What explains the social power of music in the United States today? What allows Americans to invoke it as the cause of antisocial violence, as well as of personal expressivity? This essay contemplates the peculiar American invention of a musical culture defined by generation, which has political force without being properly political. It suggests that this music has come to play the part assigned to witchcraft in many other societies, bearing within itself the capacity to transform individualism into antisociality, alienation into destruction, desire into violence. It can do so because it opens anew the gap in language between meaning and force. Tracing the history of music in the aftermath of World War I, from the Beatles to Marilyn Manson, Frank Sinatra to santana, and following the popular cultural discourses that both invoked and strove to contain magic, the essay suggests that America remains possessed by the idea of witchcraft.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.