Living in The Merry Ghetto: The Music and Politics of the Czech Underground

ISBN : 9780190263867

Trever Hagen
208 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Aug 2019
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Living in the Merry Ghetto reframes how people use music to build resistance. Author Trever Hagen addresses the social context of illegal music-making in Czechoslovakia during state socialism. He tells the story of a group of rock'n'roll musicians who went underground after 1968, building a parallel world from where they could flourish: the Merry Ghetto. The book examines the case of the Czech Underground and the politics of their music and their way of life, paying close attention to the development of the ensemble The Plastic People of the Universe. Taking in multiple political transitions from the 1940s-2000s, the story focuses on non-official cultural practices such as listening to foreign radio broadcasts, seeking out copied cassette tapes, listening to banned LPs, growing long hair, attending clandestine concerts, smuggling albums via diplomats, recording in home-studios and being thrown in prison for any of these activities. Drawing on ethnographic interviews with Undergrounders, archival research and participant observation, Hagen shows how these practices shaped consciousness, informed bodies and promoted collective action, all of which contributed to an Underground identity.


List of Figures and Tables
Nicknames and diminutives
Chapter One: The Underground Cultural Ecology
Chapter Two: From Socialist Realism to the Prague Spring
Chapter Three: Assembling the Merry Ghetto
Chapter Four: Creativity, Establishment and the Self
Chapter Five: Human Rights, Prison & Amplifiers
Chapter Six: Generating New Waves
Chapter Seven: Underground is Life
Chapter Eight: Getting By Together

About the author: 

Trever Hagen is a trumpeter, writer and researcher. His interests lie in extended technique, noise, improvisation, movement, memory studies, music therapy and acoustic ecology. Hagen is a former Fulbright Scholar, Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow, and Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellow.

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