Louie Dean Valencia
History of Early Modern Europe
April 30, 2013
Answering Your Most Troubling Questions: Funding for an Album
If human history shows us one thing, it is that individuals in and out of groups have consistently encountered struggles, which bring them questions, strain, and anguish. Understanding this as a very human idea, we can couple it with another humanized notion that people will look anywhere for the answers they need in order to be comforted and reach satisfaction in the midst of their questions. These questions can arise out of anywhere, whether it be tragedy, broken inner harmony, or even a struggle within class relations and/or oppression. I maintain that out of the many places human beings might turn to for answers, some of those places are inherently wrong places to look. But why?
In the human discourse, it is (or at least, should be) understood that there are multiple people and also that one thing affects multiple people at one time. This means that one person’s problem could be shared with many of those surrounding that person within a society. That being said, it is safe to say that the best possible answer or solution will either be one that helps the individual without imposing harm, stratification, negativity, and/or oppression on others, or it will be one that helps the whole of the people, and not serving to appease only one fraction of a society that undergoes an issue as one body of human beings. Due to the difficulty in attaining the latter (that being a solution that works to help all individuals in a group at once), I propose a means of helping individuals cope with questions in a way that can relate to their own perspective and development, without further oppressing other people around them. This means by which I can accomplish doing so is music.
Myself and the other members of Tall & Flightless have sought out to write music and lyrics that I feel successfully encapsulate certain issues an individual might have. Seeing as music has a relationship with the listener that is individualistic, profound, and personal, I firmly believe that music is one of the greatest (if not, the greatest) method of stress relief as well as the acquisition of answers and perspective necessary to cope with struggle. Our music successfully facilitates this relationship with us, and we wish to allow it the chance of facilitating a relationship with others. This is not to say that answers found within our work are correct and omniscient, nor is to say that these answers will always work for all people. However, if there were a chance that it might offer a level of perspective that could lead to alleviation of troubles in any way, then it would be worth it to further fund our work so that it might become an album reach across a wider breadth of people. That being said, we, Tall & Flightless are responsible for the creation, recording, and funding of three original songs that make up our first EP.
Playing music is the single most pleasing action that I enjoy doing. That being said, I do it often with my fellow band mates. Occasionally, amidst the tumultuous guitars and stale inebriation, we will turn to each other at some strange hour of the morning and find refuge in something we’ve stumbled upon together, knowing it won’t have the same impact for anyone else that it has had for us, but that it might come close. Realizing this, we will write it down, and begrudgingly play it hundreds of times more. Eventually, I will find some mediocre lyrics that capture what I think of when we’re playing, and thus, a Tall & Flightless track is born, oozing with sophistication and shining brilliance.
We recently recorded our EP in Eastchester, New York. Kevin Legall recorded the music in his up and coming studio “Meth Lab Studios”. The vocals were recorded by the same gentleman in a bathroom somewhere in the Bronx. He’s been of great help to us, and we owe him many thanks.
All members of Tall & Flightless, which include Benjamin Kopon, Delia Grizzard, Oliver Beardsley, Matt Hurley, and myself, arranged the music for these three songs in a near equal collaboration. While I may have written the lyrics as well as the structure progressions, my fellow band-mates have all made an impact on the tracks that allows me to confidently say that the music’s layout has been a combined effort.
Song Listing, Lyrics, and Contextualized Descriptions:
In writing the lyrics, I chose Voltaire’s Candide to be the lens through which one would analyze the words for specific reasons. Firstly, as a gripping story of fiction with undertones of reality, it makes for an easy gap to bridged between abstract representation of real-life aspects and events from Candide. Also, Candide is a tale of struggle that, in and of its self, contains multiple struggles. Seeing as struggle is the key theme that we address in our work, it seems fitting to apply Candide as the comparison and tone. Three types of struggle are presented in our tracks that also shine through in Voltaire’s work. As previously mentioned, the three struggles involve tragedy, inner harmony, and oppression.
“Quietly, I say: I’m a thinking person with no time for magic. Quietly, I say: I’m a thinking person with no time for magic. Loudly, I say: I’m a persuader and you’re in some deep shit. Loudly, I say: I’m a persuader and you’re in some deep shit. I’ll give my sermon, and I’ll collect your homes and your cars, and I’ll drone on and on, and I’m almost done.”
This song, in terms of answering one’s questions, relates to struggle under oppression. The song is based around a quiet voice struggling with where to find answers (avoiding religion or “magic”) and also a loud voice announcing itself as a persuader of the quiet voice. It ends with the oppressor, giving a sermon that calls attention to the oppression itself, claiming that he will “collect your homes and your cars.” This kind of struggle is not unlike the struggle of the character “Candide” from Voltaire’s work, Candide. As the story develops, Candide, from the standpoint of the lavish lifestyle he starts from, witnesses poverty and suffering outside the walls of a mansion. When he inquires about this to a philosopher, the philosopher lectures him that “things are the way they are for a reason.” The answer to Candide here, is that the negativity one sees in life shouldn’t be deserving of worry or even repair, due it simply being a part of life. In other words, according to this philosophy, people suffering are doing so due to that being their position in the world. According to the philosophy, those not suffering conveniently do so as their position in the world. Both positions are to coexist together, allowing suffering to be explained not unlike how one would explain how one was dealt an unlucky hand.
“Before this, I could always bend without breaking. Before this, I could always sit up straight. I don’t see the pattern here, and I don’t see the answer to what comes next. Before this, I was just a quiet mouth. Now I scream and I shout. Before this, I could only be afraid. Now I’m terrified. Now I see the pattern here. But I still don’t see the answer to what comes next. Our context keeps us bound for now, but soon we’ll be set free. Look at each other and feel so damn perplexed. Say soon we’ll be set free. And I just want to let you know… (x 4) Today has been my most favorite day.”
This song, in terms of answering one’s questions, relates to a struggle of inner harmony. It focuses on one event that goes unmentioned, and the longing for the past before this unmentioned event has even occurred. It talks of the voice’s life as a sequence of events and how the voice is trying to understand what the sequence (or, the pattern) really means. This can relate to Candide’s sequence of events after he is exiled from the mansion for pursuing the lovely Cunegonde. He encounters violence and suffering throughout his adventures, leaving him confused and faced with bleak aspects of the suffering that once separated itself from Candide on the other side of mansion walls. The songs lyrics continue until it speaks of separating people from their contexts in order to understand their similarities. It is these similarities that allow for compassion to take place between two groups of human beings. The song is fitted with an optimistic tone once the pattern of events is recognized for what it is: simply a pattern of events that must be taken at face value.
“Over millions of lights, over millions, this drone lulls. A deep puncture and adrenaline pours, this has happened before. A deep puncture and adrenaline pours, this has happened before. This has happened before, this has happened before. This has happened before, this has happened before. And need, there is no need, to worry, to worry, as the pressure, it changes in the tube and in my head. Oh need, there is no need, to worry, to worry, as the pressure, it changes in the tube and in my head. Catastrophe.”
This song, in terms of answering one’s questions, relates to a struggle with tragedy. The song is written from the point of view of a pilot on an airplane. The pilot understands at one point that the plane is going to crash and that it is the pilot’s fault. But for a split second in this realization, the pilot is the only one who knows the plane is going down, and the other 135 passengers are still unaware. The pilot tells himself that “there is no need to worry” and that “this has happened before” in trying to avoid accepting imminent disaster to come. This can be traced to Voltaire’s Candide in connecting it to the Lisbon earthquake. In chapter five, the philosopher Pangloss explains that the tragedy is for the best in trying to comfort the many victims of the earthquake. This philosophy seems askew, seeing as a victim of massive earthquake will and should have trouble accepting that the destruction of everything he or she cared about was simply for the best. It is a convenient philosophy for some, yet it does not necessarily take into account the whole of the society and only works to please someone in particular, ideally the one not involved in the tragedy.
With proper funding, this three track EP could become a full-fledged ten to twelve track album. The album would address more issues, branching our past our already existing discussion of struggle with oppression, inner harmony, and tragedy. We could delve further into the idea of struggle itself, the idea of confusion that comes along with it, and also touch on the concept of finally reaching a point of satisfaction, or, the so-called “light at the end of the tunnel.” This would give listeners a deeper and therein more effective perspective than a simple three track EP. The funding would be used mainly for in-studio development, mastering, and means for a broader instrumentation platform. It would also be used to research methods for pushing our work out into society, so that it might be more accessible and attainable by listeners. Right now, without funding, our EP is limited in that it was recorded and produced to the best of Kevin Legall’s ability with amateur software and recording tools. It also does not have the same capacity to become noticed and listened to on a broad scale. This could change with proper funding, which we hope will allow for the music to serve its purpose. This purpose is to provide words and music of sanctum for those encountering the same struggles and questions discussed above. I want to again stress why Tall & Flightless feels that music is an important thing to acknowledge not only as art, but also as a means for people to receive a perspective that does not stratify, lower, oppress, or “other” other groups of people in ways that political regimes and established philosophies might.
Voltaire. Candide. New York, London: W. W. Norton and Company, 1996.
 Voltaire. Pangloss, Candide’s mentor, provides a philosophy that is convenient for only those in the discussion of said philosophy, and maintains the ongoing oppression.
 Voltaire. Candide’s removal from the mansion leads him to encounter a disparaging thread of events that causes him anguish and confusion, damaging his inner harmony.
 Voltaire. Again, we see a mentality that is convenient only for Pangloss and not for the victims who encountered the struggle with the epic tragedy of the earthquake.
Living Through Death:
A Proposal on the Popularity of El Día de los Muertos
Understanding Historical Change: Early Modern European History
Living Through Death
When two cultures clash, there is always an interesting outcome from the parallel existence of the two ideologies. When the Spanish conquered the New World, they set the stage for such conflict with the native peoples. Many parts of both the Spanish and the Indigenous cultures changed due to the interaction between the two groups; however, in this proposal, the focus shall not be on the aftereffects of the Conquistadors. Instead it will focus on the way they affected the people of Mexico and the development of El Día de los Muertos during the conquest of the Americas. There is significant evidence that leads credence to the idea that the popularity of El Día de los Muertos could be linked to the Spanish conquests as a means of retaliation, coping, and making do.
To form this thesis, I drew heavily from Bartolomé de las Casa’s A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, Michel Foucault’s Madness & Civilization, and Michel de Certeau’s “Making Do:” Uses and Tactics as inspiration. De las Casa provided the initial inspiration for this research due to his description of the Spanish conquests as bloody and brutal, with the natives being portrayed as innocents taken advantage of by the Spanish. His depiction of the Spanish pattern of “stage[ing] a bloody massacre of the most public possible kind in order to terrorize those meek and gentle peoples” throughout the Americas led to the thought that the natives had to adapt to the death surrounding them. Taking into account the culture of death in the Aztec world before the Spanish and this new influx of death, the idea of El Día de los Muertos seemed more complicated than originally thought.
In order to further study El Día de los Muertos, I had to also draw heavily from Foucault’s work. To the outside observer, El Día de los Muertos could look like insanity. During the celebrations, it is not unusual for people to find people having “conversations with their dead relatives” and eating “sugar skulls.” The Spanish must have thought the natives were insane, these people celebrated death and talked to the dead. However, if the situation is approached using Foucault’s logic, the celebrations can be seen as an improvement to the Spanish conquers’ method of handling death. In the Spanish culture, along with most European cultures, death is feared as the end of life; however, in the culture of the natives of Mexico, death was not feared as an end, but was embraced as a new beginning. Foucault’s views of insanity as the “inability to integrate with the group,” are reflected in the Spanish’s handling of the natives. The Aztec customs of the dead in Mexico did not align with the Spanish perspective of the dead and was therefore seen as insanity. The rituals surrounding El Día de los Muertos were considered insane and evil, but they were just different, maybe even more progressive than the Spanish views of death. The popularity of El Día de los Muertos could be a result of the ideas of death being more hopeful during a time where oppression and death were common.
The final inspiration for this project would be de Certeau. His ideas of “making do,” strategies, and tactics can easily be used to describe the popularity of El Día de los Muertos during the era of Spanish conquest. His idea of making do refers to when people “using the constraining order of the place” to one’s own advantage. They take their situation and make the best outcome out of bad conditions. Tactics refer to the actions used to upset the definition of a place by people who do not belong to that place, with place referring to both physical and figurative place in society. Strategies are the methods by which a place is defined. Using the logic of Certeau, one can see the popularity of El Día de los Muertos as a reaction to Spanish domination. If the reasons for the popularity for El Día de los Muertos follow Certeau’s ideas, the entire basis and creation of the holiday will have to be reevaluated.
The research used in this proposal followed a scattered path but the works all reflect one another. After reading A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies, the idea of the popularity of El Día de los Muertos originating in the period of the Spanish conquests of the Americas was first formed. De las Casas depiction led to the construction of the Black Legend, the bending of the truth to make the conquests appear more evil and bloody than they were. However, it is important to recognize that there was much death and destruction in the Americas at the time, just not any more brutal than other conquests by other countries. Thus, the question of how a society deals with increasing amounts of death was first constructed.
The idea of El Día de los Muertos stemmed from this line of thought and the review of Regina Marchi’s Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon by Leif Tornquist proved helpful in defining how the use of the holiday is used in the present day. This research was found by talking with professors of history and asking them what sources would be helpful in the study. A professor in Michigan provided my research with many valuable books, and if given more time and money, all of the sources could be analyzed and incorporated into the study. For the time being, two sources were used including the above source and There Was a Woman: La Llorona: From Folklore to Popular Culture by Domino Renee Perez which talks about another legend in Mexico and how it was used by society.
Based on the idea that El Día de los Muertos may have held a more significant meaning than just a simple holiday for the natives, the study spread to include the works of Foucault and de Certeau. Foucault’s discussion of insanity being a difference instead of a negative led to the use of de Certeau. The question of whether the insanity of El Día de los Muertos could be used by the native for either making do, enacting a tactic, or making a strategy. In order to get more resources to further expand on Foucault and de Certeau, more time and money would be necessary.
With the evidence provided by the aforementioned sources, it is easier to form a solid thesis on which to focus the research. The issues of race, class, and religion surrounding the conquest of the Americas can be connected to El Día de los Muertos and the popularity of the holiday. These conflicts presented themselves through the Spanish view of insanity towards native customs and the natives’ use of the holiday as a response to the domination by the Spanish. Therefore, it is possible to study issues of race, class, and religion through analyzing the popularity of El Día de los Muertos and its uses as part of the native response towards Spanish occupation through the beliefs of Foucault and de Certeau.
There are three ways of view El Día de los Muertos. The first way would be as a ceremony to honor and celebrate the dead. This perspective would be the most simple and most obvious of the three. The Aztecs, the originators of the holiday, did not fear death; instead, they saw it as a passing on into a new life. Death was only a cycle and should not be feared, but embraced as part of living. During the celebrations, people believe that the dead return in order to share a day with their family and feast. This was a part of the Aztec culture before the Spanish conquests and still remains today in the Mexican culture.
If one looks deeper at the holiday, it could be seen instead as a coping mechanism to deal with the violence surrounding the Spanish conquest. This view of El Día de los Muertos is similar to de Certeau’s “making do.” The people of Mexico had suffered “crimes that threaten[ed] to bring a collapse of civilization” and they now had to deal with the repercussions of an invasion. They were presented with two choices that all humans face when dealing with death, to grieve or to celebrate. With the history of El Día de los Muertos already part of their society, the natives chose to celebrate their dead instead of mourning their deaths. De Certeau mentions this “making do” by the indigenous people towards Spanish domination as the natives “diverted it [Spanish colonization] from its intended aims…even when they accepted their subjection; the Indians often used the laws… [and] made something else out of them.” The natives of Mexico suffered at the hand of the Spanish conquerors but they tried to change this suffering into joy.
The final way to view the popularity of El Día de los Muertos is as a tactic against the Spanish. A tactic is a method of rebelling against the powers that control the situation to which a person or group of people are subjugated. A tactic is an effort to disrupt the place of a group in order to cause the chance for a strategy to develop, allowing the people using tactics to create a place for themselves. The popularity of El Día de los Muertos can be the tactic of the natives against the strategy of the invading Spanish. When the Spanish conquered the Americas, they destroyed the place of the natives and created their own place. This action left the natives stranded under the strategy of a foreign entity, without a place for themselves. To strike back at the Spanish, the natives used many tactics and it is possible that El Día de los Muertos was one of these tactics. Through this tactic of religious perseverance, the natives combined their religion with the Catholicism that the Spanish brought with them, making a hybrid religion that still carries a heavy Aztec influence. By celebrating their holiday they poked a hole in the place established by the Spanish. El Día de los Muertos could be a religion of resistance similar to the literature of resistance spoken of by Domino Perez. El Día de los Muertos and the religion surrounding it are “directly involved in a struggle against…dominant forms of ideological and cultural production.” The holiday is representative of the struggle of the oppressed natives against their oppressors, the Spanish.
With time, the tactics used by the natives led to El Día de los Muertos developing as a strategy for the natives. As the natives used tactics, they began to create an opportunity to establish a strategy for themselves to create their own space separate from the Spanish. A strategy emerged around El Día de los Muertos and it can account for the popularity of the holiday in today’s time. With the holiday, the natives were able to fight back creating “semi-sacred spaces” and having “the dead assist the living in the condemnation of injustice.” The natives were able to create a place for themselves in society through the public celebration of the holiday. With this place comes a sense of identity. The people who celebrated the holiday formed a bond with each other against those who did not. This “imagined community” was not together separate from the fact that they all suffered at the hands of the Spanish and celebrated El Día de los Muertos in resistance to their oppression. This formation of a strategy and its enactment are being repeated in the modern era. The Latino minority in the United State of America are creating a space for themselves in American society through a religious strategy. They have been using El Día de los Muertos, which fascinates many Anglo- Americans, as a strategy for their minority against the strategy of the majority and have “consciously developed U.S. Day of the Dead celebrations as political demonstrations of cultural identity and solidarity in the face of a still predominantly “Anglo” U.S. culture.”
Issues and Further Research:
There were only a few issues with my research. First, the Black Legend could show some bias in the foundations of the research. As a study that surrounds death, it is important to know the accurate scope and magnitude of the death due to the Spanish conquest; therefore, for future research, it is necessary to compare the amount of death in Mexico due to intertribal conflict and compare it to the amount of death due to the Spanish invasion. The death count before the conquests by the Spanish and afterwards could be compared to see if the increase in death would be enough for a significant cultural change. Charts and graphs of the amount of deaths in the native population over time would significantly help the research.
Another issue with the research is that most of it is based on the present and transposed to reflect possible situations in the past. El Día de los Muertos is a well-known holiday in the present day, but the question of whether it gained popularity during the conquests needs further research. Even if the popularity of the holiday did not increase during the conquest, there is a possibility that the holiday started its climb towards its present popularity during the conquests. However, more research needs to be on this topic because the effects before and after have been researched, but the effects during the conquest are still unknown. A trip to Mexico to study the culture of the natives depicted in the archives and ruins of the Aztec civilization should be able to help shed light on this mystery.
Another issue that the research encountered was the lack of time and resources. There are many books and articles that could have helped shed light on the questions surrounding this research, but there was not enough time to read all of them. Since the research team consists of one person, the amount of material that could be covered was limited. To enable the use of the more sources, less time was available to spend reading each source and skimming was necessary in order to diversify the research. To further the research, it would be helpful to have a team to gather many sources efficiently.
Although there were a few issues, there is much room to expand the research. As seen in the evidence earlier in this proposal, this research obviously addresses issues of race and religion. The racial tension between the Spanish and natives, and the role that religion played in this relationship, show that many issues of race and religion did exist, but this research could expand to also include class. The social structure set up by the Spanish in the Americas established the Spanish as the upper class and the natives as the lower class. Issues of class might be present that are reflected in El Día de los Muertos and issues of race and religion. Religion and the celebration of El Día de los Muertos could have been a way for the lower class indigenous people to antagonize the upper class Catholics. If more research could be done on this topic, it could be expanded to cover issues like these and maybe even gender issues. El Día de los Muertos and its history hold unexplored potential for historical analysis.
Conclusion and Petition:
In accordance with the above research on the popularity of El Día de los Muertos and its connection with class, gender and race issues through analysis considering Foucault and de Certeau, there may be a connection between the Spanish conquest of the Americas and the Mexican holiday of El Día de los Muertos. Though the Spanish saw the holiday as insanity, it is possible that it was a way for the people of Mexico to strike back at their oppressors and form their own strategy. The holiday served to unite the people of Mexico against the Spanish and form their own community and place. Further research into this topic is needed because the area is full of possibilities that could tie into situations present in the common day. By analyzing this connection further, it would be possible to recognize other movements in history where religion was used as a tactic and strategy and how this still applies to the modern world. Finally, with more funding, resources, and people it would be possible to see how the impact of conquest and oppression have an immediate and lasting impact on the people of the past and present. El Día de los Muertos celebrates the dead, but it is important that the culture and the history of this holiday do not die.
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1991.
In this book, Anderson discusses the mentally established communities that exist in society. The communities might not interact with each other, or even be possible, but there exist some factor that connects the people.
De Certeau, Michel. ““Making Do”: Uses and Tactics.” In The Practice of Everyday Life, 29-42. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984
In this work, de Certeau discusses the methods used by people when interacting with each other. He describes the art of establishing a place in society and disrupting it. He uses making do, tactics, and strategies as definitions for different types of dealing with place in society.
De Las Casas, Bartolomé. A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies. Translated by Nigel Griffin. London, England: Penguin Books, 1992.
This accounts the stories of atrocities perpetrated in the Americas by the Spanish. It is considered one of the first works advocating for human rights.
Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. New York: Vintage Books, 1988.
In this work, Foucault challenges the definition of insanity. He shows that society constructs what could be considered insane, and that insanity is not always a bad thing, but rather, a difference that does not conform to society’s norms.
Massey, Sarah. 2008. El Día de los Muertos.” Faces (07491287) 25, no. 3
This is a short account of the history and customs of El Día de los Muertos. It tells the customs surrounding the holiday from its Aztec origins to the present day.
Perez, Domino. There Was a Woman: La Llorona from Folklore to Popular Culture. Austin: University of Texas, 2008.
This book talks about the legend of the crying woman and its use as resistance. The survival of the legend represents the survival of a culture.
Tornquist, Leif C. 2010. “Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49, no. 4
This is a scientific book review that highlights the major issues discussed in Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon. It breaks down the issues as they deal with religious aspects in the present day.
Griffin. London, England: Penguin Books, 1992. : 45.
Vintage Books, 1988. : 64.
Griffin. London, England: Penguin Books, 1992. : 128.
By Kristina Lew
A while back, Louie led a panel on archives and shifting paradigms in the humanities. A lot of what the first speaker (Daniel Benjamin) said went over my head, but I found the latter two speakers (Sarah Brunstad and Sarah Cornish) to have really interesting topics. Listening to what they had to say, it felt a lot like the final projects we have to do for class. The Sarahs were basically giving introductions to their respective research projects that they were working on: Brunstad was interested in researching the role of women in comics in America from WWII onwards and Cornish women’s history in Berlin. I was really impressed with how Cornish was so drawn to her project by a sole, mis-archived diary of a woman. It was scarily eye-opening when she pointed out the amount of history left out by history with her example of the mass rape detailed in the diary. Something that bothered me was the “importance” of their projects, aside from documenting and analyzing history for history’s sake. How can they, or us with our final projects, know the actual importance of our research without actually having had done the research yet? We can only guess the potential importance our research can bring us, but I feel like a lot of what we learn from our projects will come once we have analyzed and discovered more from the research. How does one really sell oneself and their idea and get funding without really knowing herself what she is trying to sell?
What people want to study reflects what they value; it also reflects what they know. If I wasn’t already interested in sign language, I probably wouldn’t have any interest in deaf culture. Which is telling of the prior knowledge that other students have (specifically witch hunts).
The judging process is similarly telling of students. Though anonymous, I feel like many students would feel pressured or would opt to vote their friends “up” and neglect those they don’t really know too well. Or it would give students the opportunity to speak honestly about who would deserve this proposed research grant.
Who is “deserving” is a curious questions, especially since we were told to judge the presentation, rather than the effort that the person would likely put into research and the idea itself. Just thoughts, it’s very late.
Remarks on the class as a whole: thumbs up all around. Without a doubt my kind of class. If only I could write every paper about why people do things…