Tag Archives: music

Trayvon’s Eulogy

By Eli Arbor, ’15
mlk-hoodie

This song didn’t come out of a place of musical clarity, of elation, of any sort of epiphany. It came from a single moment, a single shot in the dark on a rainy night, a single juror reading findings, and a single judge acquitting a man of a crime he committed. It came from an someone who was caught about to start a riot, from someone who doesn’t have the means to express his anger and frustrations in any other way. It comes from two men about the same age as Trayvon, who’s lives were deemed meaningless under the law, who could have been Trayvon Martin themselves.

In short, I didn’t write this song because I wanted to. I wrote it because I had to. And I wrote it because no one else would.
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Unblurring the Lines

by April Gregory, ’13

A recent onslaught of tits-in-your-face (TIYF) music videos has catalyzed much hullabaloo in the blogosphere. If you haven’t seen Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Justin Timberlake’s “Tunnel Vision,” or The-Dream’s “Pussy” (yes, just “Pussy”), you may wish to view them now. On Vevo or Vimeo, though, because they were pulled from YouTube. And not in a place where your supervisor might drop in to give you some Chobani coupons, because they are very, very TIYF.

To start, I should make one thing exceedingly clear: for years I was a more or less passive acceptor of the contradictions inherent in my favorite music genres. I love hip hop and R&B. LOVE. I love booming bass and releasing my inner Bey on the d-floor whenever possible. Consequently, I had — and still have — a tendency to ignore the often unsavory lyrics that float atop said booming bass. “She eyein’ me like her n***a don’t exist / Girl, I know you want this dick,” to name a recent favorite.

At Stanford I had the opportunity to learn from and connect with some of the world’s foremost hip hop scholars, who dropped more knowledge on me than I knew what to do with. They encouraged me to engage more critically with the voices in my earbuds, which in turn inspired some original musings about hip hop and feminism. The more I thought about the dissonance between my personal ideologies and the hot misogynist mess that is mainstream hip hop and R&B, the less passive I became.

Continue reading

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$ex Machine

by Lyla June Johnston, ’12

I wrote this poem on an airplane a few years ago. It’s been sitting in my notebook for a long time. I took it out the other day and decided I wanted to make a hip-hop track of it. I wanted to reclaim hip-hop as the healing force it was born to be by making it flashy, sexy and truthful. It’s main message is that we are not the sex slaves that pop music tells us we are, we are human beings that deserve love and respect.

How it developed was pretty interesting. I found the beat to go beneath it from the creative commons search on soundcloud.com. It was produced by a man in Sweden whom I’ve never met who goes by the name of “Dr. Mess.” I asked him if I could overlay some lyrics on it and he was fine with it. This is the beauty of making art for the people, not for the profit, under creative commons license as Dr. Mess does. The greed and fear that comes with copyrighting is relinquished and so we can collaborate more freely, even from across the ocean. Continue reading

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No Rest For Activists

by Jomar Sevilla, ’14


Amid blooming orchards, we stare at the stone of Larry Itliong and are speechless.  Itliong lies, appropriately unadorned, with his manongs (Filipino “brothers”) in a mass of humble graves in a town where he gave hope and created a legacy for Filipino immigrants.  This spontaneous visit concludes our time in Delano, a little agricultural town in California’s Central Valley, with Roger, our guide and friend.  We all say a few words, thanks here and there, we owe you, we remember you, we’ll continue your legacy.  The warm beautiful afternoon in March contrasts with an inner turmoil within.

A few weeks earlier, in the course preparing us for this Alternative Spring Break trip*, we same participants, now walking across the graveyard with our heads down, were seated in a circle.  The class discussion leads us back to the inevitable: do we consider ourselves activists?  Around the table, there are some hesitant yes, some potentially, some kinda, some no because, some maybe in the future.

Throughout the ASB trip we met with Filipino community workers and activists.  I have trouble understanding, much less embracing the label of Filipino activist.  American capitalist, social, political, and cultural influence has transformed life in the Philippines.  I understand the plea of many Filipinos there who struggle for national liberation, democracy, and even revolution.  Where would the thirteen colonies be if they didn’t stand up to British imperialism?  I understand that.  But Filipino-American activists, I believe, are in more perilous circumstances. Continue reading

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Scientists Want You to Be Happy

by Sibel Sayiner, ’15

Let’s face it. The world can really bring you down sometimes. You think that it’s a beautiful day, and everything is going according to plan: you’ve read all your emails, the Republican National Convention is going to be thrashed by good old Isaac, and the attractive person in the coffee shop smiled at you, very pointedly. Then you, foolish you, open up the world news. And read about the Arctic ice level, the UN report on Gaza, and the evil corporation that is killing your favorite phone/tablet/everything (unless you’re an Apple fan, then you’ll be pleased with the “rectangle with rounded corners” patent). You sigh, and even your fantastic new book can’t raise your glum frown.

I feel you. It’s rough out there. We spend so much time on what we need to do, what we think we need to do, and what we think we want to do. Then there’s sleeping (occasionally), and every so often, the casual conversation with an old (or new!) friend. While some people have the energy to do all these things all the time, I am definitely not one of them. I need my funky jazz music, video games and long walks in the evening in order to recharge.

However, these are not always possible, especially when one has time constraints as well as multiple commitments. This is where scientists come in. They do all the research, and then we mooch. Continue reading

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The Real Zach Schudson

by Alok Vaid-Menon, ’13

With Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, I invited Zach Schudson to come and perform in Terra House during Winter Quarter. I stumbled on Zach’s work through Facebook and was immediately inspired by his body-positive, queer-positive message and the way he was using mainstream pop music to communicate radical critiques. In person Zach was just as eloquent and charming. His performance was a bunch of fun! I wanted to interview Zach to hear more about his thoughts behind the music.

AVM: Tell us about yourself. Who is the real Zach Schudson?
ZS: This is always the most intimidating question on online dating sites and so I always make a joke. I guess that’s a good summary of me though. When people ask who I am, I make a joke and avoid the question. I’m totally comfortable with that. I think confidence and clear-cut answers are overrated. Placing excessive value on them privileges a kind dominant, go-getter attitude that just does not work for me. I like spinning my web out of avoided questions and humor-based defenses. My friend Sarah recently described me really well: “You and I are a lot alike – really chill about other people and really neurotic about ourselves.” My Myers-Briggs type is INFJ, for those with some interest in personality psychology.

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A Bigger Circle

by Nick Biddle, ’14
When I heard Talisman perform “Amazing Grace” at New Student Orientation my freshman year, I was in tears. And I know for a fact that I was not alone and that the group had the special ability to bring out emotions from the depths of my soul and I knew that I had to be a part of it. I signed up for auditions right after the show. Little did I know that what I was getting into was so much more than just a singing group.

This spring the group toured in Charleston, SC and Atlanta, GA to get a deeper understanding of the African American roots of some of our music. Along with the music we learned and the amazing experiences we had meeting people in the south, we also had personal journeys that brought us together that I could never have imagined I would have before joining.Identity and the idea of what it means to be an ally had been a pivotal discussion point of our year, and over tour we dug into the conversation.

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REVOLUTIONARY ART: “In Her Arms”

by Lyla Johnston, ’12

“In Her Arms” is a story of following your heart like a compass. Of a woman falling fearlessly in love with another woman when the whole world tells her it’s wrong. It is a song about loving each cell in your body deeply regardless of your sexual orientation and remembering that our hearts do not lie but guide us to the truth of who we are.

I think it’s important to make the revolution as beautiful as possible. Art will play a prominent role in the liberation of the human spirit. It is a tangible ambassador of our internal beauty, a representation of the light we hold inside. Embed your message within an irresistible melody and you will immediately disarm the population. They will remember the exquisite joy they were born for, that we are all on the same side. The true and permanent revolution will not be hard. It will be as easy as choosing love and beauty over pain and hopelessness. Continue reading
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