1:30 p.m. Friday, March 3
• The Joseph and Frances Jones Poetker Thinking About Music Lecture Series •
MOURNING AND MANEUVERING: MUSICAL PRACTICE AND THE NEW TRAUMAS OF RECONSTRUCTION
Thomas Kernan, Associate Dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts and Associate Professor of Music History at Roosevelt University
In recent years American journalists, activists, and scholars have devoted significant attention to identifying, examining, and in many cases removing statues of Confederate Civil War generals from public spaces. One element of the case for statue removal has been that most of these statues never held a close chronological connection to the war; rather, they were the products of twentieth-century segregationists. This is an important point, as it demonstrates the way in which segregationists activated war memory to make overtly racist claims many decades later. However, the argument about the comparatively late arrival of these statues to public squares often obscures our understanding of a different type of commemoration—an aural one—that occurred in these same locales.
Decades prior to placement of a bronze Robert E. Lee or marble Stonewall Jackson, many American parks, plazas, and boulevards where marked as commemorative spaces hostile to Black life. Musical compositions and performances, perhaps more holistically than other types of sources, allow us to recognize the ways in which spaces that excluded Black Americans during the period of slavery were swiftly reaffirmed as places hostile to Black lives during Reconstruction. To this end, the trauma of having a Confederate monument in a public space in 2022 is connected to a consistent trauma of having had crowds of people singing songs of the segregationist narrative during the crucial interregnum of Reconstruction. While physical monuments were added later, they had musical precursors that are relevant in recognizing the ways in which musical practices predate physical manifestations of Confederate commemoration.
Location: Baur Room