Thursday, January 7, 2010

Come Together Right Now Over Me

"And our friends are all aboard, Many more of them live next door, And the band begins to play. We all live in yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine. We all live in yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine."
The Beatles, “Yellow Submarine” (1966)

During the ongoing student protests of the sixties, Berkeley had one of the most enduring ones with the Free Speech Movement. It was a pivotal moment for the civil liberty movements of the sixties. A particular day after six days of student demonstrations in 1966, students and other protesters broke into song with The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.” It shocked the press and others, especially that the demonstrators did not sing obvious protests songs like “We Shall Overcome.” Julie Stephen cites Todd Gitlin:

"At a mass meeting about a campus strike, someone started singing the old union standby, ‘Solidarity Forever’. Voices stumbled, few knew the words. Then someone started ‘Yellow Submarine,’ and the entire roomful rollicked into it…The Beatles’ song could be taken as the communion of hippies and activists, students and non-students, all who at long last felt they could express their beloved single-hearted community."

Though, Stephen argues that the choice of song was rather interesting. She could not make up whether it was a ‘naïve’ move or ‘lack of enthusiasm’ coming from the students and not choosing something politically more appropriate, however commercial. Of course, this result of choice of song would not have been possible without the works of mass media and its huge success: ‘Beatlemania.’ Besides Katz explanations of the “manifestations of sound recording’s influences” (7): the ‘Phonographic Effect,’ and the music industry’s role the media, (its mass commercialization, mass distribution of records, band merchandise for mass consumption, articles and publications on all major papers and magazines, and the song’s repetitive chorus), it is not too surprising that this song was sung, despite the political contexts. Above all, during the time of these songs, The Beatles, and other popular rock stars, inspired this counterculture of ‘peace and love.’ It was a technological determinism of music inspiring the hippie movement. It was a defining moment in history of coming together and bonding with a fellow person of similar tastes in music, and singing together.

In countless examples, media’s role and its pull and push notions of excessively mass distributing its music, and other content, through channels of distribution, people have come together to sing, dance, socialize, celebrate, etc., whether its in protests, festivities, cultural settings (e.g. weddings, Colombia’s picó ), rituals, concert halls, and more. The DJ culture also became a technological phenomenon, hunting for the vinyl, “digging in the crates,” (11) and performing in front of a live audience and making them dance. This not only brought other music lovers together to collect records and creatively syncopate them, but established an identity for this community. “Record collecting represents a relationship with music that helps us, in some part small or large, to articulate and, indeed, shape who we are” (Katz 11). Even in the recoding studio, musicians were able to interact with each other in different ways than just rehearsing alone. Because of such settings, musicians and other recording studio assistants were able to bond, or maybe even dispute, regardless of this they were led to collaborate socially.

Today, “the world’s largest music stores sell digital files” (Sterne 292), therefore the MP3 and the digitization of music is an important area when discussing technology and media’s role in constituting modalities of social bonding. Sterne states, “Sharing [music] online can lead to new, more humane modes of economic exchange and social collaboration” (316). Even though the MP3 phenomenon has brought up new issues like enforcements of copyrights laws because the music is not being paid for, it has reached vast audiences otherwise impossible without its digitization. Stern continues that “The MP3 was simply swept up in a technological revolution: Piracy made MP3 the breakthrough format on the internet,” (315) and “Piracy was also the central catalyst in the MP3’s rise to preeminence” (316). Because of the astonishment rates of new forms of music distribution, peer-to-peer file sharing for one, Sterne concludes that “Whatever the fate of the existing recording industries, we need not to worry about the future of music as a vital component of human cultures around the world” (321). Through media and technology, music brought us in unity, created social bonding, and social collaboration.

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