Monday, March 16, 2020

When You're Living The History You Are Studying: A Message I Just Sent To My Students

Hello Rock and Roll to Hip Hop Students
First of all, how are you? I hope those of you who left the country or your hometowns for Spring Break are able to fly back safely. Please contact me if you need help with anything. I am here if you need me.
Secondly, I have read all your midterms and they are excellent. I have sent each of you individual letters about your exams, something I have never done before because I usually put ample comments on the exams I return to you. But since it is not sure when, if ever I will see all of you again ( some of you are graduating in May, possibly remotely) I needed to use this method of letting you know what I thought of what you wrote.
But the major reason I am communicating with you is to address an irony in how I was teaching the course. At several points in the semester, I was describing how a sudden unexpected event could change how people lived, thought and even produced and consumed music. The examples I used were the beginnings of the Great Depression, US entry into World War 2 and most recently the sudden escalation of the Vietnam War in 1965 . I was trying to explain to you how before the War took over our lives, I like many people, was expecting my life to move in a predictable fashion. , even though I was a bit of a "rebel." But when the war hit, almost every young person's plans had to be put on hold, and in the process, gender attitudes, racial attitudes, and feelings towards authority changed over night. And this was reflected musically, where the Beatles went from "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to "Lucy in Sky With Diamonds", the Temptations from "My Girl" to"War": and where female artists like Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin, whose power and eroticism had marginalized them most of their careers, suddenly became the biggest superstars in American popular music.
When I offered those comments, I felt I would have to work extra hard to explain what it felt like to have an unforeseen event turn everything in your life inside out and upside down and make you wonder not only what your future would be like, but if you had a future because this was all so abstract.
Well now, it isn't abstract any more.You are living in an historical moment that is utterly unprecedented and will change yours and everyone else's life forever. It is very confusing when this happens. You don't want it to be real. But when you discover it is all too real, that it won't go away, and that it is much worse than anything you ever dreamed of, you
can become very angry,or paralyzed and depressed
I can't tell you what to feel, or how to respond. But I will tell you this.The years of chaos and division and fear during the Vietnam War extracted numerous casualties,not all of which were in the War itself. But it also spawned a burst of musical creativity that inspired the world and helped give birth to movements that have changed our lives forever- the Black Power/Black Liberation, Women's Liberation, Gay Liberation and Environmentalism
In the weeks, months and years to come, I hope you find your own path through the chaos we are living through and conduct yourselves with courage, compassion and generosity. Please understand that I will be with you trying to do the same. even though I am three times your age
Take care. Be safe. We will meet again on ZOOM when our class convenes the a week from Tuesday
Dr Naison


Hannah13 said...

Thank you for this post, Notorious (this is Hannah JoanneMorgan from FB). Your post gives me hope for the future, and an interesting reflection on the present. Food for thought.

ankitkumar said...


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