04.04.2016 – Explanatory Essay

While exploring the different topics to research for this class, I found myself struggling to zero-in on a topic.  I managed to narrow down my topic of interest to exploring more about music because I am very interested in music; however, there is a lot that comes in to and out of the topic of music.  I knew that music would have a lot to work with—except, I did not expect there to be so much to research.  And all the different routes one can take with music.  One main route I want to take is to look at all the artist who were New York state residents.

When diving into the research, I thought that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 was a good place to explore.  I knew that the Woodstock Festival was in New York state, and that could help guide me to a more focused idea with local histories in Syracuse/New York.  However, Woodstock was more than just a music and art festival.  According to Jonathan Lipsin, a record store owner who attended Woodstock ’69: “Well, it gave me a sense that we can do things also for the planet, because out of the ‘60s came women’s liberation and came, that whole issue of gay rights.  There’s a lot of issues that came out of that—ecology, environmental concerns—and these are all things that we’re dealing with now.”  I agree with Lipsin that we are still dealing with these problems.  Furthermore, it has been almost half a century since Woodstock ’69, these problems still exist and we are still dealing with them.

As part of my research, I decided to watch the Woodstock documentary made in 1970 directed by Michael Wadleigh.  This documentary had original footage from the festival, and allowed us to get a better sense of Woodstock ’69.  What I liked most about the original footage of the Woodstock festival was at some points during the video, there were multiple footage at the same time.  This helped represent all that was happening during Woodstock.  For example, the video showed footage of Richie Haven’s performance, the first act, but at the same time showed footage of the groups of individuals breaking down and climbing the fence during R. Haven’s performance to get into the music festival.  This documentary was not just filled with footage of musical performances.  There was footage of when the medical helicopters came; of interviews about the sanitation of the portable bathrooms; of interviews that lead to positive and negative comments towards the festival—and so on.  One thing that caught my eye was when someone was opening a can of soda.  If you looked close enough, you can see that the top soda can is a different style of present soda cans.  This is something small but interesting to material culture.

A tentative focus I wanted to take on music and Woodstock was a political focus, bringing out the fact that during this time there was a war happening in Vietnam.  While there were a lot of other political aspects and issues in America, I wanted to focus on Vietnam—because I am Vietnamese.  This connection help solidifies my interest in the topic and further my research.  In the Statement on the Historical and Cultural Significance of the 1969 Woodstock Festival Site, during this time “protest against American involvement in Vietnam had drawn thousands of people into the streets”.  Again there were more issues than just Vietnam during this time.  With the Vietnam war happening there was a lot of tension.  Anyone 18 and older all were leaving the country, if not for Vietnam then for Canada.

As for my interview, I have not met with the individuals but I have two people in mind.  One who was asked to preform at Woodstock and declined.  The other, a person who was in Upstate New York during the time of Woodstock but decided not to go.  I wanted to ask question along the lines of: Why you didn’t go? How did you feel about Woodstock before and after? How did you feel about the politics during this time? How did you feel about the Vietnam War? Did you know anyone that went to Woodstock? I believe that these questions plus others would help further my research.

One last thing that I wanted to try and focus on was cultural hegemony during the Woodstock festival, or around the time of the Woodstock festival.  I quick definition of hegemony is political dominance.  However, it isn’t just dominance.  It is when political authority controls a large population through cultural hegemony.  A lot of the time hegemony is overseen, and the population agrees with the political power.  This will allow me to move into ideas of classes and races.  Cultural hegemony in music could be the political elites preventing marginalized groups to be in the industry; however, there are fault lines such as Led Zeplin, and Sly and the Family Stone.


One thought on “04.04.2016 – Explanatory Essay

  1. Good start, Jacky! Your interest in politics, war, and cultural hegemony definitely seem like they’re helping you narrow your focus. One thing to keep in mind is that Woodstock represented a counter-cultural movement, so in many ways it was destabilizing hegemonic ideologies of the 1950s/1960s (and dominant perceptions of the war in Vietnam were a big part of this). The Anti-War movement was counter-hegemonic / counter-cultural as well. I’d use the workshop today to see how your classmates can help you narrow your focus. See you soon!


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