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Ecomusicology: Rock, Folk, and the Environment

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 242
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Can musicians really make the world more sustainable? Anthropologist Mark Pedelty, joined an eco-oriented band, the Hypoxic Punks, to find out. In his timely and exciting book,Ecomusicology, Pedelty explores the political ecology of rock, from local bands to global superstars. He examines the climate change controversies of U2's 360 Degrees stadium tour-deemed excessive by some-and the struggles of local folk singers who perform songs about the environment. In the process, he raises serious questions about the environmental effects and meanings on music.Ecomusicologyexamines the global, national, regional, and historical contexts in which environmental pop is performed. Pedelty reveals the ecological potentials and pitfalls of contemporary popular music, in part through ethnographic fieldwork among performers, audiences, and activists. Ultimately, he explains how popular music dramatically reflects both the contradictions and dreams of communities searching for sustainability.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0713-9
    Subjects: Music, Biological Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    U2 hates the planet. At least their 360° Tour made it seem that way. With “a steel structure rising 150 feet from the floor over a massive stage with rotating bridges” (U2 Station website), the band’s stadium show was the height of industrial excess. This giant stage apparatus was erected before each show, disassembled afterward, and trucked on to the next city. David Byrne criticized U2’s tour as “excessive” (New Musical Express2009a):

    Those stadium shows may possibly be the most extravagant and expensive (production-wise) ever: $40 million to build the stage and, having done the math, we estimate 200...

  5. 1 Pop Goes the Planet: Global Music and the Environmental Crisis
    (pp. 13-48)

    A long line of cars motored slowly down the road. It was a burning hot day in the high desert of Washington State, July 30, 2011. The metal pilgrims inched toward their holy shrine, the Gorge, a natural amphitheater on the Columbia River. Sound garden’s faithful fans would be ritually released that night, their troubled minds and aging bodies forgotten with the assistance of grunge metal’s high priests. The fans’ liberated spirits would soar above the Gorge, floating on dry ice vapors and a haze of cannabis smoke.

    The cars were still crawling past young women in yellow safety vests...

  6. 2 The Musical Nation: Popular Music and the American Soundscape
    (pp. 49-82)

    This chapter is about the ecological implications of American popular music. The journey will take us from Joe Hill to Ke$ha, from purple mountain majesties to the National Mall. The chapter will also feature the voices and perspectives of American activists. However, we will start with the songs that connect America, a nation of people, to America, the land.

    “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America,” and “This Land Is Your Land” present three distinctly different representations of America. They represent America not only as a nation, but also as nature. Written on Pikes Peak as the lyricist looked down at...

  7. 3 Regional Geography in Song: Music Makes Place
    (pp. 83-128)

    Musicians transform geographic regions into living myths. For example, Greek lyricists provided mythic histories for ancient Mediterranean landscapes. Homer’s sung poetry gave the Mediterranean world new meaning, rooting contemporaneous imaginations in lyrical histories that seemed to reach back to the beginning of time. His songs connected people to place, and still do. The soundscape has changed, and the ancient Greek’s musical sound is largely lost (Ingalls 1999, 392), but Homer’s words have remained to take on new meanings in very old places.

    During the medieval period, itinerant minstrels sang playful ballads of epic battles, leaders, edicts, and natural disasters, paralleling...

  8. 4 Local Music: A Tonic for the Troops?
    (pp. 129-198)

    Previous chapters described music and musicians who have influenced people across the globe and nation. But what are the rest of us to do? What about local music, the kind that anyone can make? Theoretically, this is where music matters most, at least from an ecological perspective. It is where we live.

    Local music connects local people to local places, places in need of protection and stewardship. Music coheres and enlivens face-to-face communities, and it can inspire a shared sense of stewardship. There are countless ethnographic examples of music connecting small-scale communities to the world of life around them. Rather...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 199-204)

    After eight years, this research still feels incomplete. Despite a lot of hard work, I feel as if the project is just getting started. Of course, all musicians think that. Almost every musician I have met thinks that he or she is about to write, record, or perform a song that will capture the audience’s imagination or finally scratch their artistic itch. As a teenager I met one of the members of the McCoys in a Chicago suburb (not Rick Derringer; he went on to become a bigger rock star). The McCoys recorded the number-one hit “Hang on Sloopy” (1965,...

  10. References
    (pp. 205-220)
  11. Permissions
    (pp. 221-222)
  12. Index
    (pp. 223-229)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 230-230)