Prague, Pop, Politics
What’s music got to do with it? Apparently, a lot. Join AAU professor, author and musician Pavla Jonssonova on a course about the history of pop, rock and how they have shaped politics and history in the Czech Republic.
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This course will take you through the history of Czech pop and rock from the 1960s til today. We will watch the best music videos from the Prague Spring of 1968, discuss texts about the underground and alternative music as it developed in the 1970s and 1980s and admire the authenticity of the musicians, who stayed true to their beliefs and never betrayed.
Participants will see how the future president Václav Havel befriended The Plastic People of the Universe (Czech rock band most representative of the underground culture), and how he fought for their release from prison. We will learn about what happened to Czech music in liberal democracy after 1989.
The course is fully experiential, with classes held in Prague, visiting actual places and music venues. Relevant literature and readings will be provided to all participants in advance.
- Understand the history of Czech rock, know about the persecution and imprisonment of the musicians.
- Find out about five Czech bands and their poetics and topics
- See how music is connected to politics
- Learn about Czech musicians who are successful in the West, like Iva Bittová or Už jsme doma
Academic course led by a professor of AAU who will provide insights from her hands-on experience and research. In class lectures are complemented by visuals and discussion of readings. One excursion is to the Museum of Music, one to the Pop Museum at Kaštan.
Schedule and Course Content
For a detailed course schedule and content, please download the Course Outline.
History of Czech Rock’n’Roll with music videos and lyrics translations (2 hours)
We will see how Czechs mastered the new music genre despite the Iron Curtain limitations, who were the first professional rock bands in the 1960s, and how the invasion of the Warsaw pact troops stopped it all. New strategies had to be invented in the 1970s, and as technologies progressed in the 1980s, rock once again developed itself as a resistance to the regime.
- Maderová, Blanka, et al. “Czech Alternative Music and Rock” in: To Touch the World: Czech Musical Alternative 1968-2013 Praha: Fakulta humanitních studií Univerzity Karlovy v Praze, 2013. (Library)
- Ramet Sabrina. Rocking the State.
- Please have a question ready for a great discussion
Czech Underground, The Plastic People of the Universe, DG 307. Ivan Martin Jirous and Egon Bondy as the masterminds. Videos, films, discussion (2 hours)
We will learn about a movement of brave rebels against the regime who remained true to their beliefs despite being put into jail. British dramatist of Czech origin, Tom Stoppard, wrote a play called “Rock’n’Roll” (2006), where he discussed the role of the underground at the end of the Cold War.
- Ivan Jirous Report on the Czech Underground.
- From Views from the Inside – manifesto
- Topol, Jáchym. “Game Park.” Prague: Yazzyk, 1995, 30-32.
- Pavel Z. Time is a Mid-Night Scream, Prague: Twisted Spoon Press, 1999
Please have a question ready for a great discussion
POP Museum, Cross Club (4 hours)
The Pop Museum has a collection of instruments, records, posters, and photos. It is housed in a major independent culture center called Kastan, which is operated by Unijazz, an organizer of alternative festivals, publishers of Uni.
Cross Club is another major alternative venue with a distinctive architecture of moving statues, financed by the municipality of Prague to organize free events.
Zuzana Jurková: Prague Soundscapes . AAU Library, especially the chapter on Cross Club
Czech Museum of Music (2 hours)
Czech Muzeum of Music often houses grandiose exhibits not only on classical music but also on pop.
Materials will be updated soon
Music after 1989 & Lecture with music videos (2 hours)
Everything changed after 1989, new radios, labels, press, music stores, studios. Music stopped being a resistance tool and became just another market item.
Materials will be updated soon.Leadership article online
AAU Academy Instructor, LovePrague Courses
AAU Senior Lecturer
Pavla Jonssonová specializes in contemporary culture and subcultures. Her publications include three monographs Women, Music, Creativity: from Hildegard to Cosey Fanni Tutti in English, Devět z české hudební alternativy osmdesátých let (Czech Music Alternative of the 1980s) (English version pending) and Růžové vrány. Muzikantky 21. Století (Interviews with twenty Czech women musicians), numerous articles, interviews, poetry, and translations. Since 1980 she has performed in various rock bands e.g. Plyn, Dybbuk, Zuby nehty, who produced numerous albums and a film for television. Currently, she plays the bass for Malé zuby. She is a member of a civic association Puppets in Hospitals who perform for sick children.
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AAU makes networking incredibly easy to do. I was able to participate in various events that don't necessarily connect to my coursework like conferences, literature festivals, debates, lectures, etc. When I was President of the Diplomatic Club, AAU helped me get in touch with event-organizers, which, for example, allowed us to host an event during the Festival of Democracy organized by the famous Forum 2000 conference.
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