Wednesday, September 9, Noon - 1:00pm (Panel)
Persistence of Memory: Revolution, Desire, and Transgenerational Nostalgia
- Popular Music, Transgenerational Nostalgia, and Asian American Stories, Julianna Chang (Santa Clara U)
- Forgive Me For Being Wild and Yearning To Be Free: A Song for Hong Kong’s Protests, Valerie Soe (SFSU)
- The Beautiful Things 아름다운 것들: A Korean Diasporic Mixtape, Anthony Yooshin Kim (Williams College)
- I’ve Been Tired: Teenage Soundscapes of Queer Filipino Desire and Disconnection, Thea Quiray Tagle (U of Massachusetts, Boston)
Popular Music, Transgenerational Nostalgia, and Asian American Stories, Julianna Chang (Santa Clara U)
In this paper, I examine how pop music conjures feelings of nostalgia for moments of Asian migration and Asian American formation in stories by and about Asian Americans. I analyze how nostalgia is often constructed as transgenerational--that is, the Asian American protagonists feel a wistfulness for moments that they themselves did not experience, but their parents did.
My main point of departure is the “Parents” episode (2015) of the Netflix television series Master of None. In the unconventionally long pre-credits opening sequence, Spandau Ballet’s “True” (1983) and Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” (1981) provide the soundtracks for the scenes of parental arrival in the United States. These hits from the 1980s mark Dev’s and Brian’s fathers’ period of innocence as youthful immigrants and new parents, in contrast to the fathers’ dashed hopes for their adult children’s filial piety in the present. The tone of innocence, poignance, and longing is then seemingly superseded by a more knowing and sophisticated technology of sound: the sampled and repeated beats of rap duo Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You” (1992) over the show’s opening credits. This song, composed in mourning over the premature death of a Black male friend, has with the passage of time become heard as a universalized hymn to nostalgia even as it also evokes nostalgia for the “golden age of hip hop.” Positioned as a kind of epigraph to this episode, “They Reminisce Over You” serves as a way for Generation X Asian American audience members to resolve their apparently contradictory desires to belong both to American culture (by claiming a song marked as “cool”) and to their parents’ culture (paying tribute to their parents by reminiscing about their parents’ memories). I provide context for this interpretation of Master of None by discussing additional music that soundtracks filmic and televisual moments of Asian and Asian American migration and movement in multiple directions transpacifically and translocally.
Forgive Me For Being Wild and Yearning To Be Free: A Song for Hong Kong’s Protests, Valerie Soe (SFSU)
The protests in Hong Kong have consumed headlines around the world since midsummer 2019 and as of this writing show no signs of abating. As with the Umbrella Movement in 2014, pop music has played a significant part in the protests. One resident composed Glory To Hong Kong, the anthem of the current demonstrations, and earlier iterations of the demonstrations this summer included performances of the hymn Sing Hallelujah to the Lord. But one song, Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies, has recently resurfaced as a touchstone for the protests, with a newly edited music video set to the tune. The song is by the legendary Cantopop rock band Beyond, who emerged in the 1980s with a string of hits that topped the charts in Hong Kong and across Asia. Although many of the protestors were not yet born in 1993, the year of the song’s release, it still remains relevant to the youth in Hong Kong.
This presentation looks at the impact and significance of this classic power ballad and why it remains a beacon for the Hong Kong people more than 25 years after its release. It will also explore the broader role of Cantopop in the formation of Hong Kong identity. As Yiu-Wai Chu observes, “Cantopop has been functioning as an important vehicle through which the people of Hong Kong articulate their identity in a bottom up manner.” What is the legacy of Cantopop in a rapidly changing Hong Kong? How does music serve to unify the Hong Kong protestors as they fight for self-determination and the maintenance of their civil liberties? Why does a song from their parents’ generation continues to inspire young people in the territory today?
The Beautiful Things 아름다운 것들: A Korean Diasporic Mixtape, Anthony Yooshin Kim (Williams College)
Haunting – as a heuristic, an analytic, a narrative device, and a postscript of depreciated lives – continues to exert an apparitional force over the study of the Korean American diaspora. In this paper, I momentarily suspend and take relief from the accumulated pressures of that ghostly cacophony and attune myself instead to the noise and frequencies of survival, dissent, nostalgia, heartbreak, and love, the generative soundtracks of desire against damage playing with and through modern Korean experiences of war, dictatorship, displacement, and other bewilderments of history.
The genesis of my paper is a boyhood spent listening to my dad play his guitar and sing American and Korean folk songs like Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” and Yang Hee Eun’s “아침이슬” (Morning Dew). It functions as an annotated mixtape based on my dad’s mythologies of coming of age as an immigrant American in the 1970s and 1980s, a meditation on the difficulty of shelter in and creative world-making produced by the Korean immigrant home, and a search for the sonic dimensions of what Jason Magabo Perez terms a “critical race poetics.” How can revisiting a collection and a practice of a private music, the sovereign sounds of a youth and a voice seemingly sublimated by hegemonic (in)difference, offer “various kinds of racial knowledges that can help us reconsider the nonlinear, non-narrative, associative logics of colonial and racist state violence”?
As such, I’m engaged in a remediation of the ear that learns to dissent before the mind; a music that runs, riffs, plays, sings, and asserts a subject melody even in the face of historical subjection; and a musical understanding of power, domination, and resistance that contributes to assembling a political critique and an alternative possibility of what living can entail in Korean immigrant practices of everyday life.
I’ve Been Tired: Teenage Soundscapes of Queer Filipino Desire and Disconnection, Thea Quiray Tagle (U of Massachusetts, Boston)
This is a presentation on the persistence of teenage desire—competing yet complementary desires for visibility and opacity, for exceptionality within a crowd of adoring friends and publics—in the midst of worlds that are not made for them. This is a presentation about queer Filipino/a/x teens living in sites of banality across the US—within Southern California suburban sprawl, near the white sand beaches of Florida’s Redneck Riviera, and amongst the fumes and flatness of central Jersey. This presentation ruminates on the ways that queer Filipino American teens mediate, sustain, and generate forms of social dis/connection in these sites of ennui through their solo and shared consumption of American “rock musics”—from the sweet sounds of the Carpenters, to the jangle of The Pixies, to the stomp of Fugazi and DC punk. To map the sonic and affective landscapes of desire and disconnection in queer Filipino America, I pull from stories from my own childhood and from recently published scholarly, creative, and critical works by queer Filipinx writers and artists including Karen Tongson, Aldrin Valdez, and Elaine Castillo. TL;DR: the kids have been tired.