2014 IASPM-US Annual Conference: Program
Thursday, March 13
Executive committee meeting
Center for the Study of the American South
Friday, March 14
Chair: Jerome Camal, University of Wisconsin-Madison
[wpspoiler name=”From Freetown to Lagos: The Atlantic Tides, Trade and Times of Highlife Music on the West African Coast (Emmanuel Nnamani, University of Cambridge)”]
From the 1970’s, some amount of scholarly energy devoted to African Popular music have been channeled towards the defining and discussing the Highlife genre. Though indigenous to West Africa, Highlife became and still remains a viable cultural-aesthetic symbol of the continent; however, many of the available materials under represent it with regards to its Atlantic connections. My research on this genre has been geared towards exploring and making clarifications on these connections and the apparent confusion that has arisen from the ensuing debate. This paper problematizes the tides and times, the sailors and merchants in the Atlantic as well as the cosmopolitanization of coastal towns such as Freetown, Accra, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar as the major factors that brought about the rise and domination of European musical tastes and the emergence of Highlife music as a counter force to mediate the continued exclusion of the indigenous populace in the political and socio-economic scheme of things. These towns, as seaports, became not only, sites for intercontinental migration and mobility with attendant translocation and transformation of musical identities, but also, melting pot of diverse patterns of musical production and consumption, a stage for the projection and negotiation of the tensions between the indigenous and foreign musical practices.
Dr. Nnamani is an Izaak W. Killam Scholar, a distinguished Dorothy Killam Scholars’ Prize and Andrew Stewart Mem. (Distinction in Research) Prize winner. At present, a SSHRC Postdoc. Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK, his research interest bothers on theoretical issues on art and pop music compositions
[wpspoiler name=”Edmund Thornton Jenkins and the Popular Music of the Transatlantic Black Middle-Class
(Stephanie Doktor, University of Virginia)”]
Edmund Thornton Jenkins was a middle-class representative of second generation, post- slavery black American composers. He received musical training by performing in his father’s famous Jenkins Orphanage Band and studying with Kemper Harreld at the HBCU Morehouse College. Displeased with opportunities in the United States for black composers and musicians, he moved to England in 1914. Emboldened by a greater sense of freedom, Jenkins studied at the Royal Academy of Music for several years, conducted the Southern Syncopated Orchestra, organized a Coterie of Friends for black socialites to attend classical music concerts, and recorded with prestigious British dance bands, including the Queen’s Dance Orchestra.
This paper recovers the legacy of Jenkins, buried by historical narratives, which privilege less popular music of the black working-class. First, I consider how black middle-class composers found it difficult to succeed in art music realms, because black performance within white-dominated spheres directly challenged the racial stereotypes on which the Jim Crow racial order was constructed. Additionally, black composers were often seen as “betraying the race” if they did not exclusively cultivate black vernacular styles. Second, I explore how Jenkins–like other black composers, including William Grant Still and Will Marion Cook–negotiated popular music in more complex ways than his black entertainer counterparts. Most notably, Jenkins was drawn to the middlebrow sounds of arranged dance bands. An analysis of his recording career in the early 1920s and more specifically, his collaborations with Jack Hylton demonstrates how he managed society’s expectations for his musical identity while still forging a unique expressive tradition on his own terms.
Stephanie Doktor is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Critical and Comparative Studies program at the McIntire Department of Music , University of Virginia. Stephanie’s research focuses on ownership and appropriation in twentieth-century music. With an ear towards American traditions, she considers how race, gender, class, and sexuality materialize in American modernism and jazz. Stephanie has presented at SEM, AMS, FTM, and IASPM, and, in 2009, she won the Marcia Herndon award for presenting work from her thesis on cross-gender cover songs of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” She is currently working on a dissertation called “Performing Race and Gender in Jim Crow’s Symphonic Jazz Age.”
[wpspoiler name=”The Fluid “Field”: Recording and Performance in Transatlantic Collaboration
(Jason Robinson, Amherst College)”]
A number of collaborations in recent years pair African American musicians with musicians from the African continent. The most prominent of these include, for example, Taj Mahal’s and Toumani Diabate’s collaborative recording and touring project Kulanjan, Randy Weston’s recordings and performances with gnawa musicians from Morocco, Wadada Leo Smith’s recording collaboration with Thomas Mapfumo, and several others. While these projects most obviously act as a kind of diasporic theorizing, they also challenge neat musical and stylistic cartographies. They operate at the intersection of various disparate and overlapping musical and cultural systems—blues and wasulu and mande music, jazz and gnawa performance, experimental groove and chimurenga music.
Drawing from recent scholarship on recording studios and music technology, I suggest that careful analysis of what I term “transdiasporic collaboration” requires an ethnographic turn, a re-evaluation of the nature of “place” in modern music making. The physical places of these collaborations are recording and rehearsal studios, stages and greenrooms at clubs and festivals, touring circuits and airports, hotel lobbies and shuttles. These places are fluid, transient, temporary and fleeting; they are comprised of a flow of musicians who embody musical and cultural systems associated with distant places and communities. Thus, these collaborations challenge traditional fieldwork methodologies of ethnomusicology, for example, and require a broadened analytical framework that accounts for both the intercultural nature of the music and the fluid sites at which these collaborations are manifested.
A saxophonist, composer, and scholar, Jason Robinson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music at Amherst College (with affiliations in Black Studies and Film & Media Studies). His teaching and research focus on jazz, improvised music, African diasporic music, and interactive music technologies. He received his PhD in Music (CSEP) from UC San Diego.
Chair: Andrew Burke, University of Winnipeg
[wpspoiler name=”Surfing About Music: Waves, Rhythms, and Flow
(Tim Cooley, UC-Santa Barbara)”]
Surfing and musicking are both cultural practices that rely on and play with waves. “Sound waves and water waves…they are the same thing,” I was told repeatedly by surfing musicians from different locations around the coastal world. Of course they are right. The phenomenon of waves is universal, and all waves—whether experienced in water, air, or light—operate within the same rules of physics. But is surfing really anything like making music?
Focusing on music trends associated with surfing over the past two decades (i.e., not on the Beach Boys or 1960s instrumental rock), I consider critically the increasingly common claims by surfers that music and surfing are intimately linked. The method I employ hinges on careful attention to a how surfers talk about their musicking. Three common themes float to the surface: first, the aforementioned notion that ocean waves and sound waves are fundamentally the same; second, related claims that rhythm functions similarly in surfing and in making music; and third, the belief among many surfers that both surfing and musicking optimally lead to peak experiences, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a state of “flow.” I show that these three analogies help surfers to express musically the profoundly experiential but relatively uncommunicative phenomenon of wave riding. Ultimately this presentation provides insights into how popular musics are used to imagine and shape identities of affinity groups, in this case, communities of surfers in global contexts.
Tim Cooley is a professor of ethnomusicology with research interests in Central and Eastern European folk musics, and North American vernacular and popular musics. Combining his lifelong passions of surfing and music, his most recent book, Surfing about Music, was published by the University of California Press, January 2014.
[wpspoiler name=”Basketball’s Popular Music and Sound: Sign or Flow?
(Jonathan Dueck, George Washington University)”]
Rhythmic swaying of point guard and defender, fan chants, songs–punctuating, disrupting the metrical framework of the players–these gestures and musical sounds of basketball might be imagined as a “flow,” an embodied and fundamentally social improvisation. And they can be located with respect to, particularly, African American practices of movement and song in the game. In this paper, rooted in several years of fieldwork in the Triangle region of North Carolina, I explore the relationship between basketball’s sounds and dancelike gestures as embodied flow and basketball’s music as meaningful sign. I do so, first, through a rhythmic analysis of the relationship between musical and nonmusical sounds (fan chants, recorded pop and hip hop songs, band performance, calls, sounds of the court, etc.) and gestures in women’s and men’s live basketball in the Triangle; and second, through a discursive analysis the role of hip hop and pop music in several videos (fan-made and promotional) of live and video-game basketball play related to Triangle teams and players. I argue that basketball’s-sounds-as-sign and basketball’s-sounds-as-flow exist in a relationship of dynamic tension, in which musical and gestural performance can, on the one hand, express meaning and identity (located particularly with respect to African American masculinities), and on the other, can rupture, share, and innovate on such meanings because of the fluid, public, and openly structured framework of the game in which these performances happen.
Jonathan Dueck is an ethnomusicologist, and assistant professor of writing at the George Washington University. He studies musicking in North American religious and sporting communities. He coedited the Oxford Handbook of Music and World Christianities (forthcoming), and published in Ethnomusicology, the Journal of American Folklore, and Popular Music and Society.
[wpspoiler name=”Swimming What You Hear: The Music of Distance Swimmers
(Niko Higgins, Columbia University)”]
How is water a catalyst for musical production that heard but often unsounded? In this paper, I explore the relationships between water, sound, music, distance swimmers, and water conservation politics. I present my findings on the discourse of the sounds of swimming by drawing from phenomenological accounts, journalistic coverage of swimmers and open water races, and interviews with distance swimmers. The soundscape of swimming is infinitely varied, not just by the sounds of water and breath, but also by the sounds intentionally supplied by the swimmer. Various examples include when swimmers invent rhythmic patterns to accompany the repetitive arm, leg, and head movements and resultant sounds of water and breath; the unsounded singing of popular music verses, choruses, or fragments of songs; and their use of their body as a musical instrument that “plays” the water by constantly adjusting tempo, dynamics, timbre, and form with adjustments in their swimming speed, the force of their exertion, the ways their hands and feet “catch” the surface of the water before entering the water, and choices of swimming strokes. Swimmers create, inhabit, and change this sonic environment in ways that reveal an important link between music and sound, listening and music-making, and acoustics and place. Part of a larger project on the efficacy of sound in the world-wide water conservation movement, this paper locates the distance swimmer as an important resource for offering crucial insight into the ways sound can bolster an activist agenda of conservation.
Niko Higgins received his PhD in ethnomusicology in 2013 from Columbia University, where he currently teaches courses on Asian music. Other research projects include South Indian “fusion” and the fusion of jazz and Indian music of diasporic Indians in the US. He is a saxophonist and improviser, and lives in Brooklyn.
Chair: Tiffany Naiman, University of California, Los Angeles
[wpspoiler name=”Alternative Rock Gets its Groove: How the ‘80s Became the ‘90s
(Theodore Philip Cateforis, Syracuse University)”]
Rhythm has long served as a crucial means of distinguishing popular music’s different movements and historical eras from one another. The transition from the 1950s to 1960s, for example, saw a move from rhythm and blues’ and rock’n’roll’s shuffle triplet feel to rock’s driving eighth notes. More recently, the ubiquitous thump of four to the floor beats has signaled electronic dance music’s ascension in the 2010s. This paper explores a different, rarely acknowledged, paradigm shift that occurred at the turn of the 1990s with the emergence of alternative rock. Specifically, alternative proved to be the site where rock’s rhythmic structure moved from one of predominantly eighth note subdivisions to sixteenths. While there are many ways to interpret this development, the perception at the time was that rock had moved from a more controlled, regimented feel to one that was looser and more free—one with more groove.
The paper first begins with some empirical observations. Analyzing the songs on Billboard’s alternative “Modern Rock” radio chart (1988-1996) across an eight year span, I locate the point at which this rhythmic paradigm shift truly began to materialize. I then examine the elements that fed into this shift, ranging from changes in performance practice to influences from genres such as hip hop. Lastly, I consider perhaps the most critical question of all: with the move to a sixteenth-based structure, how did groove, an African-American rhythmic quality aligned with participation and pleasure, come in alternative rock to articulate feelings of white alienation and anger.
Theo Cateforis is Associate Professor of Music History and Cultures in the department of Art and 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).
[wpspoiler name=”Asking for It: Rape, Feminist Backlash, and “Postfeminism” in Public Culture in the Early 1990s (Elizabeth Keenan, Columbia University)”]
What can songs about rape tell us about the place of women, and feminism, in US culture? This paper argues that popular musicians of the early 1990s offered a counterargument to “postfeminist” attempts to reshape public discourse about rape. In her discussion of American feminism as a “counterpublic,” Nancy Fraser (1992) notes that Second Wave feminism played an important role introducing the topic of rape into the public sphere. The early 1990s, however, marked a turning point for feminism, in which the movement came under a severe backlash and the topic of rape became a site of conflict. “Postfeminist” writers, such as Camille Paglia (1992) and Katie Roiphe (1994), suggested that feminists had created a “victim culture” around rape. Countering “postfeminism,” however, was the sudden prominence of the topic of rape in popular music, from both the Riot Grrrl musicians of the nascent Third Wave and major “alternative” artists, including Tori Amos, Hole, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots. This paper examines the ways that musicians brought the topic into their music, from extremely literal to highly metaphorical, and highlighted the issue as central to women and men. Following a musical and lyrical analysis, this paper argues that popular music helped to keep rape in the public sphere even as “postfeminists” downplayed its importance. This paper asks why these conflicting discourses, occurring in separate parts of the public sphere, emerged so strongly at this time and carefully situates music about rape within larger debates about the ongoing role of feminist politics in US society since 1990.
Elizabeth K. Keenan completed her doctorate in ethnomusicology at Columbia University in 2008. She is working on her first book, Independent Women?: Popular Music, Cultural Politics, and the Third Wave Feminist Public, a book-length investigation of cultural politics’ effects on identity-based movements in the United States. She is the recipient of the Wong Tolbert Prize and the Lise Waxer Prize of the Society for Ethnomusicology. She has published in Women and Music, the Journal of Popular Music Studies, and Current Musicology.
[wpspoiler name=”Wave of Mutilation: Washing Out the Pain of the Nineties
(Jessica Dilday, University of North Carolina–Charlotte)”]
From the sudden rise of nineties music sampling in current music production to the reunion of nineties bands such as Luscious Jackson, the Pixies (minus Kim Deal) and the Backstreet Boys, to the recent unveiling of VH1’s TLC biopic, nineties nostalgia has officially arrived. Even today’s fashion is exhibiting this nostalgia, with floral prints and flannel becoming all the rage. However, this nostalgia seems to be more for the colorful, light, playful nineties aesthetic – a more palatable version of the nineties that obscures the fact that popular music of this era had, at its core, an obsession with pain.
The Onion recently put out an article mockingly highlighting what we should be truly nostalgic for: the Gulf War, genocide in Rwanda, Oklahoma City bombing, Rodney King beatings – “SO 90’s.” While this is meant to be sarcastically humorous, the Onion draws attention to the grim reality of the nineties often looked over in our superficial nostalgic craze. The constant media coverage of these tragic events created an air of pain that was absorbed by mass audiences, including musicians. Therefore, acknowledging the uncomfortable, raw elements of the nineties is imperative to a more comprehensive understanding of the music of this era because pain motivated so much of the work produced. Drawing on work from Ann Powers and other popular music scholars and also from my experience as a DJ who plays on nineties nostalgia strategically, I explore the dynamics of this nostalgia and the importance of remembering the pain of the nineties.
Jessica Dilday is a recent MA graduate of UNC-Charlotte and currently serves as the assistant website editor for IASPM-US. Her interests include local music scenes, dance floor dynamics, queer theory, and nostalgia. She is also a DJ, planner and promoter of queer-friendly dance parties in North Carolina.
Contradictions of Faith
Chair: Andrew Mall, Northeastern University
[wpspoiler name=”“God’s Great Dance Floor,” Or Why You Don’t Need Ecstasy to Have an Ecstatic Good Time
(Joshua Kalin Busman, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)”]
During the first days of January 2013, more than 65,000 people, nearly all of whom were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, gathered in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome for a four-day concert event. During first night’s concert, multi-platinum recording artist Chris Tomlin launched into a song by telling the crowd, “We’re going to turn this dome into one massive dance floor!” As the crowd roared back enthusiastically, the music built to a climax and finally reached the moment of “the drop.” All at once, the room erupted into dance and the visual elements of the performance–– laser-lights and abstract electronic arabesques on the video screens––kicked into high gear.
The gestures of this particular moment are obviously drawn from the “rave” culture of electronic dance music (EDM), but in this case, the practitioners are decidedly against the sex, drugs, or even musical goals of nearly every aspect of EDM. Instead, the performers and audience here are evangelical Christians, whose performance of the song “God’s Great Dance Floor” transvalues signifiers from the EDM subculture, allowing them to flow from the dance floor to the sanctuary. Within American evangelicalism, there is a near-constant negotiation between the musical forms drawn from mainstream popular music and the spiritual purposes to which evangelical artists put them. In this paper, I explore the ways that evangelical musicians and fan-worshippers situate themselves as consumers of popular culture even as their practices of consumption radically reconfigure the musical, semantic, and social associations of the cultures they are consuming.
Joshua Kalin Busman is a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently working on a dissertation which deals with music in contemporary evangelical Christianity. Joshua also works as a teaching fellow at the UNC Writing Center and directs the central Javanese Gamelan Nyai Saraswati.
[wpspoiler name=”The Age of Innocence: Solo Female Voices in Fundamentalist Christian Music
(Sarah Bereza, Duke University)”]
American Fundamentalist Christians stridently condemn what they see as secular or “worldly” practices while zealously guarding their version of old-time religion and morals. In so doing, they cultivate a musical community in churches and in recordings through distinct markers such as vocal timbres, performance styles, and orchestration. Their prolific music making offers key insights into fundamentalist values on the basis of which they reject pop culture as a symptom of perverted “modernity” and generate their own sense of place in the world.
My paper explores the ways female fundamentalist vocalists make audible their faith in God while singing with voices coming out of sinful, sexual bodies. I show that their beliefs about sexuality and race result in solo vocal styles that are either operatic or childlike (though the singers are adults). Fundamentalists treat both styles as doubly innocent: innocent of sexuality in that children and “classical” styles are seen as having no potential for sexual expression, and innocent of blackness in that fundamentalists equate both styles with white vocality. In church services, vocalists display their willingness to exemplify fundamentalist ideals not only with their voices but also through their restrained movements and stationary physical positions. Along with my examination of fundamentalist recordings, I use my ethnographic study of fundamentalist churches (all affiliated with the branch of fundamentalist centered around Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC) to trouble the meanings of innocent female voices in fundamentalist popular music.
Sarah Bereza is a PhD student in musicology at Duke University. She previously earned a master of music at the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music. She works with materialist feminism as it relates to musical listening practices, both in contemporary art music and American Fundamentalist Christianity.
Empire and Diplomacy
Chair: Paul Fischer
[wpspoiler name=”Secret Sonic Weapon on Record: Dizzy Gillespie and the Ambassadorial Politics of Jazz
(Darren Mueller, Duke University)”]
On November 5, 1955, a front-page article in the New York Times suggested that jazz exemplified the tenets of American democracy—individual expression, freedom, and collective creativity. The music was, the article argued, a “secret sonic weapon” and therefore a valuable asset to U.S. propaganda efforts abroad. A year later, in 1956, the U.S. State Department sponsored trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie on a tour through Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Yugoslavia, and Greece for that explicit purpose.
Recent scholarship examines how jazz came to stand for the political ideals of democracy and highlights the creativity of jazz musicians on and off the bandstand. Little attention, however, has been given to the two recordings produced for Verve Records as a result of Gillespie’s ambassadorial tour. Through detailed analysis of the musical content, production techniques, and marginalia of Gillespie’s World’s Statesman (1956) and Dizzy in Greece (1957), this paper examines how these LPs represented the circulation of jazz overseas. I focus on how both records sought to emphasize the ambassadorial role of jazz and enable U.S. consumers to hear jazz as democracy in action. By placing these recorded sounds within the context of rising mass consumerism and governmental sponsorship for the arts, I assert that recording technology played a significant role in how jazz came to represent American democracy both at home and abroad.
Darren Mueller is a doctoral candidate in music at Duke University, specializing in this social and cultural history of sound reproduction. His dissertation examines the long-playing record and its influence on artistic production and historical construction of jazz from the 1950s to the present.
[wpspoiler name=”Soft Power in Hard Times: Affect, Labor, and Ethics in US “Hip Hop Diplomacy”
(Kendra Salois, University of Maryland, College Park)”]
Since the late 2000s, the US State Department has sent hip hop artists abroad to strategically important nations. As laborers, freelance musicians are attracted by the financial stability and opportunities of the American Music Abroad tours and other programs. As representatives of a genre inescapably linked with critique of or resistance to US domestic and foreign power, musicians contrast their pragmatic complicity in such projects with their own agency, suggesting their personal intentions protect them from a more damaging ideological complicity.
Approaching the United States’ “hip hop diplomacy” through artists’ affective and musical labor invites analysis beyond the poles of co-optation or subversion. Using examples from the US Embassy’s efforts in Morocco, I show that artists deflect attention away from their paymasters and towards a progressive transnational hip hop imaginary, yet share with enthusiastic State Department personnel sincerely held beliefs in music’s universality. Unlike the US promotion of jazz abroad, where improvisation evokes equal, individualistic participation in a democratic public sphere, musicians and organizers value hip hop’s potential to perform an affect of feeling and listening together–to move the crowd. Embassy personnel need music-making to transcend politics in order to do politics; artists need musical connections to transcend the pressures of making a living that lure them to US projects abroad. The contradictions built into the US’s “hip hop diplomacy” return music scholars to perennial questions of agency and subjectivity, affect and aesthetics, but they also urge further exploration of the political economy of transnational hip hop.
Kendra Salois is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her dissertation research explores Moroccan hip hop aesthetics, practitioners’ ethics, and changing discourses of citizenship under neoliberalization. Her writing has appeared or will appear in Anthropological Quarterly, Sociology of Islam, and The New Inquiry.
[wpspoiler name=”Navigating Musical Latitudes: Hearing Empire in the Global Circulation of Early Twentieth-Century Popular Music
(Fritz Schenker, University of Wisconsin, Madison)”]
In 1922, Burnett Hershey took an around-the-world cruise and found jazz everywhere along the way, prompting the journalist to propose that a “jazz latitude” encircled the globe. This “jazz latitude,” though, was merely the latest manifestation of a global movement of popular music that emerged out of Pacific entertainment circuits that began connecting colonial Asia in the 1860s. When popular music emerged in the late nineteenth century, it traveled rapidly and widely along imperial shipping routes connecting Europe and the U.S. to their colonies: by the early 1900s European travelers regularly complained about hearing Tin Pan Alley songs at ports around the world.
This musical circulation played a critical role in imagining empire. By tracing the movements of the hit 1903 song “Hiawatha” from the U.S. through Europe, Africa, and Asia, I explore how popular music was a medium for the negotiation and maintenance of imperial ideologies. Other scholars have explored the ways in which the globalization of popular music is intertwined in contemporary neocolonialism, commonly touting music as a medium for anti-colonial resistance, but I turn to the age of steamships and the first decades of the commercial music industry to show how it was also a space for the perpetuation of empire. By exploring the routes of “Hiawatha,” I examine how popular music domesticated foreign soundscapes and created space for both the performance of modernity and the replication of European and American leisure practices, all of which played a critical role in imagining, performing, and hearing empire.
Fritz Schenker is a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology whose dissertation explores the ambiguity of popular music as a medium for the negotiation of imperial ideologies, focusing in part on the role of Filipino musicians in spreading jazz throughout the region.
Politics of Musical Diversity and Diffusion
Chair: Ashley Melzer, rock journalist
[wpspoiler name=”Voices of Americas – The Sound of the Radio Programs About Folk Music in Brazil and the USA under the Pan American policy (1936-1945)
(Rafael Velloso, UFRGS/Brazil & University of Maryland)”]
The aim of this paper is to present the initial results of my doctoral research, which centers on the relationship between the projects and trajectories of Radamés Gnattali and Alan Lomax, and their interests in the national Folk and Popular Music of Brazil and USA, respectively. From an ethnomusicological perspective, this study focuses on the analysis of historical materials in private and public archives, especially in radio programs and other important media that contribute to the construction of national identity against the backdrop of Pan-American politics in the 1930s and 1940s.
The main goal of this presentation will be to discuss how these radio programs about folk music, in which musicologists and musical educators collaborated with composers and radio producers to combine rich text and original music, became an important part of the elements of political negotiation between those countries before and during World War II. With examples of two programs, one from the series Wellspring of Music written and produced by Lomax that was part of the project American School of the Air, and one of the program “Aquarelas do Brasil” [Wellspring of Brazil] produced by Radamés Gnattali and sponsored by Pan American World Airlines, this presentation will also highlight the relationship between the text and the soundtrack and how those programs become a symbol of national identity in those countries.
Rafael Velloso is a saxophonist with an MA in Ethnomusicology from UFRJ. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at UFRGS, with an emphasis in History and Agency in Brazilian Music. Velloso is a PhD Fulbright visiting scholar in the Ethnomusicology Department at the University of Maryland.
[wpspoiler name=”From Biodiversity to Cultural Diversity: Negotiating Cultural Sustainability, Difference, and Nationhood through World Music in France
(Aleysia Whitmore, Brown University)”]
Since the birth of “world music” in the 1970s and ‘80s, Paris has been a thriving center for the genre, attracting performers from all over the world, and especially former African colonies. While African musics have become increasingly popular in festivals and concert series, France has also struggled to accept growing numbers of African immigrants. In this paper I examine the frictions and the connections between two conflicting trends: the proliferation of world music performances and the increasingly racialized rhetoric in France. I explore how government officials and concert organizers involved with putting on world music events negotiate and respond to the current debates surrounding national identity, difference, and racism in musical events. Drawing from ethnographic research in Paris and Marseille, I look at how cultural actors connect “biodiversity” with “cultural diversity” in asserting the need for world music programming, and how they develop ideas of sustainable cultures in France and abroad. I examine not only the philosophies behind world music in France, but how these philosophies impact the practical decisions concert organizers and government actors make as they find funding for events, invite artists to perform, and curate musics on world music stages. Building on scholarship on world music, multiculturalism, and cultural policy, I look at how music industry personnel, political organizations, and government officials incorporate and define ideas of equality, integration, nationhood, and difference as they decide how to position themselves, their cultures, and their nation in the flows of musics and cultures around the world.
[wpspoiler name=”African Sounds in the American South: Community Radio, Pan-Africanism, and Historically Black Colleges, 1950-1986
(Joshua Clark Davis, Duke University)”]
In this talk, I will examine Durham and Greensboro in North Carolina as well as Atlanta as case studies of how African music reached Southern black audiences from the 1950s to the 1980s. For decades, historically black colleges have offered critical points of contact between African and African American students; by the 1950s HBCUs also hosted performances by African musicians. Although most commercial black-oriented radio stations and record stores in the South paid virtually no African music, by the 1970s a small, informal network of non-commercial radio stations, Black Arts institutions, and black radical groups promoted African music as part of their larger political and cultural mission. Without these activists and institutions, very little African music would have made its way to black Southern audiences in the decades before the emergence of the arguably white-dominated “world music” market of the 1980s. Non-commercial radio, HBCUs, and pan-Africanist groups like the Student Organization for Black Unity exposed black audiences in the American South to the recordings and live performances of a handful of African popular musicians, including Miriam Makeba, Babatunde Olantunji, Fela Kuti, and Osibisa. With this paper I hope to open a larger discussion about the grassroots networks by which African music and musicians made their way to the United States in the early decades after decolonization.
Joshua Clark Davis is a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University’s Thompson Writing Program, and he co-directs “Media and the Movement,” an oral history initiative about black-owned radio stations. His current book project examines how activists of the 1960s and ’70s inspired entrepreneurs such as head shop owners and black booksellers.
Thinking the Anthropocene Through Sound
Chair: Marina Peterson, Ohio University
[wpspoiler name=”“Apeman”: The Kinks’ Romantic Expression of Environmental Politics and the Paradox of Human Evolution
(Sara Gulgas, University of Pittsburgh)”]
In 1970, the Kinks released their eighth studio album entitled Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One featuring the song “Apeman” which reached number five in the U.K. singles chart. “Apeman” tells the story of a man who wishes to leave his modern city life in order to revert back to a simpler pre-evolutionary state. Although this hit song was released during the second wave of environmentalism in the United States and Great Britain as supporters of the movement created organizations and passed laws to protect nature, the Kinks (specifically lead singer Ray Davies) were exercising a contrasting “back to the land” approach that looked back to romantic poets such as John Ruskin and William Wordsworth at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The lyrics of “Apeman” share an important sentiment with these poets: modern man stripping nature of its simplistic beauty by taking advantage of its raw materials for industrialization and urbanization. In my paper, I suggest that the Kinks expressed their concerns about the environment through the romantic idealism of nature in order to comment on the paradox of human evolution. This paradox, involving humans creating the urban environment that ultimately poses threats to humanity’s survival, is documented in “Apeman” as Davies discusses a desire to escape inflation, starvation, over-population, and nuclear wars. The Kinks present this paradox aurally through the shift from sound samples of man-made machines to jungle-influenced sounds which ultimately prevail throughout the song.
Sara Gulgas is pursuing a doctoral degree in Historical Musicology at the University of Pittsburgh. She has earned a BA in Music History & Literature from Youngstown State University and an MA in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool.
[wpspoiler name=”Sounds Like Garbage: Paddling Through an Island of Trash Toward a New Sonic Ecology
(Josh Ottum, Ohio University)”]
In 2011, electronic musician James Ferraro released Far Side Virtual, a “rubbery plastic symphony for global warming, dedicated to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Cobbled together from micro-melodies filtered through preset sounds from Apple’s DAW GarageBand, Ferraro’s maximal production style abandons the idea of a ‘balanced mix’ in favor of packing the space with abrasive intersections of exposed standard MIDI sounds. Early conceptions of the album include an intention to release it as long-form ringtones, effectively inhabiting a permanently mobile status. By decontextualizing sonic aesthetics of corporate computer culture (i.e., GPS voices and software sound logos), Far Side Virtual relentlessly immerses the listener in the ubiquitous soundscapes of the digital voyage.
As the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre circulates in an endless cycle, bits of microplastic converge and diverge in a 5000 square kilometer space just below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Nearly equal to these innumerable bits of plastic are the abundance of misconceptions about what is affectionately called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). How big is it? Its a trash island?! Can we go!? Similar to other ‘hyperobjects’ (Morton) like global warming and nuclear radiation, the problem with the Patch is in its immutable state of flux, breeding as many alarming statistics as creative (mis)interpretations. Yet, art that engages with the GPGP and other hyperobjects is often relegated to dark corners of the academic avant-garde (Carbon Song Cycle), parodic viral videos, or an illuminated blockbuster marquee (Chasing Ice). This paper positions James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual as a productive alternative to predictable aspects of the eco-disaster entertainment complex. I argue that the elusive soundscape of Far Side Virtual is a dynamic example of sonic ecology, both mirroring and sounding out the complexities of environmental disasters and our responses to them.
Josh Ottum holds an MFA in Integrated Composition Improvisation and Technology from UC Irvine and is currently a PhD student at Ohio University in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts. His research interests include energy extraction, Southern California, library music, and synthesizers. As a composer and performer, Josh has released multiple records, created music for iPhone apps, and had music appear on MTV, AMC’s Mad Men, and NPR.
Chair: Mike D’Errico, University of California, Los Angeles
[wpspoiler name=”The Perceptual Flow of Metric (Re)evaluation in Radiohead’s “Bloom”
(Michael Lupo, CUNY Graduate Center)”]
Since their inception in the mid-1990s, the English rock band Radiohead has continuously sought to evolve stylistically, adopting compositional techniques and sonic resources that lie at the margins of rock conventions. The King of Limbs (2011) reveals a new stylistic phase in Radiohead’s becoming, as the album accumulates a series of grooves characterized by looping and layering pre-recorded acoustic samples and digitally created rhythmic cycles. Previous studies on Radiohead’s recent output have convincingly revealed how metric ambiguities evoke multifaceted modes of engagement amongst fan communities. However, this research rarely investigates the effects of timbre on rhythmic phenomena or what may encourage listeners to entrain to specific rhythmic streams and metric subdivisions as the song proceeds over time.
This paper aims to address these issues by presenting a close reading of “Bloom,” the opening track on The King of Limbs. The perceptual flow between duple and triple divisions of the beat in “Bloom” affords listeners a multiplicity of possible metric (re)evaluations. This audible process of perceptual rhythmic undulation is evoked by the song’s lyrical imagery of water. Drawing on Christopher Hasty’s theory of projection, I provide an analysis of rhythmic cycles at the local level. Further, I interpret gestural signs provided by the band during a filmed performance, focusing particularly on their embodiment of metric options. By addressing both the audio and visual domains, this paper seeks not only to reveal essential characteristics of the band’s late style, but also to consider how metric interpretation is affected by timbral construction as the listener-viewer perceptually flows between attentional options.
Michael Lupo is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in musicology at the CUNY Graduate Center. His research focuses predominantly on British alternative rock and Italian composers of the postwar era. Additionally, Lupo is an Assistant Editor at the Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale (RILM) and an Adjunct Lecturer at both Brooklyn College and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
[wpspoiler name=”Splash, Bubble, and Clink: Topic and Timbre in Aquatic Video Game Environments
(Peter Shultz, University of Chicago)”]
Video-game composers often signify place by means of stereotyped musical styles and instrumental timbres inherited from film and TV: “tribal” drums, “desert” harmonicas, and so on. While these tropes function similarly to those in film and TV (and can be equally problematic), their use in games is marked by a heightened concern for representations of tactility, materiality, and bodily comportment. This paper investigates the interaction of topic and timbre in some video-game environments based on water and ice: rivers, snowfields, oceans, ice caves, and underwater caverns. Similar musical tropes accompany each of these types of environment across all game genres—typically Hawaiian or Caribbean styles for islands, waltzes for underwater areas, prickly chiming timbres for ice areas, etc. Each musical cue indexes geography, social identity, and tactility, but by means of different musical features depending on the kinds of bodily engagement the game affords. A steel drum tune might evoke athletic motion in one scene; in another it might have more to do with “splashiness.” This paper draws on topic theory (Monelle, Hatten) and the literature of timbre (Huron, Clarke), to argue that these topics should be understood as including tactile, bodily elements as well as geographical and cultural ones, and that these elements mutually interact.
Peter Shultz is a Ph.D. candidate in music theory at the University of Chicago, writing a dissertation on musical representations of motion in video games. His other research interests include 20th-century post-tonal music and mathematical methods.
[wpspoiler name=”Just Ludacris Enough: Wave-Forms & Neoliberal Sophrosyne
(Robin James, University of North Carolina-Charlotte)”]
The photo above is a screenshot from Ludacris’s 2012 video “Rest of My Life.” I use this image of the cresting wave, which is repeatedly featured in the video, as a metaphor for unpacking the neoliberal ethos elaborated in the song’s lyrics: living life on the edge, transgressing just enough but not too much. This ethos is, I argue, an updated version of the ancient Greek concept of harmony as sophrosyne. Both ancient Greeks and neoliberals organize society harmonically; however, they each understand “harmony” differently: for the ancient Greeks, harmony is measured geometrically, as proportion; for the neoliberals, harmony is measured acoustically, as a wave-form.
I flesh out the differences between ancient Greek and neoliberal concepts of harmony, and use a reading of Ludacris’s video to translate between neoliberal concepts of harmony into political practices and ideals. Acoustic concepts of “balance” ground neoliberal concepts of both subjectivity and the state; the latter, I argue, works like an audio equalizer, constantly regulating dynamic flows of noise/signal. Part of this involves inciting individual subjects to go “just Ludacris enough,” or “just Gaga enough”—making enough noise to require re-balancing, but not so much that it blows the speakers, so to speak. The video suggests that race determines the line between enough and too much: only the noises that can be filtered through whiteness can be re-balanced into signal, because a mix is balanced when it produces peak white supremacy.
Robin James is Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte and a contributor to Cyborgology. Her theoretical research focuses on gender, race, sexuality and the philosophy of music/sound studies. Her creative research uses digital sound media to interrogate contemporary gender, race, and sexual politics, and neoliberal aesthetics.
Identities in Flux
Chair: Brian F. Wright, Case Western Reserve University
[wpspoiler name=”Cadillactica, by Way of the Underground: Big K.R.I.T.’s Liquid Transformations
(Justin Burton, Rider University)”]
*Sounds of nighttime, crickets chirping. Impact, like a meteor crashing to Earth. Car door slams. Running*
Motorist: Hey, are you okay down there?
Big K.R.I.T.: Yeah, I’m fine. But where am I?
Motorist: You’re in the mainstream. This is A&Rville. Where are you from?
K.R.I.T.: I’m from Cadillactica, by way of the underground. In short, the South.
This skit from the end of Big K.R.I.T.’s “Live from the Underground” (on the 2012 album of the same name) draws on and mixes a number of tropes, from the out-of-place southerner to the unknown underground artist to the transcendent Afrofuturist. What draws my attention, though, is the skit’s water imagery. K.R.I.T. finds himself immersed in a mainstream that is often portrayed negatively, drawing from the underground and washing away what makes artists unique, churning out predictable, watered down hits for an undiscriminating public. The danger Mississippi native K.R.I.T. encounters is the risk of transformation in the mainstream.
Transformation is, in fact, key to K.R.I.T.’s entire album. Instead of trauma in the mainstream, though, K.R.I.T. enacts a powerful transfiguration, flowing deftly through a variety of images that shimmer and metamorphose before our ears. K.R.I.T. effects these transformations by switching through an assembly of places, modes of transportation, eras, and bodies, mapping himself in more than one place and time. Drawing heavily on Ian Baucom’s Hydrographies, itself a close reading of Gilroy’s Black Atlantic, I consider the ways Southern water proves key to K.R.I.T.’s mutations, as he liquefies and recomposes himself across the album.
Justin D Burton (justindburton.wordpress.com) is Assistant Professor of Music at Rider University. His work revolves around the posthuman in popular music, especially hip hop, and he has recent and forthcoming publications in the Journal of Popular Culture, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and the Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies.
[wpspoiler name=”Transformative Waters: The Sea, the Rain, and the Catharsis in the Who’s Quadrophenia
(Kathryn Cox, University of Michigan)”]
As Pete Townshend engaged in his search for spiritual identity in the early 1970s, he developed the concept behind the Who’s second rock opera, Quadrophenia, a highly autobiographical tale of a mod teenager’s search for self. Water is a pervasive element in this rock opera, from the incorporation of recordings of waves and rain in the 1973 album, to the meditative coastal scenes in the 1979 film, to the watery effects of the lighting and video projections for the 2012 tour. Rock historian John Atkins observed that water imagery became increasingly prevalent in Townshend’s lyrical vocabulary after 1968 as a reflection of his deep interest in the teachings of his spiritual guru, Meher Baba, for whom water was an important metaphor for higher consciousness (Atkins 2000). Beyond merely adopting imagery similar to Meher Baba’s, in Quadrophenia, Townshend explores water as a complex and dynamic symbol that ultimately becomes a sonic vehicle for cathartic transformation.
Drawing from perspectives on catharsis in psychology, literary criticism, and musical cognition—including those by Thomas Scheff, Adnan Abdulla, and Patrik Juslin—I show how Townshend constructs a musical and emotional transformation in Quadrophenia. The foundations of this transformation are references to water in the sound effects, lyrics, and continually returning, wave-like musical motive of “Love Reign O’er Me.” Furthermore, Townshend communicates the changing emotional identity of the protagonist by transforming water as a symbol: it is not until the symbolic focus switches from the ocean to the rain that the young mod’s catharsis becomes possible.
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.
[wpspoiler name=”Breathing or Drowning: Musical Fluidity and the Works of Anoushka Shankar
(Kyle Chattleton, University of Virginia)”]
In a recent interview, the sitar player Anoushka Shankar spoke about a sense of “drowning” in a deluge of musical genres. The album she was referencing in this interview is Breathing under Water, a musical endeavor which includes collaborations with artists such as Sting, Norah Jones, and her father, Ravi Shankar, while also mixing across genres, from Indian classical to electronica. Throughout the album, song titles and lyrics reference ideas related to water, such as pirates, oceans, seas, rain, bridges, islands, and tides.
Shankar’s album, and her work since 2005, provide a way to explore the concept of musical fluidity. The metaphor of water extends beyond lyrical themes to a broader hybridity in her approach to musical genre and collaboration. This has been a developing theme in her recent music, as she has worked with styles such as flamenco, electronica, Western classical, jazz, and popular music. In this paper, I explore the ways in which this fluidity is both a conscious extension of her father’s legacy, and an attempt to create her own musical identity. Through a reading of lyrical themes and Shankar’s own statements, I will consider the tensions and possibilities of collaboration and crossover in her work. As I argue, themes of fluidity both enable, yet threaten to overwhelm the musical identity Anoushka Shankar is cultivating.
Kyle Chattleton is a PhD student in the Critical and Comparative Studies in Music program at the University of Virginia, where his research interests primarily focus on recent musical trends in society. He is also concerned with Western art music since the 1960s, popular music, social justice, and urban communities.
[wpspoiler name=”The Earths to Our Sun: Popular cosmopolitanism in local music culture in Kurdistan, Afghanistan, and Kuwait
(George Murer, CUNY Graduate Center)”]
Themes of globalization, mediation, and local identity are prominent in analyses of contemporary music and culture as manifested in specific movements, subcultures and genres. In this film I present side by side three musical milieus (in Kurdistan, Afghanistan, and Kuwait) in which expressive culture is necessarily grounded in both a strong sense of local identity and in a framework of historical and contemporary trans-regional and intercultural interactivity. Taking into account evolving political circumstances, the emergence of social media as a tool, and the relationship between technology and aesthetic innovation, I highlight the following locally situated processes: the use of distortion and other globally circulating forms of electronic sound manipulation and production to adapt an iconic zurna and kemancheh repertoire that is integral to traditional Kurdish wedding dance to the elektrobağlama in Southeastern Turkey; youth driven samrahs (evening musical gatherings) in Kuwait in which a interest in historical cultural interactions with coastal Yemen and India are rekindled; and a duo of Hazara musicians in Afghanistan who tailor their traditional repertoire to acknowledge transborder experiences as refugees in Iran, increasingly acute interactions between Hazaras and Pashtuns in central Afghanistan, and a foreign military presence. In each case, a balance must be struck between the individuality of performers, the duties of embodying the cultural essence of particular communities, and worlds of emergent possibility and cross-pollination across geographic and ethno-linguistic divides.
Circulation, Considered From an Out of the Way Place
Louise Meintjes, Duke University
Embodiment and Mediation
Chair: Rebecca Geoffroy-Schwinden, Duke University
[wpspoiler name=”Riding the ‘Sound of Here-and-Now’: Locating Groove in Japanese Garage Punk
(Jose Neglia, University of California, Berkeley)”]
Since the publication of Charles Keil’s pioneering article on musical groove, “Participatory Discrepancies and the Power of Music” over twenty-five years ago, groove studies has come to occupy a sub-field within musicology, encompassing a wide terrain that includes popular music studies, music psychology, and ethnomusicology. From the ‘participatory discrepancy’ paradigm through to recent scholarship on entrainment, the study of groove offers a crucial lens through which to understand music’s affective, pleasurable, and participatory dimensions.
In popular music discourse in Japan, the concept of groove revolves around a variety of metaphoric and descriptive language, ranging from the English loan-word guruuvu to the term nori, which more literally means “to ride”–for example, to ride a beat — but also connotes notions of mood and feeling. Such folk terminology is often couched within a wider aesthetic discourse that values immediacy and excess in rock culture.
Drawing on fieldwork conducted in the underground rock scene in Tokyo, this paper seeks to unpack the groove of Japanese garage punk music. Focusing on a few key examples of recorded and live garage punk performance, I build on previous scholarship to broaden the definition of groove beyond strictly rhythmic schema to include matters of form, cyclic patterning, and musical gesture in the context of musical performance. It argues for linking sounds to gestures to understand what makes people move and be moved. It also seeks to bridge the materialities of sound and experience with the metaphoric language of groove in Japanese popular music discourse.
Jose Neglia is a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is completing a popular music ethnography of the underground garage rock scene in Tokyo, Japan. From 2011 to 2013, he conducted fieldwork in Tokyo as a recipient of the Japanese Government Monbukagakusho Scholarship.
[wpspoiler name=”Air Flows: Breath, Voice, and Authenticity in Three Recordings
(Greg Weinstein, Columbia College Chicago)”]
Miley Cyrus inhales perceptibly before launching into the final chorus of “Wrecking Ball.” Cellist David Soyer audibly grunts as he tears through the bottom part of Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. Colin Stetson’s saxophone multiphonics and audible circle breathing on “Hunted” push the limits of the physically possible.
These recordings have little in common, except for their mediated nature and the audible presence of the musicians’ bodies. Even while the three recordings in question are very polished, well-produced musical products, they still betray traces of the musicking bodies that they represent. The breath, the grunt—these sounds are excessive, not properly musical. At the same time, they are crucial to the affects of these (and other) tracks on which they are found. They validate the recorded performance by pointing to the lingering aura of the musicians who produced them.
This paper will analyze the extra-musical breath and vocality of Cyrus, Soyer, and Stetson in order to understand their aesthetic and gestural functions in their respective musical and genre contexts. Drawing on Paul Sanden’s notion of “corporeal liveness,” I will argue that the aural indexing of the bodily processes of breath and voice authenticate the musical performances contained in these recordings. These sounds are strongly gestural, and this sense of embodiment and gesture conveys the energy and emotion of the performance while obscuring the possibility that the recordings were fabricated or digitally manipulated. In the breath, these recordings claim, one finds the truth.
Gregory Weinstein earned his doctoral degree in ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago. His doctoral research focuses on the aesthetics and creative processes of classical music recording studios in Britain. He currently teaches popular music at Columbia College Chicago and academic writing at the University of Chicago.
[wpspoiler name=”“Them boys kin shore tromp on the strings:” Down-Home Virtuosity in Rural Variety Radio
(David VanderHamm, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)”]
This paper examines the displays and discourses of musical skill on so-called “hillbilly” radio variety programs that aired on WLS-Chicago, WHAS-Louisville and WLW-Cincinnati and during the 1930s and early 1940s. The virtuoso at this time was almost exclusively associated with urban, sophisticated classical music, the apparent opposite of the rural, domestic, “hillbilly” musicians. Yet rather than avoiding virtuosity and its potential problems, rural radio variety programs presented their performers as both impressively virtuosic and authentically down-home. Through an analysis of preserved broadcasts, scripts, trade-press, and listener letters, I argue that these programs encouraged to value skill as well as sound and identity, balancing displays of musical mastery with claims to a rural identity.
Radio was essential to producing this vernacular virtuosity, as it provided a sense of “liveness” to the performance. Furthermore, the variety format allowed a host to frame and comment upon each performance, drawing listener’s attention to the difficulty of songs or a red-hot fiddler. Though stereotypical “hayseed” characters often served as comic dolts, these same programs also mocked the classically-trained singer for his inability to yodel, and the schoolteacher’s inability to comprehend the complex music-making of her students. While these programs never use the term “virtuosity,” they consistently point to the skill present in performances, encouraging audiences to value the production along with the product. In the overtly commercial context of sponsored variety programs, virtuosity interacted with nostalgia and notions of domesticity to create a complex discourse of aesthetic and ethical value.
David VanderHamm is a PhD student in musicology at UNC-Chapel Hill. He holds a masters degree in performance from the University of Denver and in musicology from UNC. His research has been funded through the UNC graduate school and through a Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship in June 2013.
[wpspoiler name=”Less Work, More Flow: Embodied Interactivity and the Ecology of Digital Media
(Mike D’Errico, University of California Los Angeles)”]
“Flow” has served as a conceptual metaphor in the design, distribution, and creative practice of various forms of digital media production. Audio software and hardware companies such as Ableton and Native Instruments often market their products as facilitating “pure” creative process without distraction, and electronic music producers obsessively select gear that simultaneously allows for seemingly infinite creative freedom with less direct intervention from technology. Sound designers for film, video games, and mobile media often use the term “immersion” to describe this desired embodied cognitive experience—a state in which the technological user seems to get lost in the “interactive” virtual world of which they are a part. While scholars in both psychology and new media theory have detailed the characteristics of this “flow state” as a phenomenological experience, musicology and sound studies introduce significant insights to the discussion. On a fundamental level, how does sound and popular music in digital media function to facilitate these creative “flow states”? More broadly, how do emerging practices of digital audio production facilitate new forms of embodied cognition amongst designers, producers, and communities of popular music and culture?
In this paper, I will examine the studio practices of electronic dance music producers and sound designers through the lens of the music video game Sound Shapes. Combining ethnographic data with a multimodal analysis of music and technology, I will highlight the ways in which the rhetorical turn to “flow” and “immersion” is reflective of a more general cultural desire to interact with and employ technology in a more ethical and relational manner. The concept of “media ecology” will be interrogated as a potential tool for understanding the increasingly converging and interrelated spaces of media, culture, and creative communities in digital media practice. Ultimately, this paper will provide new theoretical and analytical tools for the interdisciplinary study of popular music, technology, and the embodied practices of new media.
Mike D’Errico is a PhD student in the UCLA Department of Musicology, as well as the Center for Digital Humanities. His research interests and performance activities include hip-hop and electronic dance music, video games and generative media, and sound studies. He is currently the web editor and graduate student representative of IASPM-US, as well as the technical editor for two UCLA music journals, Echo: a music-centered journal and Ethnomusicology Review.
Researching Local Music Scenes in the Triangle (Roundtable)
Amanda Black, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
John Caldwell, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Joanna Helms, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
William Robin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Megan Ross, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Stephen Stacks, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Mathew Swiatlowski, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
David Garcia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Grayson Currin, INDY Week
The Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and surrounding towns) is heralded as North Carolina’s business and research engine. Paralleling the flows of commerce and innovation generated by these local industries are the diverse local music scenes whose reach traverse the Triangle, interacting with other scenes nationally and internationally. This roundtable will explore seven local music scenes—Indian classical music schools in Cary; norteño, rock/hiphop Latino and bluegrass in Raleigh; translocal DIY punk scene in the Southeast; connections between the local DJ scene and music instruction at UNC-Chapel Hill; indie rock poster art; and experimental improvisation. The panelists, all graduate student members of Professor David Garcia’s seminar on researching local music scenes, will address issues concerning 1) uses of technology and the visual arts to reinforce the cohesion of local scenes, while fostering connections translocally; 2) challenges in establishing new music scenes; and 3) collisions and collusions among local scenes, music trade organizations, and academia. Moderated by Professor Garcia of the Department of Music at UNC-Chapel Hill, the roundtable will feature a respondent, Grayson Currin, who is the music editor of INDY Week and organizer of the Hopscotch Music Festival. The roundtable will begin with introductory remarks by the moderator. Then each panelist will have up to ten minutes to present her/his music scene, which will include short video and audio examples as well as projected images. The second hour will start with commentary by the respondent followed by questions from the audience to be addressed by the panelists and respondent.
Amanda Black (panelist) holds an MA in Translation Studies from the University of Málaga and studied music (Flute Performance), studio art and Spanish at UNC-Greensboro. Her research interests include translation of lyrics and poetry, transnational dance scenes, popular Latin American music and music of the African diaspora.
John Caldwell (panelist) has a Masters in Performance (Bassoon) from the University of Michigan. He joined the Department of Asian Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2006 and entered the graduate program in Musicology in 2013. John’s research interests include South Asian music, comparative musicology, Bollywood songs, and poetry and poetics.
Grayson Currin (respondent) is the music editor of INDY Week, the Triangle’s alternative weekly newspaper, and the co-director of the annual Hopscotch Music Festival of Raleigh, North Carolina.
David Garcia (moderator) is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include popular music and dance, Latin American and Latin@ music and dance, and music of the African diaspora.
Joanna Helms (panelist) holds an MA in musicology from Indiana University and a BM in flute performance from the University of South Carolina. Her research interests include post-WWII avant-garde traditions and the ways in which people use the internet to make and experience music, especially focusing on digital participatory culture.
William Robin (panelist) is a third-year graduate student in the PhD program in musicology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He recently completed his master’s thesis on transatlanticism and American hymnody reform, and is beginning a dissertation focusing on collaborative culture in 21st-century American music.
Megan Ross (panelist) is a first-year graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds degrees from Boston University (M.M. in Historical Musicology) and the College of the Holy Cross (B.A. in Music). Her main research interests include Beethoven studies, variation form, the overture, and DJ culture.
Stephen Stacks (panelist) earned a Bachelor’s of Music in Church Music from Furman University and a Master’s of Sacred Music in Choral Conducting from Boston University. His research interests include music in Christian liturgy and bluegrass.
Mathew Swiatlowski (panelist) holds a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. His research interests include recorded music as memory, soundscapes and the built environment, and working class cultural representations in popular culture.
Chair: Gavin Lee, Duke University
[wpspoiler name=”Giving Penelope Voice: Feminist Narrative in Kirkland Snider and Worden’s Penelope
(Kathleen Hulley, Stony Brook University)”]
Receiving accolades from both indie and classical music communities, Penelope (2010) is an album that spans musical styles. Not only has it been described as “indie classical” and a “genre-defying album,” or as “suspended somewhere between art song, indie rock, and chamber folk,” but it has also been performed on both indie and concert stages. Originally written by Sarah Kirkland Snider to a text by Ellen McLaughlin, the work was reconceived with Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) as the solo singer.
In this paper I examine how musical and textual ambiguity, blurred boundaries, and disruptions make Penelope a modern, feminist variation of the Odyssey. Rather than offering a direct retelling of the story – the characters are a modern-day woman, who narrates and merges with Penelope, and her silent lover, who has returned from war – Penelope infuses a forgotten female voice and perspective into the Homeric myth. This paper explores how musical and textual ambiguities allow for a female counter-narrative to emerge. The music resists closure, blurs genre boundaries, and disrupts aural expectations, and can thus also be interpreted as a type of écriture féminine (following the work of feminist theorist Cixous). Moreover, the imagery and the sounds of water in Penelope reinforce this interpretation: from the house by the sea where Penelope waits, to the cyclical, undulating sounds of the tide that end the album, water is central to Penelope and serves as the backdrop of non-linear and open possibilities for this feminist narrative.
Kathleen Hulley recently completed her PhD in Music History and Theory from Stony Brook University with a dissertation on representations of female sexuality in opera. She holds an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies from Stony Brook, and her research interests focus primarily on opera studies as well as feminist theory and music.
[wpspoiler name=”Queerin’ Country Music: Challenging Heterosexism and Cisgendered Masculinity in Recent Country Music Videos
(Michael Austin, Howard University)”]
Country music has always maintained a tenuous relationship with topics and issues surrounding homosexuality, fluid gender roles, and gay performers; as early as 1939, Vernon Dalhart’s “Lavender Cowboy,” a song about an effeminate cowboy troubled about his lack of chest hair, was banned from the radio. Some in country music have found an outlet for these topics in parody and comedy songs; the band Lavender Country released the first gay-themed country album, which included songs such as “Back in the Closet Again” and “Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears.” Ned Sublette’s humourous “Cowboys are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other” was covered by Willie Nelson. Drag performers have also entered into the country music video scene; the Supreme Fabulettes released their video “A Drag Queen is a Cowboy’s Best Friend” in early 2013.
However, since the late 1990’s there has been a serious side to gay country music, although sometimes unintentional. Some critics believe Pirates of the Mississippi’s song “Feed Jake” is the first country music video with a gay theme, though the band’s manager denied any gay undertones. More recently, Steve Grand’s “All-American Boy” video was very popular, having gone viral in the summer of 2013, and received over 2 million views on YouTube; it features the artist physically expressing a loving, romantic relationship with a man and other overtly gay themes. This paper explores ways in which the slow turn toward acceptance in country music can been viewed in recent country music videos.
Michael Austin is Assistant Professor of Media, Journalism, and Film at Howard University where he teaches courses in radio, music production, and sound design. He holds a Ph.D. in Arts and Technology from the University of Texas at Dallas, and his research is primarily focused on music and new media aesthetics.
[wpspoiler name=”The Shaggs’ ‘Who Are Parents?’ as a Gendered Assemblage
(Marcelo B. Conter, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil & Sini Timonen, City University London)”]
The Shaggs, an all-female rock band comprising three sisters, was formed in 1968 in Fremont, New Hampshire. The project was initiated by the sisters’ disciplinarian father who envisaged his daughters as future pop stars. Described by Hamelman as ‘fantastically good at being spellbindingly bad’ (2003, p. 205), The Shaggs’ contribution to popular music was unusual to say the least, with out-of-tune guitars and vocals, ostensibly aimless drumming and atypical lyrical content. Significantly, there is a different ‘flow’ in the music of the Shaggs than what we are accustomed to: borrowing terminology from Pierre Boulez, one may observe a lack of striated flow and an excess of its smooth equivalent, making the listening experience demanding. In order to understand the fluxes between musical inaptitude, gender and the outsider aesthetic, we examine the song ‘Who Are Parents?’ (from Philosophy of the World, 1969) in detail. Recalling the influence of their authoritarian father, it is remarkable how the band come across as compliant daughters in the lyrics of the song, yet musically rebel through outsider/naïve assemblages. An assemblage, as in Deleuze and Guattari, starts from a given territory, but provokes movements of deterritorialization and/or reterritorialization. Regarding gender in the late 1960s as a territory, and considering that the Wiggin sisters were marginalized both as amateur, naïve ‘artists’ and as women in popular music during the period, we ask: how are contemporary conceptions of gender assembled in ‘Who Are Parents’?
Marcelo Bergamin Conter
PhD candidate in Communication at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, currently working on a thesis project entitled Lo-fi: low definition assemblages in pop music. Visiting scholar at The Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University with scholarship support of the CAPES Foundation, Ministry of Education of Brazil.
PhD candidate in Music at City University London, currently nearing completion of an AHRC-funded project on women musicians’ contribution to popular music in England between the years of 1962 and 1971. She is also active as a guest lecturer at a number of UK universities.
[wpspoiler name=”East Tennessee Listens to Nashville’s Female Rebels: Crafting an Agentive Female ‘Country’ Identity
(Liza Sapir Flood, University of Virginia)”]
The last three years has seen the emergence of a cohort of female country singers who defy genre norms by espousing attitudes and performance practices typically reserved for male singers. The hit songs of these commercial country musicians–such as Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and Ashley Monroe–don’t shy away from unladylike topics like revenge, violence, and boredom. Instead, they seem to signal the emergence of a nascent gender politics, at least within the rarefied realm of Nashville-based musical production, that gives voice to a particularly agentive kind of ‘country’ femininity. I draw on ethnographic research to ask one obvious question: what impact are these female stars having at the local level of amateur musical performance? Using data from six months of fieldwork (ongoing), I explore how amateur female country musicians in the tri-cities region of east Tennessee engage the provocative gender politics of this new group of Nashville stars. I draw on interviews, performances, and informal jam sessions to consider the ways that local musicians engage pop cultural forms in crafting their own gendered identities. I argue that the way local musicians approach the pop country trend I describe allows a broader consideration of the intersection of gender and class, particularly in a cultural context of musical performance that is demographically and semiotically masculine and working-class.
Liza Flood is a PhD candidate in the Critical and Comparative Studies program at the University of Virginia. Her dissertation-in-progress is an ethnographic consideration of gender and class in the country music scenes in east Tennessee and western North Carolina.
Beyond Categories: Exploring Issues of Genre and Classification in African American Music (Roundtable)
Dwan Reece, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
Timothy Anne Burnside, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
Tammy Kernodle, Miami University
Charles McGovern, College of William and Mary
Kevin Strait, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
When the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in 2015 its music exhibition, Musical Crossroads, will tell the story of African American music making from its earliest manifestations to the present day. Focusing on African American music making expands the definition of African American music activity to go beyond limitations of traditional genres, particularly those that are defined by race, to include the involvement of African Americans in all musical forms.
One of the exhibit themes to be explored is” Beyond Category,” a phrase invoked by Duke Ellington when he referenced something or someone that defied classification in genre or type, or more particularly, by race. The attempt to place African American musicians within specific categories is intricately tied to the limitations placed upon them by race, either as musicians or entertainers or as citizens who have an interest in the world around them. For African American musicians, this limit of classification negates the fact that they, like any other artists, drew upon a complex array of musical influences, cultural ideals, and values of their time to communicate their message.
This roundtable discussion will how African American musicians transcend and struggle against constructed boundaries defined by genres, and race. Panelists will briefly introduce how they’re exploring issues of genre and classification in their own work, and will engage session participants in a larger conversation that will explore how the cultural politics of containment impacts the fluidity of artistic creativity and innovation.
Dwan Reece (Moderator/Panelist) is Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Along with building the museum’s collections and developing programs, she is curator of the Museum’s inaugural music exhibition, Musical Crossroads. Her research interests include African American music, vocal studies, popular singers, African American Performance, popular entertainment. Dwan received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University.
Timothy Anne Burnside (Panelist) is a Project Researcher at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is a member of the Musical Crossroads exhibit team and works closely with other curators to build collections and develop exhibitions that offer accurate and rich representations of African American cultural expression. Timothy studied History, English, and Music Performance at Lawrence University and Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Tammy Kernodle (Panelist) is a Professor of Musicology at Miami University. Her scholarship has focused mainly on various genres of African American music, American music jazz, and gender and popular music. She is the author of the biography “Soul on Soul: The Life and Music of Mary Lou Williams,” (Northeastern University Press) and served as the associate editor of the three volume Encyclopedia of African American Music (ABC-CLIO, 2011), and Senior Editor for the revision of New Grove Dictionary of American Music.
Charlie McGovern (Panelist) is Associate Professor at the College of William and Mary. Before coming to William and Mary he was a curator of American culture at the National Museum of American HIstory, Smithsonian Institution, where he curated or co-curated many exhibits, most notably Rock & Soul: Social Crossroads (2000 -) He co-edits a new series for Duke University Press, Refiguring American Music. This year he is a fellow at the National Humanities Center working on his book tentatively titled Only in America: Race, Citizenship and Popular Music, 1930-1977
Kevin Strait (Panelist) is a Project Historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He works closely with curators on the research, development and acquisition of objects for several of the museum’s permanent exhibitions, including “Musical Crossroads.” Kevin received his Ph.D. in American Studies at the George Washington University.
Groove Glide: Flow, Musical Bodies, and Sonic Liquidity
Chair: Barry Shank, The Ohio State University
Notions of liquidity, flow and fluidity line the history of popular music. They work as metaphors for sonic qualities and creative processes, and they inhabit the musical imagination in the figures of flowing streams, floating vessels, liquid muses, and drowning teardrops. In any register, the aesthetic of flow calls attention to the hidden movements that accompany pop creativity and transformation. This panel assembles four new approaches to the role of flow to new forms, articulations, and projects in popular music, from the enunciation of novel hip-hop styles to the emergent dancefloor politics of “liquidarity.”
Each paper within draws from an embodied, ethnographic engagement with its subject matter that overflows the textual, generic, and conceptual categories that too often discipline work on popular music. Here, we trace a range of musics, including Transatlantic dance pop, European club scenes, global sound technologies, and American hip-hop in terms of their affect, sound, dance, and vocality. We ask how liquidity—as metaphor, theory, and practice—becomes confluent with classic discourses in popular music studies, from audience experience to media circulation.
Informed by work on posthumanism, Black aesthetics, media anthropology, and mobility, we theorize the ways in which musical liquidity works its way through both popular undergrounds and mainstreams to transform the pop ecosystem.
[wpspoiler name=”The Costs of Being Fluid: Popular Music and the Lubrication of Social Frictions
(Luis-Manuel Garcia, Max Planck Institute for Human Development)”]
The image of the industrial economy as a great machine oiled by the sweat and blood of its workers has been a common trope for Marxist and anti-capitalist writers. Much has changed since the industrial revolution inspired such metaphors, but the costs of lubricating social processes remains a relevant issue in these post-industrial, accelerated, and uncertain times. Based on the last two decades of social and cultural studies, one could gather that the world we live in is becoming increasingly fluid (Bauman) and mobile (Urry). But what enables social and cultural “matter” to flow at increasing rates?
This paper reassesses analytical models of “flow” and “mobility” in the study of popular music and culture, focusing particularly on electronic dance music scenes as a case study. Overly celebratory approaches risk presuming a world of frictionless and easy flows, thus ignoring the ways that intensified movement can also entail friction, erosion, blockages, and collisions. Recent scholarship has argued for the power of music to generate and sustain a sense of flexible and fluid solidarity (“liquidarity”: Garcia) in social contexts that may otherwise be shot through with fissures. This may be partially due to music’s “floating intentionality” (Cross), which allows musical participants to attribute divergent meanings to shared musical experiences. But at what cost does this fluidity come? Who is responsible for maintaining flow and/or bearing its consequences? Where do these underlying frictions lie in modern-day popular music scenes?
Luis-Manuel Garcia is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. He is conducting research in Berlin on nightlife-related tourism in the city and its impact on local music scenes. He is also working on a manuscript entitled, “Together, Somehow: Music, Affect, and Intimacy on the Dance Floor.”
[wpspoiler name=”“Everyone Knows I Got Flow”: The Ascendance and Aesthetics of Flowing in Golden Age Rap Music
(Anthony Kwame Harrison, Virginia Tech)”]
During the late 1980s, the term flow emerged within the hip-hop lexicon as a dominant reference to the syllabic cadences, polyrhythmic fluidities, and distinct vocal timbres used by rappers when performing over beats. So much so that a few years later, Tricia Rose, in her pioneering book Black Noise, specifically listed flow as one of hip hop’s three principal properties (along with layering and rupture). Whereas Rose discussed the politico-aesthetics of flow as contributing to “a blueprint for social resistance and affirmation” (p. 39), among emcees the term was most readily used to index the production and reception of compelling oral performances (arguably more common than even the phrase rhyme style). In this presentation, I examine the position and unpack the varied usages of flow in propelling several of the developments that led to (what came to be regarded as) rap music’s Golden Age. Specifically, I explore some of the earliest appearances of “flow” in rap songs, and ask: Why this as opposed to other possible terms? What imagined and/or actual instances of lyrical proficiency does the metaphor enable? What spatial and temporal planes does the concept of flowing and the disembodied notion of possessing flow allow a rapper to signify? And how do recording technologies further enhance and/or constrain emcees’ abilities to flow? Finally, I consider the extent to which the emergence of flow can be linked to the rise of specific kinds of glocal hip-hop authenticity—that is both locally grounded and geographically diffused.
Anthony Kwame Harrison is Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies at Virginia Tech. Kwame is author of Hip Hop Underground: The Integrity and Ethics of Racial Identification (Temple University Press, 2009) and his work on hip hop and race has been featured in several popular music studies journals.
[wpspoiler name=”Listening with Your Face: The Neo-colonial Politics of Underwater Music
(Peter McMurray, Harvard University)”]
In the past two years, several new waterproof mp3 players have reached the market, including a product in the Sony Walkman series and the Finis Neptune, which advertises its use of “revolutionary Bone Conduction audio transmission to transmit crystal clear audio through the cheekbone directly into the inner ear.” These developments in personal listening devices correspond to the rise of underwater music festivals, as well, in which popular music, especially classic rock, and scuba diving (or less extremely, boating on the water’s surface) are brought together for aquatic listening pleasure.
This technology-driven, consumer mastery of underwater acoustic space sits at a complex juncture of political trajectories: neo-liberalism, perhaps environmentalism, but also an unacknowledged sonic colonialism of aquatic spaces. Built on tropes dating back (at least) to the notion of a “silent” sea, as coined by Jacques Cousteau, this subconscious politics of conquering a vast nothingness through controlled sound contrasts sharply with a more radical politics of liquid resistance articulated in a variety of African-American and Caribbean musical contexts, from jazz to dub to techno. I focus in particular on the music of techno-futurists Drexciya, whose musical output explores a vision of underwater space as a sonic site of political resistance against the prevalent tides of exploitation within the Black Atlantic. These two narratives converge at the level of sound itself, as certain frequencies (especially bass) are inaudible to humans in water, suggesting ways in which sonic characteristics of music itself, as well as the human ear, become fluid sites of ongoing contestation.
Peter McMurray is an ethnomusicologist, composer and filmmaker completing a dissertation in text and media on the Islamic acoustics of Turkish Berlin. He is a co-organizer of the “Hearing Modernity” seminar (2013-14) at Harvard (hearingmodernity.org) and he is interested in the intersections of popular music and technology, both within the U.S. and globally.
[wpspoiler name=”Madame Liquidator: The Musical Mainstream and Feminine Flow
(Ali Colleen Neff, The College of William and Mary)”]
This paper takes its name from a chance encounter with a retired Jamaican dancehall stage dancer whose talent, she says, “turned the men to liquid” throughout the musical circuits of 1970s Kingston. I use Madame Liquidator’s description of her own musical affect as a cipher for imagining the unseen “liquidations”–the destratifications, unravelings, and loosenings–that accompany powerful feminine engagements with popular music. From the sound of self-described Aquarius/Pisces Nina Simone’s ‘Take me to the Water” to Blondie’s “Tide is High”–and, further, to songs inspired by liquid muses (Beach Boys‘ “Surfer Girl” and Duran Duran’s “Rio”), I argue that transformative musical creativity is marked by the erosion of formal and discursive fixity at the water’s edge.
Given the limitations of conventional critical discourses on popular music and feminism(s), the notion of liquidation offers a different kind of access to the question of feminine musical power as it works through popular channels. Rather than reproduce binaries that govern pop discourses (black/white feminine/masculine, feminist/antifeminist), pop fluidity allows artists to embody otherwise contradictory modes of self-making; to simultaneously inhabit the mainstream and its Other. Drawing from work on Black aesthetics, media ecology, and feminist cultural theory, I illustrate a feminine ontology of musical practice that emphasizes the fluidity of affect, movement and self-articulation over the politics of subjectivity.
Informed by the figure of Madame Liquidator, I make legible the hidden flows of Beyonce’s 2013 self-titled video album, steeped as it is in seafoam, sunsplash, and an elusive politics of pop transformation.
Ali Colleen Neff is a Visiting Assistant Professor and joint appointee in Anthropology and American Studies at the College of William and Mary; she is also affiliated with the Africana Studies program. Drawing from her dual ethnographic fields of urban Dakar, Senegal and the Mississippi Delta, and her experience as a turntablist and filmmaker, her work centers on the anthropology of media, music, and sound.
4-6 (Plenary Session)
How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Mainstream? A Roundtable
Music, Philip Ennis once spent a book (The Seventh Stream) demonstrating, comes to us in streams of sound that separate but also merge. The center of this process is most commonly called the mainstream. Yet popular music studies, a field born out of work on genres and subcultures that often rose from the underground to mainstream (with bittersweet consequences), or more recently concerned with groups marginalized for reasons of race, gender, and sexuality, is only beginning to reckon conceptually with the crossover spaces of Top 40 and other musical middles. Jason Toynbee first pointed out the need for more work on “mainstreaming” in an essay for the 2002 book Popular Music Studies, and last year saw the appearance of Redefining Mainstream Popular Music, a collection of articles focused on the issue. This conversation will look to push the subject forward, featuring writers and scholars of different kinds whose work intersects the mainstream from a range of topical and methodological perspectives
Charles Aaron, Formerly of Spin
Keir Keightley, University of Western Ontario
Jocelyn Neal, University of North Carolina
Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University
Ali Colleen Neff, College of William and Mary
Diane Pecknold, University of Louisville
Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama
Southern Folklife Collection
4th Floor, Wilson Library, UNC-CH
Southern Culture on the Skids
Historic Playmakers Theater, UNC-CH
Saturday, March 15
Tributaries Across the Americas
Chair: Kathryn Metz, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum
[wpspoiler name=”Latino Punk Subjectivity in the US
(David Pearson, CUNY Graduate Center)”]
After its initial explosion in the late 1970s, punk in the US became a largely white suburban phenomenon, albeit one with a professed attitude of rebellion towards suburban culture. While there were of course exceptions to this fact, none amounted to a demographic shift in the punk scene. This state of affairs was radically altered beginning in the 1990s, when a small number of Latino punk bands decided to sing in Spanish, hold concerts in Latino neighborhoods, and assert themselves within the largely white punk scene. The 1990s wave of Latino punk bands ushered in a subsequent change in the demographics of the US underground punk scene: Mexican and Latino youth have become a coherent and sizable presence as performers and audience throughout the country.
By examining the 1990s explosion of US Latino punk spearheaded by the band Los Crudos, the present-day NYC punk scene, and transnational connections with punk in Mexico, this paper will explore how global flows of people and musical style have changed the face of punk in the US. A nuanced understanding of Mexican migration, including limited upward mobility and deep stratification as well as increasing geographic dispersal, will provide a demographic backdrop. Latino punk subjectivity will be examined as the construction of a new identity which consciously chooses how to engage the rebellious content and musical style of punk gone global and the volatile experience of migration to the US.
David Pearson is a doctoral candidate in musicology at CUNY Graduate Center and an instructor at Baruch College. As a saxophonist he has performed modern classical repertoire and also played in a wide array of punk, rap, and jazz groups. David currently performs in the afrotronik funk band Digital Diaspora.
[wpspoiler name=”Primal Roots and Transnational Flows: Sergio Mendes Experiments with Afro-Brazilian Jazz
(Kariann Goldschmitt, New College of Florida)”]
In 1972, Brazilian bandleader Sérgio Mendes radically departed from his patented mix of rock and latin pop in Primal Roots. Instead of producing a single hit, the album featured experiments with length (the nearly 19-minute “Circle Game), references to the sea-oriented life of the Brazilian northeast (“Promise of a Fisherman”), and overt gestures to Afro-Brazilian musical styles through a global jazz sensibility. While many Brazilian musicians have been involved with international jazz scenes, Mendes’s 1972 recording presents an alternative way to view how jazz, and its accompanying racial politics, allowed for new performative strategies for Brazilian musicians. While many critics cite the high-profile collaboration between jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter and singer Milton Nascimento in Native Dancer (1974) as the breakthrough for transnational jazz collaboration in the musical flows of the ‘70s, it was far from alone. This presentation argues that, despite its commercial failure, Primal Roots marked a turning point for how Brazilian musicians engaged with jazz as part of a broader expression of transnational racial consciousness; the album took part in a larger network of cross-cultural musical flows that extended to fusion, R&B and funk. Drawing from recent research on musical mixture in fusion and Brazilian popular music (Fellezs; Moehn), this presentation offers one example where the politics of racial affiliation influenced a high-profile artist’s creative risk. By expanding the purview of experiments in global jazz and popular music, we can better understand the broader politics of musical flows during the 1970s.
Kariann Goldschmitt teaches comparative media arts and music at Ringling College and New College of Florida. She is currently completing a monograph on Brazilian music in the global cultural industries. Her work has appeared in Popular Music and Society, Luso-Brazilian Review, and The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies.
Chair: Marina Peterson, Ohio University
[wpspoiler name=”“I Can’t Live Without My Radio”: The Sony Walkman & the Stereo Boombox in the Urban Soundscape of the 1980s
(Mathew Robert Swiatlowski, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)”]
At the dawn of the 1980s, the Sony Walkman and the boombox – two related but distinct portable stereo/cassette technologies – emerged within the contested soundscape of urban spaces in the United States. Both technologies became icons of sonic advancement and individual choice for the period, but their deployment in public spaces served competing and contradictory functions. With the Walkman, consumers were given the ability to be out in a public setting while simultaneously being aurally immersed via headsets within the private realm of their favorite cassette or homemade compilation mixtape. The boombox, on the other hand, with its audible and often loud speakers, was used to claim sonic territory on street corners, parks, beaches, and public transportation. Although the boombox was a technology utilized across class and racial lines, its image in a public setting became part of the iconography of an emerging African-American hip hop culture. The blurring of public and private spaces as signified by the Sony Walkman and sonic claims for territory as represented by the boombox altered productive and consumptive practices of music in U.S. culture. In this paper, I analyze how representations of the Walkman and the boombox in advertisments, film, and popular music worked to both racialize and gender the two technologies, informing dominant cultural narratives of each as accepted or contested technologies. Additionally, I explore the complicated dialectic between consumption and production in the ways that individuals made use of both the boombox and the Sony Walkman.
Mathew Swiatlowski holds a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a M.A. in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research interests include recorded music and cultural memory.
[wpspoiler name=”Sounding Hot Springs: Music and Branding in America’s Spa City
(Robert Fry, Vanderbilt University)”]
Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, has long been a destination for travelers seeking the medicinal powers of the thermal waters from which the park and city take their name. With the construction of railroads in the late nineteenth century, Hot Springs saw an increase in visitors and development, including the construction of elaborate bathhouses, hotels, and performance and gambling establishments. Soon, leisure activities became as important as the waters themselves in attracting visitors, and music became a crucial element of the overall spa experience. Venues such as the Opera House (1882), City Auditorium (1904), and Princess Theater (1910) featured the most popular musicians and genres of the era and illustrate an expanding musical presence in Hot Springs during the early years of the twentieth century. However, music was not formally introduced to the bathing experience
until the construction of Buckstaff Bathhouse (1912) and Fordyce Bathhouse (1915), which included music rooms in the building plans. The music performed in the bathhouses was strictly regulated, requiring submission to and approval by the Director of the National Park Service, as documented by permission requests
written to the Director by bathhouse owners. Through a comparison of the music approved by the Director with musical offerings in Hot Springs’ many other performance venues, this paper demonstrates the importance of music in the spa experience while also illustrating the ways musical sound both reflected and shaped an ongoing tension between the developing tourist city’s desired image and that preferred by the newly-established National Park Service.
Robert W. Fry Sr. is a lecturer in Music History and Literature Vanderbilt University Blair School of Music. His Current research focuses on music tourism and the role of fan culture in the production of musical places. Papers published and/or presented both nationally and internationally on topics including music tourism, fan culture and music festivals, country music and nostalgia, music and place and virtual tourism in “Second Life.”
[wpspoiler name=”Hip Hop Flows (through Detroit): Women’s “Legendary” Work Mapping Marginalization and Sustainability in Urban Sonic Spaces
(Rebekah Farrugia, Oakland University
Kellie Hay, Oakland University)”]
Detroit is literally in flux. The city is not only facing economic devastation, but also Detroiters are responding to one of the worst democracy challenges in the city’s history. Currently, Detroit is undergoing massive changes as a result of its emergency financial management and thus is plagued by a state of uncertainty that has left its citizens feeling “abandoned, alienated, and occupied” (Howell, 2013).
In her foundational book Black Noise Tricia Rose (1994) argues that the elements of hip hop “sustain motion and energy through fluidity and flow” (p. 38). Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and using Rose’s notions of flow and rupture as a starting point we examine the ways in which socially conscious, women hip hop artists in Detroit are creating music and music videos that highlight and challenge the state of the city and their place in it—as black women and hip hop artists—during these uncertain times.
Musicologist Adam Krims’s work Music and Urban Geography (2007) opens an insightful path for understanding Detroit and its popular music production. We mobilize his conception of design intensity and his view of representation of music to address the neoliberal planning tactics that polarize populations in cities like Detroit. In particular, our paper speaks to The Foundation’s (a women-centered, Detroit hip hop collective of which we are a part) process of creating an original track and video titled “Legendary” that highlight the multiple layers of marginalization and resilience experienced in the city.
Rebekah Farrugia is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at Oakland University. Her book Beyond the Dance Floor: Female DJs, Technology, and Electronic Dance Music (Intellect Books) was published in 2012. Currently, she is working on an ethnographic project (with Kellie Hay) about women’s involvement in social conscious hip hop culture in Detroit.
Kellie Hay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism at Oakland University. She is published in Quarterly Journal of Speech, International Journal of Communication, Journal of American Culture and International and Intercultural Annual. She is working on a joint ethnography (with Rebekah Farrugia) about women’s involvement in socially conscious hip hop culture in Detroit.
Chair: Josh Davis, Duke University
[wpspoiler name=”Material Witnesses: Thinking with Things in Popular Music, 1930-1970
(Charles McGovern, National Humanities Center, College of William and Mary)”]
The recent ‘material turn’ in cultural studies has encouraged scholars to rethink the nature of the supposedly inanimate, and to interrogate the physicality and ontologies of things as constitutive elements in social relations. From souvenirs and merchandise to promotional material and packaging, to listener scrapbooks,‘zines and mix tapes, popular music assumes countless different material forms.
This essay explores the material culture(s) of US popular music in the middle 20th century. I argue that the multifariousness of the material has been central in the making and circulation of popular music. Using trade literature, memoirs, newspaper accounts, catalogues, and artifacts, I trace how material culture shaped the historical circulation of pop. I examine briefly how law, capitalist methods, ideologies and cultural values each shaped the ways in which popular music ‘flowed’ through the world. Following Arjun Appadurai and others, I argue that the instability of the commodity partly thwarted attempts of artists, fans and businesses, who sought to affix and in effect save some music in specific material forms. Finally, I argue that the desire for the material – to make, own and use things – influences music in both real time and in memory. Here I explore Jack White’s recent Paramount records luxury reissue: eight hundred mp3s, high end vinyl, two books and more, presented in a crafted wooden replica phonograph case. The project seeks to memorialize nostalgically and to re-present admiringly, music crudely recorded, indifferently circulated, and passionately treasured throughout the world. The desire for the material nature has shaped pop. The flows of music can never fully take place without specific material forms directing their course.
Charlie McGovern is the Kent R Mulligan Fellow at the National Humanities Center, 2013-14. He teaches at William and Mary and was curator at the National Museum of American History. He wrote Sold American: Consumption and Citizenship, 1890-1945 (University of North Carolina Press) and exhibitions on popular music and culture. At the Center he is writing a book tentatively titled Body and Soul: Race, Civics and Belonging in American Popular Music, 1920-1970.
[wpspoiler name=”BOOM: The Postwar Sales Explosion that Changed Pop Music
(Karl Hagstrom Miller, University of Texas at Austin)”]
This paper examines the relationship between two important musical trends in the decades following World War II. One is very familiar. The other is less so. First, there developed an unprecedented market for music among US teens and young adults. Among other youth genres, rock and roll, folk, and, eventually, Beatlemania and rock music flourished. Second, the postwar years witnessed an explosion in the sales of musical instruments. Sales of ukuleles, banjos, organs, drums, and, especially, acoustic and electric guitars soared as young music fans tried to make their own racket. What is the historical relationship between these two trends? Standard histories, when they examine instrument sales at all, maintain that enthusiasm for new commercial rock and folk scenes drove young people to buy instruments. A closer look reveals a more complicated history. This paper chronicles the musical instrument industry’s systematic campaign to market instruments to families and kids in the years prior to the explosion of interest in rock and folk music. The industry launched massive promotional campaigns to increase musical participation and consumption. It promoted music as a leisure activity for the full family, pitching accordions and guitars to young kids and demonstrating that adults could enjoy easy-to-play electric organs in their well-appointed living rooms. This paper pulls from musical instrument industry press and the archive of the National Association of Music Merchants to explore the effect industry attempts to integrate musical instruments into the postwar culture of domesticity and consumption had on the rise of rock and roll and folk music and vice versa.
Karl Hagstrom Miller teaches American studies and history at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow. He is currently writing a book on the history of amateur music in the United States.
[wpspoiler name=”How the Electric Bass Became The Norm: Converging Historical Currents in Rock ‘n’ Roll 1958-1964
(Brian F. Wright, Case Western Reserve University)”]
The electric bass has been an essential component of most rock bands for the last fifty years. But there was a time when it was simply seen as a novelty, a feeble substitute for the traditional upright bass. This paper examines how the electric bass in the late 1950s and early 1960s transitioned from its debased position to its current hegemonic dominance. Scholars of American rock music have often overlooked this era, roughly 1958 to 1964, in favor of a narrative that draws a straight line from Elvis to the British Invasion. However, this period saw several crucial tidal shifts in the genre, including the emergence of the electric guitar as rock’s dominant lead instrument and the solidification of the electric bass as the primary bridge between the rock band’s rhythmic and harmonic forces. Through an exploration of the musical, technological, and economic culture of American teenagers, this paper argues that the normalization of the electric bass resulted from the confluence of at least three distinct historical currents: the changing economic climate of the late 1950s, the mainstream popularity of instrumental rock bands like The Ventures, and the massive influx of autodidactic amateur rock ‘n’ roll musicians. Building upon theories of technological forecasting, histories of musical instruments, sociological data on American teenagers, evidence from musicians, and the music itself, this paper is an attempt to contextualize the popularization of the electric bass while also reclaiming the importance of this era in rock ‘n’ roll.
Brian F. Wright is a PhD Student in musicology at Case Western Reserve University. His research interests include amateur rock music-making, the history of the electric bass, and alternative rock in the ‘90s.
Rivers as Spaces, Myths, and Metaphors
Chair: Brian Harnetty, Ohio University
[wpspoiler name=”Pop Gets Caught by the River
(Andrew Burke, University of Winnipeg)”]
Launched in 2007 by three employees of London’s Heavenly Records, Caught by the River is a website that brings together a love of music with an appreciation of the natural environment. From its beginnings as a blog documenting the angling excursions of a group of friends, it has since developed into an influential site that understands the pleasures of pop alongside the lure of the outdoors.
In this paper I argue that Caught by the River is an integral part of what in the UK has come to be known as “the new nature writing,” a mode defined by a disenchantment with the neoliberal city and a fascination with the edgelands of the urban and the rural spaces beyond. Like the work of writers such as Robert Macfarlane, Kathleen Jamie and Richard Mabey, Caught by the River should not be understood as a form of reactionary rural nostalgia. Instead, its passions and attachments, from beer to birds to bands, form part of an effort to rethink the connections between pop, place, and practice. Nature is presented not as a space incompatible with music, but a complement to it. The riverside is reimagined as a space of cultural repose and a spot from which to understand the flows and tributaries of pop history and the pop present. Looking specifically to writings by musicians and music critics such as Jarvis Cocker (Pulp), Bill Drummond (The KLF), and Jude Rogers (critic) who have appeared on the Caught by the River site, I examine how the desire to experience and explore the natural landscape is a curiously prominent part of the afterlife of 1980s and 90s British indie pop.
Andrew Burke is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Winnipeg. His work has appeared in Historical Materialism and Screen and has covered a wide array of topics from the music and film work of the pop group Saint Etienne to the cultural history of the Moog synthesizer. His current project examines the connections between cultural memory, residual media, and the public service announcement.
[wpspoiler name=”Sung Waterways as Cultural Consciousness
(Elizabeth A. Knutowski, Lawrence University)”]
Popular songs concerning waterways from South Korea, Taiwan, and the United States’ Great Lakes – three regions in different stages of industrialization – illuminate a relationship between income, cultural awareness of the environment, and pollution. Furthering Nancy Guy’s work (2009) on the Tamsui River of Taiwan, I pair an analysis of these songs with the environmental Kuznets curve from theoretical economics. The analysis demonstrates a complicated relationship between income and cultural awareness of pollution. The environmental Kuznets curve posits a relationship between income and pollution levels in a given country; the conventional u-shape is sometimes reasoned as being due to the higher priority of clean environments as income rises. However, this justification becomes complicated when considering songs – a reflection of cultural awareness. Of the three countries, the United States is the most industrialized, but lacks popular songs overtly concerned with pollution in the Great Lakes region. Taiwan and South Korea, despite being at similar stages of industrialization, illustrate different levels of cultural awareness of waterway pollution. South Korean popular songs concerning the Han River are melodramatic and unconcerned with pollution. Taiwanese songs best demonstrate the relationship between income, pollution levels, and cultural awareness of that pollution. Songs concerning the Tamsui River have shifted over time from romantic to critical of the river’s polluted state. The varied histories and values at work in these societies shed light on the difference, implying that factors beyond income significantly affect cultural awareness.
A fifth year student at Lawrence University, Elizabeth A. Knutowski is finishing a double degree program with majors in Economics and Music Performance. As a student with interdisciplinary interests, she intends to pursue a year abroad in South Korea as well as a graduate degree in Music Performance.
[wpspoiler name=”The Singing River: Music & Myth in Alabama
(Chris Reali, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)”]
Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a region in the northwest corner that borders the Tennessee River, was the birthplace of two celebrated figures in popular music history: W.C. Handy and Sam Phillips. Other lesser-known but highly influential musicians such as Buddy Killen, Rick Hall, Norbert Putnam, and Jimmy Johnson also call the Shoals home. Locals still attribute the Shoals’ excess musicality to its indigenous peoples, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Creek, or to the influence of the “singing river.” A recent film documentary on Muscle Shoals foregrounds the “myth” of the rivers’ impact upon the local music industry. The region first achieved musical prosperity built upon the “Muscle Shoals sound” during the 1960s and ‘70s that resulted in the self-proclaimed title as the “Hit Recording Capital of the World.” This “scene” then fell into decline, and was only recently revived by the success of contemporary bands and artists such as the Civil Wars, Jason Isbell, the Alabama Shakes, and the Secret Sisters. Utilizing original interviews and archival sources, I examine the rise and waning of the Muscle Shoals music industry between the late-1950s and mid-1970s and the region’s subsequent musical rebirth. Central to this research is the way in which Muscle Shoals transformed from a physical place, to a sound, to a culturally revered aesthetic—a musical brand name. Juxtaposing the imagined geographic space created on 1960s soul recordings produced by the Muscle Shoals music industry with the contemporary Shoals “scene” reveals the fluid relationship between people, place, and music.
Chris Reali, a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at UNC–Chapel Hill, conducts research on popular music. As a guitarist, he has performed across the United States and in Nagasaki, Japan. Chris has also traveled extensively throughout North America and Europe while working as a guitar technician and tour manager.
Chair: Brett M. Lyszak, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
[wpspoiler name=”The Sound of Sludge: Groove, Materiality and Bodily Experience in Sludge Metal
(Jonathan Piper, Independent Scholar)”]
Heavy metal and its attendant subgenres, almost by definition, invite considerations of materiality. The very name conjures images of iron and steel and the sensations of power and ability that accompany their manufacture and use. Subgenres like power metal, speed metal and thrash metal make these associations explicit. Against this backdrop of insistent solidity, the subgenre of sludge metal, or simply sludge, stands out for its suggestions of fluidity and a power not of authority or strength but of toxicity and filth.
The sound of sludge metal, reliant on harshly distorted and down-tuned guitars, aggressive vocals, and often dense drum patterns, immediately confirms the subgenre’s name: this is a thick, murky sonic muck. The liquidity of sludge, though, is equally descriptive of the temporal feel of this music. Far from the gentle stream that is sometimes evoked in discussions of groove, the flow of time in sludge metal is sluggish and marked by sudden starts and stops, abrupt changes in tempo, and a frequent lack of any discernible structure. Despite all this, sludge is a music that grooves, enveloping the musicking body and propelling it forward in time.
Following a brief history and explication of the genre, this paper utilizes the metaphor of sludge to examine the role of materiality and embodied experience in this music. Drawing from musical analysis and ethnographic discussions with sludge practitioners, the paper informs not only the specific study of sludge metal but points to the rich bodily experience in heavy metal as a whole.
[wpspoiler name=”Trans-Industrial Flows: Dethklok, Cartoon TV, and “The World’s Most Successful Death Metal B(r)and”
(Joseph Tompkins, Allegheny College)”]
This paper examines the trans-industrial utility of distinct popular music markets in the era of media convergence. Specifically, it considers the interdependent relationship continually being forged between the television and music industries, and how this relationship functions to sustain the niche categories—or “brand communities”—around which certain popular music genres are packaged as commodified experience. As a case study, the paper focuses on the Adult Swim animated series Metalocalypse. It considers how the show, which is billed as both a parody of and tribute to metal culture, distinguishes itself from its predecessors by explicitly catering to underground forms of death and black metal. In the process, it analyzes the distinct set of media relations that characterize the extreme metal scene and how these intersect with broader institutional developments affecting both the music and television industries. Ultimately, the paper seeks to highlight the way commercial media like television increasingly look to capitalize on subcultural flows specific to popular music and, conversely, how these distinctions are inflected by wider developments in media culture.
Joe Tompkins is an assistant professor of Communication Arts at Allegheny College, where he teaches courses in popular music and critical media studies. His work has either been published or is forthcoming in Cinema Journal, Popular Communication, and Television & New Media.
[wpspoiler name=”Bang Your Head(dress): The Appropriation of Indigenous Culture in Contemporary American Heavy Metal
(Anthony J. Thibodeau, Bowling Green State University)”]
Appropriation in popular music tends to elicit a negative reaction, since it is often perceived as “ripping off” other artists and cultures, though musicians have likely been borrowing and blending influences for generations. However, when the process of appropriation crosses cultural boundaries, especially in a post-colonial context, this may result in exoticizing the “Other”, which can be seen as potentially exploitative and damaging to colonized cultures. In general, cases of cultural appropriation warrant close inspection when members of a dominant culture (such as a Western colonial power) borrow elements from a subjugated culture, since this may signify continuing processes of imperialism and exercise of power. However, I suggest that cultural appropriation should be viewed on a spectrum, since treating every instance of borrowing as equivalent is reductionist and does a disservice to both cultures.
In this paper I will consider several cases of apparent appropriation of Native American culture (as well as other non-Western cultural elements) in contemporary underground American heavy metal. Many of these themes of indigenous culture are expressed to convey a sense of cultural identity or a spiritual bond with the natural world that resists the trappings of modernity. Some of these artists find affinity in the recent “eco-metal” scene in the Pacific Northwest, where anarcho-primitivism and radical environmentalism have played significant roles. I will examine the elements of appropriation in this music as well as the possible artistic motivations and roots of the appeal of Native American culture to the broader sphere of American popular culture.
Prior to entering graduate school in 2012, Anthony Thibodeau spent several decades working in Native American arts and culture museums in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mr. Thibodeau’s research focus is now on representations of indigenous identity and anti-colonial resistance in popular culture, specifically popular music and contemporary American heavy metal.
This event will start closer to 10:05 or 10:10, to ensure enough time for the Q&A session
[wpspoiler name=”Viva Cuba Libre: Rap is War!
(Tiffany Naiman, University of California Los Angeles)”]
A gripping undercover film about the militant Cuban underground rap duo Los Aldeanos, who use their urgent lyrics about the dire economic and political state of their beloved country to tackle the injustices in their country in no uncertain terms. Their flow, a unique style of aggressive rhymes and bombastic Cuban beats, makes them one of the most exciting groups in Cuba. Banned from performing in all official concert halls or venues, their music is distributed solely by hand, in total secrecy for fear government persecution. They perform in makeshift venues and promote the concerts only hours before they actually perform, still managing to gather crowds in the thousands.
Los Aldeanos’ music is so controversial that on Christmas Day 2010, in Holguín, a small town outside Havana, brothers Antonio and Marcos Cruz were beaten and arrested in their own home while celebrating the holiday with their family and friends, and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment for just listening to the music of this infamous group. This film follows the intermingled stories of the Cruz brothers and the artists they admire. Risking his freedom and his life, director Jesse Acevedo, used guerrilla methods and hidden cameras to take the viewer inside the new revolution brewing within Cuba and the music that is behind it.
The film’s screening will be followed by a round-table discussion and Q & A session with the audience, panel members include: director Jesse Acevedo, producer Tiffany Naiman (University of California Los Angeles), Jerome Camal (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Mike D’Errico (University of California Los Angeles), and Geoff Baker (Royal Holloway, University of London).
Tiffany Naiman is a film producer and PhD student in the Department of Musicology at UCLA. Her other films include GRRRL, The Glamour and the Squalor, Exile Nation: The Plastic People, and The Mechanical Bride. She has a chapter in the forthcoming book, David Bowie: Critical Perspectives, which will be published in 2014 by Routledge.
Post screening Q&A with:
Jesse Acevedo (Director)
Tiffany Naiman (Producer), University of California Los Angeles
Jerome Camal, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Mike D’Errico, University of California Los Angeles
Geoff Baker, Royal Holloway, University of London
Mediating “Natural” Sounds
Chair: Josh Ottum, Ohio University
[wpspoiler name=”Going Deep: The Hydrophone and the History of Underwater Recording
(Craig Eley, Penn State University)”]
In the late 1960s, Roger Payne heard whales singing. After dropping two hydrophones off of either side of boat, he put on headphones and discovered whale vocalizations—in stereo. In 1970 he recorded and released these sounds on an album called Songs of a Humpback Whale. Describing the project to National Geographic in 1979, Payne said that his use of the word “song” was a technical, rather than aesthetic one. He noted that their sounds were much like other vocalizations, especially birdsong. However, artists had already started to use whale songs in more literal and musical ways. Just one year before Payne’s interview with National Geographic, Kate Bush released her debut album The Kick Inside, which opened with a 20 second sample of Songs of a Humpback Whale.
This proposed presentation takes the conference themes of “flow” and “water” extremely literally, examining the use of underwater recordings in the history of popular, experimen- tal, and sound effects records via a history of the hydrophone. The ability for humans to hear underwater began with Navy research in the 1920s, and inevitably altered the course of popular music as well as environmental awareness. Starting in the 1950s, the hydrophone was popularized by environmental advocates such as Rachel Carson and featured on albums such as Sounds of the Sea, Vol. 1, released by Folkways Records in 1952. But with the dis- cover of whale song in the 1970s, the hydrophone brought music to new depths—literally and figuratively—shaping New Age culture and beyond.
Craig Eley is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Arts and Humanities at Penn State,
where he is working on written and digital projects exploring the history of recorded sound, environmental history, and the history of science and technology. He can be found at www.craigeley.com and on Twitter @craigeley
[wpspoiler name=”Early Digital Waves: Irv Teibel’s Environments and the Psychologically Ultimate Seashore
(Mack Hagood, Miami University)”]
In 1969, a new kind of commercial sound recording made its debut on Atlantic Records. Environments 1: Psychologically Ultimate Seashore contained the sound of the ocean at Coney Island, digitally processed into functional audio with an IBM mainframe at Bell Laboratories. As its extensive liner notes indicated, this simulacrum of nature was meant to phonographically fabricate a controlled aural environment, thus altering the consciousness of the listener for purposes of relaxation, concentration, sex, or spiritual development. Drawing on an archive of materials belonging to the series’ deceased creator, Irv Teibel, I situate the successful Environments LP series within the cybernetics-influenced swath of the American counterculture that Fred Turner calls the New Communalists. Teibel’s pioneering albums sated a desire for the natural even as they fabricated a man-made acoustic space. Coaxing the sounds of wind and water into performing work of the sort previously done by Muzak and white noise machines, Teibel created a technology of the self suitable for the Age of Aquarius. While his claim that, “The music of the future isn’t music!” may have been hyperbole, his work is echoed today in nature sound recordings, apps, and sound machines used by millions.
Mack Hagood is an Assistant Professor of Media, Journalism, and Film at Miami University, Ohio who studies the spatial and affective pragmatics of audio media. He has written on Bose noise-cancelling headphones (American Quarterly), the mediation of tinnitus (Sounding Out!), and Foley in Fight Club (Cinema Journal, forthcoming).
[wpspoiler name=”Sigur Rós and the Soundtrack to Selling Planet Earth
(Matt DelCiampo, Florida State University)”]
The BBC’s 2006 eleven-part miniseries, Planet Earth, used innovative filmic techniques to create an unprecedented view of the earth and its diverse ecosystems. The show’s cinematography along with David Attenborough’s narration illuminated the beauty and artistry of nature, but they also highlighted the inherent risks and profound violence that accompany environmental destruction including water pollution and deforestation. In order to publicize Planet Earth, the BBC used music by Icelandic rock quartet Sigur Rós to accompany a promotional trailer, which audiences saw regularly for months leading up to the show’s release. Music used within the series, however, is not by Sigur Rós, but is instead an orchestral film score by George Fenton and Sam Watts. By contrasting the two musics I examine how Sigur Rós’ music lends itself to the promotion of Planet Earth.
While Planet Earth shows scenes from nature and its narration forewarns of humankind’s deleterious effects on the environment, the trailer entices potential viewers by showing them an idealized version of the earth free from human interference. Sigur Rós’ lead singer, Jónsi, sings often in falsetto. When combined with his use of an invented language—Hopelandic—and the sound of his bowed electronic guitar, listeners can imagine something familiar yet otherworldly. Ultimately, I believe the specific musical qualities of Sigur Rós’ music provide an idyllic and idealized soundtrack, showcasing both the beauty of the natural world and its surreal presentation in the trailer.
Matt DelCiampo is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Musicology from Florida State University, where he received his M.M. in 2012. In his dissertation he explores how contemporary popular musicians engage and interact with places, nature, and geography. DelCiampo’s research interests include popular music, ecomusicology, and music and technology.
Musical Encounters and Exchange in Port Cities
Chair: Esther Morgan-Ellis, University of North Georgia
[wpspoiler name=”Jamaica’s Lollipop Girl meets Four Lads from Liverpool: Millie Small on Around the Beatles, 1964
(Alexandra Apolloni, University of California Los Angeles)”]
Jamaican singer Millie Small’s 1964 recording of “My Boy Lollipop” was one of the first ska-influenced songs to chart in the United Kingdom. Small, who had recently immigrated to England, made numerous television appearances that year, including one on the TV special Around the Beatles. The program was a showcase of British pop, focusing on the Beatles and other Liverpool acts, including Cilla Black and the Vernons Girls; and is known amongst Beatles fans for featuring the fab four in a absurdist Shakespearean skit that critiques English cultural identity and the upper-class establishment. While the Beatles’ skit suggests an inward-looking critique of Englishness, I argue that Small’s appearance on the show underscores the ways in which Around the Beatles constructs a subversive version of English identity born through transatlantic musical migrations.
In this paper, I consider Around the Beatles as a moment shaped by movements across the Atlantic. The program staged an encounter between Liverpool musicians, whose practices were informed by migrations through the city’s ports; and Small, who traveled across the Atlantic to become a crossover star at a moment that saw considerable backlash against immigration. Furthermore, Around the Beatles was subsequently broadcast in North America, and communicated ideas about Englishness to transatlantic audiences. Using reception history and performance analysis informed by the work of Black British feminists, and by Gilroy’s conception of the Black Atlantic, I ask how Small’s Around the Beatles performances resonated in Britain and North America, and subverted post-WWII notions of race and British citizenship.
Alexandra Apolloni holds a Ph.D. in Musicology from UCLA, where she currently teaches in the Music History and Music Industry programs. She was awarded an AMS-50 Fellowship for her dissertation, Wishin’ and Hopin’: Whiteness, Femininity, and Voice in 1960s British Pop, and has written for a number of online publications, including Music Media Monthly and Blogging.LA.
[wpspoiler name=”Port sounds: Jazz(-scapes) in 1930s and 1940s Shanghai
(Yvonne Liao, King’s College London)”]
This paper takes as its starting point a familiar narrative. Jazz in 1930s and 1940s Shanghai was emphatically “Sinified jazz” (Jones 2001). The keynote sounds – to employ R. Murray Schafer’s term – were popular Chinese songs (shidai qu) and their recorded output.
Yet, there was more. Dance hall advertisements, such as those in Damei Wanbao (a major daily), reveal a panoply of themed musical nights: “Italian Garden Scenes” (Majestic Café, May 1936); “Swiss Snow Scenes” (Yangstze Hotel, June 1936); “A Night in Spain” with, interestingly, a Cantonese band (Dalu, February 1937) – to name a few.
Thus, was jazz in 1930s and 1940s Shanghai a singular sound? Using “flows” as a figurative, the paper proposes a more nuanced understanding. This jazz was a plural sound/-ing – multiple agencies and activities of popular music instead of a monolithic repertory. I present three layers for consideration. First: drawing on findings from The North-China Herald, I situate Shanghai as a port of call, accessed not just via bodies of water such as seas and inland waterways, but also land and air. Second: through advertisements in Xinwen Bao (a major daily), I discuss money-influenced, frequently changing band acts in dance halls. Third, referencing various sites of jazz in Shanghai, including seldom-studied department stores, I suggest the idea of jazz-scapes: ever-dynamic environments characterized by multi-sensory experiences. Overall, the paper raises some implications for how, in doing popular music history, we might make more fluid sense of the “Chinese Jazz Age”: jazz was, and was also more than Sinified.
Yvonne Liao is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Music, King’s College London. Her current research revolves around environments of ‘jazz’ and ‘popular musics’ in Shanghai in the early twentieth century and the new millennium. Her main interests include: historiography, methods, the senses, regulation and experience, space and memory vis-à-vis Western popular musics in China, Republican and (post-)Communist.
[wpspoiler name=”Popular Music and the Port City: The Gramophone Industry of Calcutta and the Popularization of Jazz, 1920s-1930s
(Bradley Shope, Texas A & M Corpus Christi)”]
This presentation will outline the role of the gramophone industry in Calcutta, a port city along the Bay of Bengal, on the development of jazz in India in the 1920s and 1930s. Almost all scholars of the gramophone industry in India have commented on the gramophone’s role in the development of an expansive popular music economy in India (Arnold 1988, Ferrell 1993, Hughes 2002, 2007, Jha 2009, Kinnear 1994, Manuel 1988, Shope 2014, Qureshi 1999, Weidman 2003). But less studied is the industry’s influence on the success of jazz orchestras. As a city important to colonial commerce along a busy waterway, Calcutta was a center for the production and dissemination of gramophone discs throughout South and Southeast Asia, and it supported the growth of jazz orchestras through readymade recording studios, disc pressing factories, and efficient gramophone distribution mechanisms. These infrastructures facilitated the production of hundreds of jazz discs recorded during the colonial period purchased by British, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Christian Goans, and upper class Indians. Gramophones introduced audiences to ragtime, jazz, song & dance tunes, Gaucho dances, and Latin American music. These recordings created a demand for live performances, and reinforced the notion that live jazz was available in hotels and other urban venues throughout India. To end, this presentation will comment on the role of gramophone recordings in propelling Chic Chocolate, an Indian jazz trumpeter, to the status of a star performer known throughout India (and beyond).
Dr. Shope is an Assistant Professor of Music at Texas A & M in Corpus Christi. He is the co-editor of More Than Bollywood: Studies in Indian Popular Music (Oxford University Press), as well as numerous articles and book chapters on the popular music of India.
Against the Current: Flow and Counter Flow in Rap and Hip-Hop Lyricism
Chair: Caroline O’Meara
Flow is a standard term in the discourses and analytical terminology associated with rap music and hip-hop culture. It can refer to the ways that an MC rides a rhythm, a b-boy moves to the beat, or a graffiti artist constructs lines on a wall. According to Marcyliena Morgan, “Flow in hip hop refers to consciously moving within a chaotic context of fragmentation, dislocation, disruption, and contradiction to create balance, unity, and collective identity” (2005: 208).
In this panel, we approach flow and counter flow as complex notions of cohesion and disruption, as a series of formal strategies that can be normative or radical, suggesting that flow encompasses a range of contradictory possibilities or tensions from which creativity emanates.
[wpspoiler name=”“Old Flow”: Negotiating Age and Aging in Hip-Hop
(Murray Forman, Northeastern University)”]
In a candid and compelling interview, Andre 3000 reflects on two decades of hip-hop experience, noting “at a certain age your life changes, at that point you become something else” (Hockley-Smith, 2012). He acknowledges that time is a crucial factor in any artist’s trajectory and that negotiating age in hip-hop is a complex process. He suggests that aging artists “don’t have new flows. None of us old guys have new flows. None of us…Make sure you don’t become that old flow guy” (ibid.).
This paper takes the notion of age-based transformation and the term “old flow” as a point of departure, identifying aging in hip-hop as a factor that is enunciated through lyrical articulation as well as media coverage. As an emergent discourse in hip-hop, aging is associated with generational conflict and dissonance as younger artists and veterans compete for market share and respect while younger and older audience members frequently compete for social space within sites of leisure and pleasure.
As I will explain, the discourses of age superiority associated with established veteran status and an “old school” reputation were already evident in the late 1980s (Kool Moe Dee, Just-Ice) and have been further burnished more recently (i.e., “Classic” by DJ Premier featuring Nas, Rakim and KRS-1, 2007). My presentation, however, will also critically analyze the common attribution of erosion, framed within a “decline narrative” (Gullette, 2004) such as “falling off” that younger artists employ as a means of denigrating the aesthetic and creative identities associated with older MCs.
Murray Forman is Associate Professor of Media and Screen Studies at Northeastern University. His hip-hop research includes the books The ‘Hood Comes First: Race, Space and Place in Rap and Hip-Hop (Wesleyan UP, 2002), and (with Co-editor Mark Anthony Neal) That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader (Routledge, 2004; 2011).
[wpspoiler name=”“Got A Freaky, Freaky, Freaky, Freaky Flow”: Theorizing Illness in Hip Hop
(J. Griffith Rollefson, University of Cambridge)”]
The field of hip hop studies is bursting with groundbreaking studies on the art of the MC and top notch examinations of the DJ are now emerging, slowly but surely. Notably, the former studies tend to focus on hip hop’s ingenious wordplay and rhetorical contours, while the later tend to take up the slack in discussing musical sound. This schism in scholarly examination has exposed a lacuna: the MC is also a musician, playing with the beat, managing articulations, word shape, rhythm, pitch space, timbres, crafting an individual style that—in hip hop parlance—is an MC’s signature flow.
In this paper I theorize “illness” in hip hop, focusing on a handful of MCs whose flows embody disjuncture, incomprehensibility, and brokenness. Using Jeru’s freaky arrhythmia on the hit track Come Clean as a starting point to examine non-normative flows from Keak da Sneak to Missy Elliot and Craig Mack I argue that illness is a critical theory at the core of hip hop’s performed aesthetic. By articulating this disability studies framework to Afro-diasporic and postcolonial studies theorizations, I show how this embodied theory might elaborate our understandings of the blues code, décalage, articulation, detour, disarticulation and difference, the break, and signifyin(g). Indeed, I argue that hip hop’s marked illness emerges from a long line of performances of disability in black music, dating back to the iconic pimp limps of 1970s funk, the raggedness of black music in the early 1900s, and the seminal disjointedness of “Jim Crow” performances in antebellum America.
Griff Rollefson is Lecturer in Popular Music at the University of Cambridge. From 2011-2013 he served as ACLS New Faculty Fellow and Chancellor’s Public Scholar at UC Berkeley, teaching the community engaged course “Hip Hop as Postcolonial Studies.” His book project is entitled European Hip Hop and the Politics of Postcoloniality.
[wpspoiler name=”“Can You Feel It?”: Syncretic Samples of Global Flows in Select Battle Raps
(Dawn-Elissa Fischer, San Francisco State University)”]
This paper draws from longitudinal research among Japanese and African American Hiphop communities to examine the role of battling to enhance fluency of flow among emcees. Philosophies of flow in Hiphop demonstrate how this transnational genre is translatable in a metonymical sense, as its liberatory message is carried from one place to another and serves to describe local conditions. Battles have dramatically improved the innovations and creations that embody flow. For example, there are striking differences between battles documented in the 1990s and those recorded more recently. Emcees have evolved from uneven breath control and disjointed “spitting” of phonemes to the production of a flow that “melts in one’s ears” akin to the revered verses of Hiphop lyrical guru Pharoah Monch (USA). Another example of such lyrical prowess would be the flows of MC Kan (Japan), a signed artist who was also the First Place winner of the 2002 BBoy Park Emcee Battle in Tokyo. At this battle, MC Kan’s flow is akin to African-American preaching styles of “whooping” in which one goes into a rhythm and performative mode that is simultaneously visceral and mental. Samples of flow in key battles are explicated in an effort to expand theoretical interpretations concerning such syncretic aspects in these international spheres.
Dawn-Elissa Fischer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University. She co-directs the Bay Area Hip Hop Research and Scholarship project with Dave “Davey D” Cook, is a founding staff member of the Hiphop Archive and a co-founder of the National Hip Hop Political Convention.
Migration In, From, and Around Water Regions
Chair: Andrew Flory, Carleton College
[wpspoiler name=”Juke Boy Just Got in Your Town: the professional migration of swamp blues musicians in the Crawfish Circuit, 1958-1968
(Evelyn Owens Malone, University of Pennsylvania)”]
In 1957, the heart of Acadiana was a hotbed of musical activity. Dozens of records and new labels appeared weekly; juke boxes and radio stations overflowed with material, and innovative musical cross-pollination kept the surprises coming. Neither zydeco nor swamp-pop, this is the setting of the swamp blues. Previously ascribed to the Baton Rouge area, I argue that the swamp blues proceeded chiefly from two independent studios in southwest Louisiana, equally influenced by New Orleans to the east and the urban blues sounds from Houston to the west—and thrived through radio and club tours within the crawfish circuit. In this paper, I will explore how processes of migration along the Gulf Coast have combined in history with a transatlantic conduit of record circuitry, briefly, to create a fluid space in which we can understand the complicated and changing tides of the history of the swamp blues.
At mid-century, transplanted creoles rushed to industrial centers in southeastern Texas port cities along the Gulf Coast, establishing ‘Cajun Lapland’ and prompting the birth of zydeco. The population that stayed in Louisiana, in contrast, adopted a new nationally-styled blues music whose regional success helped recontextualize sentiments about American music-making writ large. People-flows between these two populations—musicians making French-derived music in Texas, and southwest Louisianians playing urban-inflected swamp blues—carried many musical currencies back and forth, and it is that uneven mix of styles and influences which is such a core component of the multifaceted and fleeting musical works of south Louisiana musicians.
Evelyn Owens Malone is a PhD candidate at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation focuses on the rhythm and blues output of two prolific independent record studios in southwest Louisiana from 1958-1968, and notions of commercial packaging, consumption, and racial belonging in the post-authentic performance context of the urban swamp blues.
[wpspoiler name=”Migration and Memory: the Bluegrass Mapping Project in McDowell County, North Carolina
(Jordan Laney, Virginia Tech)”]
The Tennessee Valley Authority built the Fontana Dam in Western North Carolina to provide hydroelectric power to the region. Sharecroppers, families, schools and businesses were uprooted and moved to areas with available factory jobs. Many moved to McDowell County North Carolina, taking with them lifetimes of fairly secluded fiddle tunes, shape note choir traditions, and a heritage of mountain music. Specifically engaging with the question of how the infrastructures that a dam or place of fluidity figures in popular music, the project proposes that music serves as a continuum between the homes which now lie beneath a lake and the new lives the community forged.
Based on the results from a musical mapping project this paper maps the current bluegrass music scene in McDowell County North Carolina, providing venue locations, traditional performers, and local bands. It also maps the history of McDowell’s Mountain Music scene, addressing ways in which migration and memory are facilitated through song—displaced people re-created musical communities, while later generations remembered the process through songwriting. The use of the term “bluegrass” will be “mapped” as well, providing a better understanding of the need, uses and effect of labels and names on music in a hyper local context.
Over 10 interviews and over 3 years of participation in the music scene were collected in preparation for the paper. Being a member of the 1st generation of my family born outside of what is now the Fontana Dam; this paper also offers an auto-ethnographic perspective to a situation which could prove to be difficult to comprehend from outside the network. When music becomes a mode of remembering, migration (due to Southern Appalachia’s damming of land in hopes of progress) becomes part of the song being sung. This paper provides a glimpse into the power of music to keep a community intact.
Jordan Laney is a doctoral candidate at Virginia Tech within the Alliance for Social Political Ethical and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) program. In 2013 she graduated with a M.A. in Appalachian Studies: Roots Music and Influences, and a B.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College (2011). In 2013 she completed the Leadership Bluegrass program in Nashville, Tennessee.
[wpspoiler name=”Closer to Home? Grand Funk and the Great Lakes
(John Covach, University of Rochester)”]
Woody Guthrie Distinguished Lecture
What is this Black in Japanese Popular Music?: (Re)Imagining Race in a Transnational Polycultural Context
Kevin Fellezs, Columbia University
Chair: Diane Pecknold, University of Louisville
[wpspoiler name=”“Campbell’s Elvis” (Warhol, 1962): Canned Music and the Genealogies of “Pop”
(Keir Keightley, University of Western Ontario)”]
One of Andy Warhol’s earliest Pop art paintings is a visual mash-up that combines two kinds of commercial goods, two kinds of trash: the torn label of an old tin can that once contained Campbell’s Soup and a publicity image of Elvis Presley. Perhaps unwittingly, Warhol here invokes a long chain of signification trailing after the word “pop”: as music; as mass produced, promoted and packaged commodity; as popular art; as trash. A late 19th century slang expression for a garbage-filled backstreet, a “tin can alley,” also informs early 20th century critiques of Tin Pan Alley as an industrial fount of musical trash (Keightley 2012). This rhetoric is amplified in Sousa’s (1906) indictment of attempts to mechanically contain the flow of musical experience via worthless “canned music”. This paper will explore the materiality and ecology of tin cans and canned music as they relate to ideas of “pop”. It will dive deep into this frothy, flowing, fleeting realm in order to historicize the ongoing circulation of “pop” as a common marker of value for both music and commodities.
“Pop” has a longstanding presence in so-called mass culture, from the beginning of the 19th century, when it names one of the earliest individually-packaged consumer products, “ginger pop”, to late 19th century efforts at popularizing classical music (as in the Boston Pops orchestra), to the early 20th century, when the segmentation of the vaudeville market into “refined” and “popular-priced” vaudeville led to the circulation of the phrase “pop vaudeville”. By circa 1920, “pop” is being applied in its modern sense to “popular music.” However, as Stuart Hall (1981) reminds us, in this period the very meaning of “the popular” undergoes significant transformation and re-articulation, resulting in ambiguities and contradictions: does it mean “of” the people? liked by many? distributed widely? dumbed down for mass consumption?
The appearance of Warhol’s painting the very year Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Beach Boys first enter the pop charts provokes a meditation upon the relations between canned soup and canned music, mass production and mass marketing, art and pop, treasure and trash, and finally, the notorious rock vs. pop binary. Popular Music Studies has thus far failed to trace out the semantic longue durée of the keyword “pop” and its genealogical relations with tin cans, tin pans, and canned music; this paper offers a beginning.
Keir Keightley is Associate Professor of Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario, where he teaches in the M.A. in Popular Music and Culture. Early publications include “’Turn It Down!’ She Shrieked: Gender, Domestic Space, and High Fidelity, 1948-59” (Popular Music, 1996), “Reconsidering Rock” (The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock, 2001), and “Long Play” (Media Culture and Society, 2004). Recent publications include “The Historical Consciousness of Sunshine Pop” (Journal of Popular Music Studies, 2011), “Un voyage via barquinho…: Global Circulation, Musical Hybridization, and Adult Modernity, 1961-69” (Migrating Music, 2011), and “Tin Pan Allegory” (Modernism/modernity, 2012).
[wpspoiler name=”Popular Music in the Time of J.S. Bach
(Andrew Talle, Peabody Conservatory & The Johns Hopkins University)”]
Historians investigating music of the distant past have traditionally focused on repertoire which has stood the test of time. Standard textbooks and audition repertoire lists present pieces modern classical music specialists deem worthy of repeated listening and close analysis. What audiences thought of the music hundreds of years ago is often little more than a matter of historical curiosity or a source of comic relief, particularly when the judgments of the past contrast strongly with current opinion. Selecting for timeless quality rather than popularity can skew perceptions of both past and present. The lack of attention to the preferences of historical audiences feeds a spurious narrative of cultural decline. Non-musicologists can be forgiven for imagining that in the eighteenth century everyone listened exclusively to respectable, challenging masterpieces by Bach, Haydn, and Mozart whereas today’s audiences content themselves with disposable pop. In fact, eighteenth-century audiences loved disposable pop too, and studying it can tell us a great deal about their culture.
The first challenge facing scholars interested in popular music of the distant past is terminological. We need a definition of “popular music” that can be applied to music created before the dawn of audio recording. Second, establishing the relative popularity of music produced in the eighteenth century presents an evidential challenge: how can we prove that one work was more popular than another? Manuscripts and prints from the era exist today in only very small sample sizes. Read carefully, however, they can provide valuable documentation for the popularity of the musical works they contain. In rare cases, production information is available which can offer historians a sense for the size of print runs, numbers of reissues, etc. Having established the popularity of particular works, the third challenge is to determine why they were successful. Developing credible answers to this question has the potential to reveal more about the hopes and fears of listeners in that era than can the canonical works found in textbooks today.
Andrew Talle has been a member of the Musicology Faculty of the Peabody Conservatory since 2004. Before that he was a Ph.D. student at Harvard University and a cello and linguistics major at Northwestern University. He is the editor of Bach and His German Contemporaries (Illinois University Press, 2013) and the author of The Keyboard Players: Daily Life and Music in the Time of Johann Sebastian Bach (Illinois University Press, expected 2014). He is a Senior Fellow of the Bach-Archiv Leipzig, the recipient of a Fellowship for Advanced Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and a Gilman Scholar of The Johns Hopkins University.
[wpspoiler name=”Participatory Discrepancies and the Inversion of Pop
(Barry Shank, Ohio State University)”]
Writing in 1987, Charles Keil defined the power of music as its “participatory discrepancies. “Music, to be personally involving and socially valuable, must be ‘out of time’ and ‘out of tune.’” In this era of precisely designed and perfectly executed pop, it is time to revisit a band that mastered being out of time and out of tune: Beat Happening. When Calvin Johnson moved back to Olympia, Washington in 1982 to attend Evergreen College, he took with him the emphasis on individual authenticity that so powerfully structured the Washington, DC hardcore scene. Somewhat perversely, however, Johnson relied on that value to underwrite the playful reconfiguration of rock conventions that characterized the music of Beat Happening and came to inhabit the subgenre of indie. Inverting nearly every musical rule set down by the DC hardcore scene, Calvin Johnson, Heather Lewis and Brent Lunsford, the members of Beat Happening, worked with the most rudimentary techniques, switched instruments frequently enough to flout any effects of improvement from practice, and sang as though no one was listening. Yet their best songs revealed a deep familiarity with the secrets of rock as they slyly reminded their listeners of the significance of tambourines, maracas and heavily reverbed vocals. The band’s overt amateurism confused many listeners. Lyrical references to food, handholding and pajamas combined with the utter refusal of any suggestion of virtuosity to prompt a too quick association of innocence with their sound and their sensibility. But there was nothing innocent about Beat Happening. They were resolutely serious and determined. Although playful and witty, they were rigorous in their grasp of the contradictions that enabled their charm. Beat Happening was firmly aware of the violent edge of desire and the lack of control that lurked behind the gaze of the hungry lover. That authentic discomfort compelled devotion from their listeners who could extract joy from the sonic experience of manifest imperfection.
Barry Shank is Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Studies at the Ohio State University. He is past president of IASPM-US and the author of The Political Force of Musical Beauty, published by Duke University Press.
Media Ecologies and Alternative Models for Circulation
Chair: Mark Katz, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
[wpspoiler name=”The Cultural Capital Project: Designing a Stewardship Platform for Digital Music
(Andrew Dewaard, University of California Los Angeles;
Brian Fateux, University of Wisconsin, Madison)”]
In one of those odd paradoxes of technology, it has taken the digital revolution to reassert an ancient, oral tradition: music as shared culture. Equitable monetisation in the digital age will require that music be treated as polymorphous digital flow, and no longer as mere commodity. However, a vibrant community of artists and fans requires financial capital in order to foster and sustain creativity and output. With these ideas in mind, we have created the Cultural Capital project (cultcap.org), a collaborative research project supported by the University of California Institute for Research in the Arts and affiliated with the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy at McGill University. The Cultural Capital system operates on three fronts: first, a social network of user-generated listening and sharing habits; second, opt-in tracking software that harvests the musical consumption of users, then suggests and facilitates equitable compensation to creators through a micropayment subscription fee; third, a legal intervention aiming to provide a legitimate space for the digital consumption and promotion of music in which users are treated as stewards of cultural goods rather than as trespassers on copyright’s atomized landscape of private rights. Generated profits will be redistributed to artists and the fans whose cultural labour propels them, diverting the flow of capital away from “middlemen” or “gatekeepers.” Incorporating the work of the multitude of individuals who propel the cultural industries, including fans, photographers, artists, labels and others, our project aims to demonstrate the efficiency and workability of a stewardship property regime for digital music, one which would evenly balance the public good with compensation of creators.
Andrew deWaard is a PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. His latest work is the co-authored manuscript entitled The Cinema of Steven Soderbergh: indie sex, corporate lies and digital videotape, as well as articles in IASPM@Journal and the collection The Hood Is Where the Heart Is.
Brian Fauteux is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He researches radio, music, and sound and is currently undertaking a project exploring spatial issues in the circulation of popular music by satellite radio. He has recently published articles in Popular Music and Society and IASPM@Journal.
[wpspoiler name=”The Tributaries of File-Sharing: Ripping, Encoding, Uploading
(Blake Durham, University of Oxford)”]
In aqueous systems, circulation is both dependent upon and generates tributaries: the sources from which water returns back into circulation. While it is appealing to imagine digital music circulation as an effortlessly fluid exchange between production, distribution, and consumption, file-sharing communities establish complex protocols governing musical contribution. In this paper I will draw upon ethnographic research within a private BitTorrent tracker community to analyze the processes of contributing to a strictly regulated file-sharing network and the procedures by which music is reconfigured into a circulatory object.
While all users are required to share back recordings they have obtained, only a small percentage of community members upload new media to the swarm: these individuals can be conceptualized as tributaries, waterways who maintain the flow of new music amongst larger currents. Varying levels of technical aptitude, equipment, and time are invested in the ripping and encoding of physical media, with high-resolution rips of vinyl albums requiring the most investment and freely-available Internet-sourced music necessitating comparatively little. While the procedures differ for each source material, the documented genealogy of the ‘ripping’ process is necessary to prove the validity and quality of the upload, along with careful attention to tagging and metadata modifications. Drawing on insights from anthropological theories of exchange, studying circulatory practices draws out the social relations embedded in musical practices and illuminates the systems of value individuals bring to musical objects.
Blake Durham is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Music at the University of Oxford and an affiliate graduate researcher with the Music, Digitisation, Mediation: Towards Interdisciplinary Music Studies research programme. He is engaging in ethnographic research into practices of digital music circulation and consumption under the supervision of Georgina Born.
[wpspoiler name=”Music, Mobility, and Streaming: A Multimedia Lecture by the Killer Apps, Iowa City’s Best All-Mobile-Phone Cover Band
(Kembrew McLeod, University of Iowa;
Loren Glass, University of Iowa)”]
Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream with the Killer Apps, Iowa City’s Best All Mobile Phone Cover Band! RoboProfessor and Dr. G will perform a multimedia lecture about the century-plus historical relationship that has developed between telephone technologies and popular music. Phones made music portable—from the late-nineteenth century uses of telephone lines that piped in music from remote locations to the streaming technologies that now enable us to access music through wireless networks. This presentation examines key points of intersection between phones and music, such as the invention of the vocoder by Bell Labs, a company that also developed the audio compression technologies that led to the mp3 format. Early on, one major technological limitation of the telephone was, essentially, how much could be squeezed through the line. That had everything to do with how much bandwidth the voice uses, which is a lot. Starting in the 1920s, phone industry engineers helped develop a theory of listening that directly paved the way for the mp3 format many years later—which now makes streaming music possible. While the paper is being read, The Killer Apps will underscore its key points by performing a variety of phone-centric songs on their mobile phones (including ELO’s “Telephone Line,” Kraftwerk’s “Telephone Call,” Glenn Miller’s “Pennsylvania 6-500,” and Blondie’s “Call Me”). When quoting from other scholars, such as Jonathan Sterne and Lisa Gitelman, RoboProfessor and Dr. G prerecorded them reading from their own work over the phone.
Kembrew McLeod is a writer, filmmaker, and Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. McLeod’s new book Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World will be published by NYU Press on April 1, 2014. McLeod’s co-produced documentary Copyright Criminals aired in 2010 on PBS’s Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens.
Loren Glass is Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa. He is the author of Authors Inc.: Literary Celebrity in the Modern United States, 1880–1980 (2004), and his scholarship engages with the relationship between literature and popular culture—mostly (though not exclusively) in the twentieth-century United States.
[wpspoiler name=”From Overground Rivers to Underground Channels: Rethinking Archives and Methods in the Study of Popular Music
(Christopher Dahlie, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Andrew Davis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)”]
To take a cue from this year’s theme of Liquidity and Flows, we pose questions regarding both the liquidation of past archives, and the methods to trace new flows of cultural activity. Older archives and sources that synchronically and diachronically charted popular music with a degree of authority (e.g. Billboard charts, SoundScan, American Top 40, or MTV’s TRL) may no longer be valid as somewhat objective measures of popularity, if in fact they ever were. The question remains, how do we now determine what is popular music? Furthermore, how do we research it if one of the dependable entry points—traditional numerical authorities of popularity—is no longer relevant? We propose several new archives and sources specifically addressing circulation, distribution, and consumption activity that could be used to gauge the popularity of artists, records, albums, and genres. In addition, to address the changing media ecology of popular music (as well as how we as researchers can adapt to that ecology), we also propose methodologies such as social network analysis, algorithm studies, mobile methods, and ethnographic interviewing as ways to get at the state of popular music today without traditional chart archives as a starting point.
Christopher Dahlie is an audio engineer and doctoral student in Communication Studies. His project posits the interface between live concert audio engineers and their equipment as an entry point to examine broader questions and tensions surrounding skilled and creative labor in the face of changing technology within cultural industries.
Andrew G. Davis is a doctoral student in Communication Studies. His work operates at the intersection of Cultural Studies and Media Studies, with emphasis on the interrelations between political economy, popular culture, and technology. Andrew is also a club/radio DJ specializing in R&B, funk, soul, groove, and blues music.
Hip Hop: Law, Race, and Nation
Chair: Anthony Kwame Harrison, Virginia Tech
[wpspoiler name=”Rap on Trial
(Erik Nielson, University of Richmond)”]
Last year, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts reversed the first-degree murder conviction of Lamory Gray, who had been sentenced to life without parole for his role in a 2006 fatal shooting. In its explanation for the reversal, the Court focused on prosecutors’ use of a “gangsta” rap video featuring Gray as evidence during the original trial, a video they hoped would help establish Gray’s guilt. According to the Court, in presenting the video as evidence, prosecuting attorneys effectively denied rap music the status of art, instead submitting the video as actual evidence of criminal behavior. In their ruling, the Justices wrote, “We discern no reason why rap music lyrics, unlike any other musical form, should be singled out and viewed…as literal statements of fact or intent.”
And yet they are singled out this way with alarming regularity in courtrooms across the country, often giving prosecutors powerful leverage at trial—as law professor Andrea Dennis argues, it gives them “a stranglehold on the case.” That’s because rap lyrics, particularly those of the “gangsta” variety, frequently glamorize the very behaviors the defendant is on trial for. If juries don’t understand the narrative traditions of boasting and exaggeration on which rap is based—or the industry conditions that push aspiring rappers to adopt a criminal persona—then they find it easy to convict, even when other evidence is scant. This is especially true in cases involving amateur rappers, who lack the name recognition to convince juries that they are, in fact, artists—and often the financial resources to mount a strong defense.
The use of rap lyrics in criminal proceedings has become widespread, particularly in the last decade. In this paper, I would like to explain the history of the practice, provide contemporary examples to illustrate the way(s) prosecutors use rap in the courtroom (drawing on my own experiences as an expert witness), and then consider the racial, legal, and artistic ramifications of putting rap on trial. I will conclude with suggestions for future research.
Erik Nielson is Assistant Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of Richmond. He is co-editor of the forthcoming volume Remixing Change: Hip Hop and Obama (Oxford UP) and working on his monograph, Under Surveillance: Policing the Resistance in Hip Hop (Manchester UP). He has published articles on hip hop and African American literature in a number of academic journals, as well as mainstream venues such as The Atlantic, The Guardian, NPR, and The New Republic. He is currently serving as an expert witness in three cases in which rap lyrics are being used as evidence against a defendant.
[wpspoiler name=”Rappin’ Ronald Reagan: Neoliberal U-Turns & Subversive Mourning in America
(Travis Lars Gosa, Cornell University)”]
This paper considers how hip hop challenges the geopolitical, legal, cultural, and socioeconomic legacy of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. Annual Gallup opinion polls since September 11, 2001 have resulted in the public ranking Reagan as the “greatest American president,” even above Abraham Lincoln or George Washington. Likewise, Barack Obama’s glowing admiration for “The Gipper” has at times resembled an interpresidential “bromance” (Duffy & Scherer, 2011). However, in the pop culture echo chamber of hip hop, Reagan signifies the worst of American neoliberalism and racism. In 2012, Atlanta emcee Killer Mike declared, “I’m glad Reagan dead” (“Regan,” R.A.P. Music) and threw a barbeque to celebrate the death of the man allegedly responsible for inner-city poverty, mass-incarceration, and police brutality. Jay Z’s harsh indictment, “blame Reagan for making me a monster” (“Blue Magic,” American Gangster, 2007) has been eclipsed by a new wave of artists (i.e., Kendrick Lamar, Wale, Brother Ali) who use Reagan to explain and challenge inequality, and at times, to subvert neoliberal discourse. This paper builds on the hip hop and neoliberalism literature (i.e., Cohen, 2010; Lester Spence, 2011, etc.) by linking hip hop’s current anti-Reagan rhetoric to 1980s novelty records known as “Rappin’ Ronnie records.” Special attention is given to satirical challenges to Reaganomics found in Rich Little’s “President’s Rap” (1982), Air Force 1’s “See The Light, Feel The Heat” (1984), “Rappin’ Ron Reagan” music video (undated), and Ron & the D.C. Crew’s “Ronnie’s Rap” (1986). These comedic songs are linked to the subversive, anti-Reagan messages found in Kid N’ Play’s House Party (1990). The paper concludes by considering the extent to which humor succeeds in rejecting or reproducing the neoliberal order.
Travis L. Gosa is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies. He holds a faculty appointment in the graduate field of 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 Hip Hop Collection, the largest archive on early hip hop culture in the United States. An interdisciplinary social scientist, he teaches twentieth and twenty-first century African American culture, education, and music. Gosa is editor of Remixing Change: Hip Hop & Obama (Oxford University Press, 2014; co-edited with Erik Nielson). His most recent academic 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. In addition, he has contributed scholarly essays to many critical anthologies including The Cambridge Companion To Hip Hop (Cambridge University Press, 2014), Race still Matters: African American Lived Experiences in the Twenty-First Century (SUNY University Press, 2014), and Social Media: Impact & Usage (Lexington Books, 2012). He has written for various media outlets, including Ebony, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Black Commentator, FoxNews, and Hip Hop Republican. His book-in-progress examines the relationship between hip hop culture and Black student achievement.
[wpspoiler name=”Black Aquaman: Hip Hop and the Souls of Black Superheroes
(Jason Lee Oakes, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art)”]
Since Aquaman was introduced into the DC Universe, he’s occupied a tenuous position. A character trapped between land and sea, he is perhaps the only superhero whose superpower is based in verbal dexterity (i.e., his much derided ability to communicate with sea life). In the 1990s, underground comic book artist Brian Sendelbach introduced Black Aquaman, a character doubly-marginalized by his minority status and underwhelming superpowers, but who appears perfectly happy beating up fish and watching Soul Train on the ocean floor.
Even though black superheroes may be few and far between, old school legend Fab 5 Freddy recently made the following claim:
The whole comic-book concept of adapting this alternative persona was a big inspiration on the development of hip-hop culture. Case in point: Since I’m the fastest D.J., I’m going to call myself Grandmaster Flash. You’d create this alternative urban superhero persona who could do all the cool things that you fantasize about doing—graffiti or rap or break-dancing. It inspired a lot of New York City kids. It made me a graffiti artist.
In this presentation I’ll examine the evidence backing up this statement, tracing the hip-hop/comics connection—in lyrics, images, and musical practice—from Kool Herc’s invention of the form to Ghostface Killah’s latest album. The underlying significance of this link will be analyzed in terms of fluidity of identity and double-consciousness (e.g., Clark Kent/Superman) in each domain. Finally, I’ll consider Aquaman as a special case—a “hip-hop superhero” who bridges diverse communities through his signifyin(g) powers.
Jason Lee Oakes has a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Columbia University. Since 2008 he has taught at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. His writings have been published in various academic anthologies, journals, and blogs, and he is slated to edit a hip-hop handbook for a major publisher.
[wpspoiler name=”Claiming Creation: Negotiating Economic Formalization in Senegalese Hip-Hop
(Juan Carlos Melendez-Torres, University of Pennsylvania)”]
Though still largely an informal sector due to lack of distribution infrastructure, government support, and audience purchasing power, Senegal’s music industry has attracted much international attention and funding in the past 15 years thanks to its vitality and political engagement. With money pouring in from the World Bank, national embassies, and multinational corporations, Senegalese musicians are now faced with increased demands for the formalization and integration of the music industry into state structures of regulation and mediation.
This paper focuses primarily on how the institution of funding and educational programs from foreign governments and NGOs has impacted the growth and development of hip hop in Senegal since the early 2000s, with particular attention paid to the question of professionalization and copyright reform. The complicated interpersonal and community negotiations of hip hop artists in the assembly of a new collective management society designed to replace the Bureau Senegalais du Droit d’Auteur (BSDA), the Senegalese copyright office, will serve as a case study through which to view the transnational cultural work of these efforts. What was supposed to be a significant democratization and radical decentralization of previously state-held responsibilities has resulted in rifts within the hip hop community over the systematic enclosure and exclusion inherent to the reinforcement of a privatized, corporatized copyright system in a musical culture that views creation and authorship in an intrinsically different paradigm. Using interviews and experiences collected over 14 months of fieldwork in Dakar, I aim to unpack and problematize this modernist push for “development” in contemporary Senegal.
Juan Carlos Melendez-Torres is currently a fourth-year student at the University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business. He has presented work at the Society for Ethnomusicology and the African Studies Association, and his research interests include pop music, intellectual property, and cultural policy in post-colonial francophone West Africa.
Chair: Yvonne Liao, King’s College London
[wpspoiler name=”The Fluid Fixity of Overseas Filipino Musicians in Asia’s Leisure and tourism Economy
(Anjeline de Dios, National University of Singapore)”]
Dubbed ‘Asia’s entertainers’, Filipino musicians have supplied live musical entertainment in international leisure and tourism venues since the 19th and early 20th centuries (Ng, 2005; Watkins, 2009; Keppy, 2013). Overseas Filipino musicians pose a conundrum to scholars of musical diasporas who posit a place-based homology between music and collective identity. In contrast with other diasporic musicians who seek to represent and/or reinvent the musical traditions of their homelands while abroad, Filipino musicians migrate precisely to perform the gamut of global, i.e. Anglo-American, popular music, occupying an ethnicized niche of ‘Filipino’ musical labor that is defined not so much by claims to authenticity as a historically ascribed and discursively constructed set of performative practices. How do we account for these musical mobilities—which not only encompass extensive cross-border circuits across different sites and cities of performance, but also symbolic movements across genres, audiences, and performances of cultural identity?
Drawing from 70 interviews with Filipino musicians and agents in cruise ships, and hotels and theme parks in Hong Kong, Macau, and Singapore, I situate this group of migrant musicians within the larger cultural economy of leisure/tourism venues in Asia, where live music is an auxiliary service that forms part of the overall product, the entertainment experience. I also consider how migration policy—in this instance, the Philippine government’s extensive labor migration regime—plays a role in ‘exporting’ Filipino musical talent for specifically transnational markets. I argue that these fluid geographies of cultural and migrant labor paradoxically fix Filipino musicians in an ethnicized labor niche that constrains and undervalues them even as it provides them access to economic and professional stability. By focusing on these ‘hidden musicians’ (Finnegan, 1989) on the peripheries of the global popular music industry, I hope to demonstrate that the mobilities of music also result in concomitant immobilities—and that the contradictory dynamics definitive of creative and musical labor are amplified by the ‘complex inequalities’ (McDowell, 2008) of transnational labor migration.
Anjeline de Dios is a PhD candidate at the Department of Geography, National University of Singapore. She is currently completing her thesis on overseas Filipino musicians in international leisure venues in Asia. Her research interests include migration/mobilities, geographies of music, and cultural/creative economies.
[wpspoiler name=”Burmese Pop Music on Tour in the United States
(Heather MacLachlan, University of Dayton)”]
During the past decade, professional Burmese pop musicians have performed concert tours in the United States with increasing frequency. Typically, these tours last two to three months and include eight or more concerts in American cities with large Burmese migrant and refugee populations. This case study of music “flowing” around the world reveals factors that facilitate and impede the movement of musicians and sounds. For example, these concert tours are organized by educated and entrepreneurial members of the Burmese diaspora; there are no corporations or full-time professionals working as tour organizers. The nature of Burmese pop music culture – in which celebrities are much more accessible to their fans than American pop stars – facilitates the personal connections which are the impetus for the tours. Conversely, the United States’ stringent P-3 (performance) visa requirements sometimes prevent Burmese musicians from traveling as planned. These findings reveal the existence of a worldwide network of Burmese elites whose social interactions form the bedrock over which the stream of Burmese pop music “flows.” At the same time, and following Philip Q. Yang’s call (2011) for more scholarly attention to be paid to the impact of immigration/emigration policies in both the United States and in Asian countries, they highlight the role played by national governments in regulating music-making across the globe. This presentation is based on data collected during interviews with performers and tour organizers in Burma and the United States.
Heather MacLachlan, Ph.D., (Cornell University, 2009) is Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. She is the author of Burma’s Pop Music Industry: Creators Distributors, Censors (University of Rochester Press, 2011).
[wpspoiler name=”“Travelling without Moving”: Theorizing the Im/mobility of the Ambient Music Listener
(Victor Szabo, University of Virginia)”]
Ambient music often thematizes the experience of technologized listening through metaphors of bodily immobility in transport. Brian Eno’s Music for Airports (1978) was conceived for the liminal zone of the airport, where one travels even while waiting to board; Manuel Göttsching improvised E2E4 (1981) so to have something to listen to while flying; and ambient music still floods the tunnels where moving walkways haul passengers between terminals at the Detroit Metro and Chicago O’Hare airports. The inactivity of ambient listeners was likewise pronounced in the chill-out rooms of clubs like London’s Heaven, where clubbers substituted the labor of dancing for psychic pirouettes, and DJs like Alex Patterson took listeners on “trips” through juxtapositions of new age, dub, and house. Ambient house records like The KLF’s Chill Out (1990) meanwhile floated listeners through clouds of sound, as anodyne melodies zoomed across the stereo field to Doppler-esque effect.
These cases open a space for inquiring into the dialectical relationship between bodily stillness and psychic transport that is both enacted and thematized by ambient music. Threading together these recordings and histories, I propose that electronic ambient music records serve as technologies of listener dis-embodiment. The musical thematization of this listening experience, I argue, reflects listeners’ identification with these electr(on)ic technologies of transport, rather than with their own physical bodies. I then draw upon a survey of ambient music fans, as well as theoretical insights from Jody Berland and Drew Leder, to suggest how ambient music might mediate and construct listeners’ sense of self-identity.
VICTOR SZABO is a PhD candidate in Critical & Comparative Studies in Music at the University of Virginia. He has presented at IASPM-US and SMT, and has an article forthcoming in JPMS. His dissertation investigates the aesthetics and politics of ambient music through a cultural history of ambient recordings.
[wpspoiler name=”Queer of Color Engagement with Participatory Media
(Christopher Johnson-Roberson, Brown University)”]
Queer and trans* people of color (QTPoC) make extensive use of online platforms such as Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, and SoundCloud to disseminate their cultural production. In contrast to earlier mass-mediated representations such as Paris is Burning, QTPoC distribute self-produced DJ mixes and videos of voguing and drag performance through participatory media. Some of the most central individuals in these networks of circulation do not identify as queer or of color, raising anew the questions of exoticization and appropriation. Nonetheless, the fluid circulation of these media artifacts (tethered to the ability to interact with their creators) may be crucial in fostering the empathy and political will needed to improve the material conditions of QTPoC.
Drawing upon media studies, critical geography, and computational sociology, I examine online interactions surrounding QTPoC cultural production in their material and affective dimensions, emphasizing the systemic restrictions imposed on these virtual encounters. Despite the potential for constructive dialogue across difference and material support through crowdfunding initiatives, QTPoC creators are frequently rendered invisible by corporate imperatives enacted through algorithmic control. For example, during a brief period after Tumblr’s purchase by Yahoo in 2013, vast swaths of queer content were automatically marked as “Not Safe For Work” and hidden from search engines, effectively preventing outsiders from seeing or interacting with these communities. I interpret this algorithmic regulation of virtual space as a corollary to the neoliberal restructuring of physical space, ultimately contemplating the possibilities for alternative networks that would allow QTPoC cultural production to flow freely.
AV: Video and sound, displayed from a laptop
Chris Johnson-Roberson is a Ph.D student in Ethnomusicology at Brown University. His research interests include Afro-Diasporic music, queerness, and virtual communities. He studies how black artists and their audiences incorporate technology into aesthetic practice, social interaction, and embodied experience.
Ecologies of Place
Chair: Robert Fry, Vanderbilt University
[wpspoiler name=”Music, Dance, Theater, Water: Environmental Justice and Ananya Dance Theatre
(Allison Adrian, St. Catherine University)”]
Water is of central importance to Minneapolis-based Ananya Dance Theater, who perform at the intersection of art and activism. The music that shapes their performances captures both the power and fragility of this all-important natural resource, in addition to complementing their philosophy of critical global citizenship. Water is a resource important to us all, though the consequences of water shortages and pollution affect communities differently depending on their social and geographic locations. The majority of the dancers are women of color; their work highlights the disproportionate effects environmental issues have on women of color across the globe. Therefore, an important goal of the music is the alignment of water as an issue of both local and global significance. The music and dance are performed in ways that model this interconnectedness. The music must not overwhelm the significance of the embodied sounds of intricate footwork and breathing involved in the dance technique [called Yorchha]; the dance makes space for the music as well as for silence. Through a mix of improvisatory live singing, a pre-composed musical score, and literal recordings of water, Ananya Dance Theater’s auditory landscape maps non-human environmental entities like water to the human condition to demonstrate both the human and non-human stakes of water scarcity and pollution. In doing so, Ananya Dance Theater urges its audiences to connect themselves to their environment, as well as to environments and people (especially women) across the world, and join a community of resistance that acknowledges the global impact of environmental injustice.
Allison Adrian currently works as an Assistant Professor of Music at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She received her M.A. in ethnomusicology from UCLA in 2003, and her Ph.D. in musicology/ethnomusicology from the University of Minnesota in 2008. Her interests include music and gender, immigration, and religion.
[wpspoiler name=”Stone and Ice: Resonant metaphors of Jón Leifs ecological music in Iceland’s soundscape
(Leslie C. Gay Jr., University of Tennessee)”]
Increasing attention has focussed on ecological metaphors in the music of Iceland’s contemporary musicians, and the ways in which such works form a foundation for Icelandic cultural identities and nation building. Notably, Björk has tied her music to her campaign for environmental protection in Iceland and Sigur Rós’ ambient music has proved mimetic of Iceland’s open landscapes (Dibben, 2009). While these examples help highlight contemporary relationships between sound and nature, these links are informed and complicated by similar questions from earlier in the twentieth century, about Iceland’s soundscape, the natural world, and national identities.
To this end, I explore the work of Jón Leifs, a modernist composer whose early work concerned Icelandic folk ideologies and whose later works emerge as mimetic and metaphorical renderings of geology into musical sound. Interpretation of these works within Iceland’s soundscape and identity formation is complicated by a period of Leif’s residence in Germany, where he worked with the musicologist E.M. von Hornbostel in Berlin, and remained in Germany after the rise of the Nazis.
Leif’s works served to advance his view of a Nordic imaginary in ways that resonated with both German National Socialist ideals and foundational notions of Icelandic music and nature. Through methodologies from ecomusicology and sound studies, I consider Leif and his ideological context, to argue a deeper historical appreciation of Icelandic identities, blending notions of “folk” and art, and essentially tied to Iceland’s landscape of stone and ice.
Leslie C. Gay Jr., Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee, holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from Columbia University. He has published articles and reviews on American music and culture in the journals Ethnomusicology, American Music, and World of Music. His research also appears in Ethnomusicology: A Contemporary Reader (Routledge, 2005, edited by Jennifer C. Post). With his collaborator, René Lysloff, he conceptualized, co-edited, and contributed to Music and Technoculture (Wesleyan University Press, 2003), which examines emerging and dynamic relationships among music, culture, and technology.
[wpspoiler name=”Sounds of Recovery and Protest in Appalachian Ohio
(Brian Harnetty, Ohio University)”]
In Appalachian Ohio, several distinct soundscapes emerge and are in conflict with one another. Wayne National Forest continues a 75-year cycle of recovery even as coal is dug from under it, threatening the watershed from beneath the earth’s surface. In addition, up to 130 hydraulic fracturing gas wells on the forest’s public land have been approved for future drilling. “Dosers” pour alkaline lime into Monday Creek, successfully neutralizing acid mine drainage, while elsewhere radioactive fracking wastewater illegally spills back into streams. For more than 150 years, the region has undergone many iterations of boom and bust cycles, as well as cycles of degradation and recovery. In listening to the present, however, it is apparent that these cycles are not following one after the other, but are concurrent, emerging and dissipating at different rates, flowing together, and in tension with each another. Amid these soundscapes another emerges, that of protest. Activists chain themselves to wells as a form of non-violent “direct action” against fracking amongst shouts of encouragement from their peers, and protest songs originally written against coal mining are adapted to reflect new threats. This paper asks what are the sounds and rhythms of recovery and of protest in the region, and critically listens to how they affect each other, run together, and leak into one another.
Brian Harnetty is a composer and artist from Ohio, and his work involves overlooked elements of sound. Many of his pieces transform found material––including field recordings, transcriptions, and historic recordings––into personal sound worlds. Harnetty received degrees in music composition from the Royal Academy of Music, London (M.Mus.) and The Ohio State University (B.Mus.). He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts at Ohio University, where his dissertation research connects sound, archives, place, and performance. Harnetty’s music is released by Chicago’s Atavistic Records.
[wpspoiler name=”Mediated Ecomusicological Flows: The Nexus of Sonic Materiality and Ecotourism in the National Parks Project
(Kate Galloway, Memorial University of Newfoundland)”]
In order to reengage society with “natural” spaces, explore sonic-spatial collaborations; thereby promoting ecotourism, the sonic-arts are employed in a myriad of ways to position National Parks as sites of play, exploration, and ecological preservation. This presentation questions the process and impact of forging of creative alliances between community, government, and creative industries/actors that engage in meaningful collaborative encounters with, and representations of, specific environs. In celebration of Parks Canada’s centenary (2011), the National Parks Project (NPP) arranged for the collaboration between filmmakers and musicians to compose documentary films and soundtracks that evocatively interpret and sonify emplaced experience and environmental encounter with Canada’s National Parks. These sonically-eclectic performances incorporate local performance resources, and fuse environment, heritage, community, and artistic engagement. The NPP problematize “wilderness” spaces that have been deliberately preserved and cultivated by conservation, government bodies, and cultural stakeholders, and perform nationhood, while memorializing idealized “wilderness”. Thus, serving as cultural heritage initiatives that disseminate multivalent spatial responses. In these instances of arts-driven ecotourism, creative expression is employed as a way of sensing place (Feld and Basso 1996), performing nature (Szerszynski, Heim and Waterton 2003), and engendering multisensory ludic creative practices. Drawing sensory historian Mark Smith’s call to sound scholars to “get their ears wet” I explore the waterways of wilderness in these eco-cinematic music documentaries, interrogating the flows of socio-environmental knowledge these sonic initiatives sought to elicit through music and environmental sound to engender activism, a conservationism aesthetic, environmental ethics, and how National Parks eco-heritage are disseminated, constructed, and adopted.
4-6 (Plenary Session)
IASPM-US History (Roundtable)
Anahid Kassabian (via skype)
IASPM-US has undertaken a substantial project to document the history of the organization, primarily through interviews with past presidents of IASPM-US and editors of the Journal of Popular Music Studies. The members of the history project committee are Barry Shank, Reebee Garofalo, Steve Waksman, Lauren Onkey, Jason Hanley, and Justin Burton, but the interviews are being conducted primarily by volunteers affiliated with IASPM-US so that the resulting history is shaped by participants across the organization. The goals of the project are to yield published accounts of IASPM-US’s history as well as to house significant organizational documents at the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame’s library and archives.
We are proposing a two-hour roundtable a session that will feature a discussion among participants in this project. Moderating the discussion will be Steve Waksman and Justin Burton, who have been coordinating interviews for the history project’s committee. The primary subjects of the discussion will be a collection of past IASPM-US presidents and JPMS editors, who will share their experiences with the organization and discuss the importance of IASPM-US to the larger field of popular music studies from its creation in the early 1980s to the present. We have not yet coordinated the list of panel participants but we anticipate 4-6 panelists plus the moderators, and we expect to have no difficulty securing participation from a suitable range of figures representing some of the history of IASPM-US.
Steve Waksman is Professor of Music and American Studies at Smith College. He is the author of Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience (Harvard UP, 1999) and This Ain’t the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk (U. California, 2009). With Reebee Garofalo, he is co-author of Rockin’ Out: Popular Music in the U.S.A., 6th edition (Pearson, 2013). Currently he is researching a new book tentatively titled, “Live Music in America: A History, 1850-2000,” and co-editing the Sage Handbook of Popular Music with Andy Bennett.
Justin D Burton (justindburton.wordpress.com) is Assistant Professor of Music at Rider University. His work revolves around the posthuman in popular music, especially hip hop, and he has recent and forthcoming publications in the Journal of Popular Culture, the Journal of the Society for American Music, and the Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies.
IASPM-US Business meeting
IASPM-US DJ night
201-C East Main Street Carrboro, North Carolina 27510
9 PM – 2 AM
Featuring DJ sets by:
- Doctor Dakar (freestyle/ bass)
- DJ Play Play (juke/ footwork/ jungle)
- Fifi HiFi
- LMGM (disco/ house)
- The Attic Bat (grime/ trap)
- Bit Faker (acid house)
- Supreme Court (new wave)
Sunday, March 16
Watery metaphors: Songs
Chair: Josh Ottum, Ohio University
[wpspoiler name=”Rock’s Forbidden Elements: US Maple’s Deconstruction of Syntax
(Dan Ruccia, independent scholar)”]
The music of the rock group US Maple tends to be described by fans and critics as “deconstructing”—in the colloquial sense of the word—rock music. The band itself has disavowed the term for its pejorative implications. Instead, they insist that they are simply a rock band crafting songs in the hard rock tradition, not “splicing music and nailing it together in the ‘wrong place.’” This paper argues that US Maple’s music does more than simply “deconstructing” certain elements of traditional rock music; it also evinces principles from Derrida’s polyvalent corpus collectively known as “deconstruction.” One thread of Derridean deconstruction posits that semiotic systems are inherently beyond the control of their users, such that any hierarchy contains within it the seeds of its own undoing and that any subordinated concept has unconscious power over the dominant concept. In this paper, I describe how US Maple performs what Marcel Cobussen terms “deconstruction in music” to the case of conventional hard rock tropes. I analyze how US Maple build rock out of what Allan Moore calls “forbidden” elements, investigating how they play with the signification of chords, pulses, and rhythmic structures to destabilize the meaning of the song. I show that, for US Maple, deconstruction arises from the sustained focus on small elements outside of rock’s conventional syntactic structure, on the intentional iteration of normally spontaneous phonic elements, on questioning what can and should be repeated in a rock song.
Dan Ruccia (b. 1982) is a Durham, NC, based composer. He writes music that exists at the intersection of different styles, forms, and genres, particularly free jazz and punk in all of its manifestations. He recently completed his Ph.D. in composition at Duke University. He is currently an independent scholar.
[wpspoiler name=”Stasis and Flow in Duke Ellington’s “The Mooche”
(Nate Sloan, Stanford University)”]
The corpus of works from Duke Ellington’s early career that earned the appellation “jungle music” feature a remarkable sonic palette: growling trumpets, talking trombones, crashing symbols, and guttural, wordless vocals. That these musical effects were implicitly racialized by their “jungle” connotation and regarded as a novelties by contemporary critics should not belie their significance and influence on the development of early jazz. This paper argues that the vocabulary for discussing Ellington’s “jungle music” is undeveloped in jazz studies, which take the song forms and improvisatory approach of Bebop as an analytic standard. Ellington’s “jungle” compositions, by contrast, embody a different set of values, articulated in 1928’s “The Mooche,” where harmonic stasis prevails and melodic interest lies in the flowstream between pitches, rather than the organicist forms and precise phrasing favored by later swing and bop bands.
By turning to the shifting, sounding surface of Ellington’s “jungle” music, and the techniques of key soloists like Bubber Miley and “Tricky Sam” Nanton, the significance of works like “The Mooche” can begin to be reassessed through a heuristic of stasis and flow. In turn, the spaces in which these “jungle” tunes were performed can illuminate Ellington’s compositional approach. As backdrops to cabaret acts, whether at the Club Kentucky or the Cotton Club, Ellington’s band developed to develop a sound that embodied black difference for dilettante white audiences. In essaying to define the exact contours of that sound, an appreciation of another aspect of Ellington’s craft emerges.
Nate Sloan is a PhD candidate in musicology at Stanford University, working on a dissertation on the Cotton Club. He scored the film Slomo (2013), shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Short Documentary, and is one-half of the guerilla theater production, The Gideon and Hubcap Show, which performs exclusively in living rooms.
[wpspoiler name=”A Horrible Mush, Muddy and Tortured: Toward a Semiotics of (Watery) Musical Invective
(Nicholas Laudadio, University of North Carolina Wilmington)”]
This talk begins with the premise that musical invective can and should be considered a productive political/cultural site as well as a valuable target for pop music analysis. That is, that critical analysis of negative, public reactions to music can help us resist standard canon-making impulses and wonder, as Carl Wilson does, “what unpleasant truths might we learn from looking closer at our musical fears and loathings.” The language of critical dismissal is easily as expansive and unmanageable as the music it derides, but by isolating a few of its more recognizable patterns I hope to demonstrate how invective can serve as an effective barometer for persistent cultural controversies. By considering what people hate and how they talk about this hatred I hope to make more clear how invective, negativity, and ‘hating’ have a central part in our larger understanding of the place of popular music in everyday life.
In line with the conference’s larger goals, I will focus this talk on images of water and liquidity as disparaging critical signifiers in a series of high-profile negative reviews. Examples of this can be found in the pages of Rolling Stone from the early 70s, where reviewers refer to Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain (1971) “muddy and jumbled” and dismiss Kraftwerk’s 1973 release Ralf und Florian as “musical Chinese water torture.” Calling George Clinton’s work ‘muddy’ and ‘mush’ in turn highlights the band’s subversive racial politics (Robert Christgau once called them “surrealist black vaudeville”) and using the blandest, yet meanest of tortures to signify Kraftwerk reinforces the primacy of the band’s metronomic and minimalist style that would go on to be so powerfully influential. Basically, by examining a critical tradition of dismissal and disdain, I hope to better understand not just issues of taste and refinement in 20th century musical culture, but also to show how knowing who we are and what we like depends so much on declaring who we aren’t and what we hate.
Nicholas C. Laudadio is an associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has published on science fiction, popular music, and music technology and is currently at work on a cultural analysis of musical invective. In addition to his academic work, he also runs a small recording studio in North Carolina and has recorded, played, and toured for many years as a drummer and guitarist.
The Phonograph Record
Chair: Kyle Barnett, Bellarmine University
[wpspoiler name=”Tracking Edible Phonography: Record Eating, Collecting, and Musical Taste
(Shawn VanCour, NYU;
Kyle Barnett, Bellarmine University)”]
Throughout the history of recorded sound, strong links between acts of music and food consumption have shaped popular representations of sound media and structured listeners’ relationships with their music. This paper explores these connections through a comparative analysis of novelty records, marketing discourses, and representations in popular film and television aimed at two demographics: children and adults. For the children’s market, we reveal a long history of edible records designed for physical ingestion (e.g., chocolate, bubble gum), dating back to the early 1900s, as well as persistent discursive linkages between music and food consumption in examples ranging from promotional cereal box records to scenes in children’s movies and cartoons. For adult consumers, we track the history of marketing strategies that position record consumption as a means of enhancing good meals (from ads for early turntables to later hi fi systems), and analyze the resurgence of record-eating imagery in special pressings of candy-colored records by indie labels and TV ads aimed at indie viewers (e.g., Carrie Brownstein biting into vinyl collectibles to test their authenticity). We argue that these linkages between music and food consumption speak to deep-seated desires to possess music as an object that, for the children’s market, assume an anarchistic inflection – unseating the established “adult” order by indulging in inappropriate object choices. For the adult indie market, this anarchistic impulse is reconfigured within an oppositional taste logic (rejecting mainstream tastes) and opens onto a larger Eros of collecting (seeking total possession of the object through physical incorporation).
Kyle Barnett is an associate professor in media studies at Bellarmine University’s School of Communication. His articles have appeared in The Journal of Popular Music Studies, Music, Sound and the Moving Image and various anthologies. He is currently completing work on his first book, Sound Institutions: the Transformation of the Recording Industry, 1920-1935.
Shawn VanCour is Visiting Assistant Professor of Media, Culture & Communication at NYU. He has published articles on classical music in early radio, listening in public spaces, music and sound design in early television, web radio, Rudolf Arnheim’s radio theory, and the origins of modern broadcasting archives. He is completing a book about radio’s impact on early twentieth century sound culture, and pursuing a second on early television production.
[wpspoiler name=”The 78 as Surrealist Object
(Elizabeth Lindau, Wesleyan University)”]
In his first “Manifesto of Surrealism” (1924), André Breton outlined the practice of automatism: a mode of spontaneous artistic production bypassing intention. Surrealist automatists were “simple receptacles of so many echoes, modest recording instruments.” The automatic writer’s pen aspires to the dispassionate scrawls of the cutting stylus as it responds to sonic stimulus. The resultant discs, containing “so many echoes” of sound, speech, and music, have since been assembled into (unintentionally) surrealist record collections (Shuker, 2010). Here, disparate times, places, genres, and voices coexist. Sound recordings become surrealist objects: bits of outmoded detritus that are found (not created), combined, and re-classified. Just as Breton and his compatriots filled their domiciles with bizarre, museum-like displays of objects, record collectors assemble diverse voices and musicians of the past.
My presentation is particularly concerned with the surrealist qualities of early recordings and post-1950 78 r.p.m. record collecting practices. Several radical 20th Century artists created outsider personae based on their personal collections of shellac discs—singles collected after the vinyl LP supplanted the earlier medium. Such artists include the illustrator and album cover artist R. Crumb, avant-garde filmmaker and folklorist Harry Smith, and American guitarist John Fahey. A collector of pre-war discs, Fahey recorded using the medium as late as 1958, and incorporated excerpts from 78 r.p.m. recordings into his sound collage “Requiem for Molly” (Requia, 1968). I reflect on the materiality of 78s as fragmentary visual traces of past musics, and show how they are deployed in performers’ neo-avant-garde artworks and personae.
Elizabeth Lindau is Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Wesleyan University. Her work explores rock’s revitalization of avant-garde artistic practices. Her essays on Sonic Youth and Brian Eno appear in the collections Tomorrow is the Question: New Directions in Experimental Music Studies and Brian Eno: Oblique Music (both forthcoming 2014).
[wpspoiler name=”Wax Romantic: Contemporary Vinyl Culture and the Business of Selling Records in a (Digital Media Economy;
Michael Palm, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)”]
Despite vinyl’s near-death experience during the dawn of digital music, today the format is universally acknowledged as here to stay, and its resiliency is widely recognized as evidence that commercial popular culture need not be dominated by online access to digitized content. As significant as vinyl’s climbing sales are the venues in which records are being sold: independent merchants sell over two-thirds of new vinyl records. The political virtue of vinyl’s resurgence lies in the format’s demonstrated ability to thrive outside of any corporate retail machinery. And from a political-economic perspective, the digital bogeyman haunting vinyl has less to do with sound fidelity or cover art than media oligopoly.
In this paper I analyze two aspects of contemporary vinyl culture 1) the reissue of out-of-print records and 2) the annual event, Record Store Day, when a slew of limited-edition releases are distributed to participating (and primarily independent) shops. The market in reissued records and the new annual holiday each deserve credit for bolstering if not resuscitating vinyl sales; however, each is also in part responsible for what the founders of Numero Group, an archival record label based in Chicago, have dubbed “the vinyl bubble.” Records in the US now cost $25 on average, a figure inflated by deluxe reissues and box sets featuring all sorts of bells and whistles. Here I describe reissues and Record Store Day as inflationary engines, in order to identify strategies for nurturing a sustainable market for records by deflating the vinyl bubble before it pops.
Michael Palm is an Assistant Professor of Technology and Media Studies in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is currently finishing a book about the history of self-service technology and beginning a book about the contemporary traffic in vinyl records.
Anointing Sounds: Holy Ghost Reservoirs in an Age of Mass Media (Roundtable)
James Bielo, Miami University
Anderson Blanton, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Rory Johnson, Miami University
This roundtable engages the relationship among mediation, music’s materiality, and the subjectivity of religious experience. Presenters pose a series of questions to explore this rich encounter, including: how have changing technologies structured religious communities’ production and consumption of musical forms? What kind of exchange are the co-construction of audiences and genre performances locked in? How do religious actors employ various media to excite or challenge the sensorium as part of legitimacy claims? How do the materialities of music fuel religious aspirations toward prayer, praise, intimacy, and transcendence?
This roundtable uses the entanglement of body, voice, sensation, object, space, and industry to conceptualize the power and agency of individuals, collectivities, traditions, and materialities. To examine these concerns, participants draw from ethnographic, historical, and textual data on two American religious musical assemblages: the Black Gospel of southern migrants in Chicago and the ways in which praise performances among Appalachian Holiness churches have been influenced and organized by mass mediated forms of charismatic healing prayer.
Following the theme of “water flows,” we explore the dialectical currents among metaphors of Christian liquidity (e.g., “anointing,” “healing waters”), bodily performances of Holy Ghost ecstasy, and technology strategies for intensifying spiritual resonance. We address the role of music’s materiality in damming sites of sounding, redirecting flows of authority, charisma, sociality, memory, and sacrality: retaining energy in selected areas of social and religious life while flooding, eroding, and re-depositing others. Producers and consumers of music build and protest such dams, and in doing so navigate shifting social tides, phenomenological dilemmas, and their own social location.
James Bielo (Miami University) is Lecturer of Anthropology at Miami University. He is the author of Words upon the Word: An Ethnography of Evangelical Bible Study (NYU Press, 2009), Emerging Evangelicals: Faith, Modernity, and the Desire for Authenticity (NYU Press, 2011), and editor of The Social Life of Scriptures: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Biblicism (Rutgers Press, 2009). email@example.com
Anderson Blanton (UNC-Chapel Hill) is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As part of a two-year research project funded by the Social Science Research Council, his work traces the history of Pentecostal healing prayer in relation to devotional objects and media technologies. His first book, Until the Stones Cry Out: Materiality, Technology and Faith in the Pentecostal Tradition will be published next year with the University of North Carolina Press (2014). firstname.lastname@example.org
Rory Johnson (Miami University) is an Assistant Professor of Comparative Religion at Miami University. His work focuses on the intersection between critical theory and New World African Religions. His current project is a study of the aesthetics of identity and memory in religious commodity production in the African American Gospel tradition. email@example.com
“Go Away Little Girl”: The Ephemeral Girl’s Voice in Popular Music
Chair: Allison Adrian, St. Catherine University
Girl performers and musical girlishness serve as sites for both repulsion and fascination. Puzzling over the vitriol aimed at erstwhile Disney princess Anne Hathaway in the wake of her 2013 Academy Award win, The New Yorker suggested that girls are seen as “ridiculous, annoying, and a little disgusting. They’re glittery, they squeal, they like attention.” At the same time, reality show audiences rise to their feet and applaud the precocious performances of tween singers as they reach for the high notes in a challenging aria or belt out the refrain to a Celine Dion chart-topper. Drawing on scientific, psychoanalytic, and sociological perspectives, this panel will investigate the cultural circulation of girl vocality against the changing ideologies and meanings attached to girlhood in the 21st century.
[wpspoiler name=”Uncanny Voices: Vocal Development, Mimicry, and “Girl” Singers
(Jacqueline Warwick, Dalhousie University)”]
Child performers delight us with dazzling technical skill and charisma, contrasted with their tiny bodies and fresh-faced innocence. The ability to juxtapose these characteristics successfully is essential for girl singers, a quality of being simultaneously “bigger than big and smaller than small.” But how is this effect achieved? When the sound of an adult woman flows from the throat of a pre- pubescent girl, what can we learn about the art of performance, the science of vocal development, and the phenomenon of girlhood?
During adolescence, the female voice typically acquires a husky tone with frequent “cracks,” losing the child’s clarity and accuracy of pitch for some years before settling into its womanly tone. Yet some pre-adolescent girls are able to produce the sounds of adult women with uncanny success, and as these precocious girls mimic women’s voices and emotions, they blur the boundary between child and adult in unsettling ways.
Further, while little girls such as Sophia Grace unsettle audiences with their masquerades of womanhood, female adult artists such as Grimes employ breathy, light vocal textures that sound girlish. These kinds of vocal mimicry highlight the flexibility of the female vocal apparatus, forcing listeners to consider the fluidity of “girl” and “woman” as identity positions. In this paper, I explore the appeal of mimicking adult voices to singing girl prodigies, and the possible value of frail, childlike singing to women.
Jacqueline Warwick is an associate professor of Music at Dalhousie University, the author of Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s (Routledge, 2007), and the current president of IASPM-Canada.
[wpspoiler name=”“O Mio B a m b i n o Caro”: Jackie Evancho and the Performance of Girlhood
(Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, Rider University)”]
In 2010, ten-year-old Jackie Evancho catapulted to stardom after her YouTube video of “Panis Angelicus” earned her a highly coveted spot on the reality show America’s Got Talent. The apparent incongruity between the diminutive popera star’s voice (which to the untrained ear sounds “adult”) and body (that of a child) frequently engenders chatter within critical circles, much in the same way Charlotte Church’s did a decade earlier. Drawing from artist- and fan-generated media, this paper begins by situating Evancho’s “in betweenness,” or, “uncanniness” to use Freud’s term, within the context of contemporary discourses surrounding child celebrity image making and the fluidity of postmodern-girlhood (Freud 1919; Willis 2008). It then turns to the close analysis of staging, vocal technique, and repertoire in order to show how Evancho “performs” girlhood. Despite a cultural landscape marked by both the sexualization of “girls gone bad” and disdain for the helicopter parent and tiger mother, Evancho presents an idealized girlhood manufactured neither for tweens nor for the gaze of men, but for middle-aged “cat ladies,” to quote one journalist. Taking this marginalized audience as its subject, the last part of the paper evaluates Evancho’s marketing strategy and considers how fan communities engage with her celebrity and the meanings they attach to it. Using Jackie Evancho as a case study, this paper ultimately fills a lacuna in American music scholarship by offering a critical perspective on a genre (popera), an audience (middle-aged women), and a contemporary phenomenon (the YouTube star) that have yet to be explored.
Dana Gorzelany-Mostak is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music at Westminster Choir College. Her research interests include music and U.S. presidential politics, music culture post-9/11, film musicals, opera and popular culture, and music and disability.
[wpspoiler name=”Valuing and Vilifying the New Girl Voice
(Diane Pecknold, University of Louisville)”]
At the turn of this decade, popular discourse about the badness of adolescent “girl” vocality seemed to spew forth everywhere, depicting the teen girl voice as a dangerously mobile sound that overflowed the boundaries of age and gender to engulf all popular music. Detractors used language like “gum-smacking” and “bratty” to describe the annoying quality of Ke$ha’s excessively Auto- Tuned voice. Rebecca Black’s “Friday” became a metonym for bad music in part because her “pinched and stilted” voice seemed to embody teen pop clichés so ineptly as to border on parody (one critic described it as “an alien attempting to pass as an average American girl”). And while she was celebrated as a songwriter, Taylor Swift’s pitch and intonation problems were widely criticized as the irritating imperfections of the teenage girl voice. The mobile badness of teen girl vocality even threatened to contaminate everyday speech. The Huffington Post, The New York Times, and MSNBC all reported on the spread of the “vocal fry”—a grating glottal rattle they attributed to the influence of pop singers like Britney Spears and Ke$ha.
This paper considers how the sounds associated with the teen girl voice have shifted in the twenty- first century and how the new “girl” vocal persona is valued and vilified in popular music culture. Building on the work of Laurie Stras and Jacqueline Warwick, I contrast current signifiers of teen girl pop vocality with those established in the 1960s, asking how the transition from corporeally produced vulnerability and immaturity to technologically manipulated self-display might contribute to widespread loathing of the teen girl voice in contemporary music culture and reveal intense anxieties about the flux and flow of the female body between childhood and adulthood.
Diane Pecknold is Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Louisville. She is the author of The Selling Sound: The Rise of The Country Music Industry, editor of Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music, and co-editor of A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music. She is currently at work, with Sarah Dougher, on a book about tween music and serves as vice-president of IASPM-US.
Wet Music at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
Chair: Steve Weiss, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
[wpspoiler name=”Down Where the Wurzburger Flows: Wet and Dry Music during the Temperance and Prohibition Era
(Lytton McDonnell, Rutgers University)”]
During the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, issues of temperance and prohibition provided a rich context for Americans to explore the relationship between music and fluidity. This paper will focus on how anti-drink activists, saloon-goers, and commercial music entrepreneurs addressed this relationship from the 1880s to the 1920s.
For many temperance advocates the power of song could not be overestimated, and over the decades they amassed hundreds of songs in support of their cause. Some songs endorsed the drinking of “pure water” as a physical and metaphorical antidote to the dangers of alcohol. Many others presented the anti-drink cause as a “dry” movement intended to overcome the social and spiritual depravity of so-called “wet” culture. Strict and rigid adherence to Victorian notions of propriety attracted many supporters and helped enact legal prohibitions against alcohol following the First World War.
Beyond these victories, however, notions of fluidity—literal, cultural, economic, and otherwise—were gaining musical momentum. Although lovers of alcohol and patrons of drinking establishments mounted limited formal resistance to the growing Dry campaign, they did pursue informal acts of resistance, for example through the singing of drinking songs and the attendance of musical performances in venues where alcohol was commonplace. As musical entertainment underwent a commercial revolution, professionals adapted “wet” songs and musical practices from the barroom to the stage, and eventually to sound recordings. With the success of such songs as “The Moon Shines on the Moonshine” and the growing association of jazz with illicit drinking in speakeasies during the 1920s, popular music emerged as a powerful symbol of wet resistance and helped dissolve the structures of meaning undergirding Dry claims to moral legitimacy.
Lytton McDonnell is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at Rutgers University. Originally from Canada, he has earned degrees from the University of Ottawa and the University of Victoria and has studied music composition and performance at Selkirk College. His research interests include the cultural history of music, emotion, religion, and consumerism in America.
[wpspoiler name=”Getting Wet in the Early American Picture Theater: An Illustrated Song Experience
(60 minute lecture-demonstration)
(Esther Morgan-Ellis, University of North Georgia)”]
The illustrated song, today largely forgotten, is a charming remnant of early twentieth-century American popular culture, and a wide audience can enjoy and learn from reconstructed performances of this distinctive sing-along. One hundred years ago, when the illustrated song was at its peak in terms of ubiquity and innovation, patrons of “nickelodeon” movie houses across the United States expected to encounter illustrated songs in-between films. The performance of an illustrated song required a vocalist (often short on talent), a pianist, and a projectionist. This last-named would cast appropriate images onto the screen during the performance. Illustrated song slides, almost all of which feature hand-colored photographic images, were produced by lantern slide manufacturers in New York City and Chicago. The slides were comissioned by music publishers and often supplied to theaters at no cost, with the expectation that the brightly-colored illustrations would make new songs more appealing and increase sheet music sales. Routinely terrible performances and increasing competition between publishers drove the illustrated song into exinction after 1913.
In this lecture-recital, I will present a number of illustrated songs with piano accompaniment and complete sets of slides as they would have been experienced in the theater, interspersed with a discussion of the history, purpose, impact, and ultimate demise of this unique practice. To honor the theme of the IASPM-US conference in Chapel Hill, I have selected songs that engage with waterways and slides that feature watery scenes. These include the comic “Bobbin’ Up and Down” (1913), the exhuberant “Here Comes the Whippoorwill” (1913), and the sentimental “She Waits by the Deep Blue Sea” (1905).
Esther Morgan-Ellis holds a PhD in music history from Yale University. She is currently on the faculty at the University of North Georgia. Her research concerns movie theater sing-alongs of the 1920s and ’30s, and she has presented papers and lecture-recitals at numerous national conferences. Esther is also active as a cellist and singer. As a professional chorister, she has toured internationally, performed on commercial recordings, and appeared in concerts with the New York Philharmonic.
Woody Guthrie & the Movements of Modernity
Chair: Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama
Woody Guthrie is the foundational “ramblin’ man,” the benevolent drifter with heart and ears cast receptively toward his fellow man. This panel dramatically deepens and diversifies this image, reorienting the trope of movement so that it speaks at multiple levels—the temporal, the global/oceanic, the regional, the molecular—in the service of depicting Guthrie’s engagement with, and critique of, mid-century modernity. These papers highlight the lesser-known, later period Guthrie: the post-war period, when his most famous songs had already been recorded, and when he had embarked on an amazingly diverse and productive range of work, despite the onset of the debilitating symptoms of Huntington’s Disease.
[wpspoiler name=”Drifter, Hustler, Public Agent: Sign Systems and Social Movement from Guthrie to Pynchon
(Edward P. Comentale, Indiana University)”]
Taking its cue from the figure of the drifter, this paper charts a somewhat rambling course from the radical social movements of the 1930s to those of the 1960s, particularly as the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the two eras reflects a larger historical shift from modernism to postmodernism. The paper begins with Guthrie’s famous invocation of the drifter and then tracks the figure’s movement through post-war culture as he becomes less a migrant laborer than an increasingly savvy and supple reader of sign systems, maintaining social otherness as a street hustler and then a public agent in the work of Burroughs and Pynchon. In general, this shifting figure seems to represent the larger fate of counter-cultural social movement in twentieth-century America not just in its increasing alienation, but also in its redirecting of political energy away from economic critique towards (especially in the work of the Situationists) semiotics and advanced media technology. Yet, more than just a theory of twentieth-century cultural history, this paper seeks to complicate this trajectory and suggest that the movement of the drifter embodies an alternative way of moving through history itself, one that has perhaps been obscured or overshadowed by the more dramatic literary formulations of modernism and postmodernism. It suggests that, emerging from the critique of history first raised by the left in the work of Kenneth Burke, Ben Shahn, and, of course, Guthrie, and then shuffling through the mid-century historical paranoia of the postmoderns, the drifter embodies–in its own rhythm and gait–a way of relating to the forms of modern history that is at once popular, dynamic, and critical.
Edward P. Comentale is Professor of English Literature at Indiana University. He is the author of Sweet Air: Modernism, Regionalism, and American Popular Song and the co-editor of The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies. He edits a book series titled The Year’s Work: Studies in Fan Cultures and Cultural Objects.
[wpspoiler name=”Making Waves: Memory and Mobility in Woody Guthrie’s Ballads
(Michele Fazio, University of North Carolina, Pembroke)”]
No stranger to capturing the voices of migrant and itinerant laborers, farmers, and industrial workers impacted by the effects of global capitalism during his travels across the U.S., Woody Guthrie’s music exposed the kind of class antagonism and oppression he witnessed on the road. Guthrie’s journeys, however, were not always land-based. His 1943 stint in the Merchant Marines led him overseas as far away as Sicily and his experiences while stationed there served as the impetus to one of his most underrated albums, Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti. Linking the struggle against fascism in war-ravaged Palermo to the dream of “one big union” in Oklahoma and beyond, Guthrie closes the gap among geographical, cultural, and ideological differences to promote the spirit of socialism in remembering these “two good men.” This presentation will explore how these songs reveal Guthrie’s growing political consciousness not simply to memorialize Sacco and Vanzetti, but to reclaim their sacrifice as a means to inspire worker solidarity against racial and class injustice in post-World War II America. His later trip in 1947 to visit specific sites in Boston and Plymouth related to the Sacco and Vanzetti trial further illustrate Guthrie’s intent to portray a radical patriotism as central to his art—in this case, his music, poetry, and drawings. It is Guthrie’s connection to water—as a site of mobility and resistance—that illustrate his passionate commitment to confronting the past in the present and his defiance in advocating for workers’ rights and self-expression.
Michele Fazio is Assistant Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and teaches courses on contemporary ethnic literature and working-class studies. In 2012, she received the Woody Guthrie Foundation BMI Fellowship to examine gender, ethnicity, and family in Guthrie’s Ballads of Sacco and Vanzetti.
[wpspoiler name=”Atomic Woody: Woody Guthrie, the Atom, and the Possibilities of the Future
(Mark F. Fernandez, Loyola University New Orleans)”]
In a fluid, molecules can flow past each other in such a way that allows them to array themselves in the shape of any container. Woody Guthrie was like a molecule. He traveled through the world letting his experiences and the people he met shape his view of society and influence his art. Like any good molecule, especially those that flowed through the twentieth century, he grew to respect the atoms that comprised the world in which he lived. In fact, one might say, he became fascinated with everything atomic. Guthrie wrote much about the atom, and the scientist that helped his world understand the amazing possibilities and horrors of the nuclear age, Albert Einstein. In unpublished songs like “Freedom’s Fire” and numerous published works like “Airline to Heaven” he probed the depth of the relationship between man, science, and the atomic age. In the early 1950s he even let his fascination flow into the realm of science fiction where space travel was possible. “Atomic Woody” will explore Guthrie’s fascination with the atom in his published and unpublished lyrics, his prose, his visual art, and his futuristic musical “Skybally,” in which he decides to build a flying saucer. It will trace his early exuberance about the atom bomb’s part in ending World War II in “Freedom’s Fire,” his artistic sensitivity in “Dance around my Atom Fire,” his horror about the modern age in songs like “World’s on Fire,” his furious letter to President Harry S Truman about the dangers of the arms race, and finally, Guthrie’s views of the possibilities of the future in “Skybally” and songs like “My Flying Saucer.”
Mark F. Fernandez is Professor of American history at Loyola University New Orleans. His book From Chaos to Continuity received the Louisiana Literary Award from the Louisiana Library Association in 2002. In 2012 Fernandez received the Seventh Annual Woody Guthrie Foundation BMI Fellowship to research Guthrie’s engagement with the industrial age.
[wpspoiler name=”Southern White: Woody Guthrie, Race, and Shame
(Gustavus Stadler, Haverford College)”]
In 1953, having been diagnosed as suffering from Huntington’s Disease and in rapidly declining health, Woody Guthrie travelled from New York to Florida with his new wife, Anneke, and the young singer Jack Elliott. Their destination: the homestead of Guthrie’s friend Stetson Kennedy, an activist and former integrationist Senate candidate who lived outside of Jacksonville. When the three arrived at Kennedy’s land, they found it abandoned and ransacked, Kennedy’s books and other possessions destroyed, apparently by white supremacists. (Kennedy and his wife, he soon discovered had fled abroad). While there, Guthrie produced an extraordinary notebook of drawings and watercolors: figures on the edge of abstraction, some oppressively burdened with weight and work, some in the act of being lynched, others with no clear relationship to Southern racial conflict at all. Over these figures and the chaotic, abstract swirls and smears that often surround them, Guthrie scrawled the words “Southern White” and “Whites Only” on virtually every page. In this talk I examine a few published images from this notebook (I have seen it in its entirety in the Woody Guthrie Archive), suggesting that they embody the centrality of shame in Guthrie’s work. While biographers and others have touted Guthrie’s progressivism toward African Americans and civil rights, I suggest that these notebooks exhibit a far more embodied and tortured experience of race relations, which can’t be easily recouped by a triumphalist, liberatory narrative. They reflect Guthrie’s own ambivalent struggle with whiteness, and with his own past as a “southern white.” I argue that shame—about the failure of righteous progressive protest, among other things– permeates these pages. It operates as a medium of both self-alienation and self-understanding. Instead of a liberal hero of a generalized, disembodied ideal of human rights, Guthrie emerges as unwilling to place himself outside of the continuing, everyday violence and struggle of the ways race was (and is) lived in the U.S.
Gustavus Stadler is Associate Professor of English at Haverford College and the former Co-Editor of The Journal of Popular Music Studies. He is the author of Troubling Minds: The Cultural Politics of Genius in the 19th-Century U.S. and editor of a special issue of Social Text on “The Politics of Recorded Sound.”
Watery Metaphors: Identities and Subjectivities
Chair: Benjamin Court, University of California, Los Angeles
[wpspoiler name=”Expression and Urination: Crossing the Streams of Affect in Urinetown
(Christopher Culp, University at Buffalo, SUNY)”]
The antimusical is a subgenre of musical theatre that stems from the early 2000’s. With antagonisms to both the aesthetic and representational qualities of traditional musicals, antimusicals embrace the alienation effects of Bertolt Brecht in an effort to undermine the optimistic utopianism of musical theatre. In the process, however, the aesthetic techniques of alienation become incorporated into the logic of late capitalism, nullifying its revolutionary potential by damning up its radical energies.
My analysis focuses on how desire and power are expressed in musical theatre, specifically in the ‘break into song,’ and how antimusicals overly lubricate this break, thus robbing radical potentiality from the musical form. I focus on Urinetown, a show about a town that must pay to urinate due to a water shortage and their pseudo-revolutionary struggle towards urination equality. As the characters are unable to ‘flow’ (urinate), so too is the audience not allowed to engage in the fits and spurts associated with musical theatre’s characteristic and expressive break into song. Using self-reflexive characters, the show mediates the disruptive potential of music within a narrative, robbing it of the very political critique the show’s plot describes. If the break into song, here identified as a disruptive flow of expressive energy, is disciplined by ironic detachment, the flow of political potentiality is withheld and disciplined. In this way, the antimusical actually becomes more ideologically binding than its more ‘utopian’ predecessor precisely because it takes control over the flow of radical expression.
Christopher M. Culp has a MM in Clarinet Performance and a MA in Philosophy and is currently a PhD Candidate in Musicology at University at Buffalo where he researches the concept of Sincerity, Modernist/Postmodernist Aesthetics, Musical Theatre, Queer Studies, Philosophy of Music, and the Metaphysics of Musical Drama. His website is http://cmculp.weebly.com/
[wpspoiler name=”Water and the Irony of Masks in Randy Newman’s Early Songs
(David Ferrandino, University at Buffalo, SUNY)”]
Randy Newman made his debut in 1969 as one of many promising new singer-songwriters. Unlike Carole King or James Taylor, however, Newman was not interested in expressing personal feelings but instead the more sinister side of the American psyche. Adopting a range of musical personae, Newman portrayed the types of social injustice that he sought to eliminate, playing with notions of identity and listener expectations. This paper will look at three of Newman’s early songs to show how his performative masks represent a major shift in American culture during the 1970s, from the optimistic idealism of the sixties to the harsh cynicism of the eighties. By singing through the voice of others, Newman criticizes society with an ironic exaggeration of its faults.
These masks are made effective through lyrical context, and in each of these songs water plays a prominent role, either as a metaphor for social destruction or as an emblem of nature unsympathetic to the human condition. Two songs, “Burn On” from 1972 and “Lousiana” from 1974, are about watery natural disasters, and Newman, singing as steamship captain and a blue-collar worker respectively, treats them both with ambiguous detachment. In “Sail Away,” Newman sings as a slaver bringing African youths aboard his ship with promises of wealth and happiness. The lines between right and wrong are ambiguous in each of these songs, and water is another character in the drama reflecting the darker side of the humanity.
Mr. Ferrandino is a doctoral candidate in musicology at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. He is studying post-1945 American music under Dr. Stephanie Vander Wel, with an emphasis on minimalism and popular music. He is currently completing his dissertation on the function of irony in popular music entitled “Irony, Mimicry, and Mockery: American Popular Music of the Late Twentieth Century.”
[wpspoiler name=”The I and the You: Pop Music Pronouns in Flux
(Matthew BaileyShea, University of Rochester & Robert Lagueux, Northeastern University)”]
Scholars of popular music have long recognized the complexities of the lyrical “I” in the singer-songwriter tradition. Although some songwriters create explicitly fictional or autobiographical personas, many songs introduce the pronoun “I” as an ambiguous referent that can take on many meanings. The ambiguities of a song’s addressee—the lyrical “you”—can be even more fluid, sometimes referring to a specific individual, a narrow group or a broad general audience.
Less well recognized are the ways that the deployment of pronouns in pop song lyrics create sudden shifts in the various currents of musical meaning. Some songs consistently feature impersonal third-person narration while others consistently feature intimate direct address. But many songs offer a far more nuanced flow between intimacy and impersonality. Moreover, songs will sometimes substitute one “I” or “you” in place of another, allowing for considerable narrative complexity.
This paper will begin by addressing the meaning and significance of pronouns in popular music, especially with regard to issues of subjectivity and narrative voice. Drawing on a survey of hundreds of songs, it will show some of the most common narrative shifts and how they might interact with common song forms. Finally, it will isolate several unique examples, with special emphasis on text-music interaction. The paper will discuss songs by Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, U2, Led Zeppelin, and Patti Smith.
Matt BaileyShea is a professor at the University of Rochester and the Eastman School of Music. In addition to his interests in popular music, he has published extensively on issues of musical form, chromaticism, and aspects of agency. Robert Lagueux is Senior Associate Director of the teaching center at Northeastern and is also a Lecturer in the music department. In addition to his work on popular music, he has published on early music and other topics in The Journal of Music History Pedagogy, Comparative Drama, and The Medieval Review.
[wpspoiler name=”Decades in Motion: Driving and Dancing in My Toyota Corolla
(Joanna Love, University of Richmond)”]
In 2013, Toyota released the first commercial in its “Elevate” campaign to promote the redesigned Corolla model. “Style Never Goes out of Style,” traces the Corolla’s evolution since its unveiling in the 1960s as an affordable compact car. Although the automobile is central to the storyline, the spot’s soundtrack and energetic dance routines take center stage while the commercial flows through youthful trends that accompanied the Corolla’s forty-year life span. Pre-existing popular songs including Chic’s “Le Freak” and Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” accompany images that accompany representative choreography. Ending with the re-designed Corolla and Shy Kidx’s newest EDM track, Toyota urges Millennials to participate in its “tradition” of consumption.
This paper investigates how this spot attempts to inscribe Toyota into a re-imagined past and literally places its product in the center of its own truncated, de-politicized version of pop culture history. I unpack the commercial’s well-worn advertising tropes, which forge associations between youth, popular music, dancing and automobiles. These tropes reinforce the myth that the physical mobility offered by driving and dancing has proved central to youth culture sensibilities since the 1960s and that trendy songs continue to provide the soundtrack for these activities. But current data suggests that today’s twenty-somethings care less about the mobility provided by cars than the trajectory of their careers. I therefore use advertising theory, marketing data, ethnography and musicological methods to examine the spot’s music and advertising tropes and their relevance, or their lack thereof, to ideologies about music and “automobility” held by today’s youth.
Joanna Love is Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Richmond. Her research examines intersections between popular music, MTV, advertising, and the music industry from the mid-1980s to the present. She has a forthcoming article in Music and Politics and is working on revising her dissertation into a book.
Music, Social Identity, and (Personal) Mass Media
Chair: Ali Colleen Neff, College of William and Mary
[wpspoiler name=”Negotiating Asian American Identity Through K-pop Cover Songs
(Stephanie Choi, UC-Santa Barbara)”]
“I cannot be recognized as an American at once because of my skin color. When other Americans ask me where I am from, I just tell them, ‘I’m from Indonesia.’” As an Indonesian American, Arlene loves K-pop stars because they look “cool” and she can “look up to them as proud Asians.” The Asian pride is embodied and realized in her Youtube channel, where she uploads dozens of K-pop cover songs for more than 16,000 subscribers. Detached from its original context in the South Korean industry, her K-pop covers in English lyrics successfully transform K-pop into a new medium for Arlene to convey her “coolness” to both global and Indonesian viewers. Indonesian commentators often respond to her by saying that they are “proud to be Indonesians”; international viewers love the English covers because the songs sound “American.” By extending the concept of the “third space” by Homi Bhabha (1990), I argue that Arlene’s Youtube activity is a third space where the following ironies emerge—within this space, Korean pop is introduced to the international fans by an Indonesian American; Indonesians are proud of their fellow Indonesian American for singing Korean pop in English; and other fans enjoy her covers because they sound “American.” In this paper, I demonstrate how Arlene uses Youtube as a site to negotiate her ambivalent identity, as an Indonesian and as an American, and plays her role as a translator to the international viewers in the space of ambivalence and friction.
Stephanie Choi is a Ph.D. student in the Ethnomusicology program at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her current research focuses on the global circulation of K-pop, particularly in the schizophonia of K-pop in the United States and its impact on identity formation of Asian American communities.
[wpspoiler name=”Back That Thang Up!: Twerking, Context Collapse and the Digital Games Black Girls Play in YouTube’s Participatory Culture
(Kyra D. Gaunt, Baruch College–CUNY)”]
The purpose of this article is to explore ecological issues surrounding the “context collapse” (M. Wesch, 2011) in content creation and embodied musical performance by African American females (13-24) on YouTube in order to critically example the cognitive, conversational and ecological fitness of their interactions relative to new gender relations in hip-hop video culture.
The author will meet this purpose in the following ways:
- By reviewing a select history of the shareable musical/visual media about black girls in the Internet age
- By exploring examples of black girls as content creators from comedy vlogs to twerking videos
- By discussing the gendered and ecological implications of seduction and threat surrounding black girls’ self-presentation in twerking videos as well as the context collapse surrounding their participation online.
Dr. Kyra Gaunt is Adjunct Associate Professor at Baruch College-CUNY specializing in the study of girlhood and musical blackness. Her digital ethnography project The Musical Games Black Girls Play on YouTube is a follow up to her book The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop.
[wpspoiler name=”New Wine into Old Bottles: Metaphors, Catchy Tunes, and Social Commentaries in China’s Internet Highways
(Li Wei, Rollins College)”]
Internet highway never meant to be “freeway,” especially in a society where dissent views are not only censored but also suppressed. Yet, with Internet technology and participatory media, voices of the subaltern become increasingly porous. As a result, the fluidity of digitally mediated musical expressive forms not only help reshape national soundscape traditionally defined by dominant social apparatus, but also change the equation of power struggle over internet expression.
This presentation takes a close look at some of the most politically charged satiric songs circulated in China’s social media. Featuring catchy pop melody, readily singable, and touchy subjects, these songs seem to enjoy unsanctioned private reality and fans-based popularity. Defying government censorship, creators of these songs often use popular tunes to refill with coded slangs and metaphors to mock public figures and scandals. In doing so, they do not shy away from objectionable materials and provocative topics. I will examine that, despite seemingly light, entertainment-oriented format, how these user-created songs play a critical role in today’s public struggle over freedom of speech and expression of public sentiment.
A native of Shanghai, Li Wei studied at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music (BA, Musicology) and Columbia University (MA, M.Phil, Ethnomusicology). His research interests in ethnomusicology include globalization and world music, presentation, hybridity. His articles and book reviews have appeared in Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Ethnomusicology, Yearbook of Traditional Music, and Asian Music. He teaches courses of Chinese language and ethnomusicology at Rollins College.
The Range of the Black Voice
Chair: Jerome Camal, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Honey-rich or raspy and raw, black vocalism traverses pitches and timbres, disrupting stable gender, genre, and geography along the way. In considering this range, these four papers consider the effects of positioning vocalism as the ür-sound in African-American music. There has long been debate about whether black instrumentalists base their effects on oral practices—such as the sermon and signifying—or, instead, black vocal virtuosos appropriate for the human voice some of the extra-human energy of horns and drums. Yet, these positions are not exhaustive and may naturalize the boundaries of blackness and an all-male line of cultural transmission. Therefore, we seek to situate black vocalism within—and beyond—the constrictions of US or black nationalisms and the genres, geographies, political tactics, and sex/gender systems they champion.
[wpspoiler name=”A Voice Like Honey: Lalah Hathaway and Sexual Politics in African-American Music
(Miles Parks Grier, Queens College, CUNY)”]
This paper aims to consider the resonance of ubiquitous depictions of soul singer Lalah Hathaway’s voice as honey. Honey appeals to nearly all the senses, with its golden color, sweet taste, sensuous texture, and clinging effect. Yet, is there something amiss in the transit of this metaphor from, say, the hot stickiness of an Ohio Players’ album cover to the smoothness of Lalah Hathaway’s voice? What work does which I suspect is an attempt to recover Hathaway’s energies for nationalist projects of reproducing the black family. Therefore, the time is overdue to explore Lalah Hathaway in a companion piece to Jason King’s celebrated meditation on Luther Vandross. Like Vandross before her, Hathaway has established herself as a musical archivist and earned fame for her covers of songs strongly associated with members of the other sex, including Vandross and her own father. Nevertheless, given asymmetries of gender and timing, Hathaway does produce some distinctive questions. What particular anxieties does Hathaway’s increasing deployment of her lower register produce and how has she dealt with them? How do her covers—which tend to be more straightforward than Vandross’s “reconstructions”—function in the reproduction of black culture and families? Do her additional interests in jazz and pop and her delight in being “parallel to the culture” map onto queer time as theorized by Jack Halberstam, by preferring childhood and the past to the present?
Miles Grier is a visiting assistant professor of English at Queens College, CUNY. Essays from a book project on Joni Mitchell’s black male pimp persona have appeared in Genders and Journal of Popular Music Studies.
[wpspoiler name=”Make Me Wanna Holler: Soul Singing and the On-Key Scream
(Emily Lordi, University of Massachusetts, Amherst)”]
Black musicians and music commentators have celebrated and defended black singers from James Brown to Janelle Monae for their ability to scream on key: to “scream notes,” as producer Jerry Wexler says in praise of Wilson Pickett, “whereas other singers just scream screams.” A church-based technique that destabilizes linguistic meaning and gender performance while maintaining cultural specificity, the on-key scream marks a precise, indeed melodic, decision to stop making (certain kinds of) sense. While dominant critical theories of the scream accent the body in pain or the scandal of noise, the on-key scream marks that nexus of vocal rebellion and virtuosity that characterizes, I argue, the work of classic soul singers and their musical descendents.
This paper examines the on-key scream, both as vocal technique and as discursive trope, through the music of James Brown, Marvin Gaye to Janelle Monae. These artists’ screams allow us to reconcile two major representational approaches to black music: the language of dedicated training that scholars often privilege in an effort to avoid primitivist myths and the language of straight-from-the-heart emotional authenticity that musicians themselves often stress. The on-key scream manifests intensive training and intense feeling. More specifically, it crystallizes the mixture of virtuosity and violence, chaos and craft that defines the discourse of soul music–a discourse that figures musical and social struggle as the vehicle for superior black style and skill.
Emily Lordi is an assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the author of Black Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature (2013). She has published music and film reviews on sites such as The Feminist Wire and is working on a new book on soul.
[wpspoiler name=”A Desi Love Supreme: Tracing the Afro-South Asian Flows of John Coltrane’s “Scream”
(Elliott Powell, University of Rochester)”]
Jazz scholars generally consider John Coltrane’s 1964 work “Psalm,” the last movement to his suite A Love Supreme, as a wordless recitation of the poem that appears in the album’s liner notes. Furthermore, extending this analysis further, these same scholars have argued that Coltrane’s playing style on “Psalm” approximates standard vocal performance approaches of a Christian African American minster. This claim marks “Psalm” as not only a non-lexical rendition of an African American sermon, but also, by virtue of the moment in which it is produced, as a song that extends the relationship between African American spirituality and politics. Yet, while tying “Psalm” to African American religious and political practices, scholars elide the ways in which “Psalm” also mirrors elements of Indian classical music. Indeed, “Psalm” was not only recorded during Coltrane’s experimentation with Indian culture, but its unmetered form shares similarities with the alap in North Indian classical music. Thus, this paper asks: what happens when we see Coltrane’s engagements with African American Christian vocal stylings and Indian classical music alongside one another? Drawing on archival material and music analysis, this paper traces the multiple flows of influence between African American and Indian musical traditions in the life of John Coltrane. It claims that “Psalm” exemplified the ways in which Coltrane understood African American and Indian cultural expressions as overlapping and constitutive formations. Moreover, this paper contends that “Psalm” expressed how Coltrane’s Afro-South Asian musical visions articulated with the influence of Indian culture during the long civil rights movement.
Elliott H. Powell is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the University of Rochester’s Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies. His research investigates the intersections between African American and South Asian (American) expressive culture and music-making endeavors in jazz and hip hop.
[wpspoiler name=”Voices Above His Head: James Baldwin as Listener and Ethnographer
(Matthew Somoroff, Duke University)”]
James Baldwin once declared “music, not American literature, [is my] true language.” While scholars have long considered the importance of music as both topic and stylistic model in Baldwin’s oeuvre, much of this work rehearses the circular reasoning that Baldwin’s sustained engagement with “music,” in both the form and content of his writing, proves the central role of music and sound in African American experience. This paper considers a few descriptions of vocal performance in Baldwin’s final novel, Just Above My Head [JAMH]. What function do these scenes of performance play in the larger arc of the novel’s plot? What literary strategies does Baldwin employ in describing musical performance in writing? What do these strategies tell us about Baldwin’s personal acoustemology – his ways of listening to and knowing music?
One purpose for this investigation is methodological: using JAMH as a case study, I wish to explore the potential for reading fictional descriptions of musical sound and musical performances as “field data” from which we can develop ethnographic and historical accounts of culturally-situated ways of listening. A second purpose is to consider Baldwin himself as music ethnographer. In JAMH, Baldwin maintains a focus on the sociality of musical performance and processes of interpretation. He places some of the novel’s most probing meditations on the social construction of race and the politics of sexuality in African American life within passages describing musical performance. In so doing, Baldwin questions the power relations in moments of black performance and thus destabilizes essentialisms about black music and the black body.
Matthew Somoroff is a PhD candidate in the Music Dept. at Duke University. He is completing an ethnographic dissertation on listening and affect within the Lower East Side avant-jazz scene.
Collecting the Pop Soundscape: Popular Music in Libraries and Archives (Roundtable)
Steve Weiss, Southern Folklife Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Grover Baker, Middle Tennessee State University
Susannah Cleveland, Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives, Bowling Green State University
Andy Leach, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library and Archives
A panel discussion with five librarians and archivists who manage research collections relating to popular music will explore the unique challenges involved in collecting, preserving, and providing access to popular music resources to scholars, teachers, students and the general public. Each panelist will provide an overview of their collection (history, scope, preservation program and outreach), followed by a moderated discussion and Q&A.
Panelists: Nicholas Meriwether (Grateful Dead Archive, University of California Santa Cruz), Steve Weiss (Southern Folklife Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Grover Baker (Middle Tennessee State University), Susannah Cleveland (Music Library and Sound Recordings Archives, Bowling Green State University) and Andy Leach (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library and Archives).
Steve Weiss is Curator of the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC Chapel Hill. He holds a BS in Audio Technology (American University) and MILS (University of Michigan). Prior to UNC, Steve worked for CNN’s Washington DC Bureau and the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch of the National Archives.