War Panel

Sunday, April 15, 9:30am
Room 1145
Shari Sanders, chair

"'The Narrative of a Belated Experience': Mourning the Allied Bombings in/through Rudolf Mauersberger's Dresdner Requiem"

Martha Sprigge, Music History & Theory
University of Chicago

On February 13th, 1949—four years after the Allied bombing of Dresden during World War II—the Dresden Kreuzchor performed Rudolf Mauersberger's Dresdner Requiem amid the ruins of the Kreuzkirche. With the political fault-lines of the Cold War hardening around them and the traumas of the war still fresh in their minds, the citizens of Dresden led a candlelit procession through the city to hear the Requiem, initiating a ritual of remembrance that has continued to the present day. Each time the Requiem is performed it enacts several mourning processes simultaneously.

This paper considers how local, liturgical and personal symbols of loss interact in Mauersberger's compositional choices, establishing an interlocking network of interpretations for Dresden's moment of crisis. Annual performances of the work played an important role in the commemorative calendar of the newly-formed German Democratic Republic (GDR), becoming part of anti-fascist propaganda. Yet for Mauersberger, the grief that inspired this work was intensely personal. It was written in the wake of the Allied bombings, in which the composer lost eleven members of the church choir he had been directing since being appointed cantor in 1930. Dresden audiences could relate to these personal losses, allowing them to stand in for, and adding them to, their own. The Requiem also served the grieving needs of German citizens beyond Dresden, as an artistic symbol of the event often labeled the "German Hiroshima."

Using Cathy Caruth's notion of trauma as "the narrative of a belated experience," I examine how Mauersberger's Dresdner Requiem enabled the mourning process through its annually repeated performances. My study builds on recent work by Maria Cizmic and Amy Wlodarski, who illustrate how traumatic experiences can shape musical ones. I suggest that Mauersberger's Dresdner Requiem acted as a "performing cure" for the citizens of Dresden—analogous to the "talking cure" in psychoanalysis—providing a musical space to work through personal and collective losses.

"The Japanese American Internment Expressed Through Hip-Hop: Mike Shinoda and 'Kenji'"

Sarah Moody, Musicology
San Diego State University

Asian Americans have been contributing to American history and culture for hundreds of years, yet still face exclusionary oppression in American popular music genres. As ethnomusicologist Deborah Wong suggests, Asian American are participating in and contributing to American music genres but continually meet resistance, specifically in the jazz and hip-hop genres. The forced relocation and imprisonment of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States during World War II significantly impacted the formulation of post-World War II Japanese American cultural identity. The personal pain and significant property and financial loss caused by the forced relocation and incriminating accusations hurled against over 110,000 Japanese Americans, many of whom were American citizens, could not be erased by reparation payments and official apologies issued by the United States government in the following decades. The lasting impact of the internment period is echoed in American music, and can be heard in song narratives from a wide variety of musical genres, including 1960s folk, country western, and hip-hop. Mike Shinoda, a Japanese-American hip hop artist and member of the globally popular band Linkin Park, produced the rap "Kenji" in 2005, which documents the fear and shame experienced by those interned, specifically, the experiences of Shinoda's own family. "Kenji" features rhythmic ostinatos and instrumentation typical of rap, but also includes interview clips of camp survivors describing their experiences, which evokes a documentary effect similar to that created by Steve Reich's use of Holocaust survivor interviews in Different Trains (1988). The purpose of this research is to provide an analysis of "Kenji" which considers lyrics, melodic and rhythmic ostinatos, instrumentation, stop-time techniques, and the use of interview clips, and to contextualize Shinoda and "Kenji" in 20th century Asian American popular music history.

"'Beats, Rhymes, and Rice': Re-remembering the Viet Nam War through Nam's Hip-Hop Album, Exhale"

Jade T. Hidle, Literature
University of California, San Diego

Tethering literary analysis with historical and socio-economic research, my paper examines Nam's 2008 hip-hop album, Exhale, as a response to, and critique of, U.S.-centric historical narratives about the war in Viet Nam. Following the failure of its imperial project in Viet Nam, the U.S. propagated narratives in which the figure of the Vietnamese refugee is rendered a "model minority," a beneficiary of "The American Dream." Such renderings implicitly work to at once justify and silence the human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S. in Viet Nam—for example, the spraying of Agent Orange, which continues to cause fatal health problems for Vietnamese civilians and U.S. veterans alike—by refashioning the image of the U.S. from defeated invader to a benevolent victor charitable enough to welcome a displaced population. The creation of this "model minority" or "successful refugee" figure in U.S. historical discourse neglects the discrimination, poverty, and health problems (both physical and psychological) that Vietnamese Americans continue to face thirty-six years after the so-called "end" of the war. Nam's Exhale, particularly the track "Beats, Rhymes, and Rice," draws attention to the ongoing traumas and violence stemming from the U.S. invasion of Viet Nam, ultimately arguing that the war is not over. Through his pointed lyrics and purposeful beat-sampling, Nam likewise draws connections between the experiences of Vietnamese in the U.S. and in Viet Nam to underscore the transnational quality of a process-oriented identity formation that transcends the boundaries of the fixed, reductive category of "refugee." In my paper presentation, I will argue that Nam's album responds to the crisis of not only the continual traumas suffered by the war's participants and victims, but also the crisis of how to (re)remember the Viet Nam War, especially as it is repeatedly invoked in discussions of the current wars in the Middle East.

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