We have quite the presentation at EthNoise this week! Will Faber will share a bit of his dissertation research called “Ghosts of Songs”: memory, media, and black British musical historiography. The abstract is below, and I also recommend the paper (please email me at email@example.com for the password). See you on Thursday at 4:30, Goodspeed 205! Refreshments will be served.
Abstract: The figure of the S.S. Empire Windrush, a troop ship sailing from ports in the Caribbean to the docks at Tilbury outside London in 1948, remains one of the most potent and consistently invoked icons of black British history. In particular, the Pathé newsreel footage of Trinidadian calypsonian and Windrush passenger Lord Kitchener singing his newly composed song “London is the Place for Me” while standing on the deck of the ship, regularly marks the emergence of modern multicultural Britain in both popular narrative and documentary history. Standing in for histories of movement, migration, and settlement, representations of the Windrush offer a vital site for memory work while facilitating multiple claims to equality and belonging within contemporary Britain. While the historiography of black Britain regularly sets up a devision between the pre-Windrush and post-Windrush eras, and in turn routinely privileges the history of migration and settlement post-1948, the role of mediated sound and images in the production of this historical telos remains less widely discussed. Further, the specific musicality of the Windrush in both representation and event bears loudly on the production of a historiography of black music in Britain, and London in particular, functioning as an inception point and making audible a contested cultural politics of inclusion and exclusion; one in which the start of a history is also the beginning of a song.