Just to bring things in the class full circle, I wanted to share a photo from the Met’s Play it Loud exhibit: a pair of basses owned by Kim Gordon, whose memoir, of course, we read excerpts from.
The exhibit includes dozens of other instruments. It sometimes felt hard to believe that they’re all under one roof. For those of you who couldn’t make it, I highly recommend you check out the exhibit if you can!
Today I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and ended up having more fun then I thought. It was cool how a lot of popular rock and roll bands and artists came together to celebrate the history they had of distributing awesome music. I was awesome to see how Steve Miller made use of the electric guitar in his song “Fly Like an Eagle”. This music gave me a futuristic feel that I just really adored. Another song that caught my attention was Jimmy Page’s “Kashmir”. It made me flashback to memories I’ve had hanging out after school acting all cool and chill. This song even gave me confidence through times that were challenging and rough. Speaking of Jimmy Page, there was a mannequin portrayed as Jimmy Page posed as playing the guitar. It looked stylish and realistic with how the coat was made from leather and had flames on it. I really do appreciate the effort they put into detailing every aspect of his coat. When I Tom Morello was performing, he was using an effect pad to make it sound wacky and funky which was cool. It just shows that there are different ways you can play guitars rather than just using a base which was rather unique! There was a section that had many recognizable rock and roll posters from back then. Seeing all these posters made me nostalgic, I felt like I was back in the 1990s on the streets of New York seeing the poster for the very first time. Afterward, I visited the gift shop seeing many different souvenirs you could purchase to your liking. There was a miniature zebra guitar that was handcrafted from scrap. This was very interesting since this looks like something you would see out of a stop motion picture or show. Speak of the devil the store wasn’t only selling records and books, but also out of nowhere Bob Dylan T-Shirts. It was hilarious because I learned that Bob Dylan has a brand of his own T-Shirts, the same man who stole songs from artists and songwriters making them his own. Overall, I had a fun time going to this event. It was awesome to learn about the history of rock and roll but to also learn new things along the way. I’d totally recommend anyone to go here, it was worth the trip. If you or your friend enjoy listening to rock and roll, then this event is for you.
I choose the song, “Leaving on a jet plane” by John Denver, which is a sad romantic song and I can relate it on some point with our recent course “Vietgone”, a play written by Qui neng chen.
On one hand, this play shows the story of a guy name, Quang who is a pilot. He have a wife and two children but he had to leave them behind in vietnam during the the vietnamese war and was not able to go back because his helicopter was thrown into the sea by the American to make space for other aircrafts. Even though he have a chance to live peacefully in America, he still has a hope to fly back to vietnam to see his wife and children. In the play, Quang mentioned, “My country’s now fallen, a new mission’s now calling, America’s withdrawn, my call’s to finally come home and Trade in my gun for my son, my soldier’s life is now done Got 99 problems, but the war ain’t one I’ll hold my kids in my arms again—Do you hear me? Nothing stopping me—easily—Do you feel me? My family’s gonna be with me—Do you see me? Gonna make it back to my home—even if it kills me..” It shows that he still have a hope and still believing that he will fly back home to see his wife and children.
On the other hand, the song “leaving on a jet plane” by John Denver is also about a guy going to a war and he is not sure when he will be back again to see his love. In this song, it says “Oh, kiss me and smile for me, Tell me that you’ll wait for, me Hold me like you’ll never let me go, ‘Cause I’m leaving’ on a jet plane, Don’t know when I’ll be back again, Oh babe, I hate to go, But, I’m leaving’ on a jet plane, Don’t know when I’ll be back again, Oh babe, I hate to go.” He has to leave with no choice but he don’t want to go and stay apart from his love. It shows that he has a hope to see his love again but not sure when that time will be. Therefore we can totally relate it with Vietgone, consiquences made them far away yet hope to see their love ones.
Avicii – The Nights closely related “Vietgone” by Qui Nguyen by living at the moment for your life and don’t be afraid of what you find and live your life at the fullest even during at a new place and starting a new life. This also says’’ when face to face with all our fearsLearned our lessons through the tears Made memories we knew would never fade” related to the poem in ‘’Vietgone” living through a refugee camp and living a faraway land without knowing their culture. The Night and Vietgone are similar telling it the reader to live at the moment and you only live once.
Your in-class final exam asks you to write a short essay (roughly 4-6 paragraphs) discussing how the excerpts from White Teeth represent themes of cultural essentialism and cultural hybridity. We should, therefore, define these terms and begin thinking about how they apply to White Teeth.
At risk of defining the concept in a circular way, in cultural studies, “essentialism” refers to the idea that cultures have unchanging “essences.” An “essentialist” argument would assume that there are distinct, separable, and “natural” elements that define a given culture.
By contrast, the term cultural hybridity refers to an “anti-essentialist” position: the idea that cultural “essences” do not exist. Anti-essentialists deny that cultural identity is inherent and instead focus on how culture is historical—that is, how cultures are socially constructed and change over time. Cultural hybridity, by extension, names the ways that cultures and cultural identities are always “mixed” and “fragmented” and never “pure” or “stable.”
As we turn to White Teeth, we can see that the main character of this section of the novel, the Bangledeshi immigrant Samad Iqbal, struggles to negotiate his “essentialist” sense of cultural identity with his “hybrid” existence in London. Let’s consider, in more detail, how.
Since our current essay project asks you to become a “music critic” and consider why Qui Nguyen presents Vietgone (a Vietnam War-era story) in a seemingly anachronistic hip hop/rap style, we’ll need to think more closely about how his choice of musical genre reflects the broader themes of migration in the play. To do so, let’s get creative.
For this exercise, the class will be broken into four groups. As a group, you will be assigned a passage from Vietgone‘s “Music Cue 03,” Quang and Tong’s rap “I’ll Make it Home.” Then, you will be assigned a musical genre (options might include country, hair metal, jazz crooner, folk, grunge, disco, you get the idea). Your task will be to rewrite the passage, adapting it to the conventions of your assigned musical genre.
You’ll have to consider what stylistic conventions characterize your assigned genre and how they might be used to express the themes of migration and homesickness in “I’ll Make it Home.” You don’t necessarily have to rewrite the passage line by line (this would take too long). A representative verse and/or chorus will do—and you can define this in a way that makes sense for your genre.
After we share our adapted lyrics, we’ll move on to part two of the exercise. Here, you will compare and contrast your adapted lyrics and musical genre to the original lyrics and Nguyen’s chosen genre of hip hop. How would writing Vietgone in your assigned genre have changed the tone and representation of themes in the play? What does hip hop as a genre offer thematically that your assigned genre doesn’t? Use these reflections to collaboratively write a few sentences that make an argument about why Nguyen might have chosen to represent Vietgone in a hip hop style rather than in another genre.
White Teeth is the 2000 novel by British writer Zadie Smith. We’ll only have time to read a relatively short excerpt, the second section “Samad: 1984, 1857” (pps. 103-217). I think this passage works well on its own. Nonetheless, since we’re skipping part one (which I invite you to read if you’d like to and have the time), I thought it would be useful to provide you a quick summary of what leads up to this section. Without further ado:
White Teeth, set primarily in London, follows the relationship of two families, the Joneses and the Iqbals. Broadly, the novel engages themes of migrant and British identity.
The novel opens on New Year’s Eve 1975 with middle-aged Englishman Archie Jones’ failed suicide attempt. Saved by a Muslim butcher (who believes a suicide in his parking lot would not be “halal”), Archie is given a new lease on life. He wanders into a New Year’s Eve party and meets Clara Bowden, a young woman of Jamaican descent. Archie is smitten by her beauty save for one detail: her missing front teeth. Nonetheless, the two quickly marry.
The novel then moves backward to give us Clara’s backstory. Raised in London by her mother as a strict Jehovah’s Witness, she rebels by carrying on a relationship with Ryan Topps, a “mod” with a scooter whom Clara regards as exciting and “dangerous.” After the two are involved in a scooter accident (which knocks out Clara’s front teeth), an ironic reversal takes place: shocked by the near-death experience and believing it a sign that he is one of “God’s elect,” Ryan becomes a devout Jehovah’s Witness. Clara, by contrast, completely loses her faith and takes up with hippies and bohemians. Amongst this company at the “End of the World” New Year’s Eve party (named so because of a Jehovah’s Witness belief that the world would end in 1975), Clara meets Archie. They eventually have a child, Irie, who remains troubled by her dual identity as she grows throughout the novel.
Unlike his daughter, Archie is completely uncurious about his origins and sense of identity. Indeed, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to describe Archie as the most boring man in the world. Strangely for a protagonist, his only distinguishing characteristic is his inability to make decisions: he always, instead, flips a coin to avoid taking any solid positions.
The novel contrasts Archie to his best friend, the Bangladeshi immigrant Samad Iqbal, the both of whom met serving in Europe during World War II. When we meet Samad, he is working as a waiter in a British Indian restaurant, a job he detests because of his educated upbringing. Samad also believes that he descends from a great lineage of Indian patriots dating back to the 1857 Mutiny against British rule. Unlike Archie, Samad is obsessed with knowing “where he comes from” and maintaining a “pure” sense of Bengali and Muslim identity despite residing in Britain. He and his wife Alsana (who were wedded in an arranged marriage) have twins, Millat and Magid, whose lives go in two completely different directions. We’ll learn more about Samad, Millat, and Magid in the assigned section.
The song I chose that relates to “Vietgone” by Qui Nguyen is called “Hit em up” from Tupac, on page 11 Quang starts rapping his freestyle he entitles “Blow em up”. When I first read the title it automatically brought me back to one of my favorite diss tracks of all time called “hit em up”. The resemblance between the two names are uncanny, especially when you start to listen to what the two songs are about. It was hard not to choose “hit em up” as the song that reminds me of this part of the book. In Tupac’s, “hit em up” he starts to rap and diss Biggie Smalls and the whole east coast. Tupac held a grudge against Biggie because of a shooting that Tupac believes Biggie was behind, so he goes after him in the best way he possibly could by expressing himself through music. Quang also talks about going to his adversaries with death in mind, for example, Quang expresses his patriotism in this passage “.. Shot up by the Viet Cong they stole my peeps freedom so I’m coming to kill them call me their arch-villain can’t stop me I’m willin to die for this vision..”, he describes his feeling towards his enemies and also gives insight into why he hates them, very similar to how Tupac speaks about his. Tupac speaks about bringing drama to the city of New York and he does not care who stands in his way as does Quang. In Quang ‘Blow em up’ freestyle, he does not hold back in admitting that he wishes to bring harm to his enemies including shooting them up. Quang has his sidekick as Tupac had his outlaw posse. The Viet Cong is Tupac “Biggie Smalls/Bad boys”. Both “Hit em up” by Tupac and “Blow em up” by Quang part from the book have too many similarities and there couldn’t be a better song that fits with Quang’s description from his freestyle in my opinion.
KISS’S song “Detroit Rock City” reminds me closely of Qui Nguyen’s play “Vietgone” Qui’s parents always told him they fell in love at first sight—but really, it was just a hook up. After the fall of Saigon. In a refugee camp. In Arkansas. A kinda-true love story with a hip-hop heart. Time Out New York called it “Exuberantly youthful… a punch-drunk mash-up of hip-hop, road movies, sex farce and Vietnamese-American history. Oh, also kick-ass fights.” I associate this play with this specific KISS song because when i hear it i think about being on the road with my friends, the person who im in love with and having the time of our lives. Its the perfect road movie song, with kiss ass scenery. The whole vibe of Vietgone is that these two characters hooked up with each other and fell in love later on along the lines. That is what KISS’s song “Detroit Rock City” is all about, getting up and going every single day, and not being worried about what IS gonna happen tomorrow.
FRIDAYS 9:15 A.M. TO 12:45 P.M. // PROF. MICHEAL RUMORE