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Playing for Change

Music Festivals as Community Learning and Development


Michael B. MacDonald

Playing for Change – performing for money and for social justice – introduces a critical pedagogy of arts-based community learning and development (A-CLD), a new discipline wherein artists learn to become educators, social workers, and community economic development agents. Challenging the assumption that acculturation into a ruling ideology of state development is necessary, this book presents a version of CLD that locates development in the production of subjectivities. The author argues that A-CLD is as concerned with the autonomous collective and the individual as it is with establishing community infrastructure. As a result, a radical new theory is proposed to explain aesthetics within arts movements, beginning not by normalizing music cultures within global capitalism, but by identifying the creation of experimental assemblages as locations of cultural resistance. This book offers a new vocabulary of cultural production to provide a critical language for a theory of anti-capitalist subjectivity and for a new type of cultural worker involved with A-CLD. Drawing from a four-year study of thirteen music festivals, Playing for Change forwards A-CLD as a locally situated, joyful, and creative resistance to the globalizing forces of neoliberalism.
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Chapter 2. Refolkus: Arts-Based Community Learning and Development


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Folk music no longer signifies what it once did, an anthropologically located music-machine for the production of autonomous subjectivity. The 20th century’s industrial revolution—Taylor’s 1911 Principles of Scientific Management actualized by Ford’s mass production facilities married to mass marketing—has transformed the production and sale of everything from automobiles to Zambonis. Nothing has been left unaltered by these changes, including the production of subjectivity.

Wendell Berry, the well-known cultural critic, poet, and farmer, compellingly argued, as long ago as 1977, that the American industrial philosophy of growth at all costs was negatively impacting the cultivation of food and the “unsettling of America” was an ecological crisis that was, at its very root, a crisis of culture defined as the relations between people and the world, the production of sustainable ecosphere. He argued that “a healthy culture is a communal order of memory, insight, value, work conviviality, reverence, aspiration. It reveals the human necessities and the human limits. It clarifies our inescapable bonds to the earth and to each other” (43). Berry’s idea prefigures that of Wade Davis and of recent writing on the anthropocene or my own predatory anthropocene. For Berry, a sustainable anthropocene (ethnosphere-biosphere) emerges from a system where a member of the ← 13 | 14 → community acts with responsibility and reciprocity in a culture of belonging. In Belonging: A Culture of Place, bell hooks (2009) wrote: “To live in communion with...

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