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E x e c u t i v e S u m m a r y
Singing in the Echo Chamber
Who is to say when musical performance is too violent, too sexual, or carries
"dangerous" political or social messages? If a performer pumps their fist in the air
during a performance, who is to say that the act is implicitly violent or a call for
political dissent? Even if the performer didn't intend it to mean this, is it appropri-
ate to consider alternative interpretations? And when someone in power makes
such a declaration, should those judgment calls be accepted blindly by others?
Does a society have a call to action when anyone interprets a musical expression to
contain messages that, arguably, are not apparent to others or are not in line with
the stated intention of the performer? In post-September 11
America, rarely do
the pundits and analysts stop to ask these questions.
When four hijacked commercial airliners crashed in three different locations in
the Northeast United States, it ended the lives of 3,123 people, yet irrevocably
changed the lives of more than 260 million others. Within hours of the attacks, the
discussion concerning the long-term impact on free expression and personal
privacy became heated and intense.
In the weeks, months, and years since the September 11
attacks in New York
and Washington, many Americans had revisited their principles regarding nation-
al security, personal privacy, and preemptive military action. At every marker
along this journey, musicians had participated directly and indirectly in the public
discourse, both through word and song. As a result of their outspoken actions,
many musicians had experienced strong resistance, sometimes resulting in censor-
Heated political discourse is everywhere in American media, often enjoyed less
as news and more as entertainment or sport. But instead of discussing issues in
depth, these opinion makers tend to cycle through the same stories, quotes, and
perspectives offered elsewhere. Often times, once a news story enters the main-
stream media, it is repeated, practically verbatim, in thousands of news and infor-
mation outlets.