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Benjamin Court

Benjamin Court is a current graduate student in musicology at UCLA. His primary musical interests lie in the 20th century, especially popular music since the 1960s. Benjamin is also working toward his certification in Experimental Critical Theory at UCLA focusing on utopian theories and the philosophy of Alain Badiou.

 

Abstract:

"Feeling the Political in 'Can You Feel It?'"

Sociological readings of electronic dance music often draw political conclusions from the identity categories most closely associated with the cultures surrounding genres. In particular, scholars frequently link the bodily imperatives of electronic dance music to sexuality. This paper will rethink the political potentials of house music as an aesthetic experience that is both of and external to the body. In particular, I will address how the concept of “feeling” embodies a dialectical notion that allows dancers and listeners to experience music either with or without recourse to identity. Drawing largely on the theories of Frankfurt philosopher Ernst Bloch, as well as numerous contemporary dance music scholars and cultural critics, I argue that house contains immanent political possibilities that evade the potential reductions of theoretical frameworks based on alteriority.

In order to explain this notion of feeling, I will focus in on the famous 1986 Chicago house record, “Can You Feel It?” by Mr. Fingers, otherwise known as Larry Heard. Partaking in larger discourses within house cultures, Heard approaches feeling as a vaguely ecstatic term that encompasses both emotive and physical sensations. Through analyses of the numerous vocal remixes of the song, it is clear why this track is an early example of the “deep house” subgenre, known for its emotional depth and “soulfulness.” Meanwhile, textural and rhythmic structures elucidate the track’s drive towards bodily movement. Through a combination of these competing notions of feeling, Heard embraces a political dialectic that breaks through identity, inclusion, and exclusion.

My Speakers Sessions

Friday, March 23
 

4:00pm EDT