Course Blog for Danny Mayer's ENG 281 course. Post 500 word minimum responses for each film viewed in class. Choose an aspect, theme, cinematic wizardry, or scene, and analyze/celebrate it. Post by the Wednesday before class.
There are at least three types of musical documentaries we have watched in this class. These categories are films primarily about: the musicians' biography, events in which the musicians have participated, and the social messages conveyed by the musicians. In each film the filmmaker becomes a cinematic storyteller, visually presenting his or her perspective of what the audience should perceive as important. Biographical films include: Be Here To Love Me, Don't Look Back, and Be Here To Love Me. Woodstock, Gimme Shelter, and The Last Waltz are films which focused on events on which the musicians were involved. Films which focused on the social message include I Know I'm Not Alone, Soundtrack For A Revolution, and Rage Against The Machine.
Icthus was formed basically as a response to Woodstock and other music festivals in that era by Dr. Bob Dyon and a Group of seminaries from Asbury College in Wilmore Kentucky . The reason I chose this topic for my long term paper is basically that it goes hand and hand with some of the topics and backgrounds on certain events . Starting in 1970 it was a music festival with more of a religious purpose and is the oldest Christian music festivals in the nation The way it is set up there is something for everyone and musical background ranging from hip hop , heavy metal to acoustic and indie rock. There are 6 main stages at icthus that is designated to each of these variations of music, the main stage, Deep end stage, the edge, and two galleria stages which are food courts and coffee tables at the same time. Over the years icthus has seen many big names in Christian music and also rock music with bands such as skillet, thousand foot krutch, casting crowns , hill song , and red. To me I think its an awesome topic to write about and a very broad one at that . Having something this close to our home town within in driving distance even that many people fail to witness or think about. Not only is icthus a music festival but also a worship festival for Christians to come together for one purpose and that’s to worship in gods name. One of the neatest parts of the music festival to me is that on the last day of the festival everything is shut down food stands coffee stands and also memorabilia stands to all come together one last time to share communion together one last time before the weekend ends. It is said that 10s of thousand gather at one time to take part in this event. With a max population of 25,000.
Musical festivals have gotten bigger throughout the years. Woodstock for example was one of the biggest and most well known festivals of our time. Back in the sixties putting on a show of its magnitude was unprecedented and unheard of. This historical show became one of the most iconic and well known festivals of all time. It became so well known because of two things, the great bands that played there, and for the sheer size of the festival itself. Other historical festivals include: Altamont Speedway, Hoard, Further, Lollapalooza and Coachella. The list of large musical events could go on and on. Some festivals are known for the talented musicians that play them, others are known for the venders and advertisers that put the massive shows together. However, of these two things the most important is the music being played. All festivals claim to be bigger and better than the next. According to Perry Farrell, the creator of the famous Lollapalooza, “Most festivals are out in the boonies. It looks nice for a minute, but the drive out there sucks, the food is even worse.” He goes on to say that the part that makes Chicago the perfect venue for Lollapalooza is because “here we have everything.” (P Ferrell). The thing that really makes a festival is not just the location, or the music itself, but the people that enjoy these festivals. The most important thing and the thing that is often most remembered about these events is the unity among the massive crowds that the atmosphere creates. The environment of these historical festivals is too easily changed into a different monster however. So often the music and the unity is forgotten and the festival turns into more of a greed machine for corporations, record companies and sponsors.
My working thesis is,Rock music has had a significant impact on American politics since the 1960’s and still continues to do so today. During the 1960’s, America saw rock music become a popular platform of political activism & protest music that led the Vietnam anti-war movement. Today we still see rock musicians shaping the political landscape with messages of political awareness and protest. This seems to be an underlying theme in the majority of the films that we have watched in this class so far. I plan to support my thesis by discussing the anti-war sentiment of the Vietnam war and how the political environment 1960’s was directly affected by the popular musicians at the time. More specifically the impact of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” and the role he played as a political activist as well as Bob Dylan and his work. I will also discuss Woodstock’s powerful message of peace and unity and how it was able to give a voice to a whole nation of youths.Although activism through rock today doesn’t seem to be quite as obvious as it did in the 1960’s it still remains a powerful tool in American Politics. Many of todays musicians have taken up current issues of social justice, racism, gay rights and the conflict in the middle east. As we saw in Rage Against the Machine: Revolution in the Head and the Art of Protest, the message of protest and change are still alive today. Rage Against the Machine’s message was much more aggressive than the peace movement but they used their music as a platform for their political and social messages. In contrast, Michael Franti’s “I know I’m not alone” presented us with a more peaceful and unifying message using his own political activism through music. I also plan to talk a little bit about the “Rock the Vote” campaign that helped Clinton and Obama to win their presidency by mobilizing an unprecedented amount of young people to register to vote. Arcade Fire, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Dixie Chicks, Elton John, Ne-Yo, The Decemberists, among many that held concerts or fundraisers for Obama, as a powerful way of influencing American politics. As digital technology has soared today’s musicians also have many more media outlets than in the past (twitter, face book, etc.) and are able to influence a much larger audience and on a global scale.
"For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled" (Thompson) Hunter S. Thompson, a legendary journalist who made himself famous by his outlandish quandaries and poetically insightful observations, was able to sum up the heart and soul of many late 20th century protest causes in that quote. Throughout history there has always been cause for protest; injustice happens to be an unfortunate side effect of humanity. From war to civil rights, from the confines of conformity to fascism or capitalism; innocent human beings are, and have always been, unduly victimized. It seems that the further the scales are tipped towards monetary wealth and power, the further away the general masses are from equality. Fortunately, there are two major weapons against such aggressors: music and movies. Since movies fall under such a broad range of fictional entertainment, documentaries have taken the charge of portraying raw opinions on harsh realities. Likewise, music is a timeless and universal conduit for protest and communication. Music timestamps eras, it quantifies emotions, it reaches the human spirit and bridges global rifts to connect societies. Two independently solid forms of expression, music and documentaries, each hold unique abilities to give powerful messages. However, when used in tandem, their messages of protest, especially, become unequivocal. Barriers; language, physical, and mental, are reduced to ruins and awareness is raised through lyrics, music, and film. Before the ear of Woodstock and bed-ins, of record conglomerates and Hells Angels, music was raising the smothered spirits of those who suffered at the hands of racial inequalities. Folk music and rock 'n' roll's family trees have deep running roots in Blues music. Blues music speaks to the suffering, to the struggling and in turn holds protest against such injustices. "In a society which denied black people the dignity of human equality; denied them the means to even strive for it, the trappings of riches and success were symbols of great potency. That the successes of the great blues singers like Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Ma Rainey and many others were based on their own intimate knowledge and experience of the blues culture of the poor and dispossessed made the symbolism even more profound." (Oakley) Through blues, folk and rock n roll music developed a moral standard to protest against the pillaging of human rights. The art of protest through music resonates from decades prior; however, the turbulent times of the 1960s galvanized protest music. A racial war waged on the home front while a senseless international conflict clouded the air. Political corruption fed the fire to social unrest and one by one American icons, such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., who rose on a pillar of hope, were stifled out of their prime. Phil Ochs was a singer/songwriter that emerged as a solider for hope in the trenches of the cultural battlefield during the 1960s. Influenced by the legendary Woody Guthrie, a pioneer of the folk protest genre, Ochs was both deeply moved and motivated by the plight of his fellow citizens against the disorder the American government was initiating. Like so many protest artists, be it musical or cinematic, Ochs wanted to not only make sense of the senseless but to effect and materialize change. Unfortunately, he fell into the shadow of the rising star Bob Dylan, and his songs became better known by their cover artists such as Joan Baez. "In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty." (Ochs) Ochs saw the necessity for change and through his beautiful lyrics of protest injustices were brought to the nation’s attention. Oakley, Giles. "Crazy Blues." Driver, Jim. The Mammoth Book of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 2001. 11.Ochs, Phil. Phil Ochs. 2011. 9 April 2011 .Thompson, Hunter S. Hunter S Thompson. 2010. 9 April 2011 .
After watching all the documentaries from class I noticed that the Sixties and Seventies produced superior artists than the ones we have today, there are still striking similarities between music, musicians, and the general rock-and-roll lifestyle of that era, and today. People are constantly comparing the two eras, saying that the earlier decades were much better than what we have today, but apart from the style of the music being put out, how different are they really?There is still massive drug use (the bassist from Alice in Chains recently died of a drug overdose, nine years after the lead singer from the same band did), infidelity, and stereotypical rock-and-roll behavior. Another strong similarity is that people still look to musicians for inspiration on style. Avril Lavigne, and Britney Spears both have their own clothing lines, and Lady Gaga is releasing a perfume rumored to smell similar to blood and semen that, for some reason, people will almost certainly buy. A notable difference, though, between musicians of the Sixties and Seventies, and musicians of today is that the artists of this generation have yet to achieve the “rock god” status that earlier musicians attained. Bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan, just to name a few, were practically worshiped by their fans. They were, and still are, totally legendary. Even the lesser known artists were completely idolized in their own right. Today, though, is a completely different story. Because of twitter, facebook, and other media outlets, there is a lack of mystery that goes along with celebrities. The fans know everything about their overly accessible idols, so there is nothing to be surprised about anymore.Musicians today also often lack the life experience that earlier musicians had, which is what often helped them write their songs, which could explain the more “bubblegum” music they are putting out.For my long paper I am going to compare and contrast the music and musicians of the Sixties and Seventies, specifically the ones in the documentaries we watched, and the ones of today.
I have been tossing around several ideas for my thesis and starting point for this upcoming long paper and still to this point i have yet to decide with absolute certainty the exact direction of my paper. During the coarse of this class we have discussed and viewed several issues that i would like to expand upon and learn more about through researching and developing my final paper. I have narrowed my thoughts down to two aspects of rock and roll history. The first of which is going to be emotionally straining for me to write about but i feel it is a major landmark in the era of rock and that is to expand on the downfall of rock and roll music as it coincides with the rise of punk music. i will be focusing on weather or not punk music had a major role in its fall or weather it was just an inevitable outcome of the turn in generations. I feel that this moment in time deserves some analyzing and research so that i can be better informed as to why my favorite and what i feel is the best genre of music was drowned out by seemingly inferior competition. This is going to be my main area of focus at this point but if while researching i find myself at a crossroads with my ability to write about such a depressing event i will be looking toward John Lennon's contribution to the Beatles, the rise of rock and roll music, and his major roles in the peace movement.
All: Check out UK's collection on rock criticism. Use the key word "Rock history and criticism." There's tons of work out there for you to get into. (Check also at this college, but UK will have more.)Walker: You're on the right track. In your essay, I'd choose 3 films--1 from each category--and use specific moments to show the differences between the three. You should also think about, and spend time on, showing why it's important that we viewers note these differences. What does each sort of focus/type of documentary allow us to do or highlight? Do certain types of music or bands or movements lend themselves to these sort of documentaries?Ethan and Chris: Ethan, the focus on Icthus is good--it grows from Woodstock. Be careful not to make this an "Icthus has cool stuff" paper. Remember to keep your analysis front and center: What specifically does Icthus borrow from Woodstock? Just the music? What about the format? How does it change this format? Is there anything lost? Gained? Are there clips, perhaps Youtube clips, that "represent" Icthus? Do they play into the Woodstock myth? Can you analyze them in relation to Woodstock?Both you and Chris are talking, more or less, about festival culture. Do some research on music festivals. They sort of grow from Woodstock (though not completely). Perhaps you all can find a comparative "documentary" of another festival. What "tropes" (similar plot lines) do the documentaries follow? Are they similar to Woodstock? There are a number of academic books on Woodstock the festival, on Woodstock the 60s Generation, and on music festivals in general. I'd think that you all should be hitting into those things.Jason: I dig your focus but think you may be biting off more than you can chew. Limit it to Dylan/Lennon + Woodstock (your 60s stuff) and use it as point of departure for current claims you make of political activism. Here, I'd keep the focus on Franti and Rage. In fact, I'd use Dylan/Lennon as framing ideas (ie, here's the "stew" that Woodstock arose in), much like I'd use all the other current artists you mention as "frame" ideas for Rage and Franti. You should do a bit more research on the political backgrounds/histories of the 60s, Dylan and Lennon. There's a documentary called The US v. John Lennon that might be of interest. Dylan's going to be more difficult to pin down as he's claimed to be apolitical. There's plenty of Dylan books out there (a decent amount of Lennon ones, and many on the politics of the 60s and its intersection with music)--dig into these.Kate: I like your frame--not much has changed--but I think you may have chosen something a bit too big. I'd down-shift. Here's what I see you saying: in a couple key areas (fashion, the "lifestyle") things haven't changed much, and one can see that by looking at previous documentaries of 60s and current music stars. I think that statement will take you an entire paper to support. Check out the book Rock Over the Edge, available at UK library. Dan: Stick with the rock/punk moment. Seventies music. Check out Mikal Gilmore, who has written a bit about rock's move to punk. There's a lot of writing on punk as a movement--dig into it. It will help you think through your ideas. I'd think of the Woodstock/Joe Strummer documentaries here. There's a good Sex Pistols documentary that also touches on punk's move away from what rock evolved into over the course of the 60s.