Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Preview: Chinatown Opera Theater in North America by Nancy Rao

by Nancy Rao

In my book Chinatown Opera Theater in North America (University of Illinois Press, 2017), I reconstruct the lost history of a vibrant “Golden Age” of Chinese opera theaters in the United States and Canada in the 1920s, fusing together diverse archival sources, including the immigration records and case files related to Chinese Exclusion. The book reveals the opulence and splendor of their stage productions, the eminence of the singers, the cultural and social networks that made them possible, as well as issues such as gender, political and economic factors, repertoire, performance practices, reception and community.  The following is an excerpt from the first chapter, “Introduction.” Copyright 2017 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

The book received support from the AMS 75 Pays Endowment


The two small scraps of crumpled, yellowed paper filled with Chinese characters in a folder in the Libraries and Archives of Canada in Ottawa seemed of no impor­tance at first. They were, however, different from the other papers in the folder, correspondence dating from 1923 to the 1950s on onionskin paper or light blue airmail sheets. Such letters, mainly from southern China, were a common sight for many Chinese immigrants in the Americas. Their families, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, moved through the cycles of life in their absence: the passing away of elderly parents, the marriages of sons or daughters, and the birth of grand­children. Many immigrant men remained the head of their families. One wife’s agitated letter scolded her husband for not having earned enough to purchase a home for the family in Hong Kong, a failure, considering his lengthy residency in North America. Earning the money to maintain and extend their paternal lineage was usually these immigrants’ primary motivation.

Midway through the pile of letters I found the original paper from which the small scraps had broken off. The thick paper had been tightly folded to one-eighth of its full size. The penmanship was that of a practiced hand: graceful Chinese cal­ligraphy written with an ink brush pen. As I gingerly unfolded the fragile paper and returned the two rectangular scraps to their corner, my stomach churned. What emerged were the lyrics of a famous aria from a Cantonese opera, the genre of the region from which most Chinese emigrated before 1943. In classical verse the aria laments loved ones and the lost opportunity for a happy life together.

The aria, a lament, is from an opera popular in the Chinese communities of North America in the 1920s and 1930s: Nocturnal Mourning of White Lotus. It tells of White Lotus, a young woman who meets her love, the young scholar Lu, by the river. Later she is pursued by a local tyrant, who tries to force a marriage by means of kidnapping and threats. Lu comes to her rescue many times. However, coming from an upper-class family, he is forbidden to marry her. So the devastated Lu goes into self-imposed exile. Seeing that their love is doomed, White Lotus despairs and takes her own life by jumping into the river where they first met. The despondent Lu returns to the river to mourn, and the famous lament expresses his regret and unfulfilled yearning.

The aria was fully written out in verse with annotations regarding tune types, and the lyrics in flowing calligraphy expressed musical enjoyment. (The annotation of tune types accompanying the lyrics indicates musical rendition.) The deep creases suggest that the folded paper had probably been carried around in a trouser or shirt pocket. It was likely intimate and personal to its owner, like the letters. Here among all the letters in this archive, it quietly conveyed an inner dimension of immigrant life: that of the usually inarticu­late, silent, and anonymous Chinese in North America during the Chinese exclusion era, the period from 1882 to 1943 during which immigration from China was greatly restricted. In the 1920s Cantonese opera arias, which gained great popularity through theatrical performances and recordings in North America, gave voice to Chinese immigrants’ everyday stories of desires, regrets, laughter, and dreams.

This sheet might not seem to be of much value for historical research, compared to memoirs or original business papers from community organizations and kinship associations. Yet precisely because it is an imperfectly kept, hand-copied paper of very popular lyrics, it is imbued with layers of meaning. Aside from shedding light on an immigrant’s self-image, it shows the deep penetration of opera into Chinese Americans’ lives; during this period it constituted their primary enter­tainment. Also, its graceful calligraphy defies a certain stereotype of Chinatown opera theaters as rowdy, vulgar entertainment. The classical verse and calligraphy recall instead scrolls of Chinese painting and calligraphy in museums. The frayed paper, marked by repeated unfolding, offers the possibility of an analysis of what Michel de Certeau calls “imprints of acts,”  which allow us to “hear the tales of the repressed activity.” Repeated, attentive listening was pressed into the creases of the sheet of lyrics. Stumbling onto this object, the first personal memento of many such traces uncovered in my years of research, I felt a sense of relief as a student of the history of American music, because it allowed me to dream the everyday life of Cantonese opera in North America.

From the perspective of cultural circulation, at the same time, the lyrics sym­bolize a mobility that symbolized the ability to pass through borders, linguistic boundaries, and remote geographical places. A degree of stability allowed Can­tonese opera to cross those barriers and continue to produce cultural meanings. Yet it was by no means a fixed tradition. In the 1920s Cantonese opera underwent many changes—among them the rise of virtuosity and female troupes and the development of new operas, vocal styles, and urban theaters. The genre was also very flexible, relying as it did on improvisation, with performances adjusted via ap­propriations and adaptations depending on historical and geopolitical situations. The scrap of lyrics, a symbol of the opera’s literary, sonic, and performing space, opens the historical inquiry into the multidimensional history of Chinatown opera theaters in North America with which this book is concerned.

Nancy Rao, professor at Rutgers University. A specialist in American music, her work is multifaceted, bridging musicology, music theory and scholarship on Chinese opera with gender and ethnic studies. She has published in topics that includes ultramodern composers, sketch studies, contemporary Chinese music, and historical studies of Chinese American music. Her essay “Ruth Crawford’s Imprint on Contemporary Music” received the Lowens Article Award from the Society for American Music in 2009. Her other recent publication includes an essay “The Transformative Power of Rhythm and Gesture: Transnational Inflection in Chen Yi’s Symphony No. 2” in Analysis of Works by Women Composers (Oxford UP, 2016), and “Sonic Imaginary After the Cultural Revolution” in Listening to China’s Cultural Revolution (Palgrave, 2015).

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Book Preview: Music After the Fall: Modern Composition and Culture Since 1989 (University of California Press, 2017).

                        Modern composition since 1989 to … now?

When describing my new book Music after the Fall: Modern Composition since 1989 to people, I’ve been surprised how often I’ve been asked, “Why 1989?” To me it seems obvious, and was a part of the book’s conception from a very early stage. Perhaps it’s an age thing: I remember my mother sitting me in front of news of the Berlin Wall coming down and her telling me “you’ll want to tell your grandchildren about this.”

A more rigorous justification would begin with the fact that I had become frustrated with the available texts on late 20th-century music. What books there are usually take 1945 as their starting point. That story has been told enough times, with expeditious changes of emphasis along the way, to be familiar: at the end of the Second World War, Europe, the home of post-Enlightenment Western culture was devastated and in desperate need of reconstruction. The financial power America had promised since the 1920s was finally achieved, initiating its dominance over the second half of the century. And the postwar settlements with Soviet Russia had set the stage for the Cold War that was to come. New technologies and sciences, many of them developed in wartime, such as tape recording and information theory, were finding wide peacetime application; and the postwar industrial boom – as well as the increasing importance of cultural soft power as a Cold War weapon – began to fuel a rise in the public’s consumption of the arts.

As a place to begin, or at least to reboot, 1945 makes sense. It helps us understand how and why the musical innovations of the postwar decades came about, from musique concrète to minimalism, from Etude aux chemins de fer to Different Trains. However, by the end of the century this narrative begins to unravel. Many of the precepts on which the post-45 narrative is based were no longer applicable by the start of the 21st century: Europe had been rebuilt and, as the European Union, had become one of the world’s largest economies. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union had brought an end to the bi-polar Cold War world. Even the United States’ claim to global dominance had begun to be threatened after China’s opening to the global trading market at the end of the 1970s, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed, and the global financial crisis of 2008. The social democratic consensus that had steered the West through postwar reconstruction had been replaced by market-led neoliberalism. Finally, the birth of the Internet and World Wide Web in the early 1990s, as well as the widespread use of digital technologies, had utterly transformed the production and consumption of culture.

Music after the Fall therefore concentrates on a new set of global themes that I felt defined the post-89 era and which themselves might have shaped the music that was and is being made. I came up with six of them: social liberalization, globalization, digitization, the Internet, late capitalist economics, and the green movement. Other themes might be suggested but during the book’s gestation these six proved broad enough to encompass most aspects of contemporary life. In the book itself, I choose not to use them as chapter headings but go one level further into abstraction, extrapolating a set of quasi-psychological states that have their origins in these themes and that seem to preoccupy late 20th-century and 21st-century music and art. These I call permission, fluidity, mobility, superabundance, loss and afterness. These don’t map exactly onto my six themes but, like the music itself, intersect with them in various ways.

In practice, this means that I can consider the work of, for example, the Silk Road Ensemble as an expression of mobility, of the worldwide flow of ideas and people. But since my guiding framework is thematic rather than stylistic or aesthetic, I can also write about their work alongside that of the Korean composer Unsuk Chin or the Lebanese musician Tarek Atoui, the music of all three representing different ways of dealing with cultural globalization. In another chapter Laurence Crane and Diamanda Galás might appear in unexpected proximity, both of them expressing different forms of permission in their music (tonality and noise, respectively). Galás herself reappears alongside another unexpected companion, John Corigliano, in the chapter on loss, which compares their respective responses to the AIDS crisis of the late 1980s. And so the links continue: Galás’s vocal style and Atoui’s microsonic montages might both also be heard as different forms of superabundance, and thus also reverberate within a chapter that includes John Oswald’s annihilating plunderphonics and the extrahuman prosthetics of Laetitia Sonami and Pamela Z. The musical world I’ve endeavored to represent is one that is unconstrained by the traditional boundaries of style, form and technique, but which can nevertheless be read and interpreted through a different set of prisms.

Predictions for the future are likely to be undone as quickly as they can be made. This is the fate of those of us who write about recent history. As my book enters the world, I’ve been minded to reflect that perhaps it has unwittingly captured an era of its own. As the European Union appears on the brink of breaking up, as the United States enters a new and possibly transformative phase in its relationship to the world, as economic and political power shifts towards Russia and China, and as the Net falls increasingly prey to malevolent and corporate actors, it is hard to shake the feeling that much that defined the post-89 era no longer applies, just as much that defined the post-45 era came to its own end. Before long someone, perhaps right now watching the news with their mother, may even want to write a new music history that begins from today.

Tim Rutherford-Johnson is author of Music after the Fall: Modern Composition and Culture since 1989 (University of California Press). He edited the most recent edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Music, and blogs about contemporary music at
(Author photo: Anton Lukoszevieze)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Louis XIII Update: Further Thoughts on the Exaudiat te Dominus

by Peter Bennett

In my Spring 2016 JAMS article, “Hearing King David in Early Modern France: Politics, Prayer, and Louis XIII’s Musique de la Chambre,” I considered the role that psalms and the psalter played at the court of Louis XIII (r.1610-43), and explored the way in which composers and clerics associated with the court created musical settings of selected and centonized psalm verses as a means of representing the French monarch as a king musician and successor to David. Prompted by my own earlier work on the repertoire of the Musique de la Chambre, and encouraged by Thierry Favier’s observations on Louis XIV (that the psalm-based grand motet repertoire performed at the Chapelle Royale adopted a more nuanced representational strategy than we might expect[1]), I suggested that such representations operated in a number of different modes and took the form of a number of different archetypes – specifically, the successful warrior king (a representation which seemed to find “public” expression), the penitent king (much more “private”), and a third, less clear archetype (which occupied terrain somewhere between private and public), manifest through the widely performed Psalm 19, Exaudiat te Dominus.

In the first two modes (as warrior or penitent), I was able to account for these public/private characterizations, to my own satisfaction at least. French paraphrases of the psalms celebrating, for example, Louis’s victory at La Rochelle in 1628, were common and widely disseminated, although such texts seem to have been sung to simple popular melodies by urban, non-court, populations, and did not feature in the “official” Chapelle Royale repertoire. On the other hand, centonizations of Latin psalm texts reflecting the perspective of a penitent, supplicatory monarch appeared in the repertoire of the musique de la chambre (whose primary role was to perform sacred music), and in my article I argued that such texts would have been entirely appropriate given the military, political, and personal circumstances in which Louis found himself (civil/religious wars, the Concini affair, his mother Marie de Médici’s treachery, etc.). But the role of Psalm 19, Exaudiat te Dominus, and of its final verse Domine salvum fac regem – the first composed settings of which began to appear at this time in the repertoire of the Musique de la Chambre, and which would remain central to the French liturgy for the next two centuries – remained unclear. In Music Discipline and Arms (a study to which I am greatly indebted) Kate van Orden eloquently argued that the Exaudiat, when performed as part of the Te Deum ceremony, represented a kind of “mini-coronation,” and that its performance in such very public circumstances was therefore an expression of power.[2] In my article I focused on the performance of the Exaudiat in the more private context of the Musique de la Chambre, and instead argued that the psalm (which begins “May the Lord hear you in the day of tribulation”) belonged with the penitential, private repertories, at the same time acknowledging that a paradox remained – could the same psalm stand in for power and military success in one context, and supplication and penitence in another?

During 2015/16 I was fortunate enough to hold a Le STUDIUM fellowship at the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance in Tours, France, where I worked on a project exploring the music and liturgy associated with Louis XIII’s ceremonial entrées across France in the years 1615-33. Since the entrée and Te Deum ceremonies were effectively two sides of the same coin (the Te Deum ceremony was, in broad liturgical terms, an entrée without the King – both were based around a Te Deum and a psalm) I was curious to see what the study might mean for the Exaudiat.

Louis XIII Crowned by Victory (Siege of La Rochelle, 1628).  Philippe de Champaigne, Musée du Louvre.
In the first instance, almost without exception, the contemporary psalm paraphrases, translations, and commentaries that I found in provincial libraries and archives read Psalm 19 as a prayer for the safety of the king as he went into battle or as he faced other dangers: in 1622 the chapter of Aix cathedral, for example, asked that it be sung because of a dangerous “maladie du Roi,” and the Bishop of Paris ordained that it be sung as Louis set off on the hazardous journey to Bordeaux for his wedding to Anne of Austria in 1615. In the context of the more formalized ceremonies such as the Te Deum, however, it was still not clear exactly how the Exaudiat would have been heard, and for the entrée I could find no sources that even specified the psalm sung. But in the final months of my fellowship I located a detailed printed account, together with archival evidence, of the entrée into Troyes in 1629, during which the Exaudiat was sung in a context which seemed to confirm its reading as a reflection on the vulnerability of the King rather than his military prowess – about to lead his army across the Alps in an expedition characterized by contemporary historians such as Charles Bernard as one of the most dangerous and daring of his reign, the liturgy at the heart of the entrée (which I had earlier identified in the Roman Pontifical and which adopted a similarly prayerful tone) asked for God’s help in times of trouble. At the same time the earliest surviving musical settings of the Exaudiat (the most important of which turned out to be part of the Howard Mayer Brown collection at the Newberry Library, Chicago) also pointed to the same conclusion, either through their printed prefaces, or, for the Chicago manuscript, through textual interpolations, suggesting that in the context of the entrée the Exaudiat reflected an unexpectedly “public” expression of a sentiment that we might assume would be kept “private.”

At the end of my year in France many questions still remained, but as part of my fellowship, I organized a conference at the CESR, Tours (Sacred-Secular Intersections in Early Modern European Ceremonial: Text, Music, Image, and Power), where I was able to present my preliminary findings to colleagues from across the disciplines, and where I forged many new and productive relationships. My detailed conclusions on the entrée and the contributions of these colleagues will appear in the actes du colloque to be published by Classiques Garnier: in the meantime I continue to work on both the entrée and wider issues for my ongoing book project, David’s Harp, Apollo’s Lyre: Music, Liturgy, and Power at the Court of Louis XIII.

Peter Bennett is Associate Professor of Musicology at Case Western Reserve University, and is also Head of Harpsichord and Teacher of Historical Keyboard Instruments at Cleveland Institute of Music.  He specializes in early-modern France, focusing in particular on the intersection of music, religion, and politics in Louis XIII’s Paris.  He has also long been active as a harpsichordist and organist, in Europe (where he studied) and the USA.

[1] Thierry Favier, Le motet à grand choeur, 1660–1792: Gloria in Gallia Deo (Paris: Fayard, 2009).
[2] Kate Van Orden, Music, Discipline, and Arms in Early Modern France (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

Friday, January 20, 2017

Live Blog Event: Music and the Inauguration of Donald Trump

[Ed. Note: An incredible THANK YOU to our illustrious team of bloggers: Dan Blim, James Deaville, Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, Naomi Graber, Katherine Lynn Meizel, and Eric Smialek.  We were thrilled to read their in-the-moment observations of the inaugural events events of the past 36 hours.  For those reading this post after Inauguration Day 2017, we encourage you to continue the conversation--wherever, whenever, using the hashtag #MusicologyRightNow.]

Welcome to the first-ever "live-blog" event on Musicology NowPlease visit our "Preview" post for more information on the endeavor and our contributors.  Here is a list of ways to watch.  Refresh this page throughout the day to view the most recent posts (times given are east coast).  And, join in the conversation in social media using the hashtag #MusicologyRightNow.

Friday 1/20 @ 4:54pm by Katherine Meizel
Brian Stokes Mitchell and Chita Rivera

On the Concert for America, Brian Stokes Mitchell with "America the Beautiful" and "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime. And Chita Rivera, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, reminding us how important the arts are.
Friday 1/20 @ 4:54pm by James Deaville
Re: Boos for News

That's why it's important to compare coverage between the various media providers. But whatever may motivate a group of protesters, if it's part of the sonic mix, the listeners on tv and the platform/parade party itself will interpret it as disapproval unless some other visual or sonic signal informs them otherwise.
Friday 1/20 @ 4:18pm by Katherine Meizel
Switching Soundtracks

Trying something new, watching President Trump greet crowd on mute with another tab open and listening to Concert for America on Facebook live. "It Ain't Necessarily So" currently accompanying the President. ----------------------------------
Friday 1/20 @ 4:18pm by Katherine Meizel
Concert for America on Facebook

An alternative: Concert for America, Right now, some "Summertime" by George Gershwin.
Friday 1/20 @ 4:13 by Dan Blim
Boos for News

CBSN Live is reporting booing of the media by the pro-Trump crowd. A good reminder that our perceptions are filtered through media access and frames, and even their presence can shift the behaviors of who they're capturing.
Friday 1/20 @ 4:15 by Kathering Meizel
Different Broadcasts

If is silencing the music with commentary, ABC News at is mostly protest sounds.
Friday 1/20 @ 4:10 by Katherine Meizel
Silenced Music

Coverage on hardly includes the music at all. The parade is broadcast as a visual spectacle with commentary and occasional bits of band breaking through.
Friday 1/20 @ 3:33 by Naomi Graber
Star Wars

Some protesters also broke out into a spontaneous rendition of the Imperial March.
Friday 1/20 @ 3:25p by Naomi Graber
Sounds of Protest

Some interesting sounds from the protests. There's a group of African Americans playing drums and brass instruments, reminiscent of a New Orleans Second Line parade. This could be seen as an African American alternative to the fife and drum corps we've seen throughout the inauguration. It's also a common funeral practice, suggesting that the community is in mourning

Other protesters are playing with the echo function on their megaphones, producing sounds that recall electronic minimalist pieces like Steve Reich's "Come Out" and "It's Gonna Rain," two powerful civil rights statements.
Friday 1/20 @ 2:30pm by James Deaville

This morning, some members of the Mall audience participated in a sonic practice that played a major role in the Occupy Wall Street protests, namely the human microphone. The tactic was initiated in New York's Zuccotti Park because the city's ordinances forbade the use of mechanical devices to amplify sounds in public spaces. It involves a speaker who delivers phrases that are repeated by the gathered crowd, enabling the audition of the words by those who who are distant from the orator. 
Here is Judith Butler at Zuccotti Park: 

And here are today's "embedded" protestors, who recite the opening of the Constitution: 

Note the fluidity of the soundscape, however. They are interrupted by applause and cheering at the platform reference to the Constitution. The "Hail to the Chief" from the band becomes a distant underscore for the crowd sounds that take precedence in this video, not least because the cameraperson does not turn to the stage but rather the assembled masses. A renewed attempt at the human microphone fails, as does the beginnings of the chant "USA" after the band stops. Another group of citizens, on the other side of the videographer, sings the well-known sports tune "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye." But all sound becomes focused again when at the end Trump is announced president, which is accompanied by cheering and applause. This two-minute "home video" reveals the complexity of the inauguration audience soundscape, which is worthy of closer scholarly attention for its layering, its group dynamics, and its references to existing music and sonic practices.
Friday 1/20 @ 1:50pm by James Deaville
Inauguration Crowd Noises

The platform-based mikes for the inauguration were unable to pick up the sounds of demonstrators at either end of the political spectrum.

Here is a group of Obama protestors using their voices with accompanying offensive rhetoric:

 And here some Trump opponents on the streets of DC, using a traditional drum circle and shouting the words "Stand Up! Fight Back!"

Friday, 1/20 @ 1:40pm by Dan Blim
Performance, Politics, and Patriotism

Just as Naomi made a crucial distinction earlier between politics and government, this conversation about Jackie Evancho's "apolitical" performance brings up a second distinction: political, patriotic, and partisan.

Evancho's attribution of love of country as her underpinning for the decision to take part echoes the Piano Guys' insistence "We are here not to be political, we're here to be patriotic." (

It's worth trying to disentangle these concepts. I agree with you all that decisions to perform or not perform are inherently political. What Evancho and the Piano Guys seem to suggest is that their performance is not partisan. Political has become shorthand in some ways for partisan, while partisan acts have sometimes been attacked as not patriotic.

Friday, 1/20 @ 1:15pm
Jackie Evancho as Political


I absolutely agree that it is political, even though she denies it. Her disavowal of politics in this context and light-hearted response to the critique certainly align with what feminist theorist Joan Riviére refers to as the female “masquerade.” Riviére argues that women sometimes mask their intellectual abilities by performing stereotypical feminine traits as a defense “to avert anxiety and the retribution feared from men.” Claiming a political voice might make her appear less traditionally feminine, and as I stated earlier, this is the crux of her appeal to older men.

Friday, 1/20 @ 1:04pm by James Deaville
Mahalia's Ghost

Naomi, I too find that reference disturbing. But it plays to the target audience, appropriating the voice of the African American, even as they talk about the inner city from a position of white superiority. The unauthorized use of Rolling Stones songs reflects the same attitude of the narcissist.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:59pm by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Evancho's "Private" Performance

Eric, these are really good observations.

Evancho does often sing with her eyes half closed or cast downward in this performance (and in many others). It certainly reinforces the signature “good girl” image that she has cultivated over the years. And of course the purity of her vocal tone is in alignment with her angelic persona and traditional femininity.

I would also argue that this posturing makes the song seem like an intensely personal moment rather than a public one. She is singing a prayer of sorts to her country. The audience is looking on, but she is singing the song to herself. This emphasis on interiority is also of course gendered feminine.

The camera angle breaks away right after (on the CSPAN coverage at least) and goes to Trump who mouths “Good job Jackie,” suggesting that despite her “private” performance, she is is still the focus of his patriarchal gaze.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:58pm by Naomi Graber
Where were the Rockettes?

Weren't the Rockettes supposed to perform? Anyone know what happened?
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:58pm by Katherine Meizel
National Anthem

Dana, something interesting about Jackie Evancho's "it's not about politics"-- I have read similar statements from several participants in the inauguration's musical dimension. But it is about politics, because politics is about the negotiation of power in interactions between people. Jackie Evancho made a political choice. Bishop Wayne T. Jackson's made a political choice to quote "We Shall Overcome." Talladega College's marching band director made a political choice to take the students to D.C. Maybe they wouldn't have been able to participate if they'd said so explicitly, but the disavowal is a worrisome part of a current public practice of denying while doing. "I'm not being political, but..."  "I'm not a racist but..."
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:51pm by Naomi Graber
Mahalia's Ghost

Although I suppose there is an argument to be made that the recitation of "We Shall Overcome" was an act of defiant resistance to that rage. That moment was just so strange to me that it's hard to tell.

Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by Naomi Graber
Mahalia's Ghost

Katherine, I have to admit I was taken aback when Bishop Wayne T. Jackson began quoting Mahalia Jackson's rendition of "We Shall Overcome." If found it jarring rather than powerful. The anthem of the civil roots movement expresses a deep longing to be free of the strictures of Jim Crow and oppression. While Jackson is black, in the context of Trump's speech about the "forgotten men and women of America," it felt out of place. There's a general concensus that those "forgotten men and women" consist of the white working class. To take an African American woman's voice and make it serve the sentiments of white frustration felt wrong to me. 

Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by Eric Smialek
Evancho's Performance of Identity

In line with Dana's analysis, several aspects of Jackie Evancho's performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" seemed to project "innocence, purity, and traditional white femininity," in Dana's words. She seemed to use understated singing and body language, lowering her head and gaze often. Particularly striking in this respect was her high note on "land of the free," totally without vibrato and performed with eyes looking downward if I recall correctly. She (understandably!) seemed nervous in how her voice wavered at times. As an aside, I also heard something akin to an Irish accent when she sang.

There was one detail at the beginning that I thought was peculiar. The percussion that began the national anthem seemed "tinny," strangely without reverberation, dying out with a dull, metallic thud. It stood out and was an interesting departure from what I usually hear.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Angels and Demons

A recent New York Times article describes the battles of two sisters, both cyber-bullied—Juliet Evancho for being transgendered, and Jackie Evancho for agreeing to sing the Trump inauguration. One is beaten down by the Right and the other by the Left.

Since the announcement of her decision to perform, Evancho has gone on a media tour with a tour de force performance of naiveté and unchecked white privilege. In an interview with USA Today she stated that she was not sure whether or not she would vote in the next presidential election, but that “it might be fun to try and perform for as many presidents as possible.” Evancho has consistently positioned herself as being above the political fray, emphasizing that her decision was not a political one, but rather evidence of her love for country. She told Fox & Friends “This is an honor for me to sing for my country and that’s all it is. There’s no politics involved for me.” On CBS Sunday Morning, she stated her intended goal for the performance: “I hope to just kind of make everyone forget about rivals and politics for a second and just think about America and the pretty song that I’m singing. I’m hoping that I can bring people together.”
It looks like she hopes to accomplish this feat post inauguration as well: she released an album titled Together We Stand for download this morning, which includes National Anthem, “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”
As I argued in my essay posted on this site, Evancho’s connection to America’s Got Talent and performances at occasions of civic importance solidify her image as an All-American girl and true patriot, a position buttressed by her steadfastness in the face of vitriol from “loony Lefties.” With her pure vocal tone, delicate frame, and golden locks, Evancho aestheticizes powerlessness and performs traditional white femininity to perfection, therefore fans and supporters regard her as a paragon of virtue and are all too ready to defend her honor against the offending cyber-bullies. While Evancho may not perceive her own actions as political, those who raise their voices in her defense are perpetuating the Trump era narrative of white victimhood.
The fact that a sixteen-year-old girl is the only solo female performer at the inaugural festivities, sends a pretty strong message of where women stand and how they should behave in Trump’s America.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by Katherine Meizel
We Shall Overcome

Call out to Mahalia Jackson and "We Shall Overcome." Powerful allusion.

Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by James Deaville
Right Hand

The rabbi found a Bible passage about Trump's somatic oratory: May my right hand not forget its skill. What would happen if he lost the use of that hand? Can he conduct left-handed?
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by Katherine Meizel
Re: more civil religion

"The Bible tells us, how good and pleasant it is..." This is Psalms-- a common strategy in contemporary American civil religion is to quote from the Bible, from a book shared by Christians and Jews, and not from the New Testament. Although some aspects of the inauguration, such as "Battle Hymn of the Republic," have crossed the line into Christianity.

"We will be protected by God." More civil religion.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Scarves on Choristers

Eric, you are right about the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, but I believe both choirs were wearing plaid.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:03pm by Dan Blim
Obliquer Musical Reference

That bit about looking at the same sky makes me think of "Worlds Apart" from Big River, sung between Jim and Huckleberry Finn. It's a song that takes some of the same imagery but completely inverts the meaning, insisting upon difference and distance. This is a key disagreement in an era of pluralism, when and how to assert similarities or differences over the other.

Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Dana's Mention of White Choristers

Dana: although I'm not sure about how consciously the scarf choice was made, I was struck by the uniform whiteness of the choir. That seems to reflect Utah's racial demographics: 88.6% white according to the 2010 U.S. census if one trusts Wikipedia.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Maestro Trump

Someone thought the same thing about Bernie Sanders' gestures!
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:15pm by James Deaville

Dan, We don't know whether to believe him or his hand. But that's right about the appearance of conducting. Like it sets the tempo for his speaking.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:13pm by Katherine Meizel
Rick Roll

Oblique musical reference, "never let you down." Rick Rolled.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:12pm by James Deaville
Trump's Rhetoric

Starts with naming. Dramatic pauses built in for response. Slowing of tempo, rising of pitch leading to applause. The list is another device he draws upon, with a short lost at the end of a longer liost, effecting an accelerando. Repeated words for emphasis. Negative comments can also evoke sounds of approval, as long as they are about the Other. New populist phrase introduced: "American First." Quotes self for effect: "I will never let you down."
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:11pm by Dan Blim
Conducting Himself

There's something almost conductor-like to Trump's behavior while speaking. His hands beat out the rhythms of his voice, downbeats, followed by side to side beats. He sometimes also leaves his hand up in a way similar to conductors signalling it's not time to clap yet.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:07pm by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
"Now We Belong"

The Missouri State University Chorale’s “Now We Belong” definitely vibes Randall Thompson meets Rene Clausen.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:07pm by Katherine Meizel
Hail to the Chief

(from my blog post last week) "Hail to the Chief," played for the president.  Popularized during the War of 1812 (the same conflict that produced The Star Spangled Banner) through sheet music, after it appeared in a dramatic production based on Sir Walter Scott’s 1810 poem Lady of the Lake. The stanzas set by English composer John Sanderson for an 1811 British play were was picked up in an 1812 American version, for a scene in which a chorus of boatmen salute the Douglas clan’s chieftain Roderick Dhu—Elise Kirk suggests that Sanderson’s may have either used the melody of a preexisting traditional boat song or composed an imitation.
Friday, 1/20 @ 12:04pm by Dan Blim
Scottish Scarves and Snaps

Dana, I don't know, but those Scotch snaps in "Hail to the Chief" stood out after reading your comment.

Friday, 1/20 @ 12:03pm by James Deaville

During the oath-taking, there were isolated attempts to shout down Trump and to sonically disrupt the oath through other means that were perceptible from the podium.

Friday, 1/20 @ 12:02pm by Naomi Graber
Re: Plaid Scarves

Dana, I was wondering the same thing about the scarves. More clear nods to Anglo heritage.

Friday, 1/20 @ 12:00pm by Katherine Meizel
America the Beautiful

A reminder that Katherine Lee Bates, author of the lyrics for "America the Beautiful," was likely a lesbian, and a Christian socialist.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:59am by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Plaid for Choirs?
 Do you think the plaid scarves on all of these white choristers are a nod to Trump's Scottish roots?

Friday, 1/20 @ 11:57am by Katherine Meizel
Vice President

"Hail, Columbia" for the Vice President's swearing-in.

Friday, 1/20 @ 11:57am by James Deaville
Chorale Piece

Dan, Certainly well crafted and using texture for the purpose of text painting. But the chief-to-be looked distracted: at first he seemed engaged, but then talked with Pence.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:53am by Naomi Graber
Re: Religion, Politics, and Pipes

As Dana wrote a few days ago, the sound of young voices can be a particularly powerful sound at political events with their "angelic" evocations of innocence and purity. The Missouri State Chorale's performance of "Now we Belong" underscores the sense of civic religion that we've been talking about. (Shout out to Katherine for bringing up the City on the Hill---underscoring how deeply American Exceptionalism is embedded in Protestant religious practices; even Chuck Schumer gave it a shout-out). The choral sound conveys the idea that these sentiments are the voice of "the people" as well as God. Furthermore, collective singing has long been used to instill religious, patriotic, or religious-patriotic ideals in educational contexts. Performances like these these serve a number of purposes: adding an angelic sense of purity (and therefore renewal), reinforcing the sense of collectivity, and assuring citizens that the next generation is learning to carry out our national traditions.

Friday, 1/20 @ 11:53am by Katherine Meizel
Many Entrances

Dan, and we can think about those many entrances in the context of the piece's lyrics (thanks, Dana!), which are really about immigration. Many entrances.

Friday, 1/20 @ 11:49am by Dan Blim
Canonic Chorale

One brief observation about the choral piece we just heard, A lot of entrances of the same melody in canon--an interesting musical choice that creates a sense unity without mere unison.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:45am by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
"Now We Belong" Lyrics

“Now We Belong”
Michael Dennis Browne (poet)
John Wykoff (composer)
Here are the voices of every creature,
Here are the calls of every heart;
Here is the place of strangers’ welcome,
We who once walked in strangers’ shoes.
Once we were strangers,
We were welcomed,
Now we belong and believe in this land.
Here are the rivers of many echoes,
Here are the leaves of every tree;
Within us live the long horizons,
Winds that stir the sacred stones.
Once we were strangers,
We were welcomed,
Now we belong and believe in this land.
Here are the cities where we have gathered,
Here are the barns where hope is stored;
We are the gleams of every being,
Filled with the dreams that build the day.
Once we were strangers,
We were welcomed,
Now we belong and believe in this land.
FEED LONGING, FEED LOVE.-------------------------------------
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:43am by Katherine Meizel:
Re: more civil religion

And there it was, city on a hilltop.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:42am by James Deaville

Eric: The fanfare prior to his appearance sounded to me a John Williams score. Does anyone know if he was at all involved?
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:41am by Dan Blim:

Eric, YES! I was thrown off briefly by that!
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:38am by Eric Smialek:
Trump's Triumphal March

A brief observation since Dan brought up musical connections earlier. As the inauguration proper begins, the orchestral music that followed Trump's appearance reminded me quite a bit of the triumphal march from Verdi's Aïda. Did anyone else hear that?
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:38am by James Deaville:

Kathy, Great point about the deep historical roots of American civil religion. But as you point out, it is based in Protestantism, which has historically disadvantaged Catholic traditions. Civil religion, yes, but with significant Protestant foundations, which display themselves at such a ceremony.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:30am by Dan Blim:

Three-syllable chants, like "Yes We Can" and "USA," are very popular because of their easy duple metricality with a pause between each iteration into a replicable four-square pattern. The chants of "Trump" seem harder to sustain because there's a tendency to rush when every beat is emphasized like that, and without that pause it's hard to find that rhythm to stick with.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:28am by Eric Smialek:
"Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" and Patriotic Butt Kicking

Naomi pointed out how purposeful it was for the sentimental side of "God Bless the U.S.A." to be balanced with "Toby Keith's butt-kicking anthem 'Courtesy of the Red White and Blue'." That brings to mind McClary and Walser's call in their 1988 essay "Start Making Sense! Musicology Wrestles with Rock" for musicologists to address whether and how music kicks butt.
In my view, Keith's "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" seems to kick butt largely because of how it weds electric guitar and rock with country. The signifiers of heavy rock (palm muted low strings, power chords) come in precisely when Keith sings about his father's military service and his war injuries. That moment becomes especially marked in the song since it follows a long pause of expectation and it follows an understated, acoustic first verse which is pure country (to borrow Naomi's wording).
Like "God Bless the U.S.A.," I'm also struck by the same tropes in Toby Keith's song: the martyrdom of troops, family, and freedom. Compared to Greenwood, Keith amps up the defensiveness and adversarial qualities of "God Bless the U.S.A." Greenwood's defensiveness seems like it could be directed at political opponents as much as terrorists or war foes: lines like "they can't take that away," "at least I know I'm free," "I gladly stand up/Next to you and defend her," and "there ain't no doubt I love this land" imply a censuring of Americans who aren't patriotic in the same way. Keith goes further when he explicitly sings about military retaliations for terrorist attacks. When he sings "We'll put a boot in your ass/It's the American way," the rough wording, cheers from military personnel in the song's music video, and appeal to tradition bring to mind the soundtrack to Team America: World Police, whose tag line read "Putting the 'F' back into Freedom."
Keith's "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" reminds me especially of a song from that movie that derives its humour from exaggerating these tropes and butt-kicking affects [sic]. I found a YouTube video of it where someone applied the song to a Dodge truck commercial (warning: the video contains profanity and potentially offensive themes). Keith's marriage of heavy rock and country is there, if skewed more towards the rock side. In terms of the inauguration, I found it telling that Trump appears multiple times in the YouTube video's comments: "watching in celebration of our new president!"; "ISIS your game is through now you have to answer to DONALD TRUMP […]"; "TRUMP WON!!!!"; etc.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:25am by Katherine Meizel:
more civil religion

Naomi, yes! Actually American civil religion is usually traced even further back to John Winthrop’s lay sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity,” written in 1630 on the way to the new Massachusetts Bay Colony, which he was to govern. Winthrop spoke about a covenant with God, and imagined the new “plantation” as a “city upon a hill,” (based on Matthew 5: 14-16, 'a town on a hill cannot be hidden') as an example for other Protestant communities. This is where Reagan's "city on a hill" concept came from, envisioning the U.S. as a model for other nations.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:22am by Dan Blim:
Kitsch and Sincerity

Dana, you're totally right about kitsch and emotion, and that emotional reaction here is certainly key. What for one person seems authentic and emotional can for another seem overdetermined and kitschy. Musicals, for me, have a complex thread between earnestness, camp, and kitsch, where the large technicolor scale actually creates a sincere emotional attachment from me rather than a dissociative alienation from the sheer volume of that. My guess is that for some, patriotic songs can similarly offer strong sincere emotions through overdetermination. It's in a way a very personal conversation between the music and the listener, and it's amplified when that emotion is communally shared within a group.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:14am by James Deaville:
American Tradition and Concert

What a crass contrast between the garish patriotism of the concert/rally and today's tradition-based ceremony! Here we see the collision of Trump's iconoclasm and the historical attempt to show to the world that America does have a set of venerable traditions, a heritage comparable to the pomp and splendor of monarchies.
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:12am by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak:
An Itch for Kitch

Eric, where some people see sincerity others see kitsch!
“God Bless the U.S.A.” hit the Billboard Hot Country Singles in May 1984, eventually reaching number seven on the chart, and it accompanied the closing ceremony video montage of athletes’ most triumphant moments in the Summer Olympics that year. During this same period, radio and television stations used the song to sign off in the evening.
As I mentioned earlier, Reagan used this song prominently in his 1984 campaign. It was also featured in the eighteen-minute film that he used in lieu of an introductory speech at the Dallas convention. The Tuesday Team (the group responsible for Reagan’s advertising) included the song’s first verse and chorus a few minutes into the film and then inserted its final chorus at the film’s culminating moments to accompany video and photo montages
Although the film’s images are contemporary, the scenes—a farmer at sunset, a traditional wedding, and a family behind a white picket fence—impart a strong sense of nostalgia. The film’s overarching narrative, which focuses on the cultivation and preservation of “American” values, reinforces this quality. As Beardsley Ruml writes, nostalgic sentiments play a significant role in “social institutions and in the foundation of patriotism and nationality.
The song received a lot of airtime post 9/11, but many older citizens probably remember Reagan’s film with its over the top nostalgia, which nicely ties into Trump’s own preoccupation with the past.  
Friday, 1/20 @ 11:08am by Naomi Graber:
Re: Religion, Politics, and Pipes

Dan, thanks for pointing out that the "tradition" that is infusing this ceremony is very much a white Christian tradition. We often mistake "white" and "Christian" as universal in this country, forgetting that they are very much not.

Friday, 1/20 @ 11:03am by Dan Blim:
The Pipes Are Calling

Naomi, that's a great observation. The faint sounds of bagpipes by the white house further add solemnity and religiosity, and also remind us about the Anglo roots of that religious sentiment. The Inauguration, like religious services and this music emphasize the importance of tradition, something that can stand at odds with American values of pluralism and innovation.
Friday, 1/20 @ 10:57am by Eric Smialek:
The Role of Intertextuality within Kitsch Interpretations

Some fascinating connections brought up by Dan. One of the things that makes the relationships so compelling between songs like "God Bless the U.S.A." and other anthems like "America the Beautiful" is that they can register to varying degrees of consciousness. Now that you bring it up, I think it did affect my perceptions of the song even if I hadn't thought about it directly. Reproduced musical and cultural signifiers are definitely key here. One of the reasons why I interpret a song like "God Bless the U.S.A." as kitsch has to do with how blunt, or facile, the signifiers seem to be within it. If they seem too obvious, I feel like the audience is being patronized or insulted in some way. The same feeling occurs with a Hollywood film that tells you exactly how you're supposed to feel by smothering the audience with exaggerated emotions (be they through cheesy dialogue, syrupy strings that alert you to sincerity, or some combination at once).
Friday, 1/20 @ 10:42am by Naomi Graber:
Religion and Politics

The Marine Band has been alternating marches and hymns as the various dignitaries and elected officials arrive at the Capitol for the Inauguration. It's indicative of the deep connection between religion and politics in the United States. It goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War, when William Billings' Chester, reassured the colonists it was God's will that they would win the war. This blurring of political and religious lines is still with us today: songs like Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" inscribe the idea of the USA as God's chosen nation in the popular consciousness, and Pastor Robert Jeffress apparently reassured President-Elect Trump that he was God's chosen leader in the prayer service earlier today. It may seem odd that a country that so prizes the separation of Church and State in its founding document so often evokes religious imagery and sounds in our civic ceremonies, but it is important to remember that politics is not government. While politicians can use religious music to convey their own spirituality to the voters, and while we may use religious music at civic events to instill a sense that divine power infuses these moments, when it comes time to make actual laws, the Constitution requires that religion is left at the door.
Friday, 1/20 @ 10:32am by James Deavile:
CBSN News Music

Dan, The music that CBSN uses for its commerial breaks is a bumper version from their news music package that they have used over the last year. The percussion in the bed -- the extension of the music after the commercial break -- keeps the viewer hooked and as you suggest conveys an active news room, even as the John Williams news package for NBC does. 

Friday, 1/20 @ 10:26am by Dan Blim:
From Sea to Shining CBS

Since I was just talking about the quotation of "America the Beautiful" in "God Bless the USA," I just noticed the music CBSN Live is using to cut to commercials starts with a paraphrase of that same melody. The rest of their background music features typical brass/drums sound with Coplandesque fifth relationships merges well with string-dominated, rapid, metrical spund that often marks the urgency of news channel tags.
Friday, 1/20 @ 9:53am by Dan Blim:
Re: The Kitsch Factor of "God Bless the U.S.A."

Erik, that song fascinates me too as well. I like your observation of the word painting "Stand Up." I've always been fascinated by the quotation, where "God Bless the USA," a lyrical take off from one song "God Bless America," is attached to the melody "From sea to shining sea" from another patriotic song, "America the Beautiful." It's worth noting that for the parts Dana laid out about American values, Greenwood's song devotes much of its second half to the landscape/geography imagery that characterize both "God Bless America" and "America the Beautiful." It's clear that Greenwood knows how to model on anthems, and I wonder if that's part of what you're hearing as kitsch. Definitions of kitsch have often been tied to the mass-reproducibility of popular culture under capitalism, and I wonder if the seeming ease of reproduced signifiers, lyrical and melodic, here that lends itself to the category of kitsch.
Friday, 1/20 @ 8:55am by Eric Smialek:
The Kitsch Factor of "God Bless the U.S.A."

Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." is one of the performances I'm most intrigued by. As a Canadian I remember being shocked by it when I first heard it. Dana describes it in quite positive terms ("love," "familial relations," "patriotism" and "Christian faith") but to my foreign ears it sounds very much like kitsch. The lyrics are laced with heavily loaded concepts like American family values ("children and my wife"), gratitude to military service, and perhaps the vaguest but most charged signifier, "freedom." It's so blunt in how it presents those ideas that it almost seems to parody them. The word painting on the lyrics "stand…UP" is one instance I have in mind.
Katherine brought up the religious context of the song's reception and that's part of its shock effect on me. I recall reacting in disbelief with other Canadians as we heard Obama publicly lead other high government officials into prayer. We wondered out loud what happened to the apparent separation of church and state. Despite experiencing a resurgence now and around 9/11, as Katherine pointed out, "God Bless the U.S.A." comes across to me like a relic from another time but one that obviously resonates with a substantial portion of the voting public.
To offer a cross-cultural comparison, I wonder if hearing "God Bless the U.S.A" as a Canadian is comparable to hearing Céline Dion outside of Québec. As with Greenwood, people cry at Dion's performances and she has been looked to for patriotic occasions like the 400th anniversary of Champlain's founding of Québec City. Quebecers will sometimes smile at her kitchiness but quickly add, "Mais elle est bonne." I wonder if American democrats have a similar soft spot for Greenwood.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 11:48pm by James Deaville:
The Media on the MAGA (not MEGA) Concert

The Make America Great Again concert/rally is now history. How did the media review the event? Cautiously, to use the most positive word possible. US Weekly described what happened, putting the reactions of sarcasm in pasted tweets from the public.Billboard and Variety devote most of their space to quoting the president-elect. The New York Times  avoided reviewing the concert itself by repeatedly referring to the artists who were missing, reserving its most critical comment for its title: "Toby Keith and Trump Light Up a Lower-Wattage Concert." While the title of the Washngton Post's review ("Trump's Inaugural Concert: The Weird, the Patriotic and the Weirdly Patriotic") promised something more censorious, it ended up reporting rather than critiquing: "weird" was the harshest word in the piece, hardly an expression of any disapprobation. By releasing its comments one day before the concert, NPR could avoid the task of publishing or broadcasting a review (whether this was intentional or not) -- it concluded the preview with the words, "despite Trump's gift for stagecraft..., his choices wound up being just so traditional." In comparison, The Guardian provides in-depth coverage of the event, replete with disparaging remarks about the concert in general (Trump spent the evening "bopping along awkwardly to B-list musicians") and Toby Keith in particular for the final song of his set ("The Angry American") that "represents the most bellicose brand of patriotism possible" and is "an engine of vengeance."

​While this survey of select media outlets cannot make any claim to comprehensiveness, it nevertheless appears that the president-elect has intimidated the American press to the extent that it fears adopting an openly ​critical position on this event, which celebrated artistic mediocrity at best, and poor taste in its garish patriotism. Voight's inflammatory words, the questionable musicianship of the mon-military performers, and the gaudy spectacle at the expense of Lincoln all contributed to the sense that we were witnessing a surreal scene. It will be interesting to see (and hear) the tenor of the press coverage of the inauguration itself.

Stay tuned!
Thursday, 1/19 @ 10:31pm by Katherine Meizel:
Civil Religion

Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." was written at a significant moment during the Cold War, a response to the downing of Korean Air flight 007 in 1983-- a religious song composed during a war fought against "godless communists." The week after September 11, 2001, at the start of another war with religious overtones, "God Bless the U.S.A." experienced a resurgence and was played 7,800 percent more frequently on the radio than in the days before. The song reminds us that many Americans, and discourse about American national identity, rely on the powerful idea that we are a country sanctioned by a higher power. Despite the famous separation between church and state, a religious relationship between citizen and state has remained pervasive in our culture. This relationship is known as "civil religion." We see it when the new president is sworn in using a bible, or refers to the nation as a "city on a hill," and we hear it in songs like "God Bless the U.S.A."
Thursday, 1/19 @ 10:08pm by Katherine Meizel:
Battle Hymn of the Republic

After the President-elect's speech at the concert, we heard "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." In one of my class sessions on Thursday, we talked about the process of contrafact--the recontextualizing of a pre-existing, familiar melody by setting it to new lyrics in a new situation. Our main topic was soccer chants around the world, and one of the most prominent of these is Manchester United FC's "Glory, Glory, Man United," sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."  "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" is itself an example of contrafact, with abolitionist/women's suffragist Julia Ward Howe's Christian lyrics set to the tune of a popular Union army song called "John Brown's Body" (whose tune, in turn, came from a camp meeting song; "John Brown's Body" also became a marching song for British troops). All this is to remind us that many beloved American patriotic songs really represent single moments in the global arc of a melodic history.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 6:19pm by Naomi Graber:
Unity in Song

On the surface, it's a nice touch to have the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" interlaced with "Dixie" as a gesture toward Northern and Southern unity. On the other hand, "Dixie" is an old minstrel song, usually sung by whites in blackface. The "black" character apparently longs for the era of slavery. It's a bit odd to mix it with a song that shares the same tune as "John Brown's Body," an abolitionist anthem.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 6:14pm by Dan Blim:
Lincoln Memorial

I can't tell if Trump was joking or not when he asked if the Lincoln Memorial had ever been used for a concert before. I thought so at first but then his emphatic use of the word "special" makes me doubt that. It's gone back to Clinton at least for inaugural concerts, not to mention Marion Anderson and the march on Washington among other important predecessors.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 6:06pm by Naomi Graber:
When it's okay for men to cry

It might be okay to cry to "God Bless the USA," but Toby Keith's butt-kicking anthem "Courtesy of the Red White and Blue" allows the audience to reassure themselves of their masculinity. It's a masterful combination.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 6:06pm by Dan Blim:
Women on Stage

Is Toby Keith the first artist to include a woman on stage (aside from the military bands or DJ Ravidrum's dancers, where I couldn't tell the gender make up)?
Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:58pm by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Men Who Cry

Dan, you are definitely right that “God Bless the USA” is a song where it is okay for men to cry! The medley as a whole offered themes of love, familial relations, patriotism, and Christian faith rather than traditional tough masculinity.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:58pm by Naomi Graber
Orchestral Country

It's interesting that Toby Keith has decided to use a horn choir in tonight. I don't remember that being part of his sound. It certainly fits well with Trump's tastes, however. He likes to mix the sounds of blue color America (country, classic rock) with the sounds of "classical crossover" (orchestral music, strings, piano, etc.) as a way of showing his wealth and taste. The way Keith began "American Soldier" was particularly telling: just a shimmering cymbol and a delicate piano. Very typical "classical crossover" sounds giving way to Keith's voice, which is pure country.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:46pm by Dan Blim:
Piano Guys and Girls

In contrast to Lee Greenwood, The Piano Guys cover One Direction; almost all of the crowd cut always are to women.
They're the second group to get the crowd singing, and they do so appealing to love of country even though the lyrics don't address it. They're less successfully than Lee Greenwood, and Trump is sitting this one out). The gender split here is less once the crowd is singing, but still evident.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:39pm by Dan Blim:

Dj Ravidrums keeps getting these stars-and-stripes video screens, while the other bands have tended to get more landscape montages.  Maybe it's that drums don't lend themselves to reflective background, and vice versa, but there's also a way in which it works to tie this music to the stars-and-stripes military music from the opening.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:33pm by Naomi Graber
Something Completely Different

The choice of John Philip Sousa's "Liberty Bell March" as the first number for Pershing's Own military band interesting. Sousa is a constant presence at patriotic events, and carries an air of nostalgia about him. On the other hand, this particular march served as the theme song for "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Apparently, we're in for something completely different with Trump's presidency!

Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:35pm by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
Country Music Medley

Unlike his opponents in the 2016 primaries and many of his Republican predecessors, Trump did not make that much use of country music on the trail, so this performance stands out. The men playfully interact with each other and sing in close harmony, so the performance comes across as a homosocial bonding ritual. The initial group of singers is sort of a warmup act for the paterfamilias, Lee Greenwood, whose “God Bless the USA” was used by Ronald Reagan for his 1984 reelection campaign. Trump also used the song towards the end of his campaign.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:32pm by Dan Blim:
Set List

It seems like an effect of the number of artists who turned down the request to perform is that we're getting longer sets than we had from Obama (where multiple stars performed just one song together). I'm curious how previous presidents put together concerts in terms of set lists for artists, and whether Obama, Trump, or both were abnormal in this respect.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:24pm by Dan Blim:
I'll Proudly Stand Up Next to You and Sing

Lee Greenwood's unabashedly sentimental ode to America invites the crowd to sing along. We even got a shot of Trump of singing the chorus as well. It's definitely a favorite for this crowd, and it strikes me as a rare example of a place where men who ascribe to a certain kind of tough masculinity will sing and tear up in public--there's got to be some good ethnographic work to be done on this, right?
Thursday, 1/19 @ 5:09pm by James Deaville:
Re: Wreath Laying
I wasn't sure where those clicks were coming from. They seemed so rhythic that I thought they might be off-screen drumsor something like that... Certainly disturbing.
And he's still thumbing his nose at the artists who denied permission for him to use their music. No wonder he wants to destroy the NEA and its "leftist" musicians!
Dan, I think there's something to your observation. There's a lifting quality at the outset that does seem inspirational if not inspiring.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 4:43pm by Dan Blim:
Re: Wreath Laying

Jim, I was struck not by the jet plane, but the constant clicks of photographers in the clip I saw, a reminder of the public status of remembrance even as a moment of silence suggests inward, private thoughts.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 4:55pm by Naomi Graber:
The Rolling Stones

The recordings of the Rolling Stones that are playing before te live concert ("Let's Spend the Night Together," "You Can't Always Get What You Want") were staples of Trump's pre-rally playlists during the campaign. Many writers noted the way "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was a way for Trump to thumb his nose as his political opponants, particularly on the Republican side, who weren't thrilled with his nomination. Although Trump promised a switch from "candidate" to "president" in the inauguration, the music suggests he's still thinking in terms of the winners and losers of electoral politics.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 4:43pm by Dan Blim:
Bang the Drums

The opening act, DJ Ravidrums, is a striking choice in a lot of ways to open: a young, Indian-American, punk-styled, peace-sign-clad electronic drummer. Far from what I think many might have envisioned. And yet, the drums fit well with the military bands who preceded him, merged especially with the Copland Fanfare for the Common Man (I think that's what it was, the sound's a little low where I am).
And now with the 18th century military corps, in Revolutionary-era costumes, it's looking like an early theme yet one with a wide scope that sort of bring DJ Ravidrums into this narrative quite well.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 4:14pm by Dan Blim:
Going for Gold

It's worth noting the "Make America Great Again" logo choice. Instead of red, white, and blue, we have gold, white, and blue, the text appears in gold and white on a blue background with a glossy, reflective effect added, and a sort of ballooning 3-D roundness. The logo merges patriotism with victory (gold medals), celebration (the balloon-style text), and, more subtly, wealth (think, for example, of the golden Trump Tower sign).
Thursday, 1/19 @ 4:06pm by James Deaville:
Wreath Laying

The unexpected sound of a commercial jet intervened during the somber ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which otherwise was marked by silence other than the performance of "Taps" by solo trumpet, preceded by a brief drum flourish. Any other sounds would diminish the solemnity, which serves the purpose of remembering the fallen. CBSN uses dramatic music for its bumpers (music into and out of the commercial breaks). Coming soon: an outdoor concert at the Lincoln Memorial, the "Make America Great Again" concert.
Thursday, 1/19 @ 12:14pm by James Deaville:
Speaker Interruptions

Note that the questioning of Mnuchin involves interruptions, another way of gainsaying or silencing the speaker. Reminiscent of the presidential debates. Much is at stake here, not only for the nominees and the president, but also the members of congress, who want to verbally display their knowledge and authority. Spoken sound is the only means available to them for voicing their positions. Such exchanges can make the general public  uncomfortable, since they don't adhere to principles of civility.