Tag Archive | Film/Movies/Cinema

Manufacturing Rebellion, Censorship in Music

As someone who actively self-identifies against the form of cinema, I sure write a lot about it. I saw Pirate Radio last Thursday and it was great! Here’s the plot: Set in 1966, a group of British DJs are forced to the high seas to broadcast rock and roll music in a country where the airwaves are increasingly censored. In this context of surveillance and control, every time a record needle set into a groove, it was sexy. This got me thinking about context – music is always contextualized, and I suspect that when it fits within a drab or unappealing context, it becomes less glamourous.

So flash back, forward, or sideways into any example of rebellious music. Is the music itself glamourous, or is it the context? Rebellion has always been a central concept to the mythos of rock and roll, and often contextualized within ideas of censorship. Be it issues of race, class, gender, government, geography, technology, or mobility; the history of rock is littered with examples of ‘rebel’ musicians overcoming whatever forces of censorship attempt to limit and control their influence. This is a history that I identify with, and a mythology which I love. I worry however, that it has been largely staged, appropriated, and contextualized, in such a way that the industries driving it remain invisible.

Now, more than ever before, it has become clear that the theme of rock and roll rebellion has become moot – even deceptive. Rebellion has never been an artistic production, instead it has always been critical – subject to the contexts and biases of music critics and anthologies. If this seems pessimistic, that is because it is a challenge; who are the true rock and roll ‘rebels,’ and do they still make music?

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Juno and Antifolk: Pro-life?

This post is a bit out of date, considering that The Moldy Peaches were relevant about ten years ago, and that the movie Juno was released almost two years ago. The upswing to this is that if you missed it in theaters, you can easily get your hands on it through Netflix, a Red Box, or possibly even a Hollywood Video. Pros and cons aside, I need to describe my horror at the movie’s attempts to trick me into seeing it as an authentically “independent” production. Now wait — why does this chunk of cinema critique belong in a sound blog? The Trojan horse to indieville in this production is the soundtrack.

Basically, the soundtrack is chock full of figures from New York’s turn of the century antifolk family, including of course, seven(!#*!) by Kimya Dawson of the Moldy Peaches. I’m not an expert at what makes a movie soundtrack tick, but I contend that seven songs (and this is not counting collaborations, aliases, duets and covers) qualifies Juno as a Kimya Dawson themed movie. In lieu of that description however, the tag: anti-folk will suffice. Wikipedia summarizes anti-folk: “Anti-folk (or antifolk) is a music genre that takes the earnestness of politically charged 1960s folk music and subverts it. . .Nonetheless, the music tends to sound raw or experimental; it also generally mocks the seriousness and pretension of the established mainstream music scene.” Anti-folk works to destroy the mainstream, either musically or politically.

Given the fairly subversive nature of the soundtrack, one would expect Juno’s narrative to match ideologies. It does not, the film centers around quirky highschool drama a-la Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but ultimately ends with the protagonist advocating pro-life as opposed to pro-choice. Given that America’s pro-choice movement is in no way a dominant ideological paradigm, it is frustrating for me to witness anti-folk music working to subvert the movement through its intimate association with Juno.

In the clip below, Kimya Dawson justifies her presence in the Juno soundtrack. In many ways, the event is described as serendipitus and coincidental. Adam Green, also interviewed, admits to appreciating his newfound publicity. I feel deceived, if not by Juno, then by the ideology of anti-folk music, and it’s prophets: Adam Green and Kimya Dawson.

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