For historian Frederick Jackson Turner, the nature of "the frontier" of the U.S. West was obvious and unitary, a line of Anglo settlement creeping steadily across the region's landscape, inspiring a rugged, individualistic sense of national identity. Anthropologists have complicated such straightforward accounts of frontier-ness, foregrounding the unruly nature of world-building that frontiers entail as imaginative and material projects. dreams of the new world, an original musical work developed by composer Ellen Reid, writer Sarah LaBrie, and anthropologist Sayd Randle, takes the multiplicity of the frontier and “American dream” concepts as its point of departure. The piece explores three western cities – Memphis, Houston, and Los Angles – understood as different sorts of frontiers at different historical moments. Through ethnographic fieldwork in each urban center, the creative team developed an account of frontier-thinking and making in the western U.S. as both fractal and unitary. This talk examines the ideals and notions of becoming articulated through the musical work, theorizing how such concepts clash with emergent modes of spatial governance and environmental management within the region.
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