Sonnet H. Retman
Designed to provide the student an opportunity to concentrate on one specific aspect of American Ethnic Studies through a comparative, interdisciplinary approach.
Making a Scene: Girls and Boys Play Indie-Rock In this course, we will explore how “indie” artists and performers make local scenes and sometimes, also, make a living; how writing about “indie” music makes a scene; and how academics make scenes around “indie” music. Put differently, this class thematizes “the making of . . .” in relation to the cultural meanings, pre-histories and legacies of “indie rock,” using the story of Seattle’s Nirvana as a central point of entry. If Nirvana’s extraordinary success occurred in conjunction with Olympia, Washington’s Sleater-Kinney, the Riot Grrrl movement and an increasingly visible cadre of bands featuring women who rock nationwide, how did this moment come to be? What are its effects twenty years later? And where do race, sexuality, class and region fit into the picture? To grapple with these questions, we will contextualize 1980s and ‘90s “indie rock” by tracing the sonic and performance influences of a range of genres and sub-genres such as blues, gospel, estilo bravío, punk, disco, hip hop and metal. We will focus on cultures of performance and the politics of identity in music, always attending to the sound, structure and format of the music. We will explore the ways music builds community and creates a foundation for social justice movements. The class draws upon methodologies from cultural studies, popular music studies, ethnic studies, ethnomusicology, feminist and queer theory and performance studies to think through the innovative work of these performers and scenes. Our aim isn’t simply to review the criticism but to generate knowledge. As we listen to music, watch performances and read music journalism and scholarship, we will consider the pleasures and perils of music writing as a form of community building in our own praxis. This class is offered in coordination with the upcoming Women Who Rock Symposium to be hosted at the UW in February 2011 and the “Nirvana” exhibit opening at the EMP in March 2011.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Strong interest in racial formation through a cultural studies lens.
Class assignments and grading