Thursday, December 6, 2012

IASPM ANZ: Flows of Relevance: still fighting the power 23 years on?

I saw a very interesting paper at IASPM this morning by Sarah Attfield. Sarah spoke about Public Enemy and The Specials and the relevance of their music more than two decades after its release. Sarah noted that while Billy Bragg says that music cannot change the world, it can bring people together. Sarah suggested that listening to Public Enemy's Fight the Power and going to their concert could be a catalyst for a listeners entry into activism. She noted John Street's view that music has been the site of political expression for centuries with some songs explicitly referring to political issues and events, some reflecting on society and other songs being adopted for occasions or causes. Sarah suggested that while political music is often grounded in the lyrical content and the music can be from any genre, the sound of the music is still a very important component to the potential impact of the song and its reception. She also suggests that who performs it is very important with Taylor Swift, for example, being unable to carry a song such as Fight the Power. Sarah reflected on her experience of going to a Public Enemy concert in recent years and suggested that they now attract a very broad audience of both young and old people. Sarah also noted the sadness in the continued relevance of their music to the socio economic circumstances and incarceration rates of African Americans. A very interesting paper, I really enjoyed it.

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