Students write original songs for protest and social commentary | Insider WSU

From the morality of science and the banality of pandemic lockdown to struggles with money, the police, queerness, and being the only girl in the group – the various subjects of songs composed by college students of Washington State reflect a wide range of social concerns and music created to appeal to them.

Demonstrating the knowledge and skills they learned from music instructor Gabe Condon’s Songwriting II course this spring, 11 emerging songwriters will present a virtual showcase of their original compositions recorded at 7:30 p.m. on the WSU YouTube channel. School of Music.

For their synthesis project, the students wrote songs focusing on topics of protest and social commentary, one of the many thematic areas they studied in the semester course.

“Given many recent and back-to-back events and social unrest – including COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the election of a new US president – it seemed appropriate for the students to examine the historical context of the protest music and its connection to modern music. social movements and modern songwriting, ”Condon said.

In addition to studying popular songs focusing on topics such as love and loss across several genres including jazz, folk, soul, rock, and hip-hop, Condon students explored the ways in which prominent American songwriters, such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Stevie Wonder, have approached a range of social issues in their compositions. They also studied how the music used by Black Lives Matter Movement protesters connects to the tradition of black protest music in the United States, and discussed how musicians, as artists, can approach current events and social movements in their composition.

Close up of Gabe Condon
Gabe Condon

“I was very impressed by the students’ discussions on these complex and important topics, and I was inspired by their compositions, which effectively utilize the musical philosophies and techniques studied in class,” said Condon.

“Protest music gives voice to the frustrations and concerns associated with social movements. Music has a unique way of reaching people, which I believe can make people more open and receptive to new ideas and to listening to the experience of others.

During the Vietnam War, for example, some songs advocating an end to the war painted images of the horrific events that American soldiers faced, while other songs called for peace, Condon said.

“A common thread of all protest music is its ability to unite people,” he said. “Protest music allows people to connect, come together around a shared musical experience and unite around the ideas shared in the songs. Moreover, the music is addressed to people outside a given social movement in a way that political speeches cannot. “

The power to build a community

For major musical composition America Hoxeng, the power of song in building community is significant.

“I think music really helps build community and helps people come together for a cause,” said Hoxeng, a junior from Vancouver, Washington. “I remember reading people in the 1950s and 1960s during the civil rights movement who wrote about everything that was going on and had the music to help them get through this difficult time, and it still holds true today. . You see songs on, like, the Black Lives Matter movement that really make an impact. “

She pointed out that Childish Gambino’s 2018 hit song “This Is America” was one that “people still talk about when the topic of racial injustice comes up. I think it’s really important.

Hoxeng, who sings and plays the piano, wrote a song about the tension between the ethical use of scientific knowledge and the attraction of fame and glory. It begins:

Close up of America Hoxeng
America Hoxeng

Science always starts with a dream

A passion for all living things

A wonder to love and to give

The power to change everything

You fall in love with war

And you forgot why we fight

And then all of a sudden

You are everything that you swore not to be

For music composition major Letícia Monteiro, a senior from Sammamish, Washington, examining familiar pop tunes in class provided some revelation.

“We talked about ‘Where Is the Love’ by The Black Eyed Peas (2009), and I remembered the chorus but nothing else. I realized that I had never really paid attention to the verses and once I did I was like, ‘Oh, this touches on difficult topics. It’s like a good serious song. And also the bass line was really interesting for me.

Monteiro’s first lyrical song is about wealth and self-esteem. It begins:

Close-up of Letícia Monteiro
Letícia Monteiro

It’s hard being a college kid, you always tell her what’s most important.

It doesn’t help that all we can think about is how much is left in our pockets.

People cannot get enough insulin and an ambulance costs a thousand dollars.

Why do we think all is well?

Maybe I don’t understand.

I just don’t understand.

Maybe I don’t understand.

I just think …

It’s funny that we decide our value based on what’s in our wallets.

Would you feel like you had value without it?

Jacob Wade, a sophomore civil engineering student from Kingston, Wash., Has written about dealing with boredom during the wider COVID-19 shutdown.

“I was like, ‘Okay, what am I dealing with? I’m sure other people feel that way and I can tell they’re not alone, ”said Wade, who is studying music for a minor degree.

“I think music can be a backbone that people rely on. Music can also advance ideas and really get a message across, whether it’s in the form of protesters chanting or chanting “Kumbaya” – you know, whatever you want and how you want to take it.

Among Wade’s favorite songs is “The Times They Are a Changing” by Bob Dylan. “I feel like it can mean a lot of different things,” he said. “It’s very open to interpretation, which is a very good aspect to have in your music. People can feel a wide variety of things about it and none of it is right. “

For the project, several student songs were professionally recorded using the WSU recording studio, with the help of studio technician and coordinator David Bjur.

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