Music can be a fluid marker of time, an anthropological touchstone allowing us to relive moments in history — and sometimes, even the hopes and dreams of an entire generation. In Josh Kun’s upcoming July 6 multimedia talk at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, The Aural Border: Listening Across the California-Mexico Line, the MacArthur Fellow and University of Southern California professor takes us on an aural journey from Tijuana to Los Angeles, from turn-of-the-century jazz to ’60s rock and roll.
“It will be an audio essay,” Kun said. “There are mixes of storytelling, scholarship, and poetics with lots of musical interludes and music clips, all informed by the dualities of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. It becomes hard to say what’s U.S. and what’s Mexican — both of those styles are so influenced by each other.” Perhaps the inherent beauty in the lazy sun, the lonesome desert, or the meandering coast creates a need music is determined to fill. When asked why the California-Mexico border is so important in musical history, Kun said, “There is no such thing as Southern California without Mexico. There is no better way to describe immigration, the drug trade, and a number of social phenomena than with music. Music and sound can move through physical objects; it can cross borders and boundaries that many times individual people cannot.”
The music of well-known artists like Charles Mingus and Herb Alpert will be played, as well as lesser-known rock bands from Tijuana and mariachi bands from south of the border. When asked why music is unique as a means of cultural exchange, Kun said, “Music is a fascinating place where we use the experience of others to define ourselves. It is a remarkable avenue to think about politics, ethics, and belonging. It is very personal on the one hand, but it is super social. We go to concerts, we listen to music together, we dance, it brings us to tears, but it also makes our bodies move with each other. That’s a really powerful social force.”
Josh Kun presents The Aural Border: Listening Across the California-Mexico Line July 6, 5:30-7 p.m., in the Mary Craig Auditorium at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (1130 State St.). For more information, visit sbma.net.