteer to have our information on such websites as well as post recordings, pictures, and videos of ourselves. Schafer confesses, “The failure of the twentieth century really comes down to a fascination with buttons and switches in an attempt to modulate information intake. As the twentieth century progressed there were fewer ‘off’ switches; media-massaged society remained in a perpetual state of ‘red alert’” (38). Because newer forms of technology are created and are heavily advertised in today’s society, it is a social ‘unwritten’ rule to own a cell phone in order to keep up with modern culture. Consequently, Schafer notes, “The cellular phone…is the latest installment in this drama. Answer when you’re master calls. Life without secrets, without privacy without freedom. The latest shackle for the technological prisoner to carry about” (38). Besides being on call all the time by the master, what is more uncomfortable and disturbing is that those in authority can ‘turn the switch on’ and listen to anyone’s conversations if they feel like it. Though most of us are aware of this, it has become to a certain degree acceptable, and technology and music have become commodified.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I Read the News Today Oh Boy

¿Ya oíste las noticias? ¿Quién, yo?
Hoy vi en la tele que el país no está tan mal
Con Jorge Campos ganaremos el mundial,
Yo no se a quien creen que engañan,
La calle no está en la pantalla
Mienten mucho, no les creo nada
Mienten mucho, no les creo nada

Hoy vi en la tele que el peso no se iba a devaluar
Dice la radio: "El desempleo va a terminar"
Y en la ciudad a donde mires encontrarás
Gente en la calle buscando como ganarse el pan
Mienten mucho, no les creo nada
Mienten mucho, no les creo nada

¿Que es lo que dicen?
Dicen las noticias:
Que no ha habido matanzas
Son suicidios por la espalda
Que no hay levantamiento
Es una guerra de internet
Mienten mucho, no les creo nada
Mienten mucho, no les creo nada

Hoy vi en la tele que la tira iba a aumentar
Y que el ejército tiene nuevo arsenal
Muchas redadas y retenes
La paz de los sepulcros quieren
Mienten mucho, no les creo nada
Mienten mucho, no les creo nada
Maldita Vecindad, "No Les Creo Nada" (1996)

(English Translation)
Did you hear the news? Who, me?
Today I saw on TV that the country is not doing too bad
“With Jorge Campos we’ll win the World cup”
I don’t know who they are fooling/
The street is not on the screen
They lie too much, I don’t believe them at all

Today I saw on TV that the peso was not going to devaluate/
The radio says: “Unemployment will end”
And in the city wherever you look you find
People on the streets finding ways to make ends meet
They lie too much, I don’t believe them at all

What do they say? The news says:
That there have been no slaughters/
They are suicides from the back
That there is no uprising/
It is an Internet war
They lie too much, I don’t believe them at all.

Today I saw on TV that police numbers are going to increase
And that the army has a new arsenal
Many raids and check-points/
The peace of tombs is what they want
They lie too much, I don’t believe them at all.

In 1996, the album Baile de Máscaras came out in a changing political climate where, Mexico’s ruling political party, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), and leftist guerrilla insurgency, Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) were shaking up Mexico’s political and social order. The people of Mexico no longer had full faith and reliance on the government and its media outlets. Furthermore, an increasing number of musicians challenged authorities as government corruption, injustices and oppressions became endemic – the song mentioned above. “No les creo nada” argues that media covers up massacres, manipulates the public with lies, and brings false hopes to Mexican citizens. In Mexican politics, the PRI ruled for 72 years, until its collapse in 2000, and own Televisa, the conglomerate and monopolistic official outlet of communication. During the 1990s, the rise of the internet was becoming a power medium for communication and Maldita Vecindad declares there is “an internet war.” This is so since politics, technology, and media were tightly intertwined, there was mainly a “one-way” communication of those in control to the citizens, causing an oppressive and unjust ruling resulting to war. While the lyrics of Maldita Vecindad call out the authorities and mainstream media, the song actually broadcasts official government news dubbed in the background, showing how the news contradicts itself with real life situations.

[Maldita's fifth album, Mostros, portraying those who own the media, or TV, are power driven deceiving monsters]
As several writers have theorized about music’s several characteristics, Murray Schafer, in his article “Open Ears,” quotes De Bary et al. (1960), which says, “The music of a well-ruled state is peaceful and joyous and its government is orderly; that of a country in confusion is full of resentment and anger and its government is disordered; and that of a dying country is mournful and pensive and its people are in distress” (2003: 29). So why pay attention music? Or for that matter, sounds and noise? Through the song example, the listener is able to comprehend that the social and political order of Mexico was disorderly, as the song expresses anger and resentment. Throughout the years, the role of technology and media has not only documented and preserved songs as narrations and reflections of societies, though new possibilities came about with such roles, and therefore shaped our listening strategies. So how has the role of technology and media shaped our listening strategies? We'll explore these in upcoming blogs...

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Folk Revival: The Counterculture of the 1960s and Music’s Potential

For many individuals, the 1960’s were known as beautiful times, whether it was lived or learned about. It was a salient moment of creative and artistic outburst which filled the air with social and political expressions. The spirit of the 1960’s followed after the repressed and conservative era of the 1950’s. New and existing genres began to take shape with a whole new meaning. The emergence of the folk revival of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and soon after rock music became revolutionary anthems of the generation in the U.S. Music was very inspirational and musicians became the voice of the people. Spokes musicians such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan took after the roots of folk music that originated in the 1930s during the Great Depression with notable musician/activists like Woody Guthrie and later Pete Seeger. Although this musical culture had its boom in the 1960s and carried on highly political and artistic elements, it inevitably found itself in opposition to the mainstream social political thinking and social norms. The radical actions and movements inspired from this generation were a critical platform for current theoretical discourses surrounding the understanding of society through its cultural production and media representation. The folk revival not only in the U.S., but in other countries in Latin America, became global a phenomenon inspiring new strategies for ‘listening.’ Folk music raised sociopolitical consciousness of certain issues troubling the people. It purposely strove away from making profit and mass commercialization. This era confirmed that music can scratch political system, that it has the potential to challenge it and inspire the masses, and change the way we perceive it.

Since the interlocking of technology, media, and music, music has gone through major transformations. The governments’ hold on media gave it new powers for control, and creating consumerism. Lets explore moments in history in were music, noise, and sounds has modalities of control, commodification, and social bonding through the mediascape and technology.