2 posts from January 2016

January 25, 2016

Race, Class, and Music in The Great Gatsby

Carrie Allen Tipton (Houston, TX)


Warner Brothers film trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (2013), featuring multiple musical excerpts (starting off with André 3000 and Beyoncé performing “Back in Black”).


The Great Gatsby turned ninety last year. What does its antihero—floating dead on a bloody mattress in the pool outside his nouveau riche palace, a casualty in some indirect sense of the American dream—have to say to us? Does his tale offer any relevant cultural critique to a nation nearly a century removed from its publication? We must think so, because we keep revisiting it: in English classrooms, in the iconic 1974 Robert Redford film, in John Harbison’s opera of the late 1990s, and in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film. The musical dimensions of these iterations loom large; Gatsby, shot through with references to the popular music of the jazz age, invites sonic treatment in a way that most of the American literary canon does not. Luhrmann’s film in particular opens an interpretive window onto how music functions rhetorically in the novel.

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January 19, 2016

"You Are the Lord, The Famous One"

Joshua Kalin Busman (University of North Carolina at Pembroke)

On New Year’s Day 2013, I filed into the lower deck of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, along with more than 65,000 young evangelical Christians from all over the United States. We were all there to attend a four-day concert known as the Passion Conference, one of a series of massive multi-day evangelical events that the Passion organization regularly convenes all over the world. Although they were founded only 15 years ago, the Passion Conference has rapidly become one of the most influential evangelical Christian groups on the planet. Events like the one in Atlanta regularly draw staggering numbers in Kiev, Tokyo, São Paulo, and Kampala. During the third night of the 2013 Passion event in Atlanta, the crowd was ecstatic to receive an unannounced performance from multi-platinum selling Christian rapper LeCrae. After performing several songs, LeCrae took a short break and addressed the crowd directly.

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