I studied American Studies at Miami University in the early 90s. My interest was in American popular culture, material culture and how architecture both informs us culturally and is a physical tie to our past. I wanted to go on and pursue a PhD in American Studies, but a long illness my senior year and lack of resources made me rethink that plan.
I was very lucky to have a number of influential visiting instructors. One such instructor, who taught AMS 201, did a retrospective of American music. We studied the history of the time and how it influenced the music of the time. Anyone who thinks art - be it visual, musical, literary or otherwise happens purely for arts sake is just deluding themselves. Just as Wagner was part of the Nazi machine, people like Arlo Gutherie and earlier still Woody Gutherie and Pete Seeger are in many cases speaking out the policies and ideals of the American government or GASP! just trying to be evocative and get others to think about it. Art should, at its best, challenge us.
Part of how artists do that is through chronicling events, making connections and perhaps even being provocative. I would argue the Peter Seeger song below is very provocative and lest anyone wonder, yes he did it on purpose. Protest songs are angry reactions. Satire is something else entirely. Satire is provocative and yet it is subversive too. Satire isn't true or untrue, it is satire... it is the art of being subversive and provocative and making it funny. Smart people, clever people produce satire... they often poke fun at others. They amp up certain bits and pieces of the story, not only to be funny, but to make a point.
My music Monday submission today is a few songs... I hope you enjoy them... more importantly, I hope they make you think. The problems today, aren't really all that different... what does that say about the human condition, our reactions to and does it suggest a direction, are my questions to you?
Pete Seeger - What did you learn in school today?
Arlo Guthrie - City of New Orleans
(as a note - Woody is first chronologically, then Pete Seeger then Arlo, who is yes Woody's son.)