Prof sings politics, lectures economics
Economics professor Nathan Berg’s new rock band, Halliburton(s) attempts to create awareness about the current political economy by combining his knowledge of music and economics, the result of which is a brand new type of sound.
Berg started playing bass professionally at age 12.
“I wanted to play music five, six hours a day, which meant that I participated in normal after-school activities a lot less than other kids,” he said.
Encouraged by his parents, Berg enrolled in the music program at the University of North Texas and played for the school’s top band.
After two years he dropped out and went to New York where he released a jazz album, “Fish With No Fins.”
Berg said he felt pressure to finish college, but despite the resistance, he became a musician.
He gained international recognition as a jazz bassist, recording and touring as a soloist and with Maynard Ferguson’s Big Bop Nouveau. His recordings have been cited by a number of books including the prestigious Penguin Guide to Jazz.
However, he soon grew weary of life on the road.
“People with no talent were often successful just because of their connections,” Berg said.
Tired of the music scene, politics became an important motivation in his life during the 1990s.
“The Gulf War was on and I started wanting to be able to have the language to talk convincingly about foreign affairs and the global economy,” he said.
While his colleagues were “great guys,” he said that the scene was not conducive to intellectual discussions on topics such as war, economy and policy.
Berg left the music world for a career in academia and enrolled at University of Kansas.
He stumbled upon an economics course, which linked the evolution of American music and the U.S. economy. Being a musician, the correlation fascinated him.
“I discovered that economists wind up fighting over mathematical arguments, so I realized the importance of becoming highly fluent in mathematics,” he said.
While Berg left economics to pursue a master’s degree in mathematics, he could not distance himself from the field entirely. .
He graduated with a PhD in economics in 2001 and soon after that accepted the position as professor at UTD.
He is the recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship to study the problem of shrinking population in Berlin. He has also received a $60,000 Smith Richardson research grant.
The importance of the upcoming presidential elections doubly motivated Berg to produce politically charged music with a message.
With songs such as “Lick Bush” and “I’m No Traitor When I Say War’s Bad,” Berg has again embraced the world of music, in an attempt to combat corporate sleaze, inequitable taxes and the war in Iraq.
“There’s nothing like playing in an ensemble. It’s the one time where it’s clear that the group matters more than the individual,” he said.
Berg’s band comprises an Irish bassist, Jamie Carswell, and Houstonian backup singer named Phara. They play an eclectic mix of folksy melody combined with an alternative twinge, aimed “the booty and the brain”, according to Berg.
They played at a protest rally on tax day in front of the Halliburton Company offices in Carrollton. The event, sponsored by the Dallas Peace Center, was held to draw attention to what organizers believe is the “misuse and waste of tax payer’s money.”
He will perform at 7 p.m., on April 23, at the Dallas Peace Center, near the Casa View United Methodist Church, 9998 Ferguson Rd.