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>> 1 Introduction Anthem: Toward a Sound Franchise Get them to sing your songs and they’ll want to know who you are. —Paul Robeson Music is a method. Beyond its many pleasures, music allows us to do and imagine things that may otherwise be unimaginable or seem impossible. It is more than sound; it is a complex system of mean(ing)s and ends that mediate our relationships to one another, to space, to our histories and historical moment. The movement of music—not simply in response to its rhythms but toward collective action and new political modalities—is the central exposition of Anthem. Within the African diaspora, music functions as a method of rebellion, revolution, and future visions that disrupt and challenge the manufactured differences used to dismiss, detain, and destroy communities. The anthems developed and deployed by these communities served as articulations of defense and were so powerful that they took flight and were adopted by others. Marginalized groups around the world have taken advantage of the special alchemy that musical production demands, including the language, organized noise, and performance practices that represent, define, and instruct the performers and receivers of these musics. The statement by Paul Robeson used here as epigraph acknowledges these processes by situating music as a meaning-making endeavor, one that is strategically employed to develop identification between people who otherwise may be culturally, ideologically, or spatially separate or 2 > 3 mobilizations that often expand beyond the level of the nation, and their anthems are the sound texts that most poignantly record the political issues and contests that arise therein. Anthem investigates the music that organized the Black world in the twentieth century. As performative political acts, this music is able to mobilize Black populations in service of a particular set of goals through careful attention to and debate over intragroup conceptions of community, racial formation, and political affiliation. These anthems are transnational texts composed of a set of musical forms and a set of organizing strategies within Black movement cultures and are bound together by African derived performance techniques, Western art traditions , attachments to social justice organizations, iconic performers and performances, relationships to exile, and collective visions of freedom. In their performances around the world they take with them myriad histories and struggles that both ground and invent the audience’s relationship to their sociopolitical present. There is a politico-theological basis for the composition and performance of anthems that disrupts any easy categorization of Black-produced texts as such. Within the ancient Western traditions of the antiphon from which the word “anthem” derives, the call-and-response that lies at the center of Black musics was used as a response to a sovereign body, initially the godhead. The word of God was recited to the congregation , who in turn answered with their anthem, a song style that by the nineteenth century was delivered by a nation in response to their government . This type of response, whether it be to a God figure or state formation, relies upon performances of acquiescence and obedience, two techniques of survival under domination employed only selectively by the African descended. Black cultural practice was the release, the counternarrative that did not identify response as its sole, or even primary , imperative. There were other communicative and methodological strategies at play. Black anthems were not intended as responses to the state/nation, nor to local authorities, although their practice and performance by an organized group of Black women and men initiated an exchange between the surveilling and listening state (local, national, international) and the movement actor and/or organization.2 An inability to recognize the politico-sonic decentering of a governing subject of response (the Godhead/nation) by the African descended has led 4 > 5 announce their collectivity and to what political ends they would be mobilized. These conversations did not exist outside of the political geographies in which the performers gathered, yet neither were they defined by them. This “franchise” works inside of tension by signaling the presence of a state even as the Black anthems work against or in defiance of its privileges. Composed of a series of alternative performance practices developed and executed to counteract the violent exclusions and techniques of silencing contained within the governing structures of white supremacy, the sound franchise is also proactive and in advance of these codified structures because it works toward an ideal that exceeds the rights bestowed by any particular nation, thereby ushering its performers into formative international solidarities...


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MARC Record
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