Music Forum: Instant Insanity – Blackness, Civic Pop, and Sonic Historiography

Date(s) - 03/04/2016
2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Rm. 3491 (Large Seminar Rm.), Graduate Center

Guest Speaker: Michael Gillespie, Black Studies and Media Studies, City College


This talk is focalized around black performative disobedience and music’s historiographic capacity. It begins with Nina Simone’s first attempt to cover Judy Cllins’s “My Father.” A failed take, a disobedient cover, Simone’s refusal to inhabit the cover conceit is done so on the grounds that her blackness will not allow her to do so. Her sounding black difference serves as my presentation’s thesis, a focus on three instances of black music and performance as  seditious excess. My three objects for consideration are the following: the performance by the Harlem Boys and Girls Choir at the “Prayer for America” service in Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2001; “Major Moments of Instant Insanity, a Detroit techno meditation on September 11th by Theo Parrish; and Lars von Trier’s use of David Bowie’s “Young Americans” during the closing credits of Manderlay (2006). My talk’s narrative arc considers how these disparate musical acts together offer a richly textured consideration of the memorial function of 9/11 music, civic pop, pleasure, and historical consciousness.



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