Ecomusicology ESeminar #1
- “Listen and Learn.” By Jessica Schwartz
- Response By Denise Von Glahn
- ESem Moderated and Archived By Mark Pedelty
ESem #1, January-February 2018
From: Mark Pedelty
Date: Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 4:49 PM
Week 1: A reading of the chapter manuscript “Listen and Learn,” written by Jessica Schwartz.
From: Mark Pedelty
Date: Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 9:18 AM
Week 2: A response by discussant Denise Von Glahn
The Ecomusicology ESeminar moves to its second stage this week with Denise Von Glahn’s response to Jessica Schwartz’s manuscript, “Listen and Learn.”
Please read Jessica’s piece if you have not had a chance yet, as well as Denise’s thoughtful review below.
The floor will open to everyone this next Monday, February 5. Thanks Denise and Jessica for getting us started! Also, Aaron Allen has graciously given up his time and hair to help me manage this ESem and archive the ESem on the Ecomusicology Review website. So visit the ER site if you ever need to recover Jessica’s paper or the discussion as a whole.
A response to Jessica A. Schwartz’s “Listen and Learn” by Denise Von Glahn
Responses to readings can take many forms: some critique the contents by pointing to philosophical disagreements, or challenge the use of specific evidence or the conclusions drawn, while others more generally contextualize the work within a relevant body of literature and address the issues that confront scholars working in the broader field; still other respondents use the forum as a springboard to consider potential directions for future investigations, or as an opportunity to reflect on more personal engagements with the materials. Regardless of the orientation or focus of any response, the best ones catalyze conversations that then take on lives of their own: that is my intention here. Let’s talk.
Jessica Schwartz studies a particular kind of listening and learning in the early post-World War II atomic age: modifying a phrase coined by historian Scott C. Zeman, Schwartz characterizes the focus of her own project as “high atomic listening culture” (6). She describes the ways the U.S. government, through its strategically marketed and disseminated Federal Civil Defense Program, strove to teach Americans to be alert to the likelihood of a Russian nuclear attack. Their program would be delivered largely through radio broadcasts, the technology of choice at the time, careful management and monitoring of the nation’s emotional condition, the cultivation of a hyper-vigilance aural state in general, and more specifically the development of a patriotic citizen characterized by his “hyper-vigilant ear.” The language of the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) used exclusively masculine pronouns to reference the nation’s citizens.
As Schwartz observes, the success of the government’s agenda depended upon citizens embracing the idea that our near-certain apocalyptic end would be accompanied by an opportunity for creativity. But to participate in that post-tribulation creative endeavor, one had to survive, hence the catchy phrase, “alert today, alive tomorrow” (13). Like Dieter Bögenhold, Schwartz also understands that “creative destruction ha[d] to be seen in a wider context of innovation and entrepreneurship” (3). But it would be argued that there was more at stake than mere personal survival or creativity: the whole idea of freedom was at risk as well. Alert, hyper-attentive listening could guarantee the American dream at home, abroad, and even into outer space, that “final frontier.” As Schwartz observes: “listening was central to survival” (11).
To strike a balance between paralyzing terror and productive fear, the nuclear crisis had to be normalized, made the quotidian reality—what strikes me as a perverse post-war variation on an early twentieth-century aesthetic known as “the art of the everyday.” And it is this government-sanctioned goal of normalizing the unthinkable, of selling destruction as opportunity, of using sound, not just to alert but to inure, that resonates so loudly and so personally. It is what I see happening today with assaults on the natural world and on what I thought were rules of civil behavior and engagement: we have normalized the unthinkable.
Schwartz offers up two popular songs of the time, Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream) by The Chords and Thirteen Women (And Only One Man In Town), performed by Bill Haley and His Comets, both from 1954, as examples of ways thoughts of a nuclear holocaust infiltrated radio broadcasting in more entertaining ways. Whether the brief and casual suggestion of an explosion or a single reference to a dream about the H-bomb in the texts of the songs is enough to persuade readers of the musical analyses that Schwartz offers is not essential to my appreciation of her point that even early R & B and Rock n’ Roll songs lived within an environment where “nuclear talk” was omnipresent.
The age that Schwartz describes is not a bygone era, and the thinking she reports on does not belong to some distant culture or tribe: it was my childhood, first in NYC, and then in a Long Island suburb, eighteen miles to the east. I wonder if my seemingly natural sensitivity to sound and my scholarly focus on listening is a long-lasting echo of my atomic youth. Routine tests of the city’s air-raid sirens blasted at noon each Friday; Civil Defense pamphlets were ubiquitous, and signs indicating the location of fallout shelters were posted on school buildings and libraries; commercial airlines flights regularly created sonic booms that rattled windows and sent children shaking and crying into their homes before noise ordinances prohibited their occurrence; “cover-uncover” exercises in elementary schools were as regular as fire drills: at the sound of a particular alarm, distinguishable by the number and duration of the beeps, children quickly filed out of their classes, sat cross-legged against the interior walls of the main halls, and crouched over keeping their heads tucked down until the principal, announced “all clear.” Such were the norm, but they were no less emotionally devastating because of their ubiquity; and the idea of immediate disintegration in a nuclear blast was no less disassembling to five-, six-, and seven-year-olds because they were assured they’d feel no pain. Nightmares, night terrors, and constant low-level fear were common companions to the youngest children of the time. In an interview with Libby Larsen (b. 1950), the composer spoke of living with the Doomsday Clock, a device created in 1947 by a group of Chicago scientists designed to visualize the world’s closeness to nuclear destruction, the duck-and-cover drills she experienced in her school, and regular talk of radiation poisoning. And although she admits it may sound “silly,” she’s not forgiven the government for “terrorizing a whole generation of children.” And then there was the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
Schwartz’s chapter can provoke any number of conversations: the uses of sound to propagandize, to control, to injure, to inure; the ways particular cultural moments overtly or covertly, or even unintentionally, train us to respond to a variety of sensory stimulation; how popular culture—musical and otherwise—conveys the temper of the times, and here I think of Tom Lehrer, the Harvard-trained MIT mathematician whose satirical songs about everything from nuclear proliferation to pollution to the boy scout’s motto “Be Prepared” made him beloved among 1960s cynics. Along the way he also wrote a number of songs for the children’s television show “The Electric Company.” If Schwartz hasn’t considered Lehrer in another chapter of her study, she might look into his songbag; it speaks especially to the “high” culture demographic she focuses upon. Perhaps the most productive discussion that could be excited by Schwartz’s chapter is one that considers how to commandeer and employ the government’s 1950s tactics to alert and activate its citizenry to the apocalyptic situation that exists in relation to the environment. This is not an imagined event that depends upon the detonation of a nuclear device; it’s already upon us. It was forecast most famously by Rachel Carson in 1962, the same year we waited to see (and hear) whether Khrushchev or Kennedy would push the button. Perhaps it is time for us to listen to Carson once again and attune our ears to the devastation around us. Perhaps there’s still time to learn.
From: Mark Pedelty
Date: Mon, Feb 5, 2018 at 10:25 AM
Weeks 3-4: The floor opens to an exchange of ideas around the paper and topic.
The floor is now open for a lively exchange around Jessica’s paper, Denise’s response, and the fascinating issues that they have introduced to get the conversation started. You can find Jessica’s paper and Denise’s response by revisiting your archived list of emails, the ER site, or by opening up the attachments to this email.
To participate, simply email the list as you normally would and offer your comments, questions, and ideas. Anything from one line to your own discourse on the subject. And thanks in advance to everyone for making this a productive and provocative discussion.
University of Minnesota
From: Tyler Kinnear
Date: Mon, Feb 5, 2018 at 2:28 PM
Thank you for sharing your book chapter with us. The timing is impeccable. The latest issue of Time magazine showed up today (“Making America Nuclear Again”), not to mention the recent false alarm in Hawaii. I’ll limit myself to two questions, so as not to hog the e-floor:
1a) I’d like to know more about your decision to choose “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)” and “Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)” as case studies. The year (1954) and the significance of the two songs (i.e., their place in rock history) are justifiable. I’m curious if there were other songs that made your shortlist. Also, I wonder in what ways a doo-wop song like “Atom Bomb Baby” (1957) by The Five Stars or a rockabilly number like “Uranium Rock” (1958) by Warren Smith illuminate “nuclear” pop. Perhaps you discuss these or other examples from the 1950s in a different chapter(s).
1b) If I may offer an idea: You discuss the topic of security as it pertains to both national and domestic space. I think you can play up how the topic extends to the two songs you examine through the evocation of a post-apocalyptic paradise. With paradise comes assurance and comfort. Another topic, although perhaps beyond the scope of your study, is opportunity (e.g., money to be made off uranium, as captured in “Uranium Rock”).
2) Did you encounter during your research any attempts by the FCDA to engage regional audiences and/or non-white listeners? I live a few hours drive from Oak Ridge, TN, and am trying to imagine the relationship between low-income and non-white inhabitants in Appalachia and the government around this time—the town of Oak Ridge was established in 1943 (as part of the Manhattan Project), and in the 1950s was especially active (offering courses on nuclear reactor operation and safety).
Thanks very much for considering my questions, and I look forward to your reply and also the input and questions of others!
All the best,
Tyler Kinnear, Ph.D.
Adjunct Instructor, Western Carolina University
Secretary, World Forum for Acoustic Ecology
From: Jeff Titon
Date: Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 10:36 AM
Good morning Jessica, Denise, Tyler, Mark, and all,
Thank you for your paper and this colloquy. Here is my response to Jessica and Denise. Apologies in advance for the length, but the chapter triggered memories of my experiences living in this atomic-era so long ago.
I read Jessica Schwartz’ chapter and Denise Von Glahn’s response with keen interest. Sounds signaling alarm commonly activate the limbic brain’s flight reaction among Earth’s creatures. Animal behavior scientists continue to research animal alarm calls, discovering hitherto unknown specificities in these sound signals. North American colonists were frightened by the sounds of thunder, attributing to it a malevolent spiritual presence. Nature’s sounds of climate change can be heard during intense wind, rain, and snowstorms and although they have a scientific explanation, they are no less terrifying to those of us who eavesdrop and understand their ominous significance. The air-raid sirens described in the paper may have fallen silent today, the alerts coming now over smartphones, as the recent false alarm in Hawaii reminds us; but the sounds of police and fire engine sirens, and car theft alarms, remain to startle and annoy, if not frighten, while the radio alerts nowadays warn us of tornadoes and sudden hail storms.
I was born in 1943 and lived through the period described in Jessica’s chapter. Like Denise, I well recall the duck-and-cover exercises we went through in elementary school, when I lived in Manhattan as a boy. We used to repeat the instructions with our own variation: “Now children, go under your desks and bend over, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.” In junior high, after the proper alarm sounds signaled, we practiced shelter drills, lining up in size order from shortest to tallest, and moving in a very orderly way down the stairs to the building’s sub-basement, where we stood silently for a few minutes until the all-clear alarm went off and we walked back up to our classrooms. Also, like Denise, I recall the noon hour Friday air-raid siren tests. My family moved to Atlanta when I was 15, and I finished high school there. The shelter drills and air-raid sirens followed me to Atlanta.
When I was a boy, my family listened regularly to the radio, mostly WQXR, the classical music radio station. Although I recall the Civil Defense pamphlets, and the upside down triangle signs on radio dials and elsewhere, I can’t recall hearing the public service announcements for civil defense, and “alert and alive” never registered with me. When I got old enough to be gifted with a transistor radio, I listened to a wide variety of radio stations and yet I can’t recall those announcements. I must have heard them, but for some reason they didn’t make the kind of an impression for me to recall what was in them.
We were, also, issued dog tags in elementary school, with our names and addresses stamped in the metal. We were told these were for identification purposes, but we weren’t told that if we were blown to smithereens the dog tags would remain to let any survivors know we were gone. Duck-and-cover, shelter drills, air-raid sirens, and other exercises signaled by alarm sounds quickly became routine. We children made fun of them. Imagine a deliberate march in size order to a bare, underground hallway where we would wait for the building to collapse on top of us in any attack. Perhaps our ironic stance was an existential reaction, although at ten years old we knew nothing of Sartre and Camus. That I don’t recall the civil defense radio spots also suggests that at some deeper level I must have shut off my sense of alarm in the face of the un-faceable. I did not participate in the “listening culture” of the atomic age as it was intended for me to do. Neither did my friends.
My parents might have encouraged me to participate, but I don’t recall they initiated any conversation about an atomic attack. In other words, I don’t know how they felt about Civil Defense and whether they listened carefully or had turned themselves off. Certainly, we never had a fallout shelter of our own nor made any preparations as a family for a nuclear attack. I must have asked them, when I was very very young, if we were all going to be blown to bits; and, knowing them, I’m certain that they would have reassured me that we would not. In fact, my parents instructed me to say, whenever an adult would ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “I want to be a scientist and work on the atomic bomb!” In that way they must have tried to transform the unbearable into something not only bearable but exciting for a six-year-old boy. Atoms for peace, sort of.
My testimony, along with some observations from Denise, suggests that Jessica’s history could benefit from an additional approach, to the way in which these alarms were received by those of us who lived through the period, as we recall it now. Age, class, race, place and gender should be factored into the inquiry. Reception theory, coupled with ethnographic research, would yield a different layer of understanding of the meanings of these sounds, in their historical and cultural contexts, in the way these sound signals affected the lifeworlds of those who experienced them. For the sounds did not have their desired effect on me and my cohort. We could not take them seriously. To survive, if we were forced to confront them, we had to take the sounds of alarm bells, sirens, CD radio spots, and song lyrics ironically.
Although I well I recall “Sh-boom” from my pre-teen years, any sound and symbolism of the blast and a life afterward in Paradise was completely lost on my friends and me, who simply enjoyed the clever sounds without thinking much about the meaning of the lyrics. “Thirteen Women” didn’t register because it wasn’t a hit song. (The flip side, “Rock Around the Clock,” registered very loudly. And schools regularly made up cheers for sporting events, imitating the song and adapting it.) Rock and roll lyrics weren’t meant to be taken seriously, anyway. Those of us old enough to recall the Steve Allen show on television will remember that this talented comedian regularly spoke rock and roll lyrics out loud as if they were profound poems, while the audience in the studio and at home laughed at them. For some of us, it was the first time we actually heard them as words, rather than as something different (sung sounds). This is an important point, I believe, for anyone who wants to understand the meanings of popular song lyrics from this era as they were experienced. Interpreting song lyrics as if they were poems overlooks the different meanings we took from them, not as verbal messages but as rhythmic sound clusters. Indeed, this was the only way we could experience the doo-wop layers of the songs.
Denise points to Tom Lehrer, an important singer-songwriter in the folk music revival of the 1950s, whose musical response to the Bomb, like his response to most everything else, was laced with satire and irony. We of the being-educated-class listened seriously to folk music then; after all, it was an “alternative” to rock and roll. To lyrics like Lehrer’s, we teenagers (and adults, too) listened as if they were popular poems. Irony, in my view, as well as satire, would be a useful hypothesis for anyone interested in coupling analysis of song lyrics to a reception study of sounds in the listening cultures of this atomic period. Denise may well have been recalling Lehrer’s “We Will All Go Together When We Go.” I agree entirely with Denise that in our era of bigger nuclear buttons, Lehrer’s words and the desperate humor carried by his deliberately clumsy rhymes are as relevant now as they were in the 1950s:
We Will All Go Together When We Go
(Lyrics by Tom Lehrer)
When you attend a funeral,
It is sad to think that sooner or
Later those you love will do the same for you.
And you may have thought it tragic,
Not to mention other adjec-
Tives, to think of all the weeping they will do.
But don’t you worry.
No more ashes, no more sackcloth.
And an armband made of black cloth
Will some day never more adorn a sleeve.
For if the bomb that drops on you
Gets your friends and neighbors too,
There’ll be nobody left behind to grieve.
And we will all go together when we go.
What a comforting fact that is to know.
An inspiring achievement,
Yes, we all will go together when we go.
We will all go together when we go.
All suffuse with an incandescent glow.
No one will have the endurance
To collect on his insurance,
Lloyd’s of London will be loaded when they go.
Oh we will all fry together when we fry.
We’ll be french fried potatoes by and by.
There will be no more misery
When the world is our rotisserie,
Yes, we will all fry together when we fry.
Down by the old maelstrom,
There’ll be a storm before the calm.
And we will all bake together when we bake.
There’ll be nobody present at the wake.
With complete participation
In that grand incineration,
Nearly three billion hunks of well-done steak.
Oh we will all char together when we char.
And let there be no moaning of the bar.
Just sing out a te deum
When you see that I. C. B. M.,
And the party will be “come as you are.”
Oh we will all burn together when we burn.
There’ll be no need to stand and wait your turn.
When it’s time for the fallout
And saint peter calls us all out,
We’ll just drop our agendas and adjourn.
You will all go directly to your respective valhallas.
Go directly, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dolla’s.
And we will all go together when we go.
Ev’ry hottenhot and ev’ry eskimo.
When the air becomes uranious,
And we will all go simultaneous.
Yes we all will go together
When we all go together,
Yes we all will go together when we go.
Good wishes to all of you,
Jeff Todd Titon
Professor of Music, Emeritus
49 Honey Rd.
Little Deer Isle, ME 04650, USA
From: Matt Brennan
Date: Sun, Feb 11, 2018 at 5:18 AM
Thanks to Mark for initiating this Esem, it’s a really neat idea. As a member of a scholarly community scattered around the globe, I think it’s valuable to encourage low-carbon models of exchanging and debating ideas that go beyond everyday mailing list discussion. Thanks also of course to Jessica for sharing the chapter and Denise for the response.
Noises designed to alarm people (sirens etc.) obviously predate the atomic age. “High atomic listening culture” is something different as I understand it, and although it has clear start period, when does end? If it hasn’t ended, what shape does it currently take? What is the legacy of the 1950s case studies Schwartz examines? Where can we feel traces of its impact in listening cultures today? I know the chapter is obviously part of a book so these are probably questions that are tackled elsewhere, but they interest me- does anyone have some examples?
Some of the examples that Schwartz uses for “high alert” listening (radio broadcasts, warnings of attack, survival LPs) seem different to the kind of listening encouraged by the song examples (Sh’Boom and Thirteen Women). Do these kinds of listening – to survival guidance on the one hand, and atomic pop songs on the other – influence one another?
In terms of genre, it’s interesting that the two songs discussed are from a doo-wop / R&B / proto rock ‘n’ roll world. What about other genres like jazz or classical music from that era? Did they function in the same way as part of a shared atomic listening culture? Whereas Civil Defense deliberately set out to encourage a particular kind of atomic-age listening, can the same be said for the popular song examples? If not, do they participate in high atomic listening culture, or are they outside of it while making comment on it?
In terms of territory, I know the book focuses on America, but was this new listening culture specific to the USA, or did it develop in other nations and cultures at the same time? What version of atomic listening culture existed in Japan, to take an example that begs for investigation?
I’m not saying these ideas above are in any way lacking from the chapter, they are simply how I responded to reading it.
I like Denise’s closing statement: “perhaps the most productive discussion that could be excited by Schwartz’s chapter is one that considers how to commandeer and employ the government’s 1950s tactics to alert and activate its citizenry to the apocalyptic situation that exists in relation to the environment.” I like the activist thrust of this provocation!
I have some colleagues in Scotland who explored the idea of activating citizenry through songwriting and performance. In fact, they made a film documentary about the process of writing songs on the theme of climate change and ecological disaster which may be of interest:
I wonder if their efforts have more in common with the 1950s song examples or the survival LP’s?
Enjoying the discussion so far,
From: Mark Pedelty
Date: Mon, Feb 19, 2018 at 9:01 AM
Hello Jessica, Denise, and Esem participants,
We are entering the final week of the eseminar and I wanted to put out a “last call” for comments and questions over the course of the week. Jessica’s thought provoking paper inspired a wonderful response by Denise Von Glahn and several comments and questions from the list.
I would like to ask a question of Jessica as a participant in the esem. As Denise notes and you imply, the nuclear panic is neither a closed chapter nor distant memory. Yet, as your work also demonstrates, the public soundscape has changed radically nonetheless. That is one of many things that struck me about your beautifully written piece. Your use of the “technology of the self” frame was well done and interesting and nicely connected to the more homogenous and unified experience of the siren soundscape (as shorthand here for the early nuclear period). That raised a question for me in regard to comparison. As you study and think about this past era of limited channels (literally and in the comm sense) and more singular public/national soundscapes (e.g., you hear the warning siren in the small town and NYC), how have new material and social technologies of listening changed how people experience these kinds of wholesale terrors? In my mind I picture the more individuated and nucleated (as in nuclear family vs. extended, block, village, etc. of earlier communities and forms of consciousness) modes of the present and wonder how that has changed how power and panics control consciousness in the Foucauldian sense in comparison to the era presented in the chapter, a time when we were more “on the same page” and in the same soundscape?
Thanks again for putting your research on the digital table in order to promote this productive exchange.
From: Jessica Schwartz
Date: Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 11:34 PM
Thank you all for your responses, and thank you so much Mark for affording the space to circulate this chapter at a time when I am grappling with how to move forward since we are, as many of you mentioned, in the thick of the audible, visible, felt and thought nuclear age.
Denise, thank you for your response. I really appreciated your thoughtful response. I agree – we do need to re-listen to and re-read Carson in this historical moment. As I tie up my first book, Radiation Sounds: Marshallese Music and Nuclear Silences, I have been re-reading Stacy Alaimo’s Bodily Natures and Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us (Jain), and I have been thinking a lot more about her work and her life narrative as of late. What I would like to do is see my work – and, really, all of our work, pushing the boundaries of the unthinkable and inconceivable in terms of latency, temporality and, yes, the need to revisit those that had and have the foresight to think toxicity within “systems of survival” that can be heard (worded too) and thus reverberate.
And, I really appreciated the personal narrative of your social experiences. An interesting part of working in what I consider to the, along the lines of Foucault, again, the “historical present,” is that I feel myself living in that era — but instead of it being the 1950s, it is drills every week at school to “stop, drop, roll” and earthquake drills. I was hoping that I would have a chance to articulate this in the ESEM because the FCDA is the foundation of our national natural disaster program. In the 1940s, of course, there was Smokey the Bear, but along with the music/ad industry/Ad Council – and I am working at that archive over the summer – the FCDA really came up with a mass education program that taught aural anxiety and thus productivity that revolutionized the way we all approach disaster, broadly, especially given the Americanization of global media. Denise, I think your suggestions are thus right on – and yes – Tom Lehrer is definitely going to figure into the book. There is so, so much that we have been normalized to not hear and I do hope that if anyone wants to continue this conversation going off ESEM time (which coincided with personal illnesses and a huge conference and then another illness…apologies for the belated response), I’d appreciate it – and would be thrilled to keep this going – especially in light of Jeff’s comments about what is definitely missing from my paper, which is the social, oral histories of those persons that lived through it – and who better to speak with but (eco)musicologists?!
And, so Jeff, I’d love to discuss more with you about rhythmic sound clusters and the like. On the one hand I am very interested in how you all experienced these musical and sound phenomena – the coded signals and such as it were and, like any historical endeavor, on the other hand, I am interested in their material history that subtends how they are situated in the world rather than phenomenologically rendered sensible, felt-thought within the body politic, depending on geo-social positionality.
I realized that this chapter needs to be about the Ad Campaign and FCDA and I do think it would be really awesome to interview those of you that would like to speak with me because you are all, in some way shape or form, aural spokespersons for our nuclear generation, and hyper-aurally attuned to this nuclear era which keeps extending until it doesn’t. And, for those of you that grew up in the United States, I would be so grateful if we could have some face to face Skype time – perhaps when I am done with the quarter after mid to late March. I’ll be on sabbatical and focusing solely on this project and a cognate project.
Tyler – in answer to your questions – I focused on those songs because at one point in time or another, the Chords “Sh-Boom” and Bill Hailey’s “Rock Around the Clock” were said to be foundational songs, if not the foundations of, rock ‘n’ roll. And, of course 1954 saw Bravo in the Marshall Islands and the coining of rock n roll to the mainstream audience by Freed. I definitely look at some of the other songs in other chapters, but I appreciate your picks. Perhaps we too could talk as well, and I could hear your thoughts and cite you. I’ve been really into this mode of “historical present” analysis where musical spokespersons, such as ourselves, interview each other and then cite each other in publication to continue the lines of credit rather than waiting only for articles to come out. It’s like another, collaborative form of the conference paper. I know you are very attention to such issues. And, I have a lot of material on non-Protestant white persons, families and the FCDA – the racial components of the music industry, the bomb – and “civil defense” juxtaposed with “civil rights” is a centerpiece in my introduction. I talk about uranium and other mining in low income, rural white geographic locales and the Oak Ridge phenomenon of nuclear cosmopolitanism and what contrasts that creates for surrounding communities. We see this along the uranium trail, and it definitely impacts the development of towns and thus communication grids and popular music. Let’s talk please…
Matt – thank you for your thoughts – I’ll say a few quick words – yes, I am trying to share how these modes of atomic audition influence each other, and – where it seems like you are most interested, if I am reading correctly is outside the U.S. proper – my first book is on the Marshall Islands and nuclear culture and Noriko Manabe and I are co-editing a book, slated to come out with Oxford, called Nuclear Music, which is a collection of essays that will offer insight precisely into your question from disparate geographic albeit nuclearly interconnected locales across the globe. Re: other genres, yes – definitely “Stars for Defense” and other FCDA programs played heavily with jazz and classical music, as well as hymns/folk tunes to play on the traditional values of America. I’d need to share my work on the aforementioned show to do this response justice. If you’d like to discuss – I’d love to do so.
Mark – to your queries – I would say that, and I am working through this in my epilogue and thus framing it in the introduction – today, we have resonances of the FCDA, the normalization of the war, in our pop up culture – in our alert based culture. I believe that the rhythms, to use Jeff’s observation, clustered in our daily routines that come to us as social media and smart-phone culture draw from this history and impact the constitution of the nuclear family and its “exposure” to the outside world. The smartphone, policing technologies of the self, are to my mind geneaologically related to Duck and Cover and the networked possibilities that fear of mass destruction, that is – the specter of the bomb – the specter of mass genocide – and the promise of pop, alert, smart, socially mediated culture can bring.. which returns me to “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream).”
And, I’ll leave my thoughts at that, sh-boom/life could be a dream, and my apologies if I missed anyone’s response or inquiries. I have SO much more to say and am SO filled with inspiration from reading all your thoughts and ruminating on those questions, which has helped me return to some sticking points. And, I will undoubtedly return to them.
It also reminded me that, even though we are overwhelmed with the news and the nuclearization of the world, we need to return, historically and speak with those present at the time and continue the human chain of storying and sounding alongside non-human storying. I wonder, per above, what non-human storying works alongside those human hearing of, listening to those rhythmic sound clusters and human active-choreographed, spatially designed ducking and covering in NYC in the 1950s.
I hope we will keep talking about these things, keep listening keep learning.
Thanks so much again for this opportunity, and I hope to talk with many of you soon!
All best, Jessica
From: Mark Pedelty
Date: Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 11:33 AM
Dear ESem presenters, participants, and list,
With Jessica’s thoughtful summative comments our first ever Ecomusicology Esem is coming to a close. Thanks, Jessica, for providing a fascinating Chapter and for your concluding remarks as well. Also, thanks to Denise Von Glahn for her catalytic comments as discussant and for all who took part. It has been a productive inaugural exchange.
Of course, the entire point of a listserv is to keep the ecomusicology/sound-and-environment discussion going year-round, so this concentrated burst of discussion by no means marks the end of this particular discussion. If you have more thoughts on Jessica’s paper or the topic, by all means continue to share. Meanwhile, hopefully the Esem providing a focused means for us to enliven the exchange for 3 weeks and could do so at regular intervals in the future.
Toward that end, should we have another Esem in 6 months time, the other “dead period” between SEM, AMS, and regional meetings? If the list thinks it is a good idea and leadership (e.g., ESG and SEM officers) would like to facilitate the selection process (facilitator, presenter, and discussant), I can provide a simple guide to the next facilitator so that they can focus on people and content and not have to think to much about logistics. If we keep it simple, at least for now, I believe that it has a shot at being sustainable and productive.
It would be good to have more grad and recent post grads involved and to bring more scholars into the conversation. We can each commit to bringing a colleague or student who does relevant work into the conversation in 2018.
One final thanks to Jessica…and a happy Polar Bear Day (27th of Feb) to all!
From: Andrew Mark
Date: Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 1:33 PM
Thanks Mark for making this happen!
In particular I appreciate the e-involvement as someone far from things. I sincerely hope these keep going!
Thank you Jessica for the fascinating work. I wanted to get a more thorough response together, but I ran out of time to polish my initial reactions. They were going to just sit. However at Mark’s invitation to keep the conversation going, I hope it’s OK if I supply my proto-thoughts as I appear to have very little time these days. No need to respond, they’re just ideas to take or leave:
-There is something of loss and mourning here…the grievable and ungrievable, the seen and unseen loss. In this case, it might be the loss of an ability to imagine a future (lots of possible losses). There is a recent publication on environmental loss and mourning. Bernie Krauss has a piece in it, I have a co-authored piece, Glen Albrecht (solostagia) has a piece, Cate Sandiland’s piece is particularly good. I think it would offer some fruitful dialogue with the piece if this sounds interesting: http://www.mqup.ca/mourning-nature-products-9780773549340.php
-These Civil Defence Planners: what was already out there in literature and in the movies at this time? Ecocriticism enjoys a whole lot of thought about how literature, particularly speculative science fiction, always seems to be one step ahead in informing our nightmares. Thinking of Margaret Atwood’s creepy scholarly citations at the ends of the MaddAddam books. How (else) was pop culture doing the normalizing of nuclear reality work already that these CDPs may have capitalized on?
-I was reminded of Millenialism throughout the piece. There are these consistent utopian/distopian themes at work. There is also this idea of almost “hastening the fall.” I’ve met a lot of people who are simply excited to see modernity end (a sort of pleasurable destructive fantasy), but this thinking often fails to realize how co-dependent everything always has been. I’d like to know more about the evangelical/christian/second-coming take on this. Preparing for the end—no matter the ending—is an established idea in so many circles, so many of the utopian movements in North America, from the religious to the hippies and beyond…I had an echo of Bob Marley’s “have no fear for atomic energy” while reading. The end informs so many varieties of environmentalism, including its destructive varieties. Is there a second-coming at work here? A Utopia after the end? The sounds of a better world around the corner?
-The description of the preparations echoed my reading of “active shooter” drills happening now in schools. I wonder if there is any dialogue between the two and the sort of perpetual anxiety I am reading from people in schools (for example, experience of teacher and his students who missed the notice that it was just a drill—something that probably happens a lot).
-Lastly, hope you’ve found my piece on Bob Wiseman’s Uranium. I don’t think it’s very useful here, but perhaps for the book.
Thanks again Jessica, Denise, and Mark!!