How popular music reflects the dreams and contradictions of communities searching for more sustainable ways to live
Rock, Folk, and the Environment
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Watch a video of Mark Pedelty's recent lecture at Temple University, entitled "Sound Ecology: Music, Noise, and Sonic Conflict in the Salish Sea."
Can musicians really make the world more sustainable? Anthropologist Mark Pedelty, joined an eco-oriented band, the Hypoxic Punks, to find out. In his timely and exciting book, Ecomusicology, Pedelty explores the political ecology of rock, from local bands to global superstars. He examines the climate change controversies of U2's 360 Degrees stadium tour—deemed excessive by some—and the struggles of local folk singers who perform songs about the environment. In the process, he raises serious questions about the environmental effects and meanings of music.
Ecomusicology examines the global, national, regional, and historical contexts in which environmental pop is performed. Pedelty reveals the ecological potentials and pitfalls of contemporary popular music, in part through ethnographic fieldwork among performers, audiences, and activists. Ultimately, he explains how popular music dramatically reflects both the contradictions and dreams of communities searching for sustainability.
"Pedelty asks many difficult questions about the fundamental relationships between the crisis of environmental sustainability and the acts of musical creation, production, and experience in Ecomusicology. While he takes appropriately skeptical and tentative steps in problematizing many of these questions and their attendant assumptions, he boldly answers some as well. Pedelty offers instructive cases and a profound vision for ecomusicology that will appeal to musicians, scholars, students, and interested readers from disparate fields of music, history, anthropology, and environmental studies."
"In this elegantly argued book, Pedelty...probes deeply the relationship between music, especially rock and folk, and the environment.... [T]he great value of Pedelty's book is that... [t]rue to his field work roots, Pedelty himself straps on a guitar in order to make music and to participate in a local music scene.... Pedelty urges us to get up off our chairs and dance, sing, clap, dig, vote, and record as we move from being passive recipients of music to being active creators of the soundscape of our lives."
"Mark Pedelty's engaging and readable Ecomusicology brings attention to an insufficiently explored subject.... Pedelty's 'search for sustainable music'... centers not so much on lyrics, but on the environmental implications of musical production and performance—a standard by which most popular rock bands on world tours fail miserably.... His personal experience gives insights on both songwriting strategies and the challenges of trying to save the world while also trying to get people to listen in a crowded bar.... Pedelty points the way toward a harmonious reconciliation of music-making and ecocriticism."
"Ecomusicology is among the first large-scale works to merge the discourse of environmental justice and ecocriticism with an analysis of the social experience of music... [It] is a welcome addition to the literature that illustrates a plethora of potential approaches to musical ecocriticism. Pedelty’s book opens up new interpretive possibilities for the ongoing study of the relationship between music and the environment."
"Pedelty asks the question of how music can be used to promote sustainability. He takes us through the political ecology of rock, using examples in a geographic exposition from global (Live Aid megaconcerts), national (political music in USA), regional (bioregions in North America) to local music. Taking an ethnographic approach, Pedelty interfaces these geographical components with an analysis of music as communication, advocacy and to a lesser degree as art. Reflecting on the relationship between musical genre and environmentalism, Pedelty's ecomusicology emerges throughout the book."
"Mark Pedelty’s Ecomusicology is a project of personal passion, and this passion is evident on every single page. Pedelty’s scope is not limited to a single case study, approach, or even discipline. Rather, the book is a winding, at times eclectic, journey for both author and reader that tackles Pedelty’s diverse experiences in and at the intersections of musicology and environment, musicianship and ecological practice.... Yet even as Pedelty shifts between mass market musicians like U2, Jack Johnson, and Soundgarden and his own experiences as a fledgling local musician, Ecomusicology never loses sight of its central goal: to trace, through observation and participation, music’s impact on cultural ecologies and material ecosystems.... Pedelty’s work marks an important contemporary turn in folkloristic research."
Mark Pedelty is Associate Professor of Mass Communication and Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. To learn more about this book and its music, visit his website, Ecomusicology.net