Thoughts on Punk: The Vancouver Scene

After last week’s class on the Vancouver punk community, we thought it might be fun to start posting our ideas on what we covered in class online, so we can keep pushing those intellectual boundaries even after the bell rings. And if you missed the class, well here’s your chance to throw in your 2 cents (or profound ideas)!

Tyler thought:

A few thoughts after Rylan Kafara’s lecture on Vancouver’s punk scene and Direct Action:

Effective Change and Violence

The Vancouver Five tried to further the causes of the punk scene (environmentalism, anti-war beliefs and women’s rights are three we discussed) through violent actions against property and (accidentally) against people. Instead of furthering these causes, I argue the outcome actually overshadowed them. I worry that looking back on these causes in relation to the scene, the sensationalization of their actions eclipses the creative work and its potential to create discussion and change. 

Change is slow. As we saw, the only result of violence was a jail sentence and a renouncing of the method. But true societal change can rise from a slowly-developed art community who collaborate and discuss and create. Writing potent, purposeful music and lyrics gives weight and emotional connection to a cause. At first, a band may only connect with a handful of audience members. But those audience members will surely be more dedicated to the cause than a casual observer of mainstream media. And, dedication to the craft and to the belief has the potential to build a community around it.

Over time, beliefs circulate and integrate. Community building is a more effective and lasting tool of change than violence, and violence can inexorably tarnish the effectiveness of community.

Folk vs. Punk vs. Punk

I have been questioning the relationship between folk and punk. I think they share many aspects: DIY ethic, community building, structural simplicity and minimal barrier between audience and performer. But I am struggling with the difference in sound between the two.

I am using the word “punk” in two different ways: 1) an “attitude” of DIY, community, action etc. 2) a musical genre, a word that denotes a certain sound. The second definition makes it clear, folk is not punk. This is complicated by the first definition, which encompasses folk. Perhaps the class should debate the double meaning of the word, and whether it would be valuable to distinguish the attitude from the genre.

And Dave thought…

Loved the class last week. I think that there are many shades of grey when it comes to defining punk music and punk ideology–and I think that there is a sort of dual nature in this way (as a music form and as an outlet for ideas of a specific type). In my internet wanderings I ended up at the wikipedia article on punk ideologies which added even more to my confusion as to whether there is a specific ‘punk’ ideology at all. Perhaps it just comes down to being part of a counterculture–whether you be left wing, right wing, feminist, nihilist, racist, whatever.

As for the Vancouver five, I’d say I mostly disagree with their methods. How many movements for positive change start with violence and end in lasting peaceful resolution (whether people are hurt or not in the violence)? Although maybe someone can give me an example of that happening… I also think that this may have been a bit of a different story had no one been hurt, maybe the media wouldn’t have crucified the group as they did?

Also, I think that the Quebec protests are pretty relevant to a lot of what we are talking about (and the free school concept) and if anyone is particularly informed or has a strong opinion on those events I’d be interested in hearing it!

Lyndsay thought…


The evolution of punk?

Divergent evolution is the process of genetically similar species accumulating different traits as the species spread to ecologically distinct regions. Different environments incite the emergence of unique characteristics, making these genetically similar species very different in appearance and functionality. Darwin’s finches are a prime example, while sharing a common ancestry the finches developed very different traits, such as beak shape and size that best suited their respective environments. Perhaps this sheds some light on the question posed last class regarding the similarities and differences of punk and folk. While they may share a similar “ancestry”, history, and ideologies, their sounds have diverged at some point as they found practitioners and audiences with different demographics, socioeconomic statuses, and political realities (for example, perhaps the rebellious, aggressive sound of punk was inspired by the youth while a blue collar, older demographic formed a folk movement that was influenced by the sounds they grew up with).

Meanwhile, convergent evolution refers to species that have no common lineage, but end up acquiring very similar characteristics – like the wings of birds and bats. Prior to the start of class, a student raised the following issue: How did punk bands from different areas of the world, who claimed to have never heard each other, develop such similar sounds? Maybe, like the convergent evolution of species, similar settings, cultures, and experiences combined to result in the creation of music that reflected the bands’ parallel situations.

Keep the comments coming!

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