Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reboot; and, The Investigator

[yeah yeah yeah, apologies for long blog absence, grovel grovel grovel]

Other projects have kept me away from my book this past year, but as the summer comes to an end I'm finally turning back to it. Large chunks are written, and with a slightly less trying teaching schedule this year, I think if I can focus (always difficult for me!) and buckle down, having a complete draft by the end of next summer is not unreasonable. So as I try to think of ways in which this blog space might be useful for me, it seems like rather than providing an outlet for procastination, it could actually help me narrow and focus my writerly energies a bit. So, blog readers (if any be left), keep me honest: I'm going to post regular updates on my writing progress, and keep the content focused on the subject of my book: music and the cultural politics of McCarthyism. If I write anything here about music after 1954, slap me in the face, electronically or literally depending on your geographic distance. Okay? Alright.

So let me start off with my current task: re-writing the introduction. In addition to doing the usual literary maneuvers of an introduction--a snappy beginning, a discussion of theoretical apparatus, an overview of the chapters, etc.--one of the things my introduction needs to do is talk about "actual" music and McCarthyism. The scare quotes are there because not a whole lot of my work is actually about McCarthyism, per se, in the sense of discussing blacklisting of composers, or musical representations of McCarthyism, or heck, Joseph McCarthy's own personal musical taste. (I've never found any biographical discussion of the last point, but boy would I like to know more.) I'm not going to go into the lengthy discussion in this space of why that is (short version: it's not very interesting), but I do feel a bit obligated to cover some of that stuff in the intro. I talk a little bit about blacklisting in popular music, but also about this amazing artifact:

There is very, very little music that is literally "about" McCarthyism, in the way that the film and theater world very quickly responded to the situation. But here is one! To a point--it is actually a radio play, although it does have an original score. It was written by Reuben Ship, a leftie writer from Canada who was deported out of the US in the early 50s for working to unionize the television industry. His response was The Investigator, a very thinly-veiled portrait of McCarthy, broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1954. Although never broadcast in the US at the time, an LP was released, and I bought a copy on eBay. For more, including the complete recording, see Gerald Gross's short article, or this very thorough Wikipedia entry. Or, read my book someday!

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