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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Nuclear sound

BRANDON GIESBRECHT [(CC BY 2.0)] / FLICKR (changes made)
UCLA musicology professor to give talk at Davis

Music offers its listeners a chance to revel in its emotional experience by way of sonically reproducing the heartbeat, the timbre of the soul or the lyrics of the mind. Jessica Schwartz, an assistant professor of musicology at UCLA, will be giving a speech that shows music is more than just sound; it can highlight our history and our humanity.

At the age of 15, Jessica Schwartz was introduced to the punk music scene, which helped her develop a framework to understand and think critically about the music she was listening to. Later in her college years, as an American Studies major, Schwartz started to examine the rise of nuclear testing in the 1950s.

“I became both fascinated and disturbed that I was unaware of the massive nuclear testing that the United States had conducted in the Marshall Islands,” Schwartz said.

Her interest grew out of this new knowledge, and in 2008, she moved to the Marshall Islands to learn more about the effects of nuclear testing.

“Given the current political situation between North Korea and the United States, an examination of the stories of the survivors of nuclear testing seems both timely and imperative,” said Katherine Lee, an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at UC Davis.

Schwartz’s speech will in part discuss these global effects of nuclear war.

“War doesn’t just happen and then there’s a clean slate,” Schwartz said.

Although her speech will also examine war’s relationship to music and the cost of nuclear testing, Schwartz believes that her speech is relevant to today’s political situation.

“As I’ve been seeing, under the current administration, tensions have been heightening; all of this pain and fear and our entanglement with the nuclear [suggests] the struggle still continues for nuclear justice,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz is visiting the UC Davis campus with the hopes of giving a speech that will illuminate to her audience that “through music people find voice literally and figuratively.”

However, speeches like Schwartz’s are not rare.

Philip Daley, the events and publicity manager at the UC Davis Department of Music, stated that “we put on the Valente lectures on a regular basis […] we try to represent equally the three disciplines we study music in: Musicology, Ethnomusicology and Composition.”

Schwartz’s speech is primarily centered on the ethnomusicology aspect, but there are other speeches throughout the year that will represent the widespread disciplines that the Music Department focuses on.  

“Nuclear violence is a form of intersectional violence on a global level,” Schwartz said. “What I’m hoping to do is share some of those stories and route that through my other perspective of someone who learns and explores the world through music; my hope is to bring people together.”

Her speech will discuss the way music allows people to heal themselves and deal with the harsh realities of our world.

The Valente speech will be held in Room 266, Everson Hall on April 27 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.


Written by: Akaylah Ellison — arts@theaggie.org


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