Fighting Invisibility

Poet and activist Adrienne Rich lamented over the condition when “those who have power to name and to socially construct reality choose to not see or hear you”. It is what Rich called invisibility.

Invisibility is something that we encounter day to day. In her work “‘Punk Has Always Been My School’: The Educative Experience of Punk Learners”, Rebekah Cordova explains that youths “struggle to find empowering…environments that authentically acknowledge their complex identity and voice”. Instead of fostering understanding like a paternal figure, society shuts them out.

To fight against this invisibility, youths form their own societal ideals. As Cordova explains, they “go beyond critical analysis and evaluate how to use their identity and voice to impact their community”. Within this learning process, ideals are turned in action. Chamber music can act as one of these verbs. Take the small scale gatherings of punk subcultures. Cordova recounts her own experience in punk circles:

“On an experiential level, I knew this pedagogy or Punk curricula existed in some form; it was my own involvement in 1990s Hardcore Punk and the Straight Edge Movement (a drug-free sub-sect of Punk) that led me to make significant dietary and political decisions based on Punk cultural norms and information (i.e., academic content) that I had gathered and internalized from my participation”.

It is imperative to note how the involvement and participation revolves around the music gathering. In a way, chamber music works as the classroom: ideals are developed, debated, and projected by the musicians and listeners. Bands share songs whose messages display said ideals. Listeners interact with fellow listeners and musicians as they share aesthetic viewpoints and prevailing attitudes.

By virtue of what Cordova calls “punk pedagogy”, understanding can flourish. Where this intimate understanding exists, invisibility is chipped away. With music, we have the power to name and socially construct reality and to be seen and heard at the same time.

If that does not give us incentive to organize and gather throughout all musics, who knows what does…


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