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California Polyphony

California Polyphony: Ethnic Voices, Musical Crossroads

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    California Polyphony
    Book Description:

    What does it mean to be "Californian"? California Polyphony: Ethnic Voices, Musical Crossroads suggests an answer that lies at the intersection of musicology, cultural history, and politics. Consisting of a series of musical case studies of major ethnic groups in California, this book approaches the notion of Californian identity from diverse perspectives, each nuanced by class, gender, and sexuality. _x000B__x000B_In the early twentieth century, the concept of the Pacific Rim and an orientalist fascination with Asian music and culture dominated the popular imagination of white Californians, influencing their interactions with the Asian Other. Several decades later, as tensions rose between the Los Angeles Police Department and the African American community, the once-thriving jazz and blues nightclub scene of 1940s Central Avenue became a primary target for law enforcement's anti-vice crusade. The reactionary nature of the musical scores for Hollywood's noir films of the World War II and postwar eras negotiated the perceived demise of white female sexuality in the face of black culture and urban corruption. Mina Yang also considers Mexican Americans' conflicted assimilation into the white American mainstream from the early 1900s through the 1970s, as well as contemporary Korean Americans' struggles to express their cultural and national identities through hip-hop, a genre usually associated with African Americans. _x000B__x000B_According to Yang, there has never been a straightforward definition of "Californian." This most populous and most affluent state in the Union has been setting musical and cultural trends for decades, and Yang's study thoughtfully illuminates the multicultural nature of its musics._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09297-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The importance of California on the international economic and political stage is undeniable. In the last few years, California and France have vied for and alternatively occupied fifth place in the world economic order. The wealthiest and most populous state in the Union, California enjoys political leverage that surpasses that of many first world nations. As the home of Hollywood and Silicon Valley, it plays just as significant a role in the international cultural marketplace, and in myriad small and big ways, its denizens influence how people in distant lands dress, talk, and think.

    California is also at the forefront...

  5. 1. The Early History of California Cultural and Musical Life
    (pp. 11-32)

    California’s population exploded during each of its boom periods, as immigrants from all over the world converged there in pursuit of the California dream, based half on truth and half on myth, of a land abundant in wealth and possibilities. The histories of the various groups who migrated to California from the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century were marred by conflicts between the old and new arrivals. The construction of culture involved the demarcation, reinforcement, and transgression of boundaries between the various constituencies, as Californians defined themselves as much by their differentiation from the other occupants of the increasingly...

  6. 2. The Transpacific Gaze: Orientalism, Queerness, and Californian Experimentalism
    (pp. 33-59)

    While the Anglo elite exerted considerable energy and allocated valuable resources to recreate European-styled bourgeois concert culture in the new state, other Californians were finding inspiration in the bounty of nonwestern musics transplanted into the American soil. In the first decades of the twentieth century, California experienced tremendous changes, with immigrants in the hundreds of thousands arriving from the rest of the United States and the world. Even as the power structure struggled to maintain the status quo by disenfranchising minority populations, state officials and the Chamber of Commerce constructed and projected the image of California as a multiethnic haven,...

  7. 3. A Thin Blue Line down Central Avenue: The LAPD and the Demise of a Musical Hub
    (pp. 60-79)

    While the Anglo elite turned toward Europe and the avant-garde toward Asia, California’s nonwhite peoples produced music that demonstrated the vitality of their communities and the rich rewards of intercultural collaboration. Such cultural exuberance was not always welcomed by the power structure, however, and music became another locus wherein minority communities were policed, regulated, and disenfranchised. In the 1940s, the expansion of black California, particularly apparent in the musical nightlife on Central Avenue, provoked strong reactions on the part of the white establishment. Even as some Anglo Californians, like Henry Cowell and his circle of experimental composers, celebrated nonwestern cultures...

  8. 4. Noir Entanglements: Black Music, White Women, and the Dark City
    (pp. 80-97)

    Because of the location of the film industry in Los Angeles, the battle between black music and the Anglo establishment did not remain a mere local conflict but rather was transferred onto celluloid and broadcast around the world. Throughout its checkered history, Hollywood has held up a mirror, as distorting and one-sided as it may be, that has captured in filmic images and sounds the vicissitudes of race relations in Southern California.

    At one time, Hollywood was a relative latecomer to the movie business, entering the field of competition over two decades after Thomas Edison had invented the moving picture...

  9. 5. From the Mission Myth to Chicano Nationalism: The Evolution of Mestizo Identities and Music
    (pp. 98-117)

    From the beginning of the United States’ occupation of California, race relations in this western outpost were much too complex to be cast as simply another iteration of the black/white conflict. Indigenous peoples and Spanish colonialists preceded the American entry into the region, and their descendants, along with immigrants from Latin America and other parts of the world, contributed their rich musical heritage to the Californian mix. As their numbers grew, so did the reaction of the Los Angeles oligarchy to their perceived threat. The Anglo establishment’s attempts to manage and neuter mestizo culture, as well as the Chicano resistance...

  10. 6. After Sa-i-ku: Korean American Hip-Hop since the Rodney King Uprising
    (pp. 118-136)

    The fragmentation of Los Angeles society into myriad splinters was made visible to the rest of the world in April 1992, as incessantly looped newsreels put on ignominious display the rioting, burning, and pillaging of South Central and Koreatown. Angelenos commemorated the tenth anniversary of the 1992 riots with multicultural events that symbolized the promises from all fronts to work toward racial and ethnic harmony. In one staged event, three violinists, one black, one Latino, and one Korean American, played Pachelbel’s Canon in D in a lot in front of a liquor store at the corner of Florence and Normandie...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 137-140)

    Just a few years after the September 11 attacks and about a dozen years after the Rodney King uprising, Hollywood produced two films set in Los Angeles that grapple with the city’s increasingly volatile race relations. InCrash(dir. Paul Haggis, 2004), Angelenos of various racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds collide calamitously, gaining little in the way of understanding or compassion for the other in their traumatic encounters.Collateral(dir. Michael Mann, 2004) is less overtly about race and difference, but perhaps for that very reason it succeeds in subverting existing racial paradigms with more nuance and subtlety. Under the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 141-164)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 165-178)
  14. Index
    (pp. 179-184)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 185-192)