May 10, 2011

Wirszup lecture goes post-punk

Ethnomusicology Professor Travis Jackson spoke about post-punk music in the Max Palevsky East Lounge last night as part of the Wirszup Lecture Series.

In the talk, titled “Post-Punk Sound and Vision,” Jackson addressed the distinction between punk and post-punk genres of music, arguing that the latter is not merely “adolescent aggression."

Jackson examined the relationship between album design and sound aesthetics, using sound clips of post-punk artists like The Slits’ “Tropical Girls,” The Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac,” and Joy Division’s “Passover.” Jackson also discussed how post-punk album art related the music to its cultural movement and analyzed the use of digital sound processing tools (such as synthesizers) and their role in post punk.

The long-standing series dates back to the days of Woodward Court, a residence hall demolished in 2001; it stood where the Harper Center of the Booth School of Business now stands.

The lecture series began in 1971 under the guidance of Resident Masters Izaac and Pera Wirszup at Woodward Court. Over a span of 14 years, 200 lectures were given as a “way of furthering social interaction between faculty and students in the college,” Max Palevsky Resident Master David Wray said.

Still, the dynamic has changed through the years. While the lectures of Woodward Court served as general entertainment, recent lectures, such as last year’s lecture on St. Augustine, are much more topic-specific.

Jackson’s lecture gave way to a question-and-answer session that covered irony in post-punk, the emergence of the CD, and the band Interpol.

Second-year Ed Powell from Hoover House in Max East has attended the lectures since arriving on campus; yesterday’s lecture was his third.

“They don’t usually draw huge masses, but I would say that there are about an even number of students and faculty who attend,” Powell said.

Some talks by big names, however, have drawn larger crowds. “The turnout for Steven Levitt’s speech was out the door. The Commons room was just absolutely packed,” Wray said, noting that then-University President Don Randel gave a well-attended lecture on musical instruments, during which he played a Baroque piece with a garden hose.

“I definitely think if students are interested in the topic, they’ll go,” first-year Maddie Kusch-Kavanagh said. “[Because] they’re not your mainstream lectures, [the style of these lectures] limits the crowd but also allows it to be more active and interested.”