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Pop and Punk: Syracuse MVJ Graduation Speech - May 7, 2015

Speech delivered by the Master Chief for U.S. Navy Public Affairs at the 2015 Syracuse University Military Visual Journalism Program Graduation. Topic: Navy information content needs to embrace lessons learned from both Pop and Punk music.
Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Published in: Presentations & Public Speaking      

Transcripts - Pop and Punk: Syracuse MVJ Graduation Speech - May 7, 2015

  • 1. Remarks  as  written  by   MCCM(SW/AW/EXW)  Jon  McMillan,   Master  Chief  for  U.S.  Navy  Public  Affairs     Syracuse  University     Military  Visual  Journalism  Program  Graduation   May  7,  2015       Pop  and  Punk     I  was  running  many  ideas  through  my  mind  about  what  I  wanted  to  say  to  you  on   your  graduation  from  the  course  here  at  Syracuse.         As  part  of  very  effective  procrastination  campaign,  I  started  watching  HBOs  “Kurt   Cobain:  Montage  of  Heck”  documentary.    I’ve  always  been  fascinated  by  people  who   create  and  make  new  things  by  combining  things  we  never  thought  could  -­‐-­‐-­‐  or   should  -­‐-­‐  be  combined.     Nirvana  was  like  that  for  me.    Light  and  Heavy.    Pop  and  Punk.    I  had  heard  sort-­‐of   similar  music  before  -­‐-­‐  like  the  Pixies  -­‐-­‐  but  it  never  really  reached  me  -­‐-­‐  it  never   communicated  to  me  in  the  way  Nirvana  did  -­‐-­‐  and  at  times  -­‐-­‐  does.     So  this  documentary  grabbed  my  attention.  The  story  was  interesting  to  me.  But  the   way  the  documentary  was  told  fascinated  me.     It’s  authentic  with  the  expected  home  videos.  It’s  full  of  context  with  multiple   interviews  with  family  and  friends  and  their  20  years  of  hindsight  and  reflection.     And  then  there’s  what  really  got  me:  Kurt  Cobain’s  art.       Audio  recordings  of  him  telling  stories  and  working  through  his  creative  process  of   making  music.  Animated  segments  of  sketches  and  drawings  from  Cobain’s   notebooks.  Sections  highlighting  his  letters,  journal  entries,  lyrics  and  random   thoughts.     Kurt  Cobain  was  a  mixed  media  artist.    He  wrote.  He  drew.  He  designed.  And  he   made  music.    Seeing  his  work  -­‐-­‐  and  hearing  more  than  just  his  published  songs  -­‐-­‐   provided  me  a  new  way  to  understand  his  story.     ***     This  is  something  many  of  us  in  the  Navy  have  been  thinking  about.    How  can  we   provide  a  new  way  to  help  people  better  understand  our  story?     Part  of  the  answer  is  you  -­‐-­‐  our  Syracuse  graduates.    We  believe  the  education  you   receive  here  -­‐-­‐  and  the  mentorship  you  will  provide  to  others  when  you  leave  -­‐-­‐  can
  • 2. help  us  tell  our  story  better.     Your  work  in  storytelling  through  multimedia,  writing,  sound  production,  design,   photojournalism  and  broadcasting  builds  a  tremendous  foundation.     The  challenge  for  each  of  you  will  be  how  you  apply  all  this  when  you  return  to  the   Fleet.     Will  you  be  able  to  translate  the  storytelling  skills  you  developed  here  to  the  types   of  stories  you’ll  be  asked  to  produce  in  the  Fleet?     ***     It  reminds  me  of  a  story  a  famous  musician  found  himself  in  back  in  the  late  1700s.         At  the  age  of  17  or  18,  Wolfgang  Amadeus  Mozart  landed  a  job  in  Salzburg,  Austria   as  the  court  musician  and  composer.  This  was  a  job  his  father  had  set  up  with  the   Archbishop  in  order  to  keep  a  steady  flow  of  money  coming  into  the  Mozart  family.     The  job  though  didn’t  sit  well  with  Mozart.    He  had  spent  his  youth  travelling  Europe   with  his  family  playing  for  Kings  and  Queens,  meeting  and  learning  from  the  leading   minds  in  music,  playing  and  composing  in  every  conceivable  genre,  listening  to  the   best  orchestras,  and  watching  Italian  Operas.       And  now  he  was  relegated  to  life  in  Salzburg.    Isolated  from  the  European  centers  of   music.    Asked  to  play  and  compose  music  he  felt  was  dead  and  conventional  and  had   no  way  of  stirring  emotions  or  being  expressive.     I  guess  you  can  say  Mozart  was  being  asked  to  compose  something  like  a  Navy  dot   Mil  story  or  a  general  military  news  article  for  his  time.     He  ended  up  moving  to  Vienna  though  where  he  began  creating  at  an  intense  rate.     He  used  the  knowledge  he  gained  travelling  Europe  and  playing  all  those  different   genres  to  his  advantage.    He  started  to  stretch  the  boundaries  of  traditional  music   and  transform  those  songs  in  ways  no  one  had  ever  heard.     He  found  ways  to  make  his  music  powerful  and  expressive  and  broke  away  from  the   style  of  music  people  had  grown  to  expect.     You  see,  back  then  the  piano  concerto  and  symphony  had  become  light  and  pop-­‐like   genres  with  short  and  simple  movements  and  a  lot  of  melody.    To  Mozart,  it  all  must   have  sounded  a  lot  like  elevator  music.     So,  Mozart  reworked  those  forms  from  within.    He  composed  works  for  larger   orchestras.  He  expanded  the  violin  sections.    His  works  gave  the  orchestra  a  more
  • 3. powerful  sound  and  he  established  tension  and  dissonance  that  would  build  and   build  to  a  climax  and  then  reveal  a  grand  and  dramatic  finale.     Light  and  Heavy.    Pop  and  Punk.     ***     We’re  trying  to  create  something  similar  for  the  Navy.    Let’s  say  it’s  our  version  of   Light  and  Heavy.    Pop  and  Punk.     We’re  on  a  mission  to  create  Navy  content  that  is  both.         We  need  fast  and  easy-­‐to-­‐digest  content.    Quick.  Light.  “Ok.  Got  it”-­‐  type  stories,   information  summaries,  short  videos,  informational  posters.       Content  that  is  like  pop  music:  Accessible  to  many;  easy  to  understand  and  easy  to   remember.         Content  that  is  mobile,  social,  visual  and  shareable.         Content  that  is  produced  and  released  now  -­‐-­‐  as  it  happens.    Not  in  an  hour.  Not  in  a   day.    But  now.  As  quick  as  we  can  get  it  out  and  be  accurate  and  clear.     You  know.  Pop  music.     ***   A  musician  who’s  been  really  good  at  getting  in  on  the  “now”  is  Sonny  Moore.    He   was  the  lead  singer  of  the  band  “From  First  to  Last”  from  2004  to  2006.  The  group   mixed  Emo  and  Hardcore  -­‐-­‐  imagine  confessional  and  expressive  lyrics  with  fast,   heavy  and  abrasive  punk.    It’s  a  different  way  of  thinking  about  light  and  heavy.    Pop   and  Punk.     Well,  Sonny  was  plugged  in.    He  met  his  band  on  MySpace  when  it  was  the  largest   social  networking  site  in  the  world.  They  marketed  their  album  through  social   media  and  started  booking  shows  through  connections  they  made  online.         As  social  media  began  to  break  and  become  a  monster  force,  so  did  “From  First  To   Last.”    They  were  booked  on  the  Vans  Warped  Tour  and  got  bigger  and  bigger  as   they  promoted  their  social  media  pages  at  all  their  concerts.       Of  course,  trends  move  fast.  MySpace  died.  “From  First  To  Last”  faded.  And  Sonny   Moore  left  the  band,  rented  a  warehouse  in  L.A.  and  started  playing  on  his  computer.     He  started  creating  Electronic  Dance  Music  and  posting  it  online  for  free.    He   continued  to  promote  his  work  on  social  media  and  started  playing  parties.
  • 4. He  was  offered  a  major  breakthrough  job  remixing  a  Lady  Gaga  song…  and  started   calling  himself  Skrillex.       His  take  on  electronic  dance  music  and  dubstep  became  big.  Very  big.     He  took  the  genre  to  a  new  place  as  he  mixed  pop  dance  music  with  heavy  deep  bass   drops  and  wobble  that  became  his  signature  sound.    Light  and  Heavy.    Pop  and   Punk.     ***   What’s  amazing  about  Skrillex  to  me  is  how  he  has  been  able  to  ride  on  different  pop   and  punk  waves  and  his  ability  to  combine  mulitple  trends.    What’s  also  amazing  is   he  doesn’t  stick  with  just  one  way.  He  moves  in  and  out  of  trends  and  finds  new   ways  to  connect  with  his  fans.     Skrillex  understands  that  pop  trends  shift.  What’s  popular  and  meaningful  now  may   not  be  useful  in  a  day.  The  shelf-­‐life  of  pop  is  natually  short.     As  we  create  our  pop  stories  that  are  accessible  to  many;  easy  to  understand  and   easy  to  remember;  we  can’t  forget  that  much  of  it  is  disposable.         Content  that  is  mobile,  social,  visual  and  shareable  is  also  inheritantly  expendable.  I   have  no  idea  what  was  in  my  Twitter  feed  an  hour  ago.    I  never  scroll  all  the  way   down  my  Facebook  feed  to  see  what  happened  yesterday.       ***     This  is  why  we  need  the  heavy.    In  addition  to  the  Pop,  we  need  the  Punk.     And  this  is  where  you  and  the  particular  skills  you  learned  here  come  in  to  play  the   most.     Mozart’s  expanded  orchestras  and  violin  sections  are  like  storytelling  details  and   color.    It  adds  richness  and  context.  It  fills  the  mind  and  can  create  powerful,  moving   experiences.           Skrillex’s  way  of  understaning  what  resonates  with  crowds  allows  him  to  connect  to   people  through  both  rock  and  electronic  dance  music.       Working  in  mixed  media  and  telling  our  stories  through  sounds,  graphics,  moving   pictures,  still  images  and  written  words  can  provide  a  depth  of  understanding  -­‐-­‐  a   holistic  look  inside,  around,  above  and  below  the  stories  we  tell.    Like  Kurt  Cobain’s   mixed  media  art  -­‐-­‐  the  more  ways  we  can  share,  the  more  ways  people  will  have  to   understand  us.
  • 5. We  need  to  create  these  deeper,  more  contextual  pieces  of  work  that  resonate  with   our  audiences.    The  work  can  take  many  forms:    Written,  audio,  video  or  multimedia   feature  stories  or  series;    Storytelling  narratives;  Full  on  documentaries;  Detailed   and  data-­‐driven  stories  and  infographics.         ***     Head  out  to  the  Fleet  and  embrace  both  the  Pop  and  the  Punk.    Listen  and  seek  to   understand  your  audiences.  Find  ways  to  resonate  with  them  and  make  something   new  by  combining  styles,  media,  and  communication  channels  in  ways  we  don’t   think  is  possible.     Build  your  own  Montage  of  Heck;  Symphony  of  expression;  connection  to  the  now.     Find  your  own  balance  between  the  Pop  and  the  Punk  and  sing  it  to  all  who’ll  listen.     The  foundation  has  been  built.    It’s  now  up  to  you  to  rework  our  media  world  from   within.     Let’s  use  the  pop  to  bring  people  in  and  use  the  punk  to  take  their  breath  away.     ***     Link  to  audio  of  delivered  speech:­‐e-­‐mcmillan/pop-­‐ and-­‐punk-­‐syracuse-­‐may-­‐7-­‐2015?in=jon-­‐e-­‐mcmillan/sets/my-­‐speeches

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