Graduate Student McNeill Speaks on the Social, Cultural Aspects of the Black New Orleans Brass Band

graduate student speaker

As part of Wesleyan’s Graduate Speaker Series, Marvin McNeill, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology, spoke about “Structures of Feeling and the Significance of Affectivity in the Social and Cultural Survivals of the Black New Orleans Brass Band,” on Feb. 7 in Exley Science Center.

McNeil explained how the institution of the Black New Orleans brass band represents a genealogic continuum that extends back to the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the Louisiana Territory. "This continuum connects a violent past, marked by physical abuse of black bodies in the form of institutionalized slavery, to a violent present confounded by systemic poverty, social injustice, and police brutality," he said. In spite of extreme oppression, the brass band community continues to enrich and enliven both local communities through their iconic musical offerings.

McNeill explained how the institution of the Black New Orleans brass band represents a genealogic continuum that extends back to the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to the Louisiana Territory. “This continuum connects a violent past, marked by physical abuse of black bodies in the form of institutionalized slavery, to a violent present confounded by systemic poverty, social injustice, and police brutality,” he said. “In spite of extreme oppression, the brass band community continues to enrich and enliven both local communities through their iconic musical offerings.”

Looking to Raymond Williams’ notion of “structures of feeling”, McNeil's paper locates the significance of affectivity in the social and cultural continuation of the black New Orleans Brass Band through the examination and analysis of a selected body of music created and performed by some of the most active brass bands in the streets of New Orleans today. "This exploration reveals the experience of pre-emergence expressed by Black brass band musicians, foreshadowing an event of an emergent change in society, in the form of expressions like that of the Black Lives Matter Movement," McNeil explained. 

Looking to Raymond Williams’s notion of “structures of feeling,” McNeill’s paper locates the significance of affectivity in the social and cultural continuation of the black New Orleans brass band through the examination and analysis of a selected body of music created and performed by some of the most active brass bands in the streets of New Orleans today. “This exploration reveals the experience of pre-emergence expressed by black brass band musicians, foreshadowing an event of an emergent change in society, in the form of expressions like that of the Black Lives Matter Movement,” McNeill explained.

graduate student speaker

McNeill’s presentation was an excerpt of his master’s thesis titled “‘Get It How You Live’: Locating Affect, Social Bonding, and Resiliency in the Music of the TBC Brass Band of New Orleans, Louisiana,” which he completed last year at Wesleyan. “My PhD dissertation topic will grow from my thesis, but will focus on black youth culture and musical expression more broadly,” he said. McNeil’s advisor is Eric Charry, professor of music.

All Graduate Speaker Series events are open to the entire campus community. (Photos by Nick Sng '23)

All Graduate Speaker Series events are open to the entire campus community. Lunch is provided. (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)