An American English professor, Brian Rejack at Illinois State University, has coined a new term in search of pop songs about climate change issues. ”Cli-Hi-Fi” anyone?
Dr. Rejack is an associate professor in the department of English at Illinois State University who is very interested in climate change issues — and popular songs about climate issues. He’s so interested that he has coined a new term “Cli-Hi-Fi” with the hashtag #CliHiFi and is currently surfing the internet looking for other people who share his interest in this pop culture phenomenon.
I recently touched bases with Professor Rejack and asked him a few questions. In an email, he replied:
”Thanks for writing up the earlier blog post here and for helping to spread the Cli-Hi-Fi word.
”A bit of background for you and your blog readers here.
”I think my interest in the idea began in a few ways.
”First, during the 2016 presidential election and then immediately after its terrifying outcome, with Donald Trump becoming the president, I just kept thinking about how it seemed to portend that we were kind of screwed re: climate change.
”Not that that one event actually put the final nail in our environmental coffin, but it certainly made it easy to feel that way.
”And that’s why I think the turn to music made sense to me. I was noticing around 2016 the increasing sense of deep cultural and existential anxiety permeating pretty much everything (particularly from my students, but not only from them).
”At the same time I was listening to a lot of music that seemed to tap into that overarching feeling of unease, and I was also coming across more and more direct references to climate issues in song lyrics. Of course, popular music has a rich and varied and long history of being a medium for protest, for the airing of cultural and political dissent, etc.
”One of the challenges with climate change, though, is that it’s very difficult to conceive of and to represent, precisely because of its scale across space and time (cf. Morton’s “hyperobjects” idea). It’s one thing to write a song about “four dead in Ohio,” but how do you create a lyric out of a graph of ice core samples?
”The main thing I’m interested in with Cli-Hi-Fi is seeing how artists present, mediate, transform and/or reflect on climate change through music. It’s necessarily going to be different from journalistic or scientific engagements with the issue. But I think it’s also crucial that we have humanistic, aesthetic engagements with climate change if we’re going to do anything about it. Or, as i think in my more cynical moments, if we’re going to figure out how to live amidst it when we do nothing and things get even worse.
”The only other thing I’d say is that I’m interested in all sorts of ways we might understand music engaging with climate change. Lyrics that are directly about it in some way is just one option. I also think that something like the album “Rausch” by Gas is a good example of music that captures the feeling of climate anxiety without necessarily addressing it directly.
”I’d say the album “Chords” by Ellen Arkbro could also be read as Cli-Hi-Fi in the way that it uses sound to urge listeners to rethink their relationship between physical environments and the sounds made possible in relation to them. (Alvin Lucier’s “I Am Sitting in a Room” would be a model text for that sort of thing.)
”Anyway, that’s a sample of my thinking on the subject. It’s not anywhere near my main area of research, but it is something I find myself contemplating a lot these days.
”And I did just think of an idea for an essay on an element of all this which I would call “Uneasy Listening.” So I might have to write that. Stay tuned.
”Meanwhile, I’d be happy to keep chatting with you and others worldwide on this topic.”