2015 IASPM-US Annual Conference: Program
Please consult the PDF program above for important information about registration and session locations, shuttles, and parking.
Wednesday, February 18th
“How to Write about Music: A Talk with 33 1/3 Editor Ally-Jane Grossan and Special Guests”
Wednesday, February 18 at 7:00 pm
Dreamland, 810 S. Market Street
Hosted by the University of Louisville Commonwealth Center for Humanities and Society
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/
Thursday, February 19th
Executive Committee Meeting (2:30-4:00pm, Courtyard Marriott Downtown, Conference Room)
100 S. Second Street
Registration Opens (4:00-6:30pm, Hyatt Regency)
311 S. Fourth Street
Opening Plenary (4:30-6:30pm, Hyatt Regency)
311 S. Fourth Street
Sponsored by the University of Louisville Liberal Studies Project
Sounding the Crisis, Sounding Possibility: Critical Dialogues in Popular Music Studies (A Round Table on the Work of Stuart Hall)
Jayna Brown (University of California, Riverside)
Lisa Calvente (DePaul University)
Nadine Hubbs (University of Michigan)
Maureen Mahon (New York University)
Shana Redmond (University of Southern California and Ella Baker Visiting Associate Professor of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara)
Barry Shank (The Ohio State University)
Ali Colleen Neff (College of William and Mary)
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/
Welcome Reception (7:00-9:00pm, Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft)
White Glove Test: Louisville Punk Flyers 1978-1994 Exhibition
Friday, February 20th
Registration and Coffee (8:00-8:30am, Ekstrom Library, Chao Auditorium Lobby)
Friday Short Morning 1 (8:30-10:00am, Ekstrom Library)
Representing Labor in Digital Media: Radio, Records and Live Performance (CLC)
Moderator: Larisa Mann (New York University)
Re-purposing Music on Alternative Radio: Cultural Work and Imagined Communities (AJ Johnson, Bates College)
This paper considers the work of the programmer/DJ in contextualizing and re-contextualizing music via its placement and treatment on programs and radio stations and compares practices of the 1960s and 1970s with contemporary ones that involve also social media and the Internet. In the earlier period, DJs had considerably more freedom of action and their personas were a focal point of radio’s popular appeal. In the dominant practices on contemporary commercial radio, on-air personalities have little responsibility for, or choice in, program content, as those prerogatives having been usurped by station music and program directors or external programming services, and this extends to large-budget public radio stations. However, where radio is less of a business and more of a mission, such as in college, community or Internet radio, DJs still select and mix music for loyal listening audiences and in doing so perform cultural work that builds communities and produces new meanings. DJs also use recorded music creatively, creating mixes, mashups, and playlists that speak to the moment. Major structural differences exist between these periods; commercial radio has strong economic and ideological ties to the record industry, while the decline of the record industry has seen a retreat in its promotional activities. Still, radio stations aggregate the cultural work of its DJs and the station’s technical and management staffs. Their political and ideological positions contribute to the imagined community of radio station and audience.
AJ Johnson, Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Bates College, studies and teaches jazz, African American popular music, film music, and music and technology. His Columbia University PhD dissertation is titled “Jazz and Radio in the United States: Mediation, Genre, and Patronage.” Johnson is an active performer (trombone) and composer.
Myth Making, Digital Music Production and The Internal Labor of Innovation (Didier Sylvain, Columbia University)
This paper presents fieldwork demonstrating how musical innovation is grounded in the digital music producer’s practices of “myth making” as self-identification. During a music production session in the bedroom-studio of Brooklyn-based composer, percussionist, and turntablist Val Jeanty, the producer discusses her uses of digital sampling via the Korg Wavedrum to explore infinite possibilities and directions for articulating personhood. The sample, as a culturally malleable artifact, is only the beginning of the producer’s personal narrative. In this instance, transforming pre-recorded sound is central to negotiating an internal process with a social/external process of being in the world. The producer plays with popular desires, fantasies, vulnerabilities and fears, continually constructing alternative narratives of her personhood. These dialectics of inner and outer reveal much about the producer’s interiority and its effect on particular forms of innovation in popular music. Considering technological, financial, or industrial constraints, the producer’s self-identification process posits popular culture not as a fixed structure, but rather a mythical space that is always shaped by the music producer’s notion of constant becoming. Rather than solely attending to neoliberal modes of production and capital, she considers interiority and myth making as an alternative conception of labor. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in New York City’s electronic music scene – specifically, its first electronic music production school, Dubspot – this paper explores the producer’s myth making as a central factor in shaping the labor and sound of popular music innovation.
Didier Sylvain is a PhD student in ethnomusicology at Columbia University with research interests in spirituality, technology, and politics. He is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon, Boston College, and the United Nations International School. Didier is an electro-acoustic composer, coach, and strategist.
Sonic Color and the Transparency of Music Production: Mixing Porgy & Bess on Broadway (Whitney Slaten, Columbia University)
How do live sound engineers’ consideration of social and technological transparency both clarify and obfuscate colorations of musical sound in the process of amplifying live popular music? In addition to amplifying music to intelligible sound levels for audiences, engineers also amplify music in ways that assert their hidden sound art, working to sonically and visually mask themselves and their equipment. Transparency is an industrial ideology that outlines methods of faithfully reproducing sounds without coloring or obscuring an original quality. Engineers use the term “transparency” in their discourse to describe this hidden mode of labor and the functionality of amplification equipment. However, live sound engineers inevitably and strategically resist this ideology by creatively coloring musical sound. These colorations not only occur technologically, but through the cultural expectations and musicality of the engineer who mixes. The practice of engineering live sound involves negotiating a series of sonic colorations that engineers associate to the visuality of computer-based graphic equalizer settings. These sonic colorations or resonances describe acoustic dimensions of a performance venue, resonance expectations of musical genres, as well as the resonances of human hearing. Thus, the practice of transparency entails engineers’ faithful adherence to fulfilling these resonance expectations, as well as a faith in their own expectations for sonic qualities of musical color. Drawing on recent ethnographic fieldwork at the Broadway production of Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess,” this paper analyzes the mixing practice of a live sound engineer in relation to the social science of sound engineering and studies of creative labor.
Whitney Slaten, PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Columbia University, researches and teaches at the nexus of music, technology, liveness, and labor studies. His dissertation examines the relationships between technological and social examples of fidelity within the context of live sound reinforcement engineering. He is a jazz saxophonist and sound engineer.
Queering Performance, Performing Queer (W104)
Moderator: Tiffany Naiman (University of California, Los Angeles)
Girls Who Are Boys Who Like Girls to be Boys: Mashups and Androgyny (Christine Boone)
The concept of androgyny seems almost inextricable from the mashup aesthetic. Because of the value placed on combining disparate artists into a single track, it follows that mashups that combine male and female artists would be particularly interesting to listeners and critics. When the first mashups began to circulate in the early twenty-first century, men and women became almost literally pitted against one another as they were being forced into contact. Most basic mashups are given a clever title combining the titles of the source songs, and then the contributing artists are listed like competitors in a wrestling match. Are these artists really in
opposition to each other, or are they working together within the context of the mashup? The visual art that goes along with musical mashups can also be highly androgynous. The “Best of Bootie” compilations, for instance, feature two musicians’ faces (usually a man and a woman) digitally spliced together to form a hybrid, androgynous being. This paper will uncover the relationships that form between differently-gendered musical artists as they are juxtaposed with one another in mashups.
These androgynous mashups are key sites for male/female power relationships. In this paper, I will examine the different types of meanings that result from combining male and female musicians (n. b. against their will, in most cases) into mashups. The meanings can range from simulated rape to female empowerment. I will analyze how these tracks are created, and exactly what features lead to such very different meanings.
TransAmericana (Shana Goldin-Perschbacher, Temple University)
The twenty-first century has witnessed North Americans’ growing familiarity with “transgender.” An unexpectedly large audience attended Duncan Tucker’s Transamerica (2005), in which gender transition is explored (if problematically) through a cross-country journey, made explicit in Dolly Parton’s Oscar-nominated original song, “Travelin’ Thru.” Musical and gendered “roots” themes are revisited in the documentaries Riot Acts: Flaunting Gender Deviance in Musical Performance (2010), My Prairie Home (2013), and Real Boy (estimated 2015) and in a proliferation of folk music by transgender or genderqueer musicians. Coyote Grace, Rae Spoon, Actor Slash Model, Geo Wyeth, Namoli Brennet, Girlyman, Schmekel, and Humble Tripe (among many) play acoustic instruments, sing in close harmony, and/or write autobiographical songs about rural spaces, working class experience, and journeys. Pulling from their associations with a variety of North American heritages, they merge Jewish prayer, vaudeville, and shanty, punk anthem and banjo, bluegrass and ukulele, voicing queer desire, transgressing gender norms, and challenging racism, patriarchy, and capitalism. But their relationship with folk genres can be difficult to manage – a queer challenge to “traditional” North American identities in a musically convincing performance of homespun roots. Further tensions arise as bands attract a womyn’s music audience, highlighting an inherent tension in which only some “roots” are acceptable: some of the transmale musicians leverage identification with this audience by outing themselves as former lesbians; meanwhile transfemale folk musicians are unwelcome at The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. “Trans*Americana” identifies a meaningful development in modern folk music, analyzing its complex cultural politics, compelling aesthetics, and historical significance.
Shana Goldin-Perschbacher is Assistant Professor of Music History at Temple University. Her publications have appeared in Popular Music, Women and Music, The Grove Dictionary of American Music, and Oh Boy!: Masculinities and Popular Music. Her first book project explores transgender and queer Americana through the lens of queer sincerity.
Queeraoke: Karaoke at the Crossroads (Jason Lee Oakes, The Cooper Union)
This paper will examine karaoke through the interpretive frames of queer theory. Across multiple settings, karaoke is often situated at the crossroads, thus making it a rich terrain for examining boundary negotiations, fluidity, and queerness. It is positioned as such due to its subversive “misuse” of popular music recordings, star mythologies, sound reproduction technologies, and conventions of popular music performance.
Even in its etymological origins, karaoke is situated at the crossroads. The word joins the deeply Japanese concept of kara (“void”) to the foreign oke, an abbreviation of “orchestra” that itself evokes a core cultural aesthetic (associated with the Western elite). This leads to what may be the one near-universal in karaoke superculture—its liminality. Wherever it lands, karaoke tends to occupy grey areas and middle grounds, alternately marginalized and celebrated, associated with moments of transcendence and/or abasement, occupying the crossroads between notions of live/mediated, global/local, production/consumption, folk/mass culture, fantasy/mundanity, fame/anonymity, sincerity/irony, heroism/humiliation, individualism/collectivism, democratization/hegemony.
The same goes for the negotiation of gendered categories, especially those conceived in binary terms, e.g., male/female, heterosexual/homosexual, masculine/feminine. From its very beginnings, karaoke has been a deeply gendered activity, associated in various contexts with middle-aged salarymen, karaoke hostesses, and the women who populated early private karaoke boxes—serving as a locale to inhabit, explore, expand, and challenge these gendered identities. I will look at contemporary examples of this process. Case studies will draw on my long-term fieldwork with participants at Punk Rock Heavy Metal Karaoke, and with self-identified queer karaoke and lip sync performers.
J.L. Oakes teaches at the Cooper Union in New York City and serves as popular music editor for RILM Abstracts of Music Literature. His work is published in Current Musicology, The SAGE Encyclopedia of Ethnomusicology (forthcoming), and in numerous academic anthologies. In 2010-11 he was editor of the IASPM-US website.
Moving Bodies: Producing and Marketing EDM (W210)
Moderator: Justin D Burton (Rider University)
Wait for It: Buildups, Drops, and Other Forms of Tension and Release in Electronically Produced Popular Music (Asaf Peres, University of Michigan)
A filter sweep (gradual amplification of harmonic partials) which occurs at the 3-minute mark of Britney Spears’s song “Till the World Ends” constitutes the most dramatic and climactic moment of a song that captured the hearts (and bodies) of millions of listeners around the world. In terms of pitch and meter, this section merely repeats a chorus that had previously occurred several times in the song, yet very few listeners would not point to it as the most striking moment of the song and a defining part of its form. This song and others, recorded by artists such as Rihanna, Usher, Kendrick Lamar, and Katy Perry – represent a repertoire of contemporary pop music in which sonic elements such as timbre, gesture, and spatialization are the main driving forces of dramatic development. In other words, motivic development, form, and tension/release processes in much of this repertoire are enacted largely by sonic manipulations such as filtering and amplifying harmonic partials, designing the timbre and pitch-envelope of a sound, and playing with spatial motion. This paper investigates techniques used to build and defuse tension in this genre of music, highlighting their structural significance in the song.
Asaf Peres holds a DMA in music composition from the University of Michigan (2010) and is currently pursuing a PhD in music theory at the same institution. His research is concerned with analysis of electronically-produced contemporary popular music, focusing on elements of sound production, such as timbre, gesture, and space.
Dancing with Myself: Individual Experience, Identity, and Power in Electronic Dance Music (Christopher Johnson, Texas A&M University)
Particularly in the US, the way we talk about dance music is often in relation to subcultural formations. This can range from gay and minority groups that inhabited the early disco and house scenes to youth culture in the rave scene. At least historically, dance music has been a site where a variety of power relations are negotiated. But as dance music gains mass appeal and acceptance in the form of EDM, its relationship to power seems less relevant. The question, however, is not the extent to which power is present, but why is dance music such a fertile site for a variety of social formations?
Rather than approaching dance music as a site of collective resistance, I want to explore how individual affective experience shapes the way people come together to form dance music scenes, which reflect oppositional identities. For example, Ramon Rivera-Servera has suggested that the dance floor is a space where queer bodies can move in ways they otherwise cannot, but this experience can be translated to other identity formations. Using data collected from three distinct field sites, I will suggest that dance music practices facilitate similar experiences across a variety of identities and scenes. From there I will argue that the affective experience and perception of self on the dance floor are fundamental in the way social connections are made and relationships to power are articulated.
Christopher Johnson is a second year M.A. Student in Texas A&M University’s department of performance studies. He is currently writing his thesis on how affect and experience is locally situated in electronic dance music venues in Texas.
Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect? The Role of Race and Racial Ideology in Electronic Dance Music Festival Promotional Videos (David Brunsma, Nate Chapman, and J. Slade Lellock, Virginia Tech)
Despite the exponentially growing popularity of EDM as a musical phenomenon, the racial dynamics of the music and its festivalization have not yet received adequate scholarly attention. Given that the emergence of EDM is historically linked to black and marginalized communities and their musical expressions, scenes, and identities (e.g., disco, hip hop), it is crucial, as popular music scholars, to interrogate the racial dynamics of EDM and its attendant culture. Motivated by recent scholarship in colorblind ideology and narratives of whiteness, we conduct a multistage visual content analysis of a subset of EDM festival promotion videos from long-running, American-based EDM festivals (e.g., Electric Daisy Carnival and Tomorrowland) using a combination of visual analysis and critical discourse analysis to explicate how race is represented and discursively constructed in these video texts. Promotional videos provide a unique platform to analyze the ideological frames and the racialized marketing of the genre and the experience it sells. This research allows us to theorize how race and racial representations are utilized to market a particular experience to an audience characterized by white privilege and colorblindness.
David L. Brunsma is Professor of Sociology at Virginia Tech and founding co-editor of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. He does research on racial identity, racialization, and human rights.
Nate Chapman is doctoral candidate and instructor in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on craft beer and the production of culture in the United States. He recently completed research on the Grateful Dead.
J. Slade Lellock is a graduate research assistant and PhD student in the Department of Sociology at Virginia Tech. His current research interests broadly include the examination of symbolic and expressive elements of culture.
PANEL: Popular Music and Non-Traditional Notation (Chao Auditorium)
Moderator: Elizabeth Lindau (Earlham College)
OVERVIEW: Philip Tagg famously asserted that popular music “is neither conceived nor designed to be stored or distributed as notation, a large number of important parameters of musical expression being either difficult or impossible to encode in traditional notation.” In an attempt to reevaluate the relationship between popular music and musical literacy, this panel explores three forms of non-traditional notation: “easy note” arrangements designed to market home organs to the “musically illiterate” in the 1940s and 1950s, semi-notated Ventures play-along records from the 1960s, and experimental graphic notation as performed by Sonic Youth in the late 1990s. Together, these papers reveal part of an often-overlooked history of notation in popular music and explore larger intersections between notation and pedagogy, amateur music making, and performance.
“Easy Note” and “Guided Fingers”: Selling Dreams of Instant Virtuosity in the Home Organ Trade (Karl Hagstrom-Miller, University of Virginia)
At the very time that rock and roll was making pop music synonymous with youth music, home organs were offering adults the ability to marshal modern technology to make way out music from the comfort of their homes. This essay explores the promotion and sales of electric organs from the birth of the business in the late 1940s through its relatively rapid decline in the 1970s. Companies such as Wurlitzer, Lowrey, Baldwin and Thomas promoted organs for home use and designed sophisticated marketing and instruction programs to get musical novices to spend a significant amount of money on their products. Central to these promotional campaigns were novel forms of musical notation that attempted to enable musically illiterate users to “read” music instantly. The “Guided Fingers” technology of the early 1950s featured a roll of paper passing above the keyboard that pointed to the proper keys for the user to press in order to play a tune. Lowrey Organs designed a “pointer system” pedagogy that supposedly made chord playing a snap. Soon these quick fixes were engineered into the machines themselves as organs began featuring rhythms, chords, and bass lines that could be played with the touch of one finger. Each of these systems, and many others, suggested that users could use technologies to create meaningful music with little or no effort. The essay traces the history of these marketing campaigns and assesses their effects on amateur music making in the United States, both pro and con. While many retailers believed they were one of the main reasons for the home organ boom, others insisted that they were, in fact, the cause of its downfall. Promises of quick and easy musical competency were inevitably broken when users got home and failed to make mellifluous music. The often forgotten story of the home organ boom provides useful insights into the historical intersections of amateur music making, technology, gender, fantasy, and the DIY aesthetic.
Karl Hagstrom Miller, an Associate professor of music at the University of Virginia, is the author of Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow. He is currently writing a history of amateur pop musicians in the United States.
So You Want to Play the Bass (Brian F. Wright, Case Western Reserve University)
Though the electric bass began to appear in rock ‘n’ roll bands in 1957, its role in popular music remained very much unsettled for decades. The absence of established models and avenues for learning the instrument left a discursive vacuum in which several competing ideas of the purpose of the electric bass emerged. This paper locates these ideas in early educational texts, specifically “Teach Yourself To Play Bass” manuals released between the late 1950s and early 1970s. Descriptive rather than prescriptive, these manuals were utilitarian texts designed to teach contemporary popular styles and techniques to fledgling bassists. Through the process, these manuals invented the tradition(s) of amateur electric bass pedagogy. As each manual was forced to design its own pedagogical approach, these texts thus promoted competing discourses concerning musicianship and approaches to education. Using as case studies two popular and very different series from the 1960s, this paper examines the basic pedagogical conflict between promoting a classical form of musical literacy, as in the case of the Mel Bay method books written by Roger Filiberto, and promoting a semi-notated “play-by-ear” approach, notably advanced by the play-along “Play Guitar with the Ventures” LPs produced by Dolton Records. The latent assumptions evident in these competing texts concerning the literacy and musical goals of their target audience also provide a valuable window into the underdocumented experience of amateur rock music-making during this era.
Brian F. Wright is a PhD Student in musicology at Case Western Reserve University and former research assistant at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. His current work focuses on amateur rock music-making and the cultural history of the electric bass.
Sonic Youth Know-How to Perform Graphic Notation (Benjamin Court, UCLA)
Since their earliest associations with the post-minimalist composer Glenn Branca and the New York no wave scene, Sonic Youth have spent their entire thirty-year career crossing the tenuous border of popular music and avant-garde music that has been studied most recently by Bernard Gendron, Benjamin Piekut, and Caroline Polk O’Meara. Though the band embraced numerous avant-garde musical practices, they rarely performed canonic avant-garde works until the 1999 album SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century. Comprised primarily of performances of works from the post-Cagian school of experimental music (as understood by the definitions from Cage and Nyman), SYR4 presents a set of recordings derived almost entirely from text scores and graphic notation.
In this paper, I argue that SYR4 exemplifies an atypical form of procedural knowledge (or “knowledge-how”) that regards a lack of knowledge, namely the lack of formal musical education, to be an unusual form of knowledge in itself. The composers featured on SYR4, Cornelius Cardew in particular, often sought musicians that were unable to read standard notation, but were nonetheless skilled instrumentalists with a strong ability to interpret visual codes. As both avant-garde visual artists and accomplished rock musicians, Sonic Youth are, therefore, unusually qualified to perform experimental graphic scores. Thus, alongside two traditional forms of procedural knowledge (of instrumental technique and visual interpretation), a third non-knowledge (illiteracy in standard notation) reveals itself as an epistemological common ground that links experimental graphic notation to popular music.
Benjamin Court is a PhD Candidate in Musicology at UCLA. His dissertation investigates musical amateurism and its influence on conceptions of knowledge in popular and experimental musics. Benjamin is also an active musician and the Graduate Student Representative of IASPM-US.
Genre and Ideology in the 1960s and 70s (Room 254)
Moderator: Paul Fischer (Middle Tennessee State University)
A Hitmaker in Nixonland: Mike Curb, Cultural Polarization, and the Political Economy of Pop in the 1970s (Dale Chapman, Bates College)
In late 1970, a story in Billboard outlined MGM Records’ plans for an aggressive culling of its artist roster, with the label dropping those acts who “promote[d] [. . .] hard drugs through music.” This gambit was the brainchild of MGM Records president Mike Curb, recently installed in his position at the behest of Transcontinental Investing. The financial holding company had been commissioned by MGM Studios to manage its ailing music division.
Prior to his MGM appointment, Curb had been known as a producer of “B”-movie film music and “bubblegum” hits. However, his anti-drug purge, fêted by Richard Nixon at the dawn of the War on Drugs, marked the moment of Curb’s intervention in the era’s nascent culture wars. Curb leveraged the occasion of the MGM roster cuts to rebrand the label in accordance with the niche tastes of the Nixonian “Silent Majority”: in his production of hits for the Osmonds, Sammy Davis Jr., or his own Mike Curb Congregation, Curb tapped into a widespread longing for a more cleancut American culture, shorn of its 1960s transgressions.
My discussion takes up the MGM-era career of Mike Curb, with a mind to understanding the cultural threads binding his musical career to his subsequent political career as a key protagonist in the Reagan revolution. Moreover, I hope to demonstrate that the MGM drug purge anticipated later conservative efforts to link cultural proscription to fiscal austerity, allowing moral panic to serve as a pretext for Transcontinental’s downsizing of the ailing label.
Mojo Workin’: Blues, Blackness and Articulation in 1963 London (Sean Lorre, McGill University)
In the early 1960s, before the Rolling Stones thought about getting “Satisfaction,” they were simply trying to get their “Mojo Workin’.” Like so many of their London-based contemporaries at this time, the group was primarily concerned with recreating electrified blues sounds from Chicago – especially those of Muddy Waters.
Through close readings of media discourse found in the pages of New Musical Express and Melody Maker and analysis of audio-visual recordings of musical performance, this paper addresses the ways in which articulation – what Stuart Hall referred to as the “non-necessary link” between a cultural product and identity – to the imagined sounds of blackness captured in Muddy Waters records influenced the British blues boom of 1963. I am particularly interested in reading these moments in terms of group and individual identity formation and as events where technology, media and ideology allow for the emergence of new forms of (re)presentation.
Drawing from Georgina Born’s typology of possible identifications with music, this paper aims to untangle this web of identificatory processes playing out in the London scene of early 1960s. The performance of electrified blues in London, I argue, was an emergent, transitory moment that, although certainly exoticist, prefigured a relationship between blues-based music and white youth culture that created a shift from an initial identification of blues solely with African Americans. This interpretation of the blues performed and encoded a new blues-rock identity, radically altering popular music for decades to come.
Sean Lorre is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Musicology at McGill University. His work focuses on issues of genre and identity in jazz and popular music. Lorre is also a part-time lecturer for Rutgers University where he designs and teaches online courses on rock, jazz and black musics.
Living the High (Fi) Life: Audio Technologies, Masculinity, and Social Mobility in Playboy 1953-1972 (Monique Bourdage, University of Michigan)
This paper examines the complex ways in which hi-fi, masculinity, and social mobility were fundamentally entwined in Playboy during the mid-twentieth century. In its December 1953 inaugural issue, Playboy framed itself as a “pleasure-primer” for upwardly mobile and sophisticated men, explicitly tying masculinity to the enjoyment of activities such as “putting a little mood music on the phonograph.” Throughout the next two decades, which witnessed an ever-expanding middle class, Playboy consistently promoted the consumption of audio technology and jazz music as indicators of social status. Such focus on the sonic dimensions of the playboy lifestyle was a key means through which the magazine conflated sexual fantasies with fantasies of social mobility. Conceiving of itself as an alternative to the conformity of the postwar roles of suburban breadwinner and organization man while reaching a peak circulation of 7.2 million in 1972, Playboy expounded an exclusive lifestyle to a mass readership. This seemingly contradictory position enabled mobility into and within the playboy lifestyle by providing readers with an identity that was partially attainable yet always also aspirational. That is, it promoted the idea that a true playboy could never be sonically or sexually satisfied; his social status could always be improved through the consumption of the newest model component, companion, or composition. Reading Playboy as an integral part of the popular music press can help deepen our understanding of the complex social, cultural, and sexual politics of popular music during a period of changing attitudes toward conspicuous consumption and musical taste.
Monique Bourdage is a Ph.D. candidate in Communication Studies at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation examines the intersecting discourses of media, technology, and masculinity proffered by Playboy in its first two decades. She is also the founder and co-director of Girls Rock Denver, a nonprofit rock camp for girls.
Friday Short Morning 2 (10:15-11:45am, Library)
The South Got Somethin’ to Say (W104)
Moderator: Anthony Kwame Harrison (Virginia Tech)
‘Crooked Schemes’: The Goodie Mob and Outkast Encounter Metric Difference in the ‘Mainstream’ (Mitchell Ohriner, Shenandoah University)
Research into rap’s flow by scholars including Adam Krims, Noriko Manabe, Kyle Adams, and Adam Bradley addresses how MCs place syllables, accents, and rhymes at certain metric locations to bolster or complement the meter of the (often sampled) instrumental beat. For example, many consecutive rap lines retain similar accent contours and end rhymes. This coordination between the meter of the beat and the rhythmic features of the rapping depends on the beat maintaining a single, stable meter. In Outkast’s “Mainstream” from 1996, the instrumental beat contains both a clear triple meter in the guitar parts and a clear duple meter in the drum set. The MCs on the track (Khujo, T-Mo, André 3000, and Big Boi) must negotiate this metric difference. Drawing on models of rhythm in speech and music, I demonstrate how an MC might support one metric hearing or another. Specifically, through reiterated accentual patterns and three-beat durations between rhymes, Khujo aligns more consistently with the triple meter of the guitar while André 3000 aligns with the duple meter of the drum set. Through a larger empirical study of the output of these two MCs, I also how Khujo’s performance practice enables him to more readily integrate metric difference. By examining flow in a rare track without an unadorned duple meter, I hope to elaborate analytical descriptions of the ways MC’s can interact with the meter of rap music.
Mitchell Ohriner is a fourth-year Assistant Professor of Music Theory at Shenandoah University and a PhD graduate of Indiana University. His research is published in Music Theory Online, Indiana Theory Review, and Empirical Musicology Review. He is the most recent recipient of the Society for Music Theory’s Emerging Scholar Award.
Bell Patterns, Polyrhythms, Propulsive Subdivisions, and Semitones: The Affective Dimension of Late-1990s New Orleans Rap Beats (David Pearson, CUNY)
In the late 1990s, Cash Money Records burst into the rap mainstream with a distinct musical style that has come to impact rap and pop music more generally. The polyrhythmic beats concocted by Mannie Fresh demonstrate a distinct representation of place by drawing on a long history of Black musical practices in New Orleans and in their engagement with local rap style and audience tastes. The bourgeois aspirations of the Williams brothers, founders and owners of Cash Money Records, illuminate the importance of Black ownership in negotiating success within the particular constellation of the late-1990s national rap market while maintaining a high degree of aesthetic agency.
A close musical analysis and musical transcriptions of beats on the first two albums of Cash Money rapper Juvenile will demonstrate the prevalence of a particular bell pattern, a polyrhythmic and polymetric sensibility, a propulsive use of intricate subdivisions that create punctuation, linear momentum, and circular motion, and an array of melodic motives that often emphasize semitone motion. Besides distinguishing New Orleans from other regional streams of rap, these musical devices create an affect that values the pleasure of dance and highlights the collectivity and conflicts among residents of New Orleans’ housing projects. Furthermore, they provide a sonic setting for lyrics depicting the grim reality of economic and social life conditioned by the centrality of the drug trade and an irreconcilable antagonism with the state repressive apparatus.
David Pearson is a PhD candidate in musicology at CUNY Graduate Center. His dissertation aims to examine the musical aesthetics and stylistic changes in punk rock during the 1990s and critically interrogate its constructions of rebellion. He currently plays saxophone in the afrotronik funk band Digital Diaspora.
What Does the South Have to Say, and How? On Southern Rap Historiography (Zandria Robinson, University of Memphis)
Twenty years into a sonically and geographically marked “third Coast” in hip-hop, southern hip-hop has begun a historiographical process, writing its history as it has been made, telling its history as it is being made, and narrating its future before it has happened. No other artist is as self-consciously involved in this historiographical process as Meridian, Mississippi-native Big K.R.I.T. He has tasked himself with uncovering the sonic and linguistic practices of marginalized and obscured southern hip-hop artists and incorporating them into his work, paying homage while also writing these artists more prominently into southern rap history and rap history writ large. Yet, the sonic signifying K.R.I.T. does—on Pimp C’s vocal cadence from “Big Pimpin’” for instance, which he transferred to “Pay Attention,” a single from his latest album Cadillactica—comes without the benefit of a bibliography. Listeners either catch or do not catch the references, although they may be revealed in a general sense in the artist’s interviews.
This paper begins with Big K.R.I.T. to examine how, 20 years in, southern hip-hop performs itself and writes its history. It is particular attuned to how practices of not only sampling, but also signifying on one another’s work, continue to carve a space for southern artists in rap. Yet, what is the substance and nature of this history? Who might be absent from this history, or still relegated to the periphery? For what audiences is this history written, and what tools might they need to get the lesson? What does this historiographical process tell us about contemporary black southern politics, and in particular the intersecting politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality identity?
Zandria F. Robinson is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Memphis. Her research interests include urban and cultural sociology, black feminist theory, and popular culture. She has written on the rise of southern hip-hop and crunk music, the Memphis hip-hop scene, and blogs about race, region, and culture at New South Negress.
PANEL: View from the Throne: Physicality and Meaning in Rock Drumming (Room 254)
Moderator: Brian F. Wright (Case Western Reserve University)
OVERVIEW: Popular music scholars often neglect the physical dimensions of music making and their effects on musical meaning. Drummers and the act of drumming—likewise overlooked—operate as pertinent sites to investigate physicality in rock. This session considers how groove, the body, and performance shape our sense of rock as a genre. The presenters will demonstrate live musical examples on a drum kit (provided by the participants) to spotlight the centrality of gesture and motion. Acquiring the tools to discuss drums in a meaningful way enables a deeper, more nuanced understanding of why people move to rock’s sounds. Furthermore, our session shows how we can take advantage of scholarly settings to explore our histories as musicians and our physical relationship to the sonic texts we study.
Sex, God, and Hard Labor: The Secret History of the Backbeat (Steven Baur, Dalhousie University)
When rock-and-roll exploded onto the American cultural mainstream in the 1950s, enthusiasts and detractors alike identified the backbeat as the most distinctive and captivating feature of this controversial new music. Although it initially shocked many, the backbeat soon became ubiquitous and remains one of the most prevalent features in contemporary popular music. Yet, while scholars have embraced popular music in recent decades, few studies focus on rhythm, drumming, and percussion in popular music, and there is virtually nothing in the scholarly literature on the origins and history of the backbeat.
In this study I trace the origins of the backbeat to several nineteenth- and early twentieth-century African-American musical traditions—including prison songs, gospel music, and the hokum blues—and chart its early history through a critical survey of commercial and field recordings from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Drawing on Henry Louis Gates’s explication of signifyin’ in African-American cultural traditions, I explore the meanings the backbeat has carried in specific contexts. The evidence I present supports cultural theorist John Mowitt’s argument that the backbeat signified the “beating back” of an oppressed racial minority against a history of violent subjugation when it emerged to the forefront of popular culture in the 1950s. I illuminate earlier instances in which the deployment of percussive accents on nominal weak beats functioned as a powerful act of resistance, and I explain how such percussive musicking has played into vital issues concerning race, gender, class, and social justice.
Steven Baur is Associate Professor of Musicology at Dalhousie University (Halifax, Nova Scotia). His primary areas of research include nineteenth-century music, American music, and popular music studies. His work appears in several leading journals, and he has co-edited two books. Steven is also an accomplished drummer with numerous recordings and performances to his credit.
“Drumming is My Madness”: The Primitive in Late 1960s Rock Drumming (Mandy Smith, Case Western Reserve University)
In an episode of The Muppet Show, Kermit asks Animal how long he has been drumming. Animal, in response, simply bangs his head on his snare drum five times. Elsewhere, the drummer remains chained to his kit because of his wildness, seeks therapy for his drumming “madness,” and identifies an imposter Kermit using his feral sense of smell. Animal clearly encapsulates the trope of drummers as primitive.
To uncover how this longstanding, problematic trope came to rock and how it affects rock’s meanings, this paper investigates the rock drum kit as a crucial nexus of primitivisms. I argue that the genealogical link between drumming, rhythm, and race traced by Kofi Agawu (2003), Martin Munro (2010), and others continues into rock. The drum kit becomes a hodgepodge of primitivisms and exoticisms because of its unique mélange of instruments from various Othered cultures. I combine close readings of media images—including advertisements, film, and magazines—with song analyses to demonstrate how the late 1960s operate as a historical moment where drummers and those with the power to represent them draw from and re-shape the drum kit’s primitive signifying power.
When performers evoke the primitive, they attempt to reclaim a lineage to an imagined, prelapsarian past. When rock’s detractors do so, they align the music with the animalism, sexual promiscuity, and threat of miscegenation mapped onto allegedly primitive peoples. Their motivations represent two sides of the same coin—a coin rooted in anxieties about the role of race and gender in rock culture.
Mandy Smith is currently pursuing a Musicology PhD at Case Western Reserve University. She earned a Rock History BA from Indiana University and a Musicology MA from California State University, Long Beach. Her dissertation investigates tensions between the rock drum kit’s ability to signify simultaneously the virtuosic and the primitive.
Who Killed Alternative Rock? The Drummer Did It! (Theo Cateforis, Syracuse University)
Drum styles have long served as crucial genre signifiers in popular music, helping to distinguish between different movements and historical periods. In the case of 1990s alternative rock, few tropes shaped the genre’s identification as strongly as the drumming on the “soft/loud” song form, a volatile juxtaposition of restrained verses and explosive choruses, featured most notably throughout Nirvana’s 1991 landmark album Nevermind. As much as the “soft/loud” has since become linked in our memories with alternative’s spectacular emergence from the underground, an examination of the songs on Billboard’s alternative “Modern Rock” charts reveals that the song form only became concretized later in the mid-1990s at precisely the point when critics started to lament alternative’s commercial homogenization and apparent death.
This paper traces alternative rock’s signature drum style, specifically its contributions to the “soft/’loud” form, over the course of the 1990s to show how changes in its features mirrored shifts in the genre’s meanings. Where the pounding cymbal crashes and snare/kick drum bursts on Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” suggested alternative’s lineage with grunge and hard rock, many of the songs that followed its lead were less disruptive in nature. As alternative rock saturated the marketplace, drummers delineated the “soft/loud” through increasingly subtle shadings in “rhythmic densities” (as Anne Danielsen has termed them), often through the addition of syncopated accents within the song’s basic drum beat. These changes in drum style corresponded with alternative’s move to more groove-oriented rhythms, a development that potentially served as a marker of alternative’s perceived demise.
Theo Cateforis is Associate Professor of Music History & Cultures in the department of Art & Music Histories at Syracuse University. His publications include Are We Not New Wave? Modern Pop at the Turn of the 1980s (University of Michigan Press, 2011) and The Rock History Reader (Routledge, 2012).
Public Making and the Independent Music Festival: A Roundtable with Louisville Festival Organizers and Artists (Chao Auditorium)
Festivals are a dominant feature of the popular music landscape. Bonnaroo, Coachchella, Austin City Limits, and in Louisville, Forecastle, bring in popular artists to hundreds of thousands of fans. These festivals often grew out of local organizations, but now but rely on national booking agents and large corporate sponsorships, offering far greater sums to artists than regular touring circuits could provide.
Underneath these events, and situated on the ground in local communities, are festivals that serve to challenge dominant notions of popular music. Sponsored by personal funds, grants, sponsorships from non-profit organizations and local businesses, these festivals support marginalized music & artists, challenge the hegemony of popular music, and facilitate musical public making.
This roundtable discussion will entertain questions on the role of the independent music festival to challenge dominant music culture’s exclusion of particular groups of people and/or particular sounds. Guests will include local musicians, label founders, festival organizers, and record store representatives active in the Louisville, KY music scene.
Lisa Foster is an independent scholar and director of media and public programs for Guestroom Records in Louisville, KY. Foster has an M.A. (University of Kentucky) and Ph.D. (University of Texas, Austin) in Communication Studies with emphases in Critical Theory, Media Studies and Rhetoric. She has published articles in The Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication and Argumentation and Advocacy and is currently working on a book length project on the civic elements of music and materiality in the record store context.
Carrie Neumayer is a freelance artist and co-founder of the Louisville Outskirts Festival, the city’s first and only festival aimed at showcasing female and female-identified musicians. The festival, in it’s first year, not only highlighted women artists, but also hosted a series of rock shops for girls that further created and sustained the significance of female musicians in the independent music scene. Neumayer is also a self-taught guitar player and is a member of the Louisville bands Julie of the Wolves and Second Story Man.
Ryan Davis is the co-founder of Cropped Out (www.croppedoutmusic.com), a music collective and festival that the aims to celebrate artists who have been sonically and conceptually omitted (i.e. “cropped out”) from the dominant musical landscape. The Cropped Out music festival, now in its fifth year, brings together an extremely diverse array of local, regional, national, and international artists with the goal of expanding the sonic field and highlighting the contributions of the Kentucky and Louisville music scene to a broader audience. Davis is also the founder of the Sophomore Lounge record label and a member of the bands Tropical Trash and State Champion.
John King established the label Louisville is for Lovers in 2001 producing local collaborations between artists in the Louisville community. In 2013 he worked with Palamino Records pressing plant in Shepardsville KY to press a limited edition 10inch tribute for the 20th anniversary of Louisville’s Palace Brothers first release, “There is no one.” This past summer he worked with Guestroom Records to produce the first “Summer Cassingle Series” which brought together 12 Louisville Bands on 3 nights throughout the summer and provided a free cassette single to attendees showcasing new talent in the city.
Queer (Dis)Identities (W210)
Moderator: Heather Love (University of Pennsylvania)
Performances of Disidentification within NYC Queer Rap (Jessica Dilday, Independent Scholar)
Queer hip-hop artists such as Tim’m T. West have been troubling the homophobic waters of mainstream hip-hop for decades. Recently, a new wave of unapologetically queer rappers has sprouted up around NYC. Artists such as Mykki Blanco, Zebra Katz, Le1f, Princess Nokia, Cakes Da Killa and Angel Haze have been queering up the periphery and are now gaining mainstream press, collaborating with the likes of Azalea Banks, Ludacris, Iggy Azalea, and Kathleen Hanna. These artists draw heavily from drag, goth and ballroom culture in their music production and performance aesthetic. They spit a radical, subversive message just as their queer hip-hop predecessors have done. However, there is also a unique focus on their performance that sets them apart from their predecessors.
According to José Muñoz, disidentification is “a performative mode of tactical recognition that various minoritarian subjects employ in an effort to resist the oppressive and normalizing discourse of dominant ideology.” To disidentify is to simultaneously work both on and against dominant ideology without strictly identifying or counteridentifying. Using Muñoz’s concept of disidentification, the work of several other popular music scholars and my own experience as an opening DJ for two of these artists, I present some of the ways in which today’s NYC queer rappers are negotiating majority culture through their performances, inhabiting the space in between identifying and not identifying with various intersecting identities.
Jess Dilday is the current editor-in-chief for the IASPM-US website and serves on the IASPM-US Executive Committee. A recent graduate of the MA program in Sociology at University of North Carolina, Charlotte, her interests include local music scenes, dance floor dynamics, queer theory, nostalgia and musical activism. She also DJs, plans and promotes dance parties under the moniker DJ PlayPlay.
If s/He was Your Girlfriend: Alter Ego, Audio Drag, and the Black Hyper Masculine Sound(e)Scape (Courtney Brown, California State University)
The alter-ego is a staple in popular music and culture. Its longevity inextricably tied to providing musicians the ability to transcend artistic, political, and cultural boundaries without risking critical commercial and social positioning as pop cultural producers. In my research, I look at the connection between gender queering and the alter-ego. I depict its prominence in popular black music by revealing the homo- and hetero-normatives present within the narrative of “the girlfriend and the other woman (or mistress)” in R&B.
The transgressive malleability of the girlfriend provides a proverbial backbeat to the rhythm of this text. It becomes a reoccurring narrative in the history of a soundscape that supports the function of the alter-ego as a tactic of protest. I examine this narrative via case study and musical analysis of R&B hit, “If I Was Your Girlfriend” by Prince (performing as female alter-ego Camille).
As Camille, Prince popularized a purely auditory method of gender performance that reimagined the traditional “girlfriend/other woman” narrative and re-presented it as “the girlfriend and the ‘othered’ woman.” I credit Prince with introducing audio drag performance into a 1980’s black mainstream, disrupting a soundscape stabilized by a 1970’s Blaxploitation hypermasculinity.
Since Camille’s 1987 debut, new interpretations of “the girlfriend and the ‘othered’ woman” narrative have continued to provide melodic resistance to traditional representations of black masculinity. From 90’s R&B to contemporary rap artists, I examine the likes of R. Kelly, Eminem and Nicki Minaj to deconstruct the influence and function of modern interpretations of audio drag.
Courtney Michael Brown is a 3rd year graduate student in American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. His current research emphasis (and in approaching doctoral study) is in ethnomusicology, critical race and performance studies. Courtney received his BA from Albion College in 2007, triple-majoring in music, English, and ethnic studies.
The Sights of Out Streets, the Sounds of Our Streets: Tracing the Queer Afro-South Asian Politics of Miles Davis’ On the Corner (Elliot Powell, University of Minnesota)
In the summer of 1972, jazz artist Miles Davis released On the Corner, his first jazz-fusion studio album that deliberately sought to address African American political consciousness of the early 1970s. For example, the album art depicted men in red, green, and black as well as black leather coats and berets, serving as visual allusions to Pan-Africanism and the Black Panther Party. Moreover, along with these visual signifiers of 1970s black politics, the music of On the Corner emphasized funk rhythms that were reminiscent of James Brown, Sly Stone, and The Last Poets, all black power cultural icons of the late 1960s/early 1970s. And yet, despite these visual and sonic expressions of early 1970s black political thought, there were two elements of On the Corner that seemingly ran antithetical to dominant discourses of blackness and black politics at this time: queerness and South Asianness. Indeed, South Asian music and musicians played a central role in the album; and the album cover art also gestured to black male queerness in relation to the Pan-African/Black Panther figures. How, then, might we make sense of these sonic and visual elements of On the Corner that do not seemingly align with dominant representations of black politics and life at the time? This paper addresses this question by arguing that On the Corner, as a popular culture text, linked and expressed South Asian sound and alternative sexualities as constitutive formations that animated and expanded notions of blackness and black politics of the early 1970s.
Elliott H. Powell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota. He is currently at work on a book manuscript that considers the political implications of African American and South Asian collaborative music-making practices in black popular music since the 1960s.
Transnational Music, Transnational Identity (CLC)
Moderator: Shana Redmond (University of Southern California and Ella Baker Visiting Associate Professor of Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara)
Fin-A-Billy: Transnational Interpretations in Finland’s American Roots Music Revival (Nathan Gibson, Indiana University—Bloomington)
Shortly after Elvis Presley’s death in 1977, 1950s American music, symbols, and fashion became immensely popular in Finland. Retired American rockabilly singers topped the Finnish charts, confederate flag stickers and American South-related paraphernalia were sold at every corner store, and more than 200 English-language rockabilly bands emerged among Finland’s youth (9-18 year olds). This late 1970s mainstream youth movement can be seen as a silent protest and social movement against Finlandization and the well-documented 1970s self-censorship of Finns and Finnish media. By the mid-1980s, the 1950s American fad had passed. Those who remained loyal to the music and the fashion formed the basis of an underground subculture community. In the last three years that subculture has once again returned to the mainstream; rockabilly music has topped the music charts, popular Finnish rockabilly groups from the’70s have made comebacks, and several new festivals have sprouted promoting the original Finnish rockabillies, thus utilizing 1950s American music, symbols, and fashion in a nostalgic way to conjure their own image of Finland in the late 1970s. This paper seeks to answer the questions, how and why did 1950s American music, symbols and fashion become popular with the youth in Finland in the late 1970s and what are the social and political factors that have led to its current return to mainstream popularity? Through ethnographic and historical-archival research, this paper examines Finnish cultural memory and the problematic associations of a particular working-class community’s transnational interpretations of what it means to be American.
Nathan D. Gibson is an ethnomusicology Ph.D. candidate and Instructor at Indiana University—Bloomington. His book, The Starday Story: The House That Country Music Built, won the 2012 Belmont Book Award for Best Book on Country Music and his current dissertation research explores the American roots music revival in Finland.
ESL: English as a Sacred Language in German Evangelical Worship Music (Deborah Justice, Syracuse University)
Protestantism has been in Germany since the Reformation, but over recent decades, new strains of popular music and international evangelicalism have been challenging the country’s religious institutions. Outside groups—and now their local German off-shoots—are promoting an international evangelical aesthetic that is changing worship. Rather than being an American post-WW2 legacy, much of this new popular worship music comes from transnational postdenominational groups with roots in the English-speaking world, such as Hillsong (originally based in Australia), Vineyard (based in the United States), and Campus Crusade for Christ (also US-based). The combination of music, language, and theology has spurred a domino effect of interrelated changes: from causing worshiping Germans to increase their physical involvement to changing the linguistics of praise. Although liturgical lingua franca and sermons are German, in many of these new congregations (substantial percentages of which are not fluent English speakers) sing roughly half of their praise songs in the original English.
How does English language music play a key role in foreign styles of Christianity being perceived as modern and desirable? What values does this linguistic blend promote? Much scholarship on English-language popular music in worship approaches the issue in terms of post-colonialism and the global South, but this case study in affluent Western-Europe encourages us to look at the issue of popular English-language evangelical worship music from another perspective. Based on field research in multiple Bavarian congregations, this paper suggests English-language popular worship music as holding modern, cosmopolitan cache while also reinforcing links to the imagined community of global evangelicalism.
Deborah Justice is the Schragis Postdoctoral Faculty Fellow in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University (PhD from Indiana University, 2012). Her research interests focus on how people adapt musical and faith traditions to the modern world. She plays mostly American old-time and traditional Irish music.
‘Africa we love you, Jerusalem, in my heart, soul, and mind’: Ethiopian-Israeli Identity Construction in Popular Music (Rosa Abrahams, Northwestern University)
In Kalkidan Mashasha’s live performance of “Let My People Go”, he uses language (Hebrew and English), musical style (Reggae and Rap), and text to create an artistic identity grounded in the local, yet also woven into the global African Diaspora. In contrast, Ester Rada’s highly produced video “Life Happens” bypasses the local, preferring associations with North American Soul/R&B, and creating a virtuosic and temporally flexible persona through visual and sonic parameters. Each artist employs YouTube and popular music as an “affinity space” (Jenkins 2006) for identity creation.
In this paper I analyze these two instances of popular music by Ethiopian Israelis, which demonstrate differing ways that Ethiopian Israelis navigate building African-Jewish identity through popular music. I understand this process as orthopraxis – performing in order to be – arguing that these performers use their music to work out issues of race, religion, and double Diasporic belonging. Simon Frith sees music not only as identity forming, but also as a way of experiencing identity, saying: “making music isn’t a way of expressing ideas, it is a way of living them” (1996, 111). By utilizing the English language, cosmopolitan global popular music styles, and YouTube, Ethiopian Jews living in Israel cultivate a mediated identity that distinguishes them from the negative stereotypes of Ethiopian-Israelis, connecting them instead to the larger African Diaspora. In each case examined here, the medium serves not only as an expression of identity, but also as an experience of political and cultural lived selves.
Rosa Abrahams is a Ph.D. student in Music Theory and Cognition at Northwestern University. She holds a M.M. in Theory and Cognition from Northwestern and a B.M. in Theory from Eastman School of Music. Rosa’s research focuses on music philosophy, meter, and issues of ontology and identity in Jewish music.
Luma Open House (11:30-1:30pm, Library LL17)
The Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA) Project seeks to document the history and culture of the Louisville rock music scene from the 1970s to the present. Founded in 2013, it has gathered 42 collections consisting of recordings, set lists, photographs, zines, posters, flyers, t-shirts, ephemera, and correspondence related to the rock/indie/punk/hardcore music scene. Select materials from the collection will be on display and archivists will be on hand to discuss the project.
PLENARY SESSION: Woody Guthrie Distinguished Lecture (1:30-2:45pm, Library, Chao Auditorium)
Musical Sociality and Queer Latinidad (Deborah Vargas, University of California, Riverside)
This talk considers feminist queer interventions in popular music studies. With a focus on ephemera, queer sociality, and Latinidad, this talk will discuss what it means to produce scholarship on popular music within the fields named “Chicano Studies” and “Latino Studies.” Moreover, the talk will turn to the working class queer femininity of the cantinera to ask what this persistent musical figure may offer to popular music studies in an era in which the rapid elimination of brown working class queer social spaces meets up with productions of Latino citizenship.
Friday Long Afternoon (3:00-5:00pm, Bingham)
PANEL: Roots and Routes of the Far East: Japanese Popular Music Goes Global (BH 205)
Moderator: Kathryn Metz (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum)
OVERVIEW: Japanese popular music is usually assumed to circulate in a self-contained domestic market. As the world’s second-largest market, Japanese musicians have little incentive to produce music for foreign audiences. However, a number of Japanese bands have pursued and enjoyed commercial success in the U.S. and Europe since the 1980s despite relying largely on the Japanese language – usually a barrier to commercial success outside of Japan. Our panel investigates musicians from a wide variety of Japanese popular music genres in order to think through this phenomenon. Engaged in a crosscultural pollination of sounds, gestures, and representations, these Japanese artists produce music that casts aside conventional notions of purity and authenticity to privilege hybridity and illegitimacy – in other words, to prioritize routes rather than roots.
Jo-Ha-Kyu in AABA: Musical Hybridity in J-POP Songs (Akitsugu Kawamoto, Ferris University in Yokohama)
Zeami Motokiyo, a fourteenth-century writer on Noh theaters, proposed the aesthetic concept of Jo-Ha-Kyu as a structural principle for Noh plays. Originally he meant it to be a three-stage, gradual increase in tempo and dynamics in a Noh play, but many scholars find it useful in understanding not only Noh but also other forms of Japanese art, such as paintings, architecture, film, and music, traditional or contemporary. This paper indicates that some of the recent J-POP songs can also be understood from the viewpoint of Jo-Ha-Kyu. This principle can be found especially in the Setsuna-Kei songs (i.e. ballads with sad lyrics) by such singers as JUJU and Kana Nishino. The music in this style is usually written in the typical AABA form, reminiscent of the American Tin Pan Alley tradition, but often features a gradual increase in dynamics, like Jo-Ha-Kyu, at a particular point of the song, usually just before the final chorus, which is exactly the point where an American pop song would rather feature a sudden, not gradual, increase in dynamics. Japanese musicians thus transformed American music, embedding Japanese aesthetic principle in the American musical form. The result is this hybrid music, which resonates with the sensibilities of Japanese listeners while at the same time sounding American on the surface. Writers have often pointed out the hybridity in J-POP songs in terms of bilingual lyrics, but the analysis in this paper shows that hybridity is also evident at the musical level in this repertoire.
Akitsugu Kawamoto received a Ph.D. in Musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Associate Professor of Music at Ferris University in Yokohama (Japan), he is currently teaching courses on popular music and music theory, while publishing articles and books on progressive rock and J-POP.
Fuzz Only Lives Twice: Distorted Exotica and Nostalgia in Japanese Heavy Rock (Sota Takahashi, Tokyo University of the Arts)
The rise of US alternative rock in the late 1980s opened up a new path for Japanese underground bands to tour abroad. One of the most famous groups is Boredoms, which was hooked up by Sonic Youth and Nirvana and toured extensively around the world in the 90s. Boredoms are usually regarded as a representative of the Japanoise genre, but their early works suggest the influence of Japanese rock bands in the late 1960s and early 1970s–primitive and psychedelic sounds coupled to occult and oriental imagery. Those features can also be detected in other contemporary Japanese rock bands such as Shonen Knife, Guitar Wolf, Acid Mothers Temple and Boris that enjoy current worldwide success. Whereas these acts are critically acclaimed overseas, they are relatively less popular within domestic Japanese live circuits. Why were they more welcomed abroad, and in what historical context have they been accepted? How do these bands articulate their Japanese-ness within the alternative rock movement? I argue that their sound is constructed through the reevaluation of classic rock music from before the 1970s, especially in their emphasis of the fat and noisy guitar tones of the fuzzbox. In a way, the fuzz guitar relates to the soundtrack of cheesy B-movies–kung-fu, sci-fi, and monster films—in its nostalgia and exoticism. Japanese musicians tactically adopted these sounds and their appropriation of nominally “western sounds” reveals how race, gender and material politics constitute transpacific popular cultures.
Sota Takahashi is a Ph.D Student at Tokyo University of the Arts and a JSPS Research Fellow. He is currently conducting historical research on live performances by foreign musicians who visited post-occupation Japan.
The Vocoder and the Fox: Japanese Girl Groups and the Transpacific Imagination (Toshiyuki Ohwada, Keio University)
The year 2008 saw an Auto-Tune craze in music industries on both sides of the Pacific. Whereas T-Pain and his followers were chided by Jay-Z in “D. O. A. (Death of AutoTune)” for their excessive use of the technology, the vocoded vocals of Perfume, a pop girl group from Hiroshima, were enthusiastically welcomed in the Japanese music scene. Expanding on the techno pop aesthetic explored by Yellow Magic Orchestra in the 1980s, the three-girl electro group, which will make its first stateside appearance in November, could be understood as Japan’s answer to the girl group tradition in the U.S., which culminated with the worldwide success of Destiny’s Child. Other iconic J-Pop figures touring outside of Japan include Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, whose albums are produced by Perfume mastermind Yasutaka Nakata and is regarded as representing Harajuku Kawaii (cute) culture, and Babymetal, a three-girl ‘idol’ group backed by virtuoso metal musicians. The latter—who belong to the same agency as Perfume—has recently caused a stir by topping the Billboard World Albums Chart (187th on the Billboard 200) and enjoyed considerable success in the hard rock community both in the U.S. and Europe. In this paper, I examine some Japanese girl artists and groups within the context of Japan-U.S. cultural negotiations. I argue that contemporary J-pop girl groups are not solely a Japanese creation—rather, they are the direct outcome of an ongoing transpacific dialogue on ethnicity and aesthetics. Indeed, Orientalism and self-Orientalism are crucial in understanding contemporary Japanese music.
Toshiyuki Ohwada is Professor of American Studies at Keio University, Tokyo and author of On American Music: From Minstrel Show, Blues to Hip Hop (in Japanese, 2011), awarded the Suntory Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities. He is currently writing a book on Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.
Forever Love: Japanese Metal in America (Kevin Fellezs, Columbia University)
X Japan, a “visual kei (style)” metal band, performed recently in Madison Square Gardens in an extended victory lap celebrating their signing to Warner Bros. Records. X Japan is one of a small number of Japanese bands that have been signed to US-based major record labels. In 1985, Loudness, another metal band with a theatrical stage presence, was signed to Atco Records, which included Pete Townshend and Gary Numan in its roster at the time. EZO, another Japanese metal band with a look borrowed from kabuki and glam rock, signed with Geffen Records in 1987. In this paper, I explore the reasons Japanese metal bands have been favored by US-based record labels. J-Pop groups barely register in the US beyond the otaku subculture and other dominant forms of Japanese popular music have rarely traveled beyond the eastern shores of Japan to the United States. Why metal? While a number of songs are sung in English, much of their repertoire is in Japanese, usually an insurmountable obstacle to broad appeal in the US. They are also examples of one of the most dismissed styles of metal – the so-called “big hair” power metal identified by melodramatic balladry and personas, both onstage and off, filled with overwrought emotional posturing. How do these theatrical bands fit into orientalist logics that fuel record label executives’ dreams of cashing in on these bands? I argue that it is this very other-ness coupled to the “translatability” of power metal that allows for this phenomenon.
Kevin Fellezs is an Assistant Professor of Music at Columbia University with a joint appointment in the Institute for Research in African-American Studies. He is primarily interested in the ways social identity and aesthetics intersect in popular musicking.
(Mis)Appropriation and Collective Identities (BH 101)
Moderator: David Blake (Stony Brook University)
Dropping Love Bombs from Bali to LA: Navicula’s Music and Activism (Rebekah Moore, Indiana University-Bloomington)
This is the story of the greatest rock band you never heard. Navicula was born and bred in Bali, soothed teenage angst with Seattle Sound in the 90s, and recorded seven critically acclaimed albums. Their music rallies against social injustice and environmental degradation. Lyrics ensnare political crimes and the sins of palm oil and attract likeminded watchdogs like the Indonesian Corruption Watch and Greenpeace to amplify the message. Navicula’s serpentine path of concerts, recording sessions, and media appearances across Indonesia and beyond led to LA when industry giants Matt Sorum, David Catching, and Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist invited the band to traverse halls haunted by Hendrix and Lennon and record at the Record Plant with producer Alain Johannes. Based on six years knowing Navicula as ethnographer, fan, and friend, this paper engages Berger’s notion of stance to address how methodological assumptions and theoretical lenses create blind spots to Navicula’s music as lived experience. It asks if phenomenology gets closer to music’s meaning in people’s lives, if preoccupation with the roots—and routes—of music’s texts undermines their valuing in practice, what activist musicians teach us about shaping public consensus, and what current trajectories exist for “peripheral” musicians to gain international respect. Navicula’s story rightly elicits praise for the creative, collaborative work and visionary ethos that rocket-launched an off-the-radar band from Bali to LA. Yet the propensities of popular music disciplines may reduce their work to (at best) symbolic resistance or (at worst) xenocentrism. To do so is to lose the plot.
Rebekah E. Moore is an ethnomusicologist living and working in Jakarta, Indonesia. She is completing a dissertation on indie music in post-bomb Bali at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research and publications focus on rock music in Indonesia, music activism, public/applied ethnomusicology, and music discourse and research via social media.
Forever Love: The Story of a Neighborhood: Popular Music and Cultural Advocacy in Ry Cooder’s Chávez Ravine (2005) (Erin Bauer, Claremont Graduate University)
Ry Cooder’s distinctive concept album, Chávez Ravine (2005), poignantly tells the story of the Mexican-American community ravaged and eventually replaced by Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. Using an illustrative mixture of musicians, instruments, languages, and genres, the album goes beyond predictable musical characteristics to construct a vivid interpretation of a historical experience and an insightful commentary on the devastated community. Beyond the music itself, Chávez Ravine graphically illustrates the controversial and ruinous demolition of a poor, minority neighborhood for an ethnically and socioeconomically broader audience, arguably providing an impression of empowerment and cultural advocacy for the affected population. Through analysis of Cooder’s musical decisions, consideration of the album’s fundamental intent and reception, and an examination of the historical and contemporary circumstances surrounding the central situation and associated creative project, this presentation will address the artistic and practical outcomes of this ambitious contribution. More generally, the presentation will question the role of popular music in broader political concerns. By carefully examining the multifaceted objectives, methods, and consequences of Cooder’s album in presenting a meaningful, sociocultural commentary beyond a merely enjoyable musical experience, this presentation will demonstrate that popular music can provide an important and influential advocate for subaltern populations and provocative cultural issues. In this way, popular music can become a powerful adversary of contemporary intolerance, educating a general public through seemingly innocuous entertainment and introducing a better informed and more inclusive understanding for peripheral, undervalued, and misunderstood communities within contemporary American society.
With a Ph.D. in Musicology from Claremont Graduate University, Erin Bauer’s current research explores the contemporary globalization of Texas-Mexican accordion music. Related areas of interest include Ry Cooder, Los Lobos, and the Limburg-based rock band Rowwen Hèze, as well as the unexpected musical “mixtures” of contemporary popular culture.
Aegyo Indians: ‘Cute Culture’ and the Politics of Redface (Michael Lee Austin, Howard University)
Lately, the representation of Native Americans in popular culture has received a lot of media attention (namely through the “Washington Redskins” controversy). Depictions of indigenous cultures are also framed as “us against them,” and the “Cowboys and Indians” trope that is still used in film and television shows reinforces racial stereotypes and xenophobia. This paper discusses the issues surrounding “redface” in music videos, i.e. instances in which non-Native people adopt indigenous dress and customs, and reinforce racist stereotypes. In particular, I address aegyo (애교), a term used to label a particular South Korean “cute” aesthetic (similar to Japan’s kawaii) and is often used to describe the sometimes childlike and submissive attitudes and behavior of many K-Pop stars. Several K-Pop music videos employ a “Native American chic” aesthetic, awash with teepees, headdresses, and war paint, as an expression of aegyo. I will argue that these videos demonstrate a unique type of misappropriation as K-Pop music video directors adopt these elements from the already-debased and exploitative representations of Native Americans in Western pop culture, and will compare these depictions to the “Indian princesses,” “noble savages,” “sexy squaws,” and other misrepresentation of indigenous peoples in Western music videos. In addition to demonstrating ways in which American media perpetuates this type of misrepresentation, I will also discuss ways in which online forums and shopping websites, YouTube videos, and other unfiltered or mistranslated digital communication could be giving South Korean culture makers the wrong idea about Native Americans and Indigenous American culture.
Michael Austin is Assistant Professor of Media, Journalism, and Film, and serves as coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Program in the School of Communications at Howard University. He is research is primarily focused on sound and music in audiovisual and emerging media, especially representation in music videos and music video games.
“Apathy, Antagonism, and Acceptance: Negotiating Identities through Social Media with Tanya Tagaq (Alexa Woloshyn, Bowling Green State University)
When Canadian Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq (b. 1977) first gained a large audience following her performance on Björk’s Verspertine tour (2001) and Medúlla album (2004), she immediately inspired a diverse reaction to her interpretation and re-contextualization of this vocal game tradition: for example, the Throat Singers Convention (2001) emphasized the tradition as communally, not individually, owned, while fan and critic responses often characterized her music in exoticized and fetishized terms. Tagaq’s active social media presence on Twitter, in particular, demonstrates a problematic and multifaceted construction of her identity as musician, mother, and cultural ambassador through various levels of apathy, antagonism, and acceptance.
This paper begins by contextualizing Tagaq within a broader discourse on Aboriginality and modernity (Browner 2009, Hoefnagals and Diamond 2012, Scales 2012) and summarizes her musical output and interpretation of traditional vocal games. The remainder of the paper applies discourse analysis to Tagaq’s social media presence and exposes the resultant tensions of power and identity in Twitter’s collective communicative acts by focusing on three recent events: the “Sealfie” backlash in early spring 2014, promotion of her 2014 album Animism, and her Polaris Prize win in September 2014. This paper reveals that while attitudes of apathy, antagonism, and acceptance certainly co-exist in the Tagaq’a social media presence, they resist reconciliation and leave her personal, musical, and cultural identities in a state of constant renegotiation and interpretation with political implications as power balances remain changeable in Twitter’s collective virtual space.
Alexa Woloshyn holds a PhD in musicology from the University of Toronto. Recent articles on electroacoustic composers Robert Normandeau and Hildegard Westerkamp have appeared in Circuit: Musiques contemporaines and eContact!. She has presented at national and international conferences, including the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium, IASPM-Canada, and IASPM-US. She is currently Visiting Instructor in Musicology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
On Stuart Hall and Popular Music Studies (BH 114)
Moderator: Holly Kruse (Rogers State University)
Hall, Hebdige, and Grossberg: A Genealogy of Popular Music Studies (David Shumway, Carnegie Mellon University)
Stuart Hall’s impact on popular music studies was significant, but it was indirect. It was through his influence on two other scholars, Dick Hebdige and Lawrence Grossberg, that Hall contributed to our field. My paper will examine the work of Hebdige and Grossberg on popular music as the place where Birmingham school theory and practice was first felt in the study of popular music. Hebdige and Grossberg contributed to what I have called the new synthesis in the scholarly study of rock & roll that emerged in the early 1980s. Previously, there was a strict division between critics and interpreters on the one hand, and sociologists and media scholars on the other. The former endorsed rock & roll aesthetically and were capable of producing complex interpretation of it, but they ignored the music’s conditions of production and reception. The sociologists showed how the music was implicated in late capitalism, but they were oblivious to the music’s attraction. Cultural Studies provided a means for breaking this impass because it was rooted in analysis of both cultural forms and their material contexts. Hebdige’s Subculture and Cut and Mix and a number of Grossberg’s essays both theorized and demonstrated this new synthesis. Each differently understands rock as a site of struggle and resistance, not merely despite, but to some extent because it exists in the mass market as a product of the culture industry.
David R. Shumway is Professor of English, and Literary and Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon University. He is the author of Michel Foucault, Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy, and the Marriage Crisis, and Rock Star: The Making of Musical Icons from Elvis to Springsteen among others.
How to Do Things with Stuart Hall (Charlie Bertsch, University of Arizona)
Over the years, the name of Stuart Hall has come to function as a talisman in cultural studies, someone to ward off potential criticism that an argument is too far removed from considerations of how race and class shape identity. All too often, though, references to the “work of Stuart Hall” don’t seem to be grounded in an in-depth understanding of what he was doing and why he was doing it. Some of that surely has to do with the relative paucity of his publications and the difficulty of accessing many of them conveniently. But there’s also a quality to Hall’s work that makes it resistant to the sort of intellectual portability to which theory in the humanities and social sciences typically aspires.
My paper teases out the implications of this resistance by reflecting on The Hard Road to Renewal, probably the closest Hall came to producing a traditional single-author book. Focusing on the way he makes use of Antonio Gramsci in his analysis of “Thatcherism”, I argue that the pieces collected in this book teach us how we might deploy his work in different contexts than the ones he had in mind, without losing sight of the historical specificity, its relentless focus on the conjunctural, that is its hallmark. I then consider how Hall’s attention to the reactionary trends in the Great Britain of the late 1970s and early 1980s can shed new light on the popular music of that especially fertile period.
Charlie Bertsch teaches in the Honors College at the University of Arizona. He is also Co-Editor-in-Chief of Souciant, a magazine of culture and politics distinguished by its emphatically international, idiosyncratic approach. In the early 1990s, he helped found Bad Subjects, one of the longest-running online publications in the world.
Black Outbreak (Dhanveer Singh Brar, University of Pennsylvania)
With his 1993 essay “What is this ‘Black’ in Black popular culture?” Stuart Hall established the transit between black diasporic thought and black popular culture in the UK. It is arguable that since this moment the British project of black diasporic thought has fallen into decline, due to a number of political, institutional and pedagogical factors. As a result there has been a serious under-theorization of black popular culture, and in particular black popular music, in Britain since the publication of Hall’s essay.
This has been accompanied by rates of innovations in black musical forms that have rendered inadequate many of the conventions of race thinking in UK higher education. Black electronic music is a particular stark case in this respect. For the last 20 years it has functioned as the experimental edge of black diasporic culture, especially in its British hybrids, but has been given little attention.
In this paper I shall look to restage the concerns of Hall’s essay as if it spoke to the concerns of contemporary black electronic music. I will focus on Grime, an MC based music that developed in the E3 areas of Bow, London during the early 2000s before using its underground following to enter and reinvigorate the mainstream music market. Using this musical style as an intellectual impulse, I shall illustrate how it demarcated the terrain of London as a site of post-colonial sonic warfare and made use of pirate radio technologies to encounter and disrupt a discourse on black pathology.
Dr Dhanveer Singh Brar
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow
Penn Humanities Forum
University of Pennsylvania
Dhanveer Singh Brar is a scholar of black studies, with a specialization in the intersections of black diasporic thought, black culture and aesthetics.
Jazz that Pops (BH 117)
Moderator: Kevin Holm-Hudson (University of Kentucky)
‘Chopin said, ‘Liszt, Let’s Go to the Salon and Jam!”: Uplift, Ambivalence, and Strategic Afromodernism at Barry Harris’ Workshop (Alex Harris Stein, Brown University)
In this paper, I draw on recent literature on uplift and afromodernism to explore the political ramifications of what initially appears to be a contradiction in NEA Jazz Master Barry Harris’ weekly NYC workshop. On the one hand, Harris expresses values consistent with a mid-twentieth century class-conscious ideology of racial uplift, using Bach and Chopin as pedagogical examples and denigrating musicians who play too “bluesy” and too “country,” like Cannonball Adderley and Oscar Peterson. At the same time, Harris idealizes the bars and audiences of his native midcentury Detroit and lambasts “those dummies in Europe who stopped improvising.” I argue that these ambivalences can best be understood as reflective of a strategic afromodernism. By attaching his music and pedagogy to the classical canon, Harris partakes of an attendant cultural legitimacy. Moreover, by distancing himself from and deconstructing the institutions and markers of said cultural legitimacy, Harris positions his music and its African-American progenitors as the rightful heirs to the mantle of Bach and Chopin, an insurrectionary move in the context of the racial politics of the mid-twentieth century.
Alex Harris Stein is a PhD candidate at Brown University and jazz saxophonist with broad interests in jazz as a problematized field of inquiry, black music, pedagogy, and the changing meanings of musics over time and as they travel across and between communities, boundaries, and cultures. His research has included work on jazz musician identity, the associational and ideational resonances jazz has among audiences, and master jazz teacher Barry Harris, with whom he has studied for over a decade.
Weaponized Jazz: The Recording Industry in the Cold War (Mindy Clegg, Georgia State University)
During the Cold War, the Anglo-American recording industry expanded and eventually came to dominate the production and consumption of music around the globe. In this paper, I argue a key driver of this global expansion was the relationship between the American recording industry and departments of the United States government which carried out the cultural Cold War, with jazz as the first “weapon” of choice. As such, jazz became an important tool in the expansion of global media backed by American state power. Programs like the jazz tours sponsored by the State Department and Willis Conover’s program “Music U.S.A” on the state-funded radio station Voice of America proved incredibly popular around the world. These programs did not introduce American jazz to the world. Rather, I argue that federal support for the cultural ambassador programs created greater demand for Anglo-American records and laid the groundwork for the state-backed spread of other popular forms of music later, especially rock. These programs of cultural goodwill standardized the production and consumption of music around the world along the lines of the Anglo-American recording industry. The core economic activity of musicians became the production of eminently consumable records rather than local performance. The government’s intercession into this part of the global media landscape also helped to create the category of “teenager” around the world, creating a new consumption based movement in the process.
Mindy Clegg is a PhD candidate in history at Georgia State University, where she is currently ABD. Her scholarly interests include the interconnections between state actions and globalization of the recording industry, as well as the expansion of particular ideas about youth and popular music.
Narration within a Broken Middle: Addressing the Inclusion, Meaning, and Function of Popular Music in Contemporary Jazz Repertoire (John Petrucelli, University of Pittsburgh)
The contemporary jazz performance scene is fragmented in its relationship to notions of tradition and repertory. Throughout the early 2000s, a wave of jazz recordings were made which featured contemporary popular music, from Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, Wilco’s “Radio Cure” to Flying Lotus’ “Mmmhmm”. ). In a typical historiographic portrayal, jazz repertory has historically contained performances of popular music (Tin Pan Alley songs from the 1915-1940), yet by 1970, the repertory became fixed, and contemporary popular music was added infrequently, if at all. This break is generally represented in through evolutionary, stylistic narrative histories of jazz stemming from the advent of jazz-fusion. Kevin Fellezs has argued that jazz musicians began operating within a “broken middle”, within which they were able to operate outside of the restrictions typically imposed by their home genres in order to access other stylistic influences. But why did the deployment of popular music, or its incorporation in jazz suddenly become portrayed as genre blurring and/or defying? Inherently embedded within discussions of genealogies of genre and style are deeper considerations of power dynamics at play between musicians, critics and the recording industry.
This paper will document various attempts to create narratives that frame debates of authenticity among jazz musicians and critics over the employment of popular music through the framework of Stuart Hall’s conjunctural analysis . The meaning of popular music as mediated by jazz musicians implies a crossroads of intersecting histories and a web of socio-cultural meanings that has fundamental implications for the relationship of contemporary musicians to the jazz canon.
John Petrucelli is a scholar, educator, composer and saxophonist. He is a current Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, with an M.M. and M.A. from Rutgers University. Petrucelli has worked with some of the premier educators, performers and historians in the field of music, including Geri Allen, Dr. Lewis Porter, Ralph Bowen, Stanley Cowell, Charles Tolliver and Conrad Herwig. Recent talks include Motivic and Harmonic Analysis of Warne Marsh: The Unissued Copenhagen Studio Recordings at Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, and Wide Angles, Cultural Context and the Music of Michael Brecker at the University of Pittsburgh.
Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Gamak: “Inescapable Hybridity,” Teleological Subversion, and New Jazz Methodology (Brian Jones)
Pop Labor and Capital (BH 119)
Moderator: David Shumway (Carnegie Mellon University)
Learning ‘musicpreneurship’ and the value of social capital in a service-oriented economy (Tim Anderson, Old Dominion University)
As labels have systematically re-articulated their investments away from the production and distribution of objects, this moment of reinvestment and has forced musicians to rethink their commercial strategies and practices. This paper frames this moment of debate as a critical negotiation, an on-the-fly theorization about what it means to be a musical entrepreneur and what activities are the most effective means of generating the social networks and capital needed to be a commercially viable artist. The necessity of these activities have become pronounced as musicians have begun to openly discuss about the how to become “more social”. Indeed, musicians and musical acts have been quickly enveloped by a new economic mode that demands the generation of social capital that can be converted into numerous exchanges of music and music-oriented products/events. While this paper will draw from the appropriate secondary sources who are attempting to rethink the music industry as a system oriented around both music and social network services, it will spend most of its time drawing from online discussions both in more traditional press and in a number of prominent “music industry” blogs devoted to educating musicians how to navigate this terrain. Throughout, the goal will be to provide a better understanding of how musicians have begun to adopt and adapt from examples such as Amanda Palmer and Jonathan Coulton and theorize what it means to become entrepreneurial to achieve commercial success in this new economic mode.
Tim J. Anderson is an Associate Professor of Communication at Old Dominion University where he studies what makes music popular. His most recent monograph is Popular Music in a Digital Music Economy: Problems and Practices for an Emerging Service Industry (Routledge, 2014). His website is timjanderson.weebly.com.
Sounding the Musical Work: Modernist Negation as a Form of Capital in Emursive’s Sleep No More (Max Hylton Smith)
The energy behind much performance art of 1960s can be described as negative. High modernist efforts to reveal social injustice were focused through acts of disruption and destruction, as in Grotowski’s poor theater, Cage’s multi-media experiments, and the happenings of Fluxus. They leveled the structures of tradition, challenged genres and forms, in short, negated the positive accretions of a system predicated on the cold logic of capital. Such practitioners pitched their tents at the very edge of representation whence they would also get their name: the avant-garde.
My paper traces this epithet not in its original context but in the 21st-century context of New York’s Off-Broadway scene, where the same high-modernist gestures of negativity exist and thrive in a differently determined world of what Fredric Jameson calls late capitalism. In the experimental production Sleep No More, audience members pass freely among the bits and pieces of the posthumous ‘work of art’, including narrative fragments of Shakespeare and Hitchcock, highly filtered Tin-Pan-Alley songs, and the bleating noises of electronic dance music. Billing itself as the new “avant-garde” and competing on the market of saleable experiences alongside the likes of Disney, Sleep No More smacks of complicity: a classical American pastime doused in liquor, electrified, and spun into the ether of virtual realities.
As I argue, however, Sleep No More straddles the boundary between indulgent entertainment and historical self-consciousness. With special attention to the juxtaposition of 1930s crooning and 21st-century glitch and techno music, my analysis how such forms of (even co-opted) disruption may be used to recuperate a degree of agency for the auditing subject.
PLENARY SESSION: Keynote Address (5:15-6:45pm, Bingham, BH 100)
Popular Music Studies at the Limits of Hegemony (Barry Shank, The Ohio State University)
One of the most quoted passages from Stuart Hall’s work describes the purpose of studying popular culture. “Popular culture is one of the sites where this struggle for and against a culture of the powerful is engaged: it is also the stake to be won or lost in that struggle. It is the arena of consent and resistance. It is partly where hegemony arises, and where it is secured…. That is why ‘popular culture’ matters. Otherwise, to tell you the truth, I don’t give a damn about it.” Throughout much of its history, popular music scholars worked within the Gramscian framework sketched out by Hall’s assertion. We analyzed the ways in which songforms and their traditions, sounds and their timbres and rhythms, were linked to groups and their struggles. But a war of position requires relatively clear positions to hold.
The events of 2014 have registered the limits of hegemony, shifting the ground beneath cultural politics. Bullets, teargas, and tanks encircle and drive away demonstrators, raising tensions to the point where speech becomes impossible. Now more than ever it is clear that only some voices can be heard. From Gramsci, then, we turn to Rancière’s “Ten Theses on Politics.” “If there is someone you do not wish to recognize as a political being, you begin by not seeing them as the bearers of politicalness, by not understanding what they say, by not hearing that it is an utterance coming out of their mouths.” That refusal demands in turn a shift in the sensible that orders democracy. This is what the analysis of musical beauty and its political force can contribute. What sounds articulate the political? Which voices utter political speech. Or, as Michelle Alexander puts it near the end of The New Jim Crow, “Whom do we care about?” Popular music, in all its complexity and contradiction, vibrates the limits of hegemony, rendering audible the changing shape of the political.
David Grubbs, Wussy, 1200 (9:30pm, The New Vintage)
2126 S. Preston St.
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Saturday, February 21
Registration & Coffee (8:00a-8:30am, Bingham Humanities Lobby)
Saturday Short Morning 1 (8:30-10:00am, Bingham)
Sounding Feminine (BH 205)
Moderator: Alexa Woloshyn (Bowling Green State University)
Sonic Construction of Gendered K-Pop Participatory Networks (Cody Black, University of Toronto)
The sustaining global popularity of K-Pop is attributed to the formation of a participatory culture comprised of individual creatively engaging with K-Pop music videos. The demographics of this digital community is inclusive across bounds of geography, gender, and age; however, this communal construction is often mistaken as being a universally mandated standard. In this manner, this paper discerns the social conditions that constructs exclusive, or demographically restrictive, participatory communities. The efforts of this discussion center on the participatory activities based around the song “Gwiyomi” by the Korean singer Hari: for despite Gwiyomi’s seemingly immense popularity, the demographics of the participatory community are comprised almost solely of (South)East Asian females. Drawing from social network theory (McPherson et. al. 2001), internet memes theory (Shifman 2013, Weng et. al. 2012), and symbolic interactionism (Blumer 1969), I argue that by reproducing Gwiyomi, individuals reify their position within the construct of the macrosocial network which initially filtered the internet meme to their consciousness, retroactively creating a shared cultural experience limited to others reproducers who identify within the same constructs. Observing that that the textuality of internet memes is semiotically defined by larger cultural histories, by specifically focusing on the aural mode of Gwiyomi, I identify that that sonic construct of Gwiyomi is multivarantly encompasses the aesthetic of Asian-based cuteness, and is therein semiotically embedded with the cultural histories of Asian modernity and feminine performativity. I posit this construction of internet meme serves as a primary frame that prompts the restrictive demographic of Gwiyomi performers.
Cody Black is currently pursuing his MA in Ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto. His research tends to focuses primarily on Korean popular music, internet fan communities, symbolic interactionism, and gender.
The Boys in the Girl Group: Queer Politics, Gender, and A Cappella (Matthew Jones, University of Georgia)
Billing themselves as “the world’s most famous, openly-gay, all-male, politically active, multicultural, a cappella singing doo-wop group,” The Flirtations first took the stage in 1987. At first performing at AIDS rallies, gay pride events, and in small theaters throughout the Northeast, they went on to become one of the most beloved gay acts of the 1990s. They recorded three albums, toured the globe, and even appeared in a Hollywood film. This paper argues that The Flirtations were, among other things, a girl group. Committed advocates of LGBT rights, feminist movement, multiculturalism, and AIDS activism, The Flirtations queered the nostalgic sounds of close-harmony a cappella singing to deliver their political messages, enlighten listeners, and entertain audiences. Through fluctuations in membership, personality conflicts, and the AIDS-related deaths of two founding members, The Flirtations kept on singing and left a unique repository of queer music at the end of the twentieth century. Using close readings of previously unavailable archival materials, newly conducted interviews with surviving members, and close reading of musical performances, I situate The Flirtations at the nexus of queer politics, gender, and a cappella singing in the late-1980s and 1990s. In doing so, I also demonstrate the lasting influence of the often denigrated girl group genre on US popular culture.
After receiving his PHD in critical and comparative studies of music at The University of Virginia, Matthew J. Jones is now a visiting lecturer in The Institute for Women’s Studies at The University of Georgia. His work investigates the intersections of popular music, popular culture, gender, sexuality, illness, and disability.
Gender and Knowledge in Discourses of Post-Punk (Holly Kruse, Rogers State University)
“The 2015 IASPM-US conference will revisit the genealogies of critique that shape popular music studies’ longstanding intervention into discourses on culture, media, and power.” CFP
As an undergraduate student, I read a review of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA album in my university newspaper. It prompted me to write my first letter to the editor. The review indicated that the album represented the essential experience of rock music. Yet it wasn’t my experience. The album didn’t resonate with me in the way that it seemed rock criticism dictated, even as I could appreciate its appeal. I didn’t have the language to enter the patriarchal discourse of rock music criticism. I didn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of rock history, and I was unable to attribute meaning to Born in the USA within the context of Springsteen’s discography or of previous decades of rock history.
In their 1978 article “Rock and Sexuality,” British music and cultural studies scholars Simon Frith and Angela McRobbie observed of rock music and gender, “It is boys who form the core of the rock audience, who are intellectually interested in rock, who become rock critics and collectors… who experience rock as a collective culture, a shared male world of fellow fans and fellow musicians” (8). Discovering this article in graduate school allowed me to finally interrogate the central role of gender socialization and its institutionalization, including in notions of musical aesthetics and in the structures of the music industry. These notions have proven resilient. In this paper I use past and present discussions of post-punk music to examine the relationships among pop and rock knowledge, gender, critique, and discourse (including in the Foucauldian sense).
Holly Kruse is Associate Professor of Communications at Rogers State University. She is the author of the book Site and Sound: Understanding Independent Music Scenes, and her writing on popular music has been published in several scholarly journals and anthologies, including On Record: Rock, Pop & the Written Word.
Undergraduate Panel (BH 101)
Moderator: Ali Colleen Neff, William & Mary
Touch this Skin, Darling: Le1f, Azealia Banks, and Ballroom Culture (Delia Tomlinson, Virginia Tech)
“Cry If You Need To”: Drake and Hegemonic Masculinity (Skyler Mueller, Virginia Tech)
The Struggle of Youth Culture: The Voyage to Find N*E*R*D’s “In Search Of…” (Kristopher Charles Malone, College of William and Mary)
Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle and Place: The Deep South and California as Sites of Representative Significance to the United States in the Tumultuous 1960s (Kevin Bailey, University of Louisville)
Emotion Comes in Sound (William Ford, Bellarmine University)
Political Conjunctures (BH 114)
Moderator: J. Griffith Rollefson (University College Cork, National University of Ireland)
Notes on Deconstructing the Populism: Millennial Popular Music and Political Campaigns (Justin Patch, Vassar College)
The political campaign has long included popular music among its tools for recruitment, message dissemination, and affective marketing. However, only in the past three decades have popular music and musicians become an integral part of the campaign, effectively melding the political and celebrity systems. This includes the use of popular songs whole cloth and campaign events alongside famous musicians. The millennium era has witnessed a new articulation of populism, beginning with both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush’s down-home personas and continuing through recession-era politics in the present. The bald elitism and aspirational culture of the 1980s has given way to talk of “Main St” and “American People”, “99%”, and a manufactured next-door neighbor persona, with popular music playing a key role. Following Stuart Hall’s “Notes on Deconstructing the Popular”, any attempt to analyze this phenomenon must first periodize this era and examine social shifts that separate the millennium (including Clinton’s 1992 and 1996 campaigns) from the other media-era (1960-present) campaigns. This paper will flesh out five factors that have contributed to 21st-century political populism and draw connections between these and the varied uses of popular music in current campaigns. These five factors are: the baby boomers coming of age, proliferation of the internet, 9/11, recurrent recessions, and post-industrial culture. These five factors, which have long historical roots (except 9/11), but reach cultural dominance in the millennium, have transformed the campaign and necessitated new modes of representation, of which popular music is one of the most salient.
Justin Patch is currently an instructor at Vassar College where he was previously a CFD Post-doctoral Fellow. His research focuses on sound and affect in US political life and has been published in Soundings, The European Legacy, Ethnomusicology Review, International Political Anthropology, Americana, Zeteo, and The Journal of Sonic Studies.
‘Like a Flag on a Pop Star’: Tori Amos, Political Pop, and American Allegory (W. Dustin Parrott, University at Buffalo)
On tour across the United States in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when many musical acts cancelled dates and entire tours, Tori Amos was inspired to tell the story of post-9/11 America through what she has called her “sonic novel,” the allegorical Scarlet’s Walk. Amos crisscrosses the whole of the nation, visiting each of the fifty states along the way, in order to tell an epic story about Native American genocide, geopolitical gamesmanship, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, Zionism, homophobia, porn, love, romance, commerce, catastrophe, greed, and grief. Each song on the album follows the protagonist, Scarlet, as she attempts to reckon with the deep wounds of American history, at the level of both the personal and the politcal, as the feminist adage has it, and the emergence of symptoms that are only now becoming visible in the crater called Ground Zero. Writer and frequent collaborator Neil Gaiman describes Scarlet’s Walk as “about America…Native American history and pornography and a girl on a plane who’ll never get to New York, and Oliver Stone and Andrew Jackson and madness and a lot more. Not to mention a girl called Scarlet who may be the land and may be a person and may be a trail of blood.”
Of course, 9/11 has been revisited many times in visual art, literature, and the media, so what makes Scarlet’s Walk unique as an approach to that particular constellation of events? How does Amos employ the elements of popular music to augment a story told and retold in the culture, and why is popular music a particularly fit vehicle for this journey in and through the United States? What does the multiplicative effect of an allegorical narrative and musical form do to add to our understanding of post-9/11 America?
In this paper I will explore Amos’s choices in her “sonic novel” in order to see what this particularly promiscuous admixture of musical genres and artful allegory does to enhance our cultural understanding of a series of events that, for many, epitomizes the central drama of American nationhood.
W. Dustin Parrott is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of English at the University at Buffalo. His primary work is in the fields of queer theory and the ethics of queer sexual praxis, though he will take any opportunity to spread the decidedly ecumenical, secular gospel of Tori Amos’s groundbreaking, genre-bending work.
‘Aye or Die!’: Hip Hop Scotland and the New Sound of Nationalism (Richard Zumkhawala-Cook, Shippensburg University)
In the fall of 2014 Scotland held a landmark referendum on whether or not it should come an independent country. Amidst the fierce campaigning and public debates about the nation’s past and future, Scotland’s hip hop culture, now at its most vibrant, organized and productive offered a critical and energetic alternative voice to the discussion, one that brought a skeptical but pointedly working-class and youth-focused voice to the debate.
This paper examines the musical, promotional, and performative work of Scotland’s most prolific rappers—Werd, Stanley Odd, Wardie Burns, Loki, Mog, Hector Bizerk—to illustrate both the flaws of conventional nationalist rhetoric in Scotland and the proudly Scottish, but equally class conscious and critical viewpoints, evident in Scottish hip hop. In turning to hip hop and its historically (American) black cultural styles, I argue that these artists reject the often reductive terms of Scottish nationalism and British unionism and focus instead on the image of urban Scots who have become “vagabonds” of industrial capitalism. Their work suggests that for young, working-class, urban Scots, identification and affiliation is found less in images of Braveheart and reductive claims of English exploitation, and more in words and styles of KRS One and Tupac. I further contend that while Scots ultimately voted to remain in the Union, the cultural work of hip hop artists in the cities helped to construct a new brand of nationalist class awareness that remains politically active and socially engaged.
Richard Zumkhawala-Cook is a Professor of English and college radio DJ at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He is author of Scotland as We Know It: Representations of National Identity in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture and has published articles on Bollywood music, hip hop, and popular Indian pulp novels.
Embodied Voices (BH 117)
Moderator: Courtney Brown (California State University)
Voicing the Machine: Beatboxing as Embodied Pedagogy of Configurable Music (Landon Palmer, Indiana University)
The practice of beatboxing (or, vocalized performances meant to imitate familiar musical signatures) has taken numerous forms throughout its history and developed complex relationships to its referents and antecedents. But the fluidity that characterizes beatboxing’s modes of address is essential to its function as a musical tool that instructs audiences on how to navigate new technological developments and genre convergences. Using Kembrew McLeod’s (2001) analysis of intersections between electronic dance music and hip-hop alongside Aram Sinnreich’s (2010) study of “configurable” music making, this paper evaluates beatboxing as pedagogical practice that renders legible popular music’s extensive avenues of technological configuration, manipulation, and reproduction.
As practices of derivation and sampling popularized by sample-based hip-hop and electronic dance music have become an ever-more prominent aspect of the aesthetics shared across contemporary popular music genres, US and UK beatboxing offer embodied performances that explore the corporeal and ideological tensions between virtuosic musicianship and technologically-enabled musical production. Beatboxing’s long history exhibits a multitude of efforts to recuperate the technologically reproduced and mediated musical event into the “live” aural and visual index of the performer’s voice.
By using the human voice to perform a wide database of musical styles and imitate various processes of technological mediation in the production of music, beatboxing foregrounds commercial music’s convergences in the context of unstable genre delineations and rapidly changing consumption practices. This paper contrasts close readings of performances by professional beatboxers Rahzel (US) and Beardyman (UK) in order to evaluate beatboxing’s embodied strategies for making sense of configurable music.
Landon Palmer is a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University. His research examines cross-industrial labor histories of popular musicians who engage in onscreen cinematic performances. He has published on David Bowie’s late-career stardom and music in the films of Michael Haneke.
(En)voicing Pluralism: Janelle Monae’s Cyber-vocalities (Christopher Nickell, New York University)
Artist Janelle Monáe’s Metropolis, a five-suite project-in-progress spanning three albums at the time of writing, expresses a strong social agenda in nearly every aspect of the work. The class struggle implied by the title’s reference to Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film, the segregation of androids and humans in Monáe’s fictional world reminiscent of persistent socioeconomic inequalities in the United States, and the non-normative gender performance of Monáe’s alter-ego droid protagonist Cindi Mayweather all bear out the social activism underlying Monáe’s project. While scholarship in the past three years has taken up various facets of Monáe’s audio and audiovisual work in earnest, one important aspect left undiscussed so far is the voice itself.
In addition to the wide range of Monáe’s “natural” vocals that themselves exceed the constellation of genres from which she draws, several tracks from the first three suites exhibit varying degrees of technologically manipulated voices. Monáe and her production team achieve several effects from these vocals, depending on the context, but at their most basic level they create a space for comprehending difference: the cyborg voices are still intelligible. In this paper I examine several of these instances of cyber-vocality, putting songs from Suite II dealing with sexuality and mental illness in dialogue with recent theory. I argue these songs envoice the right to narrate difference and the right to equality in that difference that characterize the project’s—and Monáe’s—more overt forms of activism.
Chris is a second-year PhD student in Music at New York University. He completed a B.Mus. in voice and a B.A. in Arabic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2012. His interests lie in exploring the materiality of voices through musical practice, history, ethnography, and theory.
Genre Formation, Circulation (BH 119)
Moderator: David Blake (Stony Brook University)
Music Genre on the Move: Meaning and Discourses of Japanese Visual Rock(Chui Wa Ho, New York University)
In this paper, I will examine the attempt of the cultural industries to associate visual rock, a genre of Japanese popular music, with other cultural products, and in the process of it decontextualize and ascribe new meanings to visual rock as the genre crosses national and cultural borders. My major argument is that, as a music genre moves between national, social, and artistic contexts, different meanings and values are ascribed to it in relation to discourses and marketing practices that work to create associations between visual rock and other popular cultural genres. In particular, the meanings of Japanese visual rock in the United States have been highly influenced by media discourses and by the ways the genre has been circulated and disseminated in the new locale. The music industry in the United States has explicitly targeted the genre to the already established anime fan base when promoting Japanese visual rock. While fans in Hong Kong and Japan are excited by the growing success of the genre in Western markets, they also fear that such non-musical associations with other cultural genres will deprive visual rock of its “musical” value. Based on interviews with fans in Hong Kong and Japan and analysis of media discourses, I will discuss some of the strategies the industry used to market visual rock in the United States, and the anxieties of fans in Hong Kong and Japan towards such strategies and the resulting representations of the genre outside East Asia.
Chui Wa Ho received her Master of Arts degree in Folklore and Ethnomusicology from Indiana University, and is currently a doctoral student at the Department of Music, New York University.
‘Love is a Rose’: Linda Ronstadt and Country as a Style within Pop-Rock (Jason Kirby, University of Virginia)”
Part of the popular origin story of the alternative country music genre is that since the era of country-rock in the 1960s and ’70s, this type of music has been “too ‘rock’ for country, too ‘country’ for rock.” Musicians, journalists, and fans’ self-conscious positioning of alt.country outside the genre boundaries of country and especially rock affords it romantic “outsider” status, a rhetorical position which enables alt.country’s critiques of post-industrial capitalism and the vicissitudes of the music industry.
This paper proposes an alternate history, wherein for at least a portion of the 1970s country-rock via the career of Linda Ronstadt was at the very center of mainstream music success. Ronstadt dominated both the album (read: mostly rock) and country charts in the mid-’70s, a feat unmatched by her country-rock colleagues with the partial exception of the Eagles. Drawing on the work of genre scholars such as Motti Regev, I argue that the eclecticism of Ronstadt’s pop-rock both reflected and helped shape issues of (re-)definition for rock as it reached commercial maturity in the 1970s. Utilizing a close reading of her song “Love Is a Rose,” I argue that Ronstadt’s polish and precision in vocals and arrangements appealed to country listeners, in a way that also challenged rock’s romanticized 1960s view of country music as part of the roots of rock protest. Recognition of Ronstadt’s crossover success complicates in useful ways alt.country’s origin story as “oppositional” music even back to the country-rock 1970s.
Jason Kirby is a PhD candidate in Critical & Comparative Studies in Music at the University of Virginia. His research interests include genre in popular music and American “roots” music. His dissertation project examines articulations of anti-modernism in the “alternative country” genre as it developed, from 1968 to 2000.
Why Didn’t French Punk Go Global? (John Patrick Greene, University of Louisville)
If the punk movement is considered to have originated in New York City (USA) and developed in London (UK), very little attention has been paid to the scene as it played out in France from 1975-78. As numerous scholars and music journalists have pointed out, the first major punk rock festival was held at Mont-de-Marsan (France) in August 1976 and the first release on the legendary British indie label Rough Trade was by the Parisian punk band Métal Urbain. Recent studies by Andrew Hussey have concentrated on the significance of figures such as Marc Zermati, whose Open Market record store in Paris was a mecca for fans of the new genre. It has long been recognized that major figures such as Malcolm McLaren and Tony Wilson were avid readers of the works of the Situationist International such as those by Guy Debord, whose thoughts on personal freedom, the individual and the consumer society were a major political and social influence on the British punk scene. But was there more to the French punk movement than an eye for fashion, intellectual concepts and the handful of bands who crossed the English Channel, only to meet with limited acclaim? In my paper, I examine the French punk scene as a vibrant musical environment whose lack of success and recognition outside France should certainly not be reduced to a perceived lack of musical talent.
John Greene is a Professor of French and has received numerous campus and national teaching awards. The French government named him a Chevalier in the Ordre des Palmes académiques, for services to French education and culture. His research focuses mainly on material culture and his published work has appeared on both sides of the Atlantic.
Saturday Short Morning 2 (10:15-11:45am, Bingham and Library)
Noisey Sounds (Library Room 254)
Moderator: Edward Comentale (Indiana University)
Southwest Psychedelic: The 13th Floor Elevators and their ‘Electric’ Jug (Farley Miller, McGill University)
In the fall of 1966, Texas’ 13th Floor Elevators released their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. Amidst the record’s artificial reverb and primal singing, one “psychedelic sound” stands out as particularly marked: an amplified jug. Throughout the mid-to-late 1960s, many popular musicians used sound amplification to incorporate novel instruments with diverse physical properties and cultural associations into their musical practice, including harpsichords, sitars, dulcimers, and jugs. If instrumentation is an important carrier of musical meaning, generic belonging, and identity, then what role did amplification play in re-configuring the signification of old and/or “foreign” instruments and of the social constituencies with whom they were associated?
As a first step toward addressing this question, I analyze two songs by the 13th Floor Elevators, focusing on their unorthodox amplified jug; the performance techniques of its player, Tommy Hall; and the group’s critical reception. Best known as a novelty instrument employed by African-American country blues musicians in the early twentieth century, the jug’s status was ambiguous in a rock context. While critics lauded the eerie, synthesizer-like sounds that Hall produced, several members of the group perceived it as a backwater embarrassment and a threat to their legitimacy as aspiring professionals seeking deliverance from a regional scene into the national mainstream. Building on recent critical organology, I show how the “electric” jug functioned as an unstable signifier, connecting the group to the cosmopolitan, otherworldly sounds associated with psychedelia, as well as marginal racial, regional, and class identities.
Farley Miller is a doctoral candidate in musicology at McGill University whose research focuses on the processes by which music technologies, especially instruments, mediate musical practices and articulate ideas about identity. He is also active as a performer and composer within Montreal’s independent music scenes.
The Low-Pass Theory: The Materiality of ‘Pure’ Hip Hop Sound (Brian Michael Murphy, Miami University)
What characterizes the sound of Golden Age hip hop (late 1980s to mid-1990s) is the pervasive use of the low-pass filter–what A Tribe Called Quest referred to as “the low end theory.” A low-pass filter removes the higher frequencies of a sample, and allows only the lower frequencies to “pass” through. Low-pass sounds were often muddy, mellow, and warm. Out of all the mediated sound elements that could have formed the heart of “pure” Golden Age hip hop, why was it the low-pass filter that prevailed? In other words, why did low-pass filtered samples sound so good to hip hop producers, rappers, and fans? In this paper, I argue that the materiality of “pure” hip hop sound is a product of historically specific urban environments of New York in the late 20th century and the trans-historical experience of the fetal sound environment. The low-pass filter, also known as a “brick wall filter,” taps into deep reservoirs of affect by mimicking the sound of music “filtered” through the walls of a tiny project apartment, a recurrent childhood experience for Golden Age hip hop artists. Further, neuroscientists have shown that a pregnant mother’s body acts as a low-pass filter in the fetal sound environment. This paper shows how historical, material, and affective forces lead to certain sounds being heard as “pure” by hip hop aficionados, and extends our understanding of why these sounds continue to resonate with hip hop producers and listeners today.
Brian Michael Murphy is a Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies at Miami University, with interests in media archaeology, race, preservation, and hip hop. He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Studies from The Ohio State University. As a hip hop artist, he released two albums, Manifest Destiny and Black Fire.
Noise Pollution, Atmospherics, and Immanent Sound (Marina Peterson, Ohio University)
“Noise pollution” is a term in which culturally and historically specific experiences and formulations of noise and of pollution coalesce. Drawing together existing mobilizations around airport noise, noise and health, occupational noise, noise engineering, and municipal noise, the North American environmental movement of the 1960s shifted the categorization of noise from “nuisance” to “pollution.” This shift was significant for registering a then nascent conceptualization of “the environment” grounded equally in an emergent planetary consciousness and a notion of a permeable body, in, that is, the atmospheric. Noise pollution instantiates registers of the atmospheric through sound even as it is defined as atmospheric – invisible yet pervasive, persisting not in the air but in bodies, always and inherently subjective, and continually falling away both as sound and as category. This paper explores how formulations of sound across domains of sensation, technology, and law shape the interplay between atmosphere and ground, energy and objects. In these contexts, definitions of sound as alternately pressure, waves, or energy create links with other domains: the ear, the microphone, and other forms of pollution. The atmospheric takes shape across these domains as the medium for sound propagation, as divisible legal territory, and as sensation. Defined as a force, the sensation of sound is the same as the thing itself. Following, the atmospheric is not “out there,” either physically or conceptually, but rather is present, pervasive, and immanent: it imbues, becomes, and permeates, is perceived, sensed, and heard.
Marina Peterson is Associate Professor of Performance Studies in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts at Ohio University. She is the author of Sound, Space, and the City: Civic Performance in Downtown Los Angeles (UPenn Press 2010) and co-editor of Global Downtowns (UPenn Press 2013).
Altered Bodies, Shifted Voices (BH 119)
Moderator: Elliott Powell (University of Minnesota)
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and the Annihilation of the Gendered Voice (Tiffany Naiman, UCLA)
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s musical career has been focused on dismantling the processes of control enacted by formal society. P-Orridge’s method of undoing has consistently been through a sonic and performative aesthetics of the extreme; where nothing is forbidden and ideas of legality, etiquette, beauty, gender, and legible forms of all kinds have been annihilated. This paper examines P-Orridge’s work through the lenses of vulnerability and risk, in order to consider whether an ethics may be derived from a place of aural and bodily excess.
P-Orridge and his late wife Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge began a project of self-authorship through a collaboration where they could “re-invest Rock music with risk.” Desiring an escape from the normative/abnormal binary of gendered thought regarding the body and voice, the couple cut-up their corporeal selves through various surgeries, in order to become identical as an outward display of love and bodily evolution. During this process of merging, Jaye died leaving Genesis in a unique state of mourning, half-himself, half-her with the other halves of halves no longer material. As I will show, songs such as, “I Am Making a Mirror” and “Thank You” reflect this loss, but also invite us to consider what it means to take control of the voice, or image of a dead being. In applying an ethics of vulnerability to the P-Orridges, I consider the complex questions their artistic collaboration raises around technology and violence within the framework of musical production.
Tiffany Naiman is a Ph.D. student in the UCLA Department of Musicology and the Experimental Critical Theory Graduate Certificate Program along with being a DJ, and documentary film producer. Her work on David Bowie has been published in David Bowie: Critical Perspectives (Routledge, 2015) and Enchanting David Bowie (Bloomsbury, 2015).
“Material Feminism and the Victorian Voice: Considering How Matter Matters in Musical Performance (Bethany McLemore, University of Texas at Austin)
In their introduction to Material Feminisms (2008), Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman provide a critique to feminist discursive theories of performativity, noting that “[f]ocusing exclusively on representations, ideology, and discourse excludes lived experience, corporeal practice, and biological substance from consideration.” In line with other scholars comprising the recent “material turn” in feminist scholarship, Alaimo and Hekman argue for the importance and agency of matter, in addition to considerations of social construction. This paper presents an approach to a “material musicology,” that enables us to understand how matter matters in musical performance. I argue that musicologists must go beyond considerations of embodiment and performativity to consider the material impacts of art on bodies, as well as the impact of bodies on music. Not only does this deepen our understanding of musical and gendered performance, but it also allows the body to act as a locus of performers’ agency.
Victorian popular song performance provides an ideal case study in material musicology, because of the wealth of information available on both the Victorian woman’s (corseted) body and domestic musical performance. Victorian women’s bodies were physically and permanently altered in ways that undoubtedly affected both their musical experience and sound. Material feminism provides a framework to consider this relationship between the body and its actions. It allows me to consider performance beyond the discursive, and explore how performance animates the body, how performance alters the body, and how the body experiences performance.
Bethany McLemore is a PhD candidate in musicology at the University of Texas at Austin, where she received her MM in Musicology in 2012. Bethany’s dissertation examines the experience of amateur women performers in nineteenth-century America, considering how corseting impacted the body, the voice, and the performance of femininity.
‘If I Was Your Girlfriend. . . ‘: Pitch-Shifted Vocals, Liminal Spaces, and Identity Play in African American Popular Music (Will Fulton, LaGuardia Community College)
Pitch-shifting vocals to create multiple, performative characters has been a recurring feature in popular music since the 1960s. Significantly, this practice has been employed repeatedly by African American musicians in an evocation, as well as transformation, of race and gender signifiers. Through techniques ranging from the variation of analog tape speeds to digital pitch-shifters, singers including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, and Kendrick Lamar have experimented with vocal pitch shifting in relation to identity play. As these techniques evoke representations of race and gender as well as an obfuscation of normative aural identity, they create what Griffin Woodworth calls a “subtle dynamic between identification and estrangement.”
This paper argues that musicians have used pitch-shifted vocals as a type of liminal device to both transform and parody normative identity signifiers of race and gender. I will suggest that Prince’s characters Camille and Spooky Electric, Stevie Wonder’s “little boy,” and Beyonce’s chopped-and-screwed alter ego offer both a contestation and subversion of identity constructs. Through an analysis of Wonder’s “Maybe Your Baby,” Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and “Bob George,” and Beyoncé’s “I Been On,” this paper addresses how aural markers of gender, race and otherness are evoked, parodied, and transformed through pitch manipulation at critical junctures of popular music discourse on race, gender, and identity.
Will Fulton is an Assistant Professor of Music at LaGuardia Community College and a PhD Candidate in Musicology at the CUNY Graduate Center. He has contributed articles to American Music Review, The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2014), and The Oxford Handbook of Music and Disability Studies (forthcoming, 2016).
Navigating Neoliberalism (BH 121)
Moderator: Justin Patch (Vassar College)
Hip Hop Education and Neoliberal Fatigue: Struggling for Critical Pedagogy in the Hip Hop Classroom (Travis Gosa, Cornell University)
For decades, critical educators have worked to incorporate popular culture and alternative texts into classroom instruction in order to fight for cultural relevance and social justice. Hip Hop Studies, like the musical culture, has now gone “pop.” Growing legitimacy of hip hop within academia has been marked by more than 500 hip hop courses being regularly taught at the post-secondary level, library archives, and celebrity artists teaching at the nation’s elite institutions. At the K-12 level, hip hop educators have produced a vibrant eco-sphere of curricular programs and not-for-profit organizations–the Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA can be found teaching science students in the Bronx, NY or promoting STEM education with renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Despite this success, hip hop educators often battle with employing critical practices in the corporatized spaces of neoliberal education, in which students are imagined as customers, education as product, and teachers as disposable laborers. As a result, teachers and students struggle with emotional fatigue, disillusionment, and disinvestment. Unfortunately, these stories are often left untold while students and educators suffer in silence. This paper attempts to vocalize the under-explored tensions that persist within this tenuous field of research and practice that must be further complicated and understood in order for media and social justice education to move forward as a field of critical inquiry and practice. Of special concern is the increasing reliance on wealthy celebrities and multinational corporations to fund hip hop education. What place, if any, do they have in an empowering pedagogy or curriculum? Likewise, how do educators balance student and institutional demands for hip hop as entertainment versus hip hop as emancipatory politic? The paper concludes with recommendations for best practices, including a call for educators to revisit how these questions of “edutainment” were addressed in the late 1970s and 1980s.
Travis L. Gosa is Assistant Professor of Social Science at Cornell University. He holds faculty appointments in the graduate fields of Africana Studies and Education, and is affiliated with the Cornell Center for the Study of Inequality. Since 2008, he has served on the advisory board of Cornell’s Kugelberg Hip Hop Collection, the largest archive on early hip hop culture in the United States. He teaches courses on hip hop culture, educational inequality, and African American families. Dr. Gosa received his Ph.D. in Sociology from The Johns Hopkins University in 2008, along with a certificate in Social Inequality. His most recent work has been published with peer-reviewed journals Poetics, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Teacher’s College Record, Popular Music and Society, and the Journal of American Culture. Gosa is editor of the book “Remixing Change: Hip Hop & Obama, A Critical Reader and finishing a manuscript on hip hop and education entitled “School of Hard Knocks: Hip Hop & The Fight for Equal Schooling.”
“Notes on Deconstructing the Elite Popular: Higher Education, Omnivory, and Neoliberalism in Vampire Weekend’s ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ (David Blake, Stony Brook University)
“Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” the first single from Vampire Weekend’s 2008 eponymous debut album, originated in a collection of short stories written by lead singer Ezra Koenig for his senior English thesis at Columbia. His stories explored the inequalities of postcolonial globalized culture through world music and high fashion, an interest reflected in the song’s lyrical references to Peter Gabriel and Benetton and musical texture that evokes salegy and soukous. While the band believed the song critiqued cultural inequality, some critics castigated them as Columbia-educated elites whose Afro-pop interests reinscribed cultural imperialism, decrying them as “dapper, privileged, and unapologetic.”
This negative critical reaction to “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” reflects how popular music scholarship has regarded what I will call “elite popular musics.” Scholars are well aware that popular music saturates modern university student life, but distrust popular musics closely associated with elite institutions like prestigious universities. I draw on Stuart Hall’s theories of cultural transformation and periodization from “Notes on Deconstructing the Popular” to explore how twenty-first changes to higher education, economic neoliberalism, and musical taste have escalated the development of elite popular musics. Yet these developments challenge the relevance of Hall’s cultural division between the people and “power-bloc” axiomatic for the cultural politics employed when critiquing elite popular musics. I argue that uncovering the political potentials and limitations of elite popular musics like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” illuminates those of popular music studies, which as an academic field has been ineluctably shaped by the same cultural transformations.
David Blake teaches popular music at Stony Brook University, where he received his Ph.D. in Music History/Theory in 2014. His research is published or forthcoming in Journal of Musicology, Journal of Music History Pedagogy, and Music Theory Online, and he received grants from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives and American Music Research Center.
“From Lawn Chairs to Bar Stools: Notes on the Relationship between Bluegrass Festivals, Space, and Neoliberal Place-Making (Jordan Laney, Virginia Tech)”
With the rise of urban festivals, international tours and heightened governance within trade organizations, bluegrass music serves as a genre that reveals the nuanced processes of neoliberal conjunctures. By briefly sketching a historiography of bluegrass festivals, (primarily in North America) neoliberal undercurrents, and the spaces and relationships forged through (and in) bluegrass festivals, these moments are able to be mapped both linearly and thematically—a multi-textured, interdisciplinary foray into a narrative etched into regional identity(s). Interested in the relationship between space and people, this paper becomes an intimate examination of how bluegrass festivals (spaces) alter and/or adhere to neoliberal relations—and more importantly, what this means for similarly mobile communities.
Looking to the work of Owen Gardner, Robert Cantwell, Stuart Hall, John Allen, and Michel Foucault (among others), this paper is an interdisciplinary look at the high lonesome sound’s uncanny ability to thrive on the periphery of popular culture, maintaining mobility, and thus provides an interesting counter to vagabond capitalism. This sheds light not only on who, what, and how the bluegrass community is formed, but also defines the struggles of (popular) community(s) and their relationship to the spaces they create in contestation or alongside neoliberal place-making .
Jordan Laney is a writer, photographer, educator, and doctoral student in the ASPECT (Alliance for Social Political Ethical and Cultural Thought) program at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include: place, Appalachia, identity, music, and space. Before joining ASPECT Laney received her M.A. in Appalachian Studies (Music concentration) from Appalachian State University.
Teach Me Tonight: A Popular Music Studies Course Design Workshop (Library CLC)
Chair: Lindsay Bernhagen, The Ohio State University
Popular music studies scholars are familiar with the ever-generative question of what exactly we study when we study popular music—so much so that this eternal inquiry is at the core of this year’s conference theme. However, we do not engage as often with the equally thorny question of what it is or how we teach when we teach popular music studies. Many of us keep a string or two permanently tuned to disciplines such as history, ethnic studies, musicology, or communication studies and thus are able to locate our pedagogies at least partially within those traditions. However, teaching popular music studies brings with it questions, goals, and challenges that cannot always be fully accounted for by those more conventional disciplines, necessitating that we consider carefully our work not only as scholars, but as teachers.
In this facilitated but interactive course design workshop, participants will discuss what it means to teach a popular music studies course within or out of another disciplinary context, including how to identify and articulate the goals they have for their students, how to capitalize on and yet triumph over students’ prior knowledge about the “popular,” and how to design activities and assignments that elicit the specific kinds of thinking that they want students to be able to exhibit upon completion of their courses. Each participant will be asked to come to the workshop with a specific course in mind that they would like to use as an object of contemplation and (re)design.
Lindsay Bernhagen is an instructional consultant at Ohio State’s University Center for the Advancement of Teaching. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies, as well as graduate degrees and Musicology and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She currently serves as treasurer on the IASPM-US executive committee.
Material Economies (Library W104)
Moderator: Michael Lee Austin (Howard University)
Analog Labor and the Political Economy of Vinyl (Michael Palm, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Stories about vinyl, whether fictional, journalistic or scholarly, tend to focus on record store owners and employees, collectors and DJs. A conjunctural analysis of vinyl culture must account for how records are being made as well as bought, sold and spun. In this paper I describe vinyl’s contemporary production and political economy, drawing on ethnographic and historical research about United Record Pressing in Nashville. Record sales remain microscopic compared to downloads (and CDs), but demand for pressings continues to climb, and the so-called “vinyl bubble” in prices continues to inflate. Earlier this year United doubled their capacity by acquiring several refurbished presses. (A new record press has not been built in over thirty years.) Pressing vinyl records is arduous craft labor, untouched by digital technology. The production process is virtually identical for one copy or a million, but profit margins are not. Plants like United routinely delay small-batch runs in order to accommodate mass orders from major labels, especially during the annual run up to Record Store Day. The political potential of vinyl’s resurgence lies in the format’s demonstrated ability to thrive outside of corporate retail machinery. But now that major labels are upping their orders, independent artists and labels are being pushed aside. (How) can a cultural studies of vinyl help deflate the vinyl bubble before it pops?
Michael Palm is an assistant professor of media and technology studies in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is finishing a book about the history of self-service technology and beginning a book about the contemporary traffic in vinyl records.
“Please Listen to My CD-R: Unpacking the Music ‘Momentos’ of a National Hip-Hop Tour (Anthony Kwame Harrison, Virginia Tech)”
The music passed on to musicians while touring can be understood as constituting its own (sub)genre—that is, a relational system of discourses surrounding music production and reception that, following Frith (1996), is embedded in commercial/cultural processes.¹ Although some sharing of music between relative peers likely occurs, the vast majority of these exchanges—especially when involving established artists with notable followings—are saturated in the politics of fandom, imagined career trajectories, and strategic efforts towards enhancing industry positioning. In short, these musical artefacts represent the materialization of aspirant artists’ hopes and, at times, expected returns—ranging from an affirmation of the quality of one’s work (“your songs are good”) to farther-fetched goals of breaking into the industry. In this paper, I examine the twenty-something CD(-R)s I accumulated in 2001 as a member of a national underground hip-hop tour. Although not a performer, my role as the tour’s merchandise salesman positioned me as the most accessible person to indulge local, Do-it-Yourself, hip-hop artists’ desires to get their music on the bus (i.e. to the ears of established artists). Drawing from Peterson’s (2004) production of culture approach, Will Straw’s (2009) perceptive reflections on the diminishing materiality of music media, and my own ethnographic insights regarding turn-of-the-century underground hip hop, thirteen years later I unpack these tour mementos and present them as reflecting distinct moments in both the evolution of music production/reception technologies and the symbolic production surrounding underground hip hop as a genre.
¹Whereas Firth prioritizing situating music in relation to particular audiences and markets, I emphasize an approach to music-industry engagement that seeks an audience with better situated performers.
Anthony Kwame Harrison is Gloria D. Smith Professor of Africana Studies at Virginia Tech. Kwame has published widely in the field of Popular Music Studies and is author of Hip Hop Underground: The Integrity and Ethics of Racial Identification (Temple University Press, 2009). He is also a member of the IASPM-US Executive Committee.
From Napster to Beats Music: The Appropriation of Oppositional Distribution Networks (David Arditi, University of Texas at Arlington)”
The music industry has been at a crossroads for over a decade where one path leads to more autonomous artistic creativity and the other path leads to higher concentration of power among fewer corporate conglomerates. Among the narratives about popular music on the Internet is the idea that the Internet allows for more artists to access distribution networks. Stuart Hall’s work serves to demonstrate that even when an oppositional subculture develops the capacity to crack the hegemony, the dominant culture usually develops a way to appropriate resistance. Following the initial disturbance caused by file-sharing, the Internet has largely been used to sustain the major labels.
How do complex forms of musical communication and representation shoot up through the established regimes of representation and make space for new musical possibilities? While the opportunity for oppositional music possibilities exist, and will always exist, on the Internet, the current state of the recording industry shows that new networks have been coopted by major labels. In this paper, I contend that major record labels have reestablished their dominance by directing music listeners (i.e. consumers) to a limited number of sites. Using Hall’s framework and current empirical data about the recording industry, I will demonstrate the way that oppositional cultural forms have been appropriated by the dominant culture, which ultimately results in the dominance of Beats Music and iTunes.
David Arditi is an assistant professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. His work has been published in Popular Music & Society, Journal of Popular Music Studies and Civilisations. He is author of iTake-Over: the recording industry in the digital era.
On Stuart Hall and Popular Music Studies II (BH 114)
Moderator: David Suisman (University of Delaware)
Stuart Hall’s Hippies (Michael Kramer, Northwestern University)
In 1967, Stuart Hall delivered a paper, expanded in the coming years, about hippies. “The hippies and their way of life are not the patternlesss, amorphous muddle and confusion which at first they appear to be,” he wrote, “The way of life, and the values and attitudes embodied and projected in it, have a consistency and a pattern.” This essay on the 1960s counterculture, in duet with a companion article about the political New Left, shaped much of Hall’s work on popular culture to come in the 1960s and 70s as well as the methodology of the entire Birmingham School of cultural studies. Yet the significance of this work, both as foreshadowing of the Birmingham School approach and, just as intriguingly, in terms of what fell away in subsequent years, has often been overlooked. This presentation returns us to Hall on hippies in the ferment of the late 1960s, at a “moment” (as Hall himself termed it) when the prior sociology of subcultural studies was suddenly streaked with DayGlo and when the new sounds and styles of psychedelic rock music dramatically rattled existing theories of culture. Looking—and listening—for new ways of grasping these transformations, Hall forged a fresh way forward into the politics of culture when, within the technocratic consumerism and electronic circuits of postwar society, hippies were able to, as he put it, “stand Marx on his head” and love seemed to develop into a power.
Michael J. Kramer holds a visiting assistant professorship at Northwestern University, where he teaches history, American studies, digital humanities, and civic engagement, and he is an editor in the Design, Publishing, and New Media Department at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. His book, The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. He is currently developing a multimedia project about the Berkeley Folk Music Festival (1958-1970) and blogs about art, culture, and politics at Culture Rover.
In a Big Country: British Cultural Studies and American Pop-Rock (Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama)
Resistance Through Rituals led me to take a leave from college, read way too much cultural studies, then write a senior thesis that clumsily related 1950s R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and Top 40 nodes to cultural studies shifting from locating agency and resistance in class and race to the spectacular subcultures of punk and most controversially areas like the teenage girl’s bedroom. That was 1988. I’ve been reckoning with these matters ever since, most recently in my book Top 40 Democracy and in a review essay forthcoming in American Quarterly that looks at efforts to define the musical center across a dozen or so books such as Pop-Rock Music, The Persistence of Sentiment, and Sweet Air.
For this talk, I’ll draw upon that work and newer research to engage my old question: how to Americanize conjunctural analysis, as developed in Birmingham and patchily applied to U.S. rock by Lawrence Grossberg, then in a revolutionary manner to minstrelsy by Eric Lott. I’ll nod at how cultural studies has shaped my cohort of rock and rap critics, who’ve embraced cultural studies modes of criticism in tension with Rolling Stone paradigms and a declining business model for their work. Then I’ll explore whether our expanded ability to work –as the CCCS scholars never quite could—from historical archives, and in conversation with a range of kindred fields, allows us to conceptualize a nation built around multiple mainstreams, rather than a center and periphery.
Eric Weisbard is an assistant professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama, organizer of the EMP Pop Conference, a former Village Voice and Spin editor, and author of Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music (University of Chicago Press, 2014).
Phoniness, Resentment, and Bad Taste: The Unlistenable Sound of Working-Class Resistance in Country (Nadine Hubbs, University of Michigan)
Lila Abu-Lughod (1990) has exhorted scholars not to romanticize resistance as a sign of human freedom and resilience but, following Foucault (1982), to use resistance as a “diagnostic of power,” an indicator of power’s particular workings in particular situations. Expressions of class resistance in country music are flagged, in middle-class commentary, by charges of intolerable phoniness, resentment, and bad taste. Recognizing working-class resistance in such instances remains rare and important, but we might further ask, what can they teach us about the workings of power?
In this paper I listen to sounds of resistance in country and to the country-musical gestures that incur scorn and dismissal. I thus elaborate on my recent argument that dominant-culture renderings of country’s class resistance as mere whining enable the overwriting of white working-class politics and the rewriting of history, including the history of queer–working-class relations (Hubbs 2014). Clarke, Hall, Jefferson, and Roberts (1975) similarly analyzed “control culture” renderings of resistant expression in 1970s British and American youth subcultures, observing that “even when working-class subcultures are aggressively class-conscious” they are treated not as political but “as ‘typical [social] delinquents,’” whereas middle-class countercultures are treated as potentially political even when they are expressly antipolitical.
Luma Open House (11:30-1:30pm, Library LL17)
The Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA) Project seeks to document the history and culture of the Louisville rock music scene from the 1970s to the present. Founded in 2013, it has gathered 42 collections consisting of recordings, set lists, photographs, zines, posters, flyers, t-shirts, ephemera, and correspondence related to the rock/indie/punk/hardcore music scene. Select materials from the collection will be on display and archivists will be on hand to discuss the project.
Roundtable–Local Histories: Louisville’s Independent Music Scene (11:45-1:15pm, Library Chao Auditorium)
Louisville has long been recognized for its unique and influential contributions to late twentieth-century independent and underground music. As documented in the rich collection of materials in the Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA), Louisville artists, fans, and journalists made the city a site of extraordinary experimentation and ferment in the larger world of American independent music. In this panel, which features some prominent Louisville musicians, we will reflect on how and why Louisville artists responded to punk and hardcore, innovating new musical genres and reworking more venerable ones, and the afterlives of the late twentieth-century Louisville scene.
Plenary – José Esteban Muñoz panel (1:30-2:45pm, Library Chao Auditorium)
“Gimme Gimme This, Gimme Gimme That”: Listening with, to, and through José Muñoz.
The work of José Esteban Muñoz (1967-2013) inspired scholars in an abundance of fields: queer theory, critical race theory, performance theory, queer of color critique, Marxist theory, and others. Throughout his too-brief career, he drew promiscuously and lovingly from popular music as a source of insight, texture, reflexivity, and gorgeous nuance. In this plenary, a group of Muñoz’s former friends and colleagues discuss the effects of his work on their listening and writing practices. The conversation will attend not only to the specific music with which Muñoz engaged (punk, African American sorrow songs, and so on), but also to his vital accounts of the forms of (dis)identification, desire, affect, cathexis, collectivity, and utopian longing that sustain the musically driven cultural phenomenon known as “pop.”
Barbara Browning, New York University
Peter Coviello, U of Illinois-Chicago
Heather Love, U of Pennsylvania
Karen Tongson, U of Southern California
Jeanne Vaccaro, Indiana University
Gayle Wald, George Washington University
Gustavus Stadler, Haverford College
Saturday Long Afternoon (3:00-5:00pm, Bingham)
The Business of Pop (BH 101)
Moderator: Marina Peterson (Ohio University)
Polka Music, Global Music: The Ethnic Music Business in the United States, 1900-1940 (Andrew Bottomley, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
The early twentieth century globalization of popular music is typically figured as a process of Americanization, of U.S. musical culture being exported across the globe in a totalizing manner. However, the product of the global recording industry was less standardized and homogeneous than most historical accounts suggest. Not only were the major U.S. record companies (Columbia, Victor, Edison) releasing diverse musical styles, they were also importing recordings into the U.S. far beyond European art music. A sizable domestic market for foreign-language or “ethnic” recordings developed. These were recordings of foreign popular and folk music that were marketed directly to ethnic immigrant communities. This market is a little-understood counter-flow within the global music industry, troubling dominant narratives about cultural imperialism, consumer culture, and cultural assimilation. These recordings were one important way recent immigrants negotiated life in the U.S. and retained a sense of their ethnic/national identity. It is also one of the earliest examples of “niche” marketing in mass media. This paper examines this emergent ethnic music business through a case study of the marketing of polka music in the upper Midwest – a popular folk music amongst Germans and Central European immigrants. Through record label catalogs, trade magazines, and advertisements, I show how predominantly working class immigrant populations were perceived by the industry as a crucial target market for records. I argue that globalization between 1900-1940 was a multidirectional process that did not just happen “out there” beyond U.S. shores, but also at home via cultural imports like recorded music.
Andrew Bottomley is a Ph.D. candidate in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is currently writing his dissertation on the cultural history of internet radio. He is a coordinating editor of The Velvet Light Trap and a founding contributing editor of Antenna blog.
‘Making Songs Pay’: Tin Pan Alley’s Formula for Success (Daniel Goldmark, Case Western Reserve University)
By the turn of the twentieth century, Tin Pan Alley was producing countless new songs annually, with only a handful becoming hits in performance venues or, later, through recordings. Such slim odds didn’t keep people from trying to make it big as songwriters, and Alley publishers encouraged these dreams by producing instructional booklets on how to write popular songs. In some cases these books go step-by-step through the process, while others simply offer dos and don’ts if you already have a song in mind. These books provide much more insight than just tips on good melodies or how to get a song placed. Issues that receive visible emphasis belie concerns often referred to obliquely, such as crooked publishers or “song sharks,” topics that are not “in good taste,” and so on. Of particular interest is how each book describes and evaluates current song genres: one author will claim a style is passé, while another—from the same year—will state the same genre is current or timely. Such conflicting viewpoints provide insight to the formation of genre designators in the early years of the pop music industry. I ultimately show that, because these books were written by publishing stalwarts for amateur songwriters, these guides allow for the construction of an alternate history of Tin Pan Alley, one that focuses not on the product, but rather on how the industry portrayed itself to outsiders trying to gain entry.
Daniel Goldmark is associate professor of music and Director of the Center for Popular Music Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He edits the Oxford Music/Media Series, and is the author and/or editor of several books including Tunes for ‘Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon (2005).
The Many Capitalisms of the US Music Business, 1930-1970 (Charles McGovern, William and Mary)
Scholars have long noted that pop music serves as a key site of political and cultural struggle sustaining and voicing movements and uprisings from Gastonia to Ferguson. We should recognize a muted but equally illuminating history: distinct conflicts over popular music business practices. When musicians and business people fought for artistic self-determination or economic equity (Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Stax Records) they pitted values – solidarity, justice, independence – against pursuit of pure profit. In the mid 20th century, African American and ethnic artists, business folk and even fans, challenged the sweep and focus of music capitalism with alternative, at times openly oppositional, economies. Independent businesses, youthful listeners, and working class artists, all possessed little power, but they brought to pop embodied practices and values that challenged and often overshadowed the corporate profiteering.
This essay explores practices that countered profit-centered operations: voluntary unpaid labor, networks of credit and largesse, gift economies, and co-operatives. From Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton to Dinah Washington, the Ravens, and Jesse Belvin, artists challenged conventional business arrangements and sought equity over profit, sustainability over waste. Businessmen John Dolphin and Morris Blum used their enterprises to promote black community over commerce. Such alternate economies flourished in all sectors of the music business, from records to live performance to radio to retailing to fan clubs. Drawing upon the business and African American press, unpublished papers, broadcasts, and oral histories, I show that the music business comprised many alternatives to capitalism, that allowed many to challenge its premises and power.
Charlie McGovern teaches American Studies and History at William and Mary. He is currently writing Body and Soul: Citizenship and Race in American Popular Music, 1920-1970 and co-founded the series Rethinking American Music (Duke University Press). The author of Sold American: Consumption and Citizenship, 1890-1945 (University of North Carolina Press), he has written widely on American music and popular culture. He curated Rock ‘n Soul: Social Crossroads and co-produced and wrote the public radio series, Memphis: Cradle of Rock and Soul.
‘Sound of Integration?’: Marketing Rock and R&B in the early 1980s (Sara Gulgas, University of Pittsburgh)
Racial identity politics and performance have played an important role in the composition and marketing of popular recordings since the birth of “race records” as certain sounds and styles became associated with a particular race. Though created in 1949 as an ostensible step away from racialized marketing, the R&B chart largely catered to African-American audiences until the late 1950s when white rockers began appearing on the chart. In order to compete with white artists, songwriters from the Brill Building and Motown pursued crossover hits for black artists that would register on Hot 100 and R&B charts alike.
Although racial exploitation in popular music has been explained in terms of white artists hijacking black hits, in this paper I demonstrate how songwriting institutions marketed music performed by black artists as “the sound of integration” while profiting from the image of respectability as a white, middle-class value thus investing in white privilege. By analyzing instrumentation, rhythmic counterpoint, and vocal timbres in the music of the Drifters and the Supremes (representing black male and female groups who recorded within the Brill Building and Motown respectively), I show how these institutions incorporated high-brow musical styles into what would otherwise be categorized as R&B songs and enrolled black musicians in finishing school in order to appeal to the sensibilities of middle-class white Americans. Music’s relation to racial identity politics is explored in order to problematize the concept of “the sound of integration” and account for the social consequences of investing in white privilege.
Sara Gulgas is a third year doctoral student in Historical Musicology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her dissertation will focus on the origins and social context of baroque rock in the 1960s. She has earned degrees in Popular Music Studies and Music History from the University of Liverpool and Youngstown State University.
Gender, Power, Race (BH 205)
Moderator: Rebekah Farrugia (Oakland University)
‘I’m a Black Magic Woman’: Covers as Feminist Appropriations (Alexander Woller, University of Illinois)
Investigations of performed gender, especially masculinity, characterize much of the literature on rock music. Rock music scholarship often categorizes rock as a genre that contributes overtly to the male agency of performers and audiences, and it rightly critiques patriarchal power dynamics within popular music. However, female artists covering misogynistic rock songs can resignify symbols of power and have the potential to invert the assumed power dynamics of male-centric rock. This paper specifically examines performances by female artists as they reinterpret misogynistic rock songs that depict women as dangerous yet alluring occult figures.
In the late 1960s, blues-rock musicians such as Peter Green and Eric Clapton used songs about dangerous “magic women” to express complex feelings of fear and desire for changing societal gender norms. These songs, rooted in the sounds of American electric blues, mix misogynistic lyrics with musical icons of spookiness, forming an index that ties the musical sounds and their thematic material together. The style became a solidified and codified musical expression utilized by artists performing covers of blues-rock songs such as Carlos Santana and by bands like the Eagles writing original songs in the style.
Performances of “Witchy Woman” by Cher (1975) and “Black Magic Woman” by Santana and Alicia Keys (2007) modify the lyrical content of the original renditions of the songs. More importantly, through costuming and choreography, Cher and Keys embody the “magic women” represented in the songs’ lyrics. These performances show to what extent expressive agency can modify or transmute pre-established codes of misogyny.
Alex Woller is a PhD student in musicology at the University of Illinois. His research interests include blues-rock, musical tropes, and gender and masculinity. His dissertation will explore the figurative depictions of magic and gender within blues-rock, heavy metal, and related sub-genres and their continued impact on current understandings of gender.
“I’m So Crown, Bow Down Bitches: Beyonce’s Visual Album as a Womanist Manifesto (Barbara Sostaita, Yale Divinity School)
Beyoncé, a visual album of fourteen songs and seventeen videos, conveys strong womanist messages that challenge Eurocentric standards of female beauty, claim sexual empowerment and agency, redefine motherhood and marriage, and embrace the divinity of the Black female body. Through a collection of sounds and images, the album speaks to erotic power, political power, and the power of motherhood, friendship and family.
This paper references published interviews, documentaries, musical lyrics, and editorials, as well as relevant scholarship on womanist theology, to examine how Beyoncé embodies the womanist ethos in her work as an artist and public figure. After briefly discussing the importance of creative expression to womanist scholarship, it will critically analyze Beyoncé’s recent visual album through a womanist lens. The final section will respond to critiques of Beyoncé’s persona and offer a juncture between theology and popular culture.
Her music expresses the struggles, perspectives, and unique life experiences of Black women. Beyoncé exposes her listeners to womanist thought while also drawing upon the ideas of proposed by critical feminist thinkers such as Chela Sandoval. Sandoval makes the argument that scholars should derive their theories on ethics and politics from the survival tactics produced by oppressed peoples, sources of their own theory and not mere cases for some elite theory to test for and prove. By making her album autobiographical and showcasing her life as a Black woman in the spotlight, Beyoncé’s womanist discography does exactly this. As Yonce, Mrs. Carter, and Sasha Fierce, she effectively uses the musical platform to reveal a woman who “loves struggle, loves the folk, and loves herself, regardless.”
The Same Old Song: (Re)Negotiating Hegemony in Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl Performance (Joanna Love, University of Richmond)
During the 2012 Super Bowl half time show, Madonna sang her biggest hits alongside recent chart-toppers LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, MIA, and CeeLo Green. While some dismissed the performance as superficially nostalgic and cliché, Madonna’s re-conjuring of iconic moments from her career actually proved as cutting-edge and politically potent as ever. Namely, Madonna re-employed the charged musical and visual signifiers of her once-controversial hit, “Like a Prayer,” to de-center the event’s valorization of hegemonic ideologies promoted through images of male athleticism, religiosity, and American patriotism. Including “Like a Prayer” in the Super Bowl set proved provocative in itself since worldwide religious groups had boycotted Madonna’s commercial and video for the single in 1989. Late-1980s audiences struggled to unpack Madonna’s complicated agenda, and debates about her mixture of religious, racial, and sexually suggestive tropes inundated the popular press and years of cultural scholarship. This paper examines how, twenty-three years later, Madonna’s placement of the song’s tropes against a hyper- masculine, Judeo-Christian, nationalist backdrop puzzled viewers once more.
This work considers the production of meaning in Madonna’s performance through the lens of what Stuart Hall and his contemporaries theorized as the “circuit of culture.” I unpack how musical and visual signifiers in Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” finale (re)negotiated the processes Hall and his colleagues deemed seminal for creating cultural meaning: representation, identity, production, consumption, and regulation. I thus investigate how Madonna’s messages about diversity and tolerance once again confronted the rigid ideologies promoted by the very institution on whose stage she performed.
Joanna Love is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Richmond. She has forthcoming articles on music in advertising in JSAM and Music and Politics. She is working on a book that examines intersections between pop music, MTV, advertising, and the music industry from the mid-1980s to the present.
Whose Music, Whose Body and Who Owns the ‘You’ on YouTube: Black Girls, SNS, and the #Bottomlines of Broadcasting While You Twerk (Kyra Gaunt, Baruch College-CUNY)
Black girls are progenitors of twerking in the U.S. Their performances in music videos as well as in strip clubs reflect a political economy of sex selling music regularly mirrored by current rap and pop mega-artists, male and female, white and black. From watching and collecting data on videos of adolescent and teen black girls who broadcast while they twerk from their bedrooms, the presenter highlights the sex-trafficking of twerking videos seemingly with girls’ consent since they uploaded videos of themselves to be shared freely on YouTube. This work is not about girls’ self worth but their net worth and ecological fitness in a racialized and sexist digital age of viral musical videos.
The problem is not twerking–a social and erotic dance with rhizomatic connections to Africa and its diasporas as well as New Orleans’ bounce music. The problem is the long-term consequences or #bottomlines that broadcasting yourself while twerking can have for black girls like no other demographic.
When a white girl does something that seems to be like black, then black people think “Oh!! She’s embracing our culture,” so they kinna ride with-it. Then white people think, “Oh!! She must be cool. She-doin’-sumpin’ black!”… But-if-a black person do-a black thang???!? [bluntly:] It-ain’t-that-poppin’!” – Nicki Minaj (Nov 2013)
Evidence is presented about the social implications of flagged or age-restricted videos, the violation of copyright and rampant teen sexualization in SNSs that demands better corporate responsibility by VEVO and YouTube.
Specializing in musical blackness and black girlhood studies, ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt examines the musical lives of black girls in SNSs like YouTube. Her work is about empathy and ownership of voice and image using engaged and collaborative digital ethnography to learn about ourselves in the post-human mediascapes we all occupy.
Multimedia and Participatory Pop (BH 114)
Moderator: Asaf Peres (University of Michigan)
Popular Music in Defiance: Blending the Standard and the Strange (Jessica Getman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Media scholar Cara Marisa DeLeon notes that music in science fiction for the screen can act as a normalizing agent, providing spectators with a “recognizable context” through which to approach “visions of the future or galaxies far, far away” (2010). At the same time, however, music has proven particularly effective at facilitating audience estrangement through the use of unfamiliar timbres and forms, as heard in the soundtrack to Forbidden Planet (1956). This allows fictional worlds to straddle the line between the normal and the odd, the standard and the strange, producing a sheen of authenticity and relatability while simultaneously distancing viewers. This is especially true when science fiction employs popular songs and styles, which strongly denote mood and setting because of their connections to real-world places, times, and events.
This paper considers popular music as a tool for simultaneously encouraging spectator identification and estrangement in the television program Defiance (2013–), a series that grapples with cultural hybridity and mutual assimilation. The series’ composer, Bear McCreary, uses popular music to highlight the mixing of human and alien cultures, working it into the underscore, diegetic soundscapes, and character interactions. In Defiance, humans and aliens alike listen to this music in bars, dance to it in clubs, and sing it aloud to each other. In turn, this music heightens the series’ realism and allows spectators to identify with all characters. As the series’ motley collection of species merges into one society, McCreary’s music enables the spectator to experience this assimilation.
Jessica Getman, a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is an oboist and film musicologist. Her work considers popular music in science fiction film and television, as well as the discursive impact of music in the original series of Star Trek.
‘Showing Feeling of an Almost Human Nature’: Traumatic Narrative in Pink Floyd’s The Wall (Kathryn B. Cox, University of Michigan)
Pink Floyd’s The Wall stands as a monument in rock history: the 1979 LP expanded the scope of the concept album, the 1980-81 tour challenged the relationship between performer and audience in live shows, and the 1982 film pushed the boundaries of the music video. The Wall also merits attention for its engagement with traumatic history: Amidst the rampant nationalism of Thatcherism that drew upon the mythologized British experience in World War II, Pink Floyd reopened the decades-old, traumatic wounds of the nation to show how nationalism had marred generations of citizens. How does Pink Floyd musically communicate trauma in The Wall? What does this communication entail on behalf of the listener?
By incorporating trauma theory from comparative literature (Caruth, 1996; Felman, 1992), psychology (Laub, 1992; Herman, 1992), and musicology (Cizmic 2004), this presentation shows how The Wall functions as a traumatic narrative. By shifting their writing technique to shorter songs and by focusing on concept-driven rock, Pink Floyd grapple with the narrative faculties of rock songs to construct a socially transformative musical work founded on trauma. Pink Floyd recreate the soundscape of traumatic events, emphasize the role of the listener as witness, and repetitively juxtapose musical depictions of safety with sonic disruptions of that safety, mimicking the disruption of memories trauma survivors experience. Pink Floyd design a musical space that explores the act of claiming trauma, retelling trauma, and the role of witnessing, consequently demonstrating the multiple avenues through which music can narrate trauma beyond the capabilities of language.
Kathryn B. Cox is a doctoral candidate in musicology at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation, entitled “‘What Happened to the Post-War Dream?’: Nostalgia, Trauma, and Affect in 1960s and 1970s British Rock,” focuses on memory and identity in works by the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who, and Pink Floyd.
‘Worship isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you’: Agency, Performance, and Pedagogy in Evangelical Pop Music (Joshua Busman, UNC-Chapel Hill)
Within a wide variety of popular music subcultures, there exists a fraught relationship between technical musical facility and emotional sincerity. One can imagine, for instance, that conservatory training would not be an asset for the aspiring punk rock musician. Rather, this formal training would be an impediment to punk rock’s insistence on raw emotional expression. Within pop- and rock-styled evangelical worship music, this anxiety about technical skill manifests itself in the tension between “true worship” and “just performing.” However, this dynamic is further complicated by neo-Calvinist notions of divine and human agency, in which lead pastors and musicians alike suggest that “worship isn’t something you do, it’s something that happens to you.” For many evangelicals, including worship musicians themselves, musical skill is not only an impediment to true musicality, it is only valuable insofar as it is completely effaced by divine action.
How then do worship musicians come to understand their own embodied practice of the more technical aspects of their craft? In this paper, I examine the growing resources of online pedagogy for evangelical worship leaders as a way to explore how individual musicians negotiate this relationship between musical skill and spiritual sincerity. In particular, I focus on my ethnographic work with the popular WorshipTutorials.com portal, which engages almost 40,000 subscribers through its website and YouTube channel. I argue that pedagogical resources designed for worship leaders attempt to to alleviate these anxieties by helping them create professional sounding results without overtaxing (or overdeveloping) their musical skill sets.
Joshua Kalin Busman is a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he’s working on a dissertation about pop- and rock-styled worship music in American evangelicalism. When he isn’t reading or writing, Joshua also works as a teaching fellow at the UNC Writing Center and serves as musical director for Gamelan Nyai Saraswati.
Lottery League: Creative Circus, Changing Scene (Kathryn Metz, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum)
Lottery League is “Part rock n’ roll circus, part game show, part city-wide art project,” a mission statement that strategically avoids detailing the premise of the event, which is arguably more creative and more complicated. Nearly 170 musicians of all stripes (though primarily with experience performing rock music) register in an online survey. In a grand ceremony at a local venue, names are arbitrarily drawn from a lottery drum to create 42 new bands; the members of each group cannot have played together before. Each group has two weeks to name themselves and two months to create ten minutes of original material that they perform at the free, all-ages Big Show in Cleveland, a city plagued by economic depression, re-segregation and a surge in local pride. Most performers and the “founding fathers” tout the benefits of community engagement, musical creativity and diversity through co-creation and performance.
In this paper, I seek to unpack reflexive process of participating in an event that draws thousands to its grand finale where self-described hardscrabble Clevelanders perform (primarily variations of one style of music) zealously for friends, family and allegedly the community at large. I was a wind player with punk rock bandmates; our interactions and composition processes were creatively divergent and yet musically productive, yielding several songs that pushed us out of our comfort zones. I seek to explore how these relationships forged randomly through the lottery demonstrated dynamics that reflect a unique ethos of a steadily changing urban scene.
Kathryn Metz is the Head Education Instructor at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Old Sounds New (BH 117)
Moderator: Will Fulton (LaGuardia Community College)
What’s the Word: Thunderbird from Jingle to Johannesburg (Kara Attrep, Bowling Green State University)
There is an apocryphal tale told about the fortified wine, Thunderbird, produced by Ernest and Julio Gallo Winery. The story finds Ernest Gallo, the co-owner of the winery, driving through an unspecified American ghetto in his limo. He sees a black man walking down the street and asks his driver to stop the car. He leans out the window and yells, “What’s the word?” and the man replies, “Thunderbird!” Gallo was tickled with this response, as it indicated that the company’s marketing had worked (marketing which also allegedly included throwing empty Thunderbird bottles into gutters in the inner city to familiarize the target audience with the product). Whether the story is true or not, “What’s the word?/Thunderbird” became a jingle that would be recited by DJs on African American radio stations throughout the country. The jingle then became the basis for songs written by rhythm and blues artists starting in 1957. This paper traces the various iterations (from Slim Gaillard to the Nightcaps and beyond) of the song derived from the jingle and interrogates how a jingle for a fortified wine, forcibly targeted to inner city African Americans, became the generative source material for both a rollicking ZZ Top tune and the politically poignant “Johannesburg” by Gil Scott-Heron. In examining the genealogy of the jingle and its descendants, I seek to understand the complex and contradictory meanings, especially in terms of race and politics, that have arisen from a seemingly simple musical and linguistic utterance.
Kara Attrep is an instructor of ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University. Her research interests include music and advertising, American popular music, and identity and music (especially focusing on race and gender). She is working on a book manuscript entitled Teaching the World to Buy: Music and Race in Advertising.
‘Shoot ’em ‘fore he run now to Funkytown’: Ricochet’s of the ‘Shotgun’ Effect (Kevin Holm-Hudson, University of Kentucky)
Taking off from its opening sound of a rifle shot, Junior Walker and the All-Stars’ 1965 Tamla-Motown hit “Shotgun” raced to #1 on the U.S. R&B chart (and #4 on the pop charts overall) in 1965. Having more in common with Motown’s southern competitors at Stax Records than with its labelmates, “Shotgun” was arguably Motown’s “blackest” hit single, a fire across the bow of the white-dominated music industry terrain into which Berry Gordy had so successfully infiltrated.
“Shotgun”’s effect on the pop mediascape was long-lasting, as its distinctive riff insidiously made its way into a number of seemingly unrelated songs. The way that fragments of riffs mutate and recombine into new riffs, new songs, has been described by ethnomusicologist Bruno Nettl as “the On Top of Old Smoky effect” (1983, 108), after the way that part of the British-American broadside ballad “The Pretty Mohea” migrated into the American folk song “On Top of Old Smoky.” Dave Marsh’s book Louie Louie similarly traces the way riffs and rhythms from the Kingsmen’s infamous hit surfaced in songs such as Boston’s “More than a Feeling” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” This study traces the tangled wanderings of the distinctive “Shotgun” riff, which inspired spinoffs evoking the song’s perceived violence/weapon connotations, was later a signifier for White-constructed notions of “blackness” as it related to “authenticity” in late-1960s “heavy rock,” and ultimately became a kind of nostalgia kitsch.
Kevin Holm-Hudson is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of Genesis and ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway’ (Ashgate 2008) and editor of Progressive Rock Reconsidered (Routledge, 2002) and has also published on Styx, the Carpenters, and postmodernity in 1970s rock.
Bringing ’88 Back: The Cool Kids Take Hip Hop Nostalgia Full Circle (Mickey Hess, Rider University)
Hip-hop’s nostalgia is built from idealized notions of the pure origins of rap music and culture before it was corrupted by the record industry. In my book Is Hip Hop Dead? I discussed the nostalgia for the good old days expressed in Nas’ 2006 album Hip Hop is Dead, which called for the rap industry to be destroyed and rebuilt. In the time since I published that book, a generation of younger rappers has responded to Nas by joining him in celebrating rap’s “golden era” in their lyrics, even when they were born too late to experience that era firsthand. For example, Chicago duo The Cool Kids sample Nas’s line “like I’m bringing ’88 back,” despite the fact that they were toddlers in 1988.
In my paper I argue that when rappers and critics complain that hip hop has strayed too far from its roots, young new rappers like the Cool Kids seek out a model of the authentic in the past as an anchor for their own authenticity. Yet in idealizing the era they also remove it from its historical context and substitute nostalgic symbols such as Eighties nightclubs, dances, films, and fashion trends for the social awareness that many critics claim hip hop has lost.
Mickey Hess is Professor of English at Rider University. He is the co-author of The Dirty Version: On Stage, In the Studio, and in the Streets with Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and the author of Big Wheel at the Cracker Factory and Is Hip-Hop Dead? The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Most Wanted Music.
Shaping Culture through Popular Music (BH 119)
Moderator: Barry Shank (The Ohio State University)
‘Straight Outta B.C.’: Juice Aleem’s Precolonial Critique (J. Griffith Rollefson, University College Cork, National University of Ireland)
On “Straight Outta B.C.” Juice Aleem situates himself in a conceptual space-time that is both glocal and interhistorical. On the track, “B.C.” signifies both Aleem’s physical home of Birmingham City and for his historical passage throughout the ages as an Afro-Caribbean Briton. Indeed, on the album Jerusalaam Come, Aleem and his collaborators Ebu Blackitude and Cipher Jewels refuse to accept simplistically situated constructions of identity, instead voicing a supersubjectivity: “We Moorish: More than ya ever seen.” By claiming a rehistoricized identity stressing his multi-sited historicity, Aleem both claims his city and reclaims his global history as “more” than those histories whitewashed by Euro-American constructions of an ahistorical and timeless Africa—a strategy emphasizing roots and routes.
This paper, drawn from my book manuscript European Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality, follows Aleem’s lead by shifting focus from the “posts” of postcoloniality and postmodernity, to revisit the “pre”histories of oral legend and coptic biblical mysticism—modes of meaning and belonging before the hegemony of Eurocentric written history. This analysis of Aleem’s space-time collapsing critique concludes that such strategies work to disrupt the dualisms that serve white supremacist ends—dualisms that once powered Enlightenment progress on the backs of slaves and colonized peoples the world over. Indeed, despite its ostensible focus on the past, the album is an Afrofuturist critique that focuses on the “pre” in order to build a new “post.” As Aleem concludes: “I made a promise to invest in the future / Whether I’m in B.C., Jamaica, or Ghana.”
J. Griffith Rollefson is Lecturer in Popular Music in the Department of Music at University College Cork, National University of Ireland. He has published in Black Music Research Journal, Native Tongues: An African Hip-Hop Reader, and elsewhere, and is currently preparing his book European Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality.
Embracing the Underground: Nairobi Rap’s Imperfect Resistance (RaShelle Peck, Ohio State University)
Nairobi underground hip hop artists create music that interrogates their often marginalizing social realities. These conditions are informed by the state, which enacts policies that affect artists’ abilities to produce and sell music. Rappers are additionally disillusioned with agencies that implement shoddy royalty payment systems. Moreover, these practitioners face challenges when attempting to acquire radio and television access. Rappers, referencing these characteristics, argue the state is a barrier to their careers. Moreover, they assert that the music industry does not facilitate creative and innovative artistic production, but rather favors certain upper class artists and the palatable sounds of Afropop and gospel music. Together, these limitations constitute a restrictive, if not hostile, space for non-commercial rappers.
Rap’s underground politics utilize what I call a “post-Mau Mau cultural aesthetic,” which includes the ways practitioners see themselves as disenfranchised freedom fighters. These practitioners draw on the anti-colonial Mau Mau war in direct and implicit ways, and in so doing craft political subjectivity rooted in cultural struggle. Influenced by this, artists house critiques of the state in their music videos, rap in language dialects not widely understood, use gritty and hard sounds, and articulate collective affirmations of economically disillusioned youth. These resistant aesthetics are also accompanied by mainstream trends, including rappers’ use of neoliberal themes, compositions of gospel and Afropop songs, and normative articulations of gender and sexuality. These characteristics, often in tension with each other, compose the innovative political and aesthetic qualities unique to Nairobi rap.
RaShelle R. Peck currently lectures at Ohio State University, and holds a PhD in Comparative Studies (2014). RaShelle examines Nairobi underground hip hop culture, including the ways artists use embodied performances to interrogate social realities. Her interests include the performance politics of the Black Atlantic, African Diaspora Studies, Kenyan cultural studies, and popular culture.
Contemporary Popular Music and the Remaking of the Public Sphere in Post-Mubarak Egypt (Darci Sprengel, UCLA)
Mahragan (festival) music is a genre of popular music that emerged in the early 2000s from the male youth of Egypt’s urban working-class neighborhoods. With its characteristic synthetic beats and auto-tuned vocals, mahragan is commonly heard playing on public transportation and in public spaces throughout Egyptian cities. Through their songs, mahragan artists engage issues relevant to working-class lives and often criticize the dominant middle-class narrative of the recent Egyptian uprisings. Considered too crude, vulgar, and masculine for middle-class tastes, many middle-class activists and artists associate mahragan music with the “backwardness” of Egyptian society that caused the 2011 revolution to fail. In this paper, I examine the intersections of class, gender, and sexuality in the discourse surrounding mahragan music. I argue that the association of mahragan music with a deviant, working-class hyper-masculinity reproduces state rhetoric and serves to justify some forms of middle-class social activism. This activism includes the recent proliferation of middle-class arts in public spaces that has been lauded by the Egyptian and international medias. Drawing on eleven months of field research conducted between 2010 and 2013, this paper explores how a marginalized music genre is mobilized to produce multiple contending public spheres in the wake of the 2011 uprisings.
Darci Sprengel is currently a PhD student in the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology. Her research interests include new music from the Middle East, community art projects, and gender and feminist studies. She is the reviews editor of Ethnomusicology Review.
From Panama to the Bay: Los Rakas’ Expressions of Afro-Latinidad (Petra Rivera-Rideau, Virginia Tech)
In this paper, I argue that the Oakland-based, Panamanian group Los Rakas makes critical interventions into our understandings of Afro-Latino identities in the United States. Dominant constructions of Latinidad in the United States describe it as a racially mixed identity that, contradictorily, privileges whiteness. Moreover, while certain locations in the United States, such as New York City or Miami, have a substantial Afro-Latino population, Latino communities in other areas, such as California, are imagined to be predominantly mestizo – that is, indigenous and white. In this context, Los Rakas articulates a unique Afro-Latino identity expressed in their “Panabay” sound. Comprised of two cousins, Los Rakas incorporates sounds, language, and fashion from their experiences growing up in Panama and Oakland, California. I contend that more than a musical fusion, this Panabay identity pushes against the marginalization of blackness in Panama as well as the virtual invisibility of Afro-Latino subjectivities in California. In addition, Los Rakas connect their understanding of Afro-Latinidad to other groups in the African diaspora through their expressions of “raka” (roughly translated as “ghetto”) pride. I draw from my own interview with the artists and a close reading of their self-stylings and music, focusing primarily on the 2011 music video “Soy Raka,” to demonstrate how Los Rakas’ Panabay identity serves as a larger call for a more inclusive understanding of Latinidad.
Petra R. Rivera-Rideau is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies at Virginia Tech. She has a Ph.D. in African Diaspora Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.A. in African American Studies from Harvard University. Her first book, ¡Todo Puerto Rico!: Race and Diaspora in Puerto Rican Reggaetón, is forthcoming with Duke University Press.
Publishing Roundtable: Making the Most Out of Your Dissertation in Popular Music Studies (BH 121)
For any new PhD, the dissertation can move quickly from achievement to raw material, but also risks becoming vaguely intimidating dead weight. How to make the most of this manuscript so that it doesn’t languish or head to the wrong audience? This question is especially important for popular music studies scholars because our work often has a good deal of potential to reach – or fall between- multiple audiences, from scholarly readers to the general public. What considerations should you take into account when revising a dissertation manuscript for publication? How does it fit into your career path? What kinds of pitches -and presses- are appropriate? How do those choices affect our career paths? In this session, scholars with published books in a variety of markets, and representatives from the field of publishing, will share their experiences and ideas.
Ally Jane Grossan (Bloomsbury Press)
Anthony Kwame Harrison (Virginia Tech)
Zandria Robinson (University of Memphis)
Gayle Wald (George Washington University)
Larisa Mann (New York University)
IASPM-US Business Meeting (5:15-6:30pm, Bingham 205)
IASPM-US DJ night (9:00pm-1:30am, Decca Cellar Lounge)
812 E. Market St
Featuring sets by:
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