Musical Dialogues: A Student Arts Research Symposium

Bringing Together St. Olaf & Carleton Students

Paper Abstracts

Madeleine Folkerts and Emma Goodwin – Musical Genre Influences Perception of Film

Music alters perception of film, adding emotional cues which affect emotions and expectations. We investigated the nature of this relationship, examining how different genres of music affect perception ratings of a film. Using a between-groups, posttest only design, pop, reggae, and classical music were paired with a short, neutral film and rated on a scale from 1-9 on measures of Evaluation, Potency, and Activity. Reggae music elicited the strongest reaction from participants, scoring highest on the Evaluation and Potency scales. The reggae and classical genres received significantly higher ratings on the Evaluation scale, meaning that the film was perceived as more pleasant overall when paired with those two genres. The significant effect of genre of music on perception of film shows that perception can be manipulated by music.


Cole SwansonBritten and Moonrise Kingdom: Recapturing Innocence and Imagination

Throughout his life, Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) devoted a large part of his creative output to children. Whether he was writing pieces about youth, works directed at a young audience, or music for children to actually perform, the themes of childhood, innocence, and juvenile playfulness were virtually omnipresent. This interest is rediscovered in the 2012 Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom, a film that was lauded for (among other things) Anderson’s extensive use of Britten’s music, which Anderson suggests forms part of the film’s narrative structure, as he said in an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air in May of 2012: “The movie’s sort of set to it… It is the color of the movie in a way.”

But what tangible evidence is there for this claim? And what relevant connections are there to Britten and his art? His personal life reflected this interest, and to this point he surrounded himself with young people, relishing in their games, jokes, and somewhat immature mindsets. As Phillip Brett suggests, Britten was enthralled “by the notion of return to a perfect state symbolized by childhood”; in other words, Britten wanted to use both his personal life and his music to recapture a creative and imaginative spark that he had lost since his juvenilia. Is it possible that Anderson, in telling this unique story about childhood, is pursuing something similar?

In this presentation I will explore Anderson’s use of Britten’s music in the film, interpreting its contributions to the narrative while also noting similarities in the artistry of Anderson and Britten that illustrate comparable creative philosophies. I will utilize biographical information on both artists and other scholarly interpretations to ultimately show how these two creative forces unite through imagination and play.


Grace Fremont – “It’s Nothing Personal”: Gender and Labor in The Pajama Game

Anxieties about the roles of women in post-WWII America caused a backlash of socially conservative media in the 40s and 50s. Musicals featuring working women often placed these characters back in traditional feminine roles by the end of the story. The 1957 movie adaptation of The Pajama Game, however, takes advantage of its post-war context and the star persona of Doris Day to push these boundaries and offer a refreshingly progressive and empowering portrayal of women. Centered around a labor dispute at a factory with primarily female workers, The Pajama Game blurs the gendered dichotomy of personal/professional. This intermixing can be most directly seen in the relationship between leads Babe and Sid, who are not only lovers but also leaders on opposite sides of the labor dispute. Their relationship is referred to as “nothing personal” – indeed, it is inherently professional, as connected to the political plot as it is to the romantic plot. As “the sweetheart of local 343 Associated Garment Workers of North America”, Babe defies traditional gender roles (and the conventions of the 50s musical) by prioritizing her professional role over her personal relationship. However, while The Pajama Game may be more progressive in its depictions of gender and labor than most 50s musicals, it is unable to entirely break free from the conventions of the medium. In this paper, I argue that the mixed social and romantic plot lines culminate not in a subversion of expectations but rather in compromise: a narrative that is simultaneously progressive and traditional, empowering but safe.


Sophia ButlerCultural Pluralism in Folk Revival

The Folk Revival of the 1950s and 1960s set a movement of music making in motion that valued cultural pluralism and democracy. As part of the counter-culture movement, white, middle-class young people desired a more inclusive and diverse perspective, and therefore appreciated seeing representatives from other cultures perform their folk music at venues such as the Newport Folk Festival. In contrast, today’s folk artists embrace cultural pluralism by blending multiple cultural styles in their music and performing covers that create new meanings and identities. So though folk musicians and audiences remain a vibrant community today, through forces like technological advances and commercialization, cultural pluralism manifests much differently in today’s folk music.

This modern manifestation of pluralism brings up many questions: How can cultural understanding be communicated through music? What constitutes authenticity in folk revival? Is hybridity of style merely a mirror for dominant cultures’ appropriation and exploitation of the Other’s music? Recent artists such as Darol Anger and the Carolina Chocolate Drops exemplify these tensions in their work, showing the perspective of both white and black folk bands, respectively. Drawing on examples of these artists’ music, their reception, the historical perspective of the 1950s Folk Revival, and scholarship about the implications of covers, technology, and commercialization in folk music, this paper seeks to clarify issues related to seeking and finding cultural pluralism in folk music. By exploring the complex answers to these issues, I argue that the challenge to authentically represent folk styles to audiences limits the ability for folk music to uphold cultural pluralism.


Keynote speaker: Mark Clague, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – “This Is America”: Jimi Hendrix’s Reimaginings of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Woodstock and Beyond

An act of both patriotism and protest, Jimi Hendrix’s ideology-shattering rendition of the U.S. national anthem at Woodstock in 1969 is only the best known of more than sixty Banner performances by the iconic psychedelic guitarist. Analyzing both studio takes and commercial releases as well as surviving live audience tapes featuring not only anthem renditions but the stage banter Hendrix used to introduce them, this paper proposes that the dominant mythology surrounding the Woodstock Banner has distorted our understanding of what was Hendrix’s two-year fascination with “The Star-Spangled Banner” from August 1968 to his death. Rather than a single, soaring improvisation, Hendrix’s renditions draw from a precomposed set of sonic possibilities in which melody, form, quotation, pictorialism, and ornament were reimagined week-to-week and night-to-night as a changing portrait of nation that pictured not only developments in the struggle for Civil Rights and the war in Vietnam, but local histories, happenings, and even personal details from Hendrix’s biography.

I argue that as an ongoing process of commentary, the many Hendrix Banners move deftly between protest and patriotism. At once, Hendrix’s reconceptions show great sensitivity to Francis Scott Key’s lyric while exploding this text to question who is American and how one should practice the art of citizenship. This paper reconsiders the Woodstock Banner in context of Hendrix as a political commentator by comparing this singular, well-known version to dozens of lesser-known renditions that shed light on his thought and artistry. I argue that Hendrix’s Banners start as an offshoot of the eulogistic Civil War bugle call “Taps” and develops in an aesthetic of free jazz as a wide-ranging pictorial improvisation. By Woodstock, Hendrix’s Banner has coalesced as a tone poem, offering an eloquent statement that resonated deeply with the counter-cultural energies of Woodstock as youth utopia.

Yet most fans experienced the Woodstock Banner not at the festival—which ran behind schedule such that Hendrix’s closing set did not occur until Monday morning after most had left the mud and rain behind—but through the 1970 documentary film Woodstock, for which Hendrix’s anthem performance serves as narrative and musical apex. For Hendrix’s 1970 The Cry of Love tour, which followed the film’s release, his Banner renditions became increasingly calcified as an echo of Woodstock, but retained a political edge as part of an explicitly anti-war closing set, including “Machine Gun” and “Purple Haze.” The analysis concludes that the Woodstock Banner is an optimistic outlier—less a musical vision of dystopia than a statement of protest catalyzing hope toward a future America shaped by psychedelic activism.


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