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Posts from the ‘Music’ Category

On Robin James’ Resilience and Melancholy

On March 12, 2016 at the University of Colorado, Denver, at the meeting of PhiloSophia: Society for Continental Feminism, I will be speaking on an Author Meets Critics panel discussing Robin James’ recent book.  Below are my comments.

I like this book. I like how Robin James says important things to a popular audience from a background in academic philosophy that remains unbeholden to that world. I like her independent voice. I like how, in Resilience & Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, Neoliberalism, James exemplifies what philosophizing out of a singular moment and specific site looks like. Her moment is neoliberalism and her site is pop music. James uses music as more than an example; in her hands, music is a place for developing a conceptual apparatus for neoliberalism. In music, we hear how the demand to turn damage into something productive works to make oppressed persons assimilate into the neoliberal apparatus.

James references a whole slew of sources that signal the breadth of her influences in this project–from Adorno and Marcuse to Deleuze and Guattari, queer theorists Jack Halberstam and José Estabon Muñoz, New Media Studies theorist Steven Shaviro, political theorists like Jodi Dean, Lester Spence and Mark Neocleous, as well as cultural studies scholars like Zandria Robinson. Beyond those we recognize as theorists, James draws insight out of the work of pop musicians Lady Gaga and Beyoncé, Atari Teenage Riot and Rihanna.  With this book, James expands the sphere of those figures worth putting to work in philosophy, just as her working out of music multiplies the sites in which thinking occurs outside of the center of well-respected philosophical discourse.

In this comment I move back to those well-respected in philosophical discourse, somewhat abashedly and certainly not because I think James’ argument needs to be put in conversation with those folks in order to gain legitimacy. By no means. James’ work addresses a strain in political philosophy that shows her to be calling into question, even turning on its head, the structural framework within which we have thought about how to expand the sphere of the political to include those at the margins. It’s fitting that this structure is turned on its head through voices unheard in philosophy. Read more

New to You Music in 2015: Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown

I said at the beginning of the year that I’d listen more to new music and write about it. I did that once so far.  I was a little overwhelmed with all the different new things I should be listening to.  Then in the freshmen colloquium course I taught this semester, we had a class session where we read and listened to protest songs–Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie, Rage Against the Machine.  We talked about what makes protest songs work as protest songs.  In the next class meeting, students were asked to bring in their favorite protest songs.  To get things started, I offered my own: Anaïs Mitchell’s “Why We Build the Wall.” Read more

New to You Music in 2015: Pusha-T

One of my New Years’ resolutions was to listen to new music, well, new music to me.  It’s been a busy half decade or so and seriously, I haven’t sought out anything new in a long time.  I gotta say it took me awhile (five weeks into 2015) to find something I wanted to write about.  I bought Lana Del Rey’s album Ultraviolence–it’s fine, I might still write about it, but well, lemme just say I could resist writing about it.  Then I bought Lucinda William’s double album Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone.  And yeah, I’m glad I bought that because well, it’s Lucinda Williams.  Henry Carrigan over at No Depression compares Lucinda Williams to Flannery O’Conner:

Like O’Connor, Lucinda Williams captures in her songs the ragged, jagged, sometimes twisted and bitter nature of human relationships; like O’Connor, Williams beautifully renders in often haunting prose our aching desires for transcendence, even while we embrace our crippled mortal states. Unlike O’Connor, though, she embraces our constant struggle between flesh and spirit with an exuberance and downright joie de vivre that acknowledges our losses with poignant regret, while at the same time revealing the fervent hope and ardent passion that lies beneath living life fully.

I can listen to Lucinda Williams and Lana del Rey in the background while I write or wash the dishes, but neither brought the excitement, the I-want-to-listen-to-this-album-on-repeat, the I’m-in-the-presence-of-brilliance feeling that I got (well, get) when I listen to Pusha-T.   Read more

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