Loading…

Sign up or log in to bookmark your favorites and sync them to your phone or calendar.

Thursday, April 11
 

2:00pm PDT

Gendered Spaces
  • Marissa Lorusso – “My Revenge is Death: Unpacking the Riot Grrrls’ Soundtrack to Killing Rapists”
“My revenge is death, because you deserve the best,” 7 Year Bitch sings on “Dead Men Don’t Rape.” In a world where one out of six women has been subject to an attempted or completed rape during her lifetime, the sloganeering appeal of the song’s title is clear; the logic is hard to argue with. “Don't go out alone you might get raped,” the song continues, “But not by a dead man because / Dead men don't rape.”

There’s perhaps an assumed inherent tension in a feminism that espouses the literal destruction of rapists -- on the one hand, violent death; on the other, even the punkest of feminisms is generally presumed to desire equality, tolerance, the end to suffering. But frankness about the reality of sexual violence was central to the riot grrrl ethos and to feminism’s third wave more broadly -- as was positioning women’s capacity for rage as a potent political, social and musical force (Schilt 2003; Gayle and Gottlieb 1993).

This paper will analyze the trend of riot grrrl-era songs about violence against male perpetrators of gender-based and/or homophobic violence (among them, “Dead Men Don’t Rape,” Tribe 8’s “Frat Pig,” and Bikini Kill’s “White Boy”). These songs feel both like murderous endorsements and theatrical dreams with no connection to actual interpersonal acts. This paper will ask: What does it mean to take these songs of gender-based revenge seriously? What impact did they have, or could they have had -- on musical communities, feminist legacies, as a punk intervention -- in the face of rampant sexual violence? How do these songs challenge gendered understandings of these performers, their music, and radical imaginations of gender justice? This paper will also consider the limits of the discourse of killing violators -- chief among them, the racial dimensions of the riot grrrl subculture and the way race factors into this style of violence-based feminism, drawing in particular on Mimi Thi Nguyen’s scholarship on riot grrrl’s whiteness problem.

  • H. Meg Orita – “Reconstituting Riot Grrrl: Marginalization and Memory in a Scene’s Afterlife”
“That’s it, I quit!” yelled Molly Neuman, Bratmobile’s drummer, before running offstage
at what would be the band’s final performance. Bratmobile was one of the most celebrated bands in riot grrrl, a counter-cultural music scene of the 1990s that fused feminist activism with punk aesthetics, and purported to empower all girls. Neuman’s 1994 eruption marked the unraveling of a scene in which there had been growing tensions about participants’ responses (or lack thereof) to issues of race and class within their activism. While the most visible echelons of riot grrrl music and popular fan zines acknowledged the presence of minority riot grrrls, the scene’s leadership kept them in marginalized positions.
This paper places prominent riot grrrl music and print media in conversation with the scene’s marginalized voices. I synthesize musical analysis with archival research to illustrate how music and media cultivated a narrowly-defined yet widely-accepted characterization of riot grrrl: white, middle-class girls who were angry with authority. This limited characterization of the scene, I argue, ultimately led to its downfall. Fractures within riot grrrl became increasingly volatile as the scene’s base expanded in diversity while its leadership, particularly headline bands, did not. Riot grrrl participants ultimately rejected the leadership and the bands that had founded it, which led to the internal collapse of the scene. I extend this analysis of riot grrrl’s dissolution to the present by examining contemporary iterations of the scene—historiographies of riot grrrl and the more recent biographies of participants—as epilogues that constitute the scene’s cultural afterlife. Because riot grrrl circulated in ephemeral ways, much of the scene’s present day depiction depends on memory. This paper concludes that self-reflexivity and retrospection are crucial to how former participants remember and reconstitute their stories of the scene, which attempt apology for its original problematics.


  • Alyxandra Vesey – “Paying Tribute with Lipstick: M*A*C Cosmetics, Music Merchandising, and the Shelf Lives of Branded Cosmetics”
This presentation examines female- and feminine-identified musicians’ partnerships with M*A*C Cosmetics (1984-) as endorsees of its AIDS Fund and as posthumous brand partners for its special collections. Music merchandising, or the processes associated with artists’ participation in the creation and sale of branded consumer goods, typically extends performers’ commercial reach and strengthens their affective bonds with fans. It also extends a musician’s shelf life, or the timespan that a commodity can be stored or sold before it spoils. Shelf lives matter to female and feminine celebrities who embody the passage of time in complex ways and defend themselves against industrial and cultural perceptions of their own disposability as they age out of the marketplace. They express this through music merchandising in a variety of ways. This presentation analyzes two forms of music merchandising co-created by recording artists and M*A*C Cosmetics. First, I investigate how musicians use charitable merchandise to advocate for political and social causes. In 1994, M*A*C hired drag performer RuPaul and butch crooner k.d. lang as spokesmodels for its Viva Glam campaign. The pair promoted a branded red lipstick whose sales went toward HIV/AIDS research. The campaign’s success resulted in the company enlisting spokespeople like Boy George, Lady Gaga, Elton John, and Ricky Martin. Second, I evaluate how deceased musicians use commemorative merchandise to extend and renew their legacies. While several contemporary artists collaborate with M*A*C, the company recently worked with Selena and Aaliyah’s estates on tribute collections. Such collaborations have also resulted in fans petitioning the company to create a line for Amy Winehouse. Such forms of music merchandising demonstrate how “shelf life” represents the demands placed on female and feminine celebrities to sell normatively feminine commodities, the implied proximity of celebrity-endorsed products for consumers, and branded cosmetics’ symbolic potential for personal and professional resilience and renewal.

Moderators
TS

Tyina Steptoe

BioTyina Steptoe is an associate professor of history at the University of Arizona. Her writing has appeared in publications such as the American Quarterly, Journal of African American History, Oxford American, Houston Chronicle, and TIME. Her award-winning book, Houston Bound: Culture... Read More →

Speakers
HM

H. Meg Orita

BioH. Meg Orita is a Ph.D. candidate in Musicology at UNC Chapel Hill. Her dissertation, “I Haven’t Got It All Figured Out Just Yet”: The Emergence and Impact of Post-Feminist Teen Music (1992–2003), explores how the music of women singer-songwriters at the turn of the millennium... Read More →
AV

Alyxandra Vesey

BioAlyxandra Vesey is an assistant professor in Journalism and Creative Media at theUniversity of Alabama. Her research focuses on female-identified musicians’ pursuit of cross-industrial business ventures in order to maintain a living. She is currently writing a book about music... Read More →
ML

Marissa Lorusso

BioMarissa Lorusso is a writer and editor based in Washington, D.C. She works at NPR Music where she writes about rock and pop, manages the Tiny Desk Contest, and edits Turning the Tables, a series on redefining the popular music canon. She has appeared on NPR podcasts like Pop Culture... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 2:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
JBL Theater

2:00pm PDT

Listening for the Dead
  • Jack Curtis Dubowsky – “Death Ditty and Disco: AIDS and Death in Bronski Beat’s ‘I Feel Love’”
British new wave synthpop trio Bronski Beat had a clear political stance and “out” gay politic, but their tortured, depressive lyrics contrast starkly to their disco predecessors: Hi-NRG acts that joyously celebrated queer sexuality from within a safe space. Many disco antecedents spoke directly to a queer audience about sexuality, even when couched in euphemism; countless songs demonstrate Hi-NRG’s predilection for sexual innuendo. Bronski Beat’s social realism – soul-baring lyrics about being misunderstood, leaving home, and facing an uncertain future – resonated more with an insecure, adolescent generation coming-of-age than with older dance floor veterans.
This dissonance is especially apparent in Bronski’s respectful nod to disco on The Age of Consent (1984). A throbbing cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” (1977) is more a musical tribute than a lyrical one; the lyrics become oddly banal, stripped of Summer’s orgasmic heaving. But unexpectedly, Bronski’s version segues into an abridged cover of John Leyton’s 1961 #1 UK hit “Johnny Remember Me,” a “death ditty” stripped of its verses, reduced to the titular line from the chorus, which originally paraphrased the last words of a dying girlfriend.
In Jimmy Somerville’s commanding pleas, “Johnny Remember Me” becomes an elegy for a dying lover. The repetitious “remember me” recalls Henry Purcell’s “Dido’s Lament” (a deathbed aria), recorded by another new wave countertenor, Klaus Nomi, in 1982, before his own death from AIDS.
The shift from Summer’s joyous sexuality to tragic nostalgia creepily connects death with the music of the 70s disco generation. This was not lost on anyone dancing in a gay club in 1984, our crowd thinned by the epidemic, fearful of our own desire. Hearing Bronski’s medley for the first time, we were instantly seduced by the familiar bass line of “I Feel Love,” but the middle section stabbed us with its haunting twist.

  • Meagan Sylvester – “Performing in the name of The Shadow: Personal, Collective and Cultural Memory in Calypso”
“Intersectionality” is the term which was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 and operationalised to reference specific realities of marginalization of black women, mostly via the intersecting systems of racism and sexism. Since its introduction to sociological scholarship, intersectionality has been used by a myriad of scholars in varying ways. Of note has been the application of the concept to explore other perspectives on issues of identity such as sexuality, class, disability to examine what intersectionality means for those on the receiving end of marginalisation in our global society. This work acknowledges the importance of marginality as a social reality in today’s global space, and further concurs with Crenshaw’s use of intersectionality to provoke new thought about “the margins of existence” and takes the argument further and uses intersectionality as a frame of reference to explore the sociological concepts of race and class within popular culture and more specifically, popular music.

Several scholars of Caribbean popular culture have contended that Calypso music is a form of social and political expression. Towards this end, they have identified “historical memory” and “chronicle of current events” as the primary function of this musical genre. Using this analysis as a frame of reference, this paper intends to focus on the memorialisation of Calypsonians and the Calypso artform. Specifically, focus will be placed on the lyrical narratives of Calypsonian Shadow from Trinidad and Tobago, who recently passed away in October 2018. His work over the last 40 odd years has explained life lessons through the themes of: poverty, pressure, friendship, honesty, jealousy, survival, truth, human rights, happiness and self-expression. Through an examination of his essential themes this work will examine how present-day artistes and Calypsonians use personal, collective and cultural memory to re-interpret and re-imagine their lyrics as they speak to modern-day issues affecting Trinidadian society.

  • Daniel Fisher – “Animating a Yolngu Celebrity: Music, Mourning and the Mediatization of Grief in Northern Australia”
This paper offers an ethnographic account of a seeming paradox that accompanied the 2017 death of the popular Yolngu singer G. Yunupingu, perhaps Australia’s most celebrated and successful Aboriginal recording artist to date. The majority of Yunupingu’s recordings take the form of gospel-tinged lamentation, and in the days after his death many of his fans, friends, and family members desired for these recordings to allow Yunupingu’s voice to mourn itself, to musically animate their collective grief. But this desire conflicted with locally powerful cultural norms that ban the use of the proper names of recently deceased people, and that restrict the circulation of their photographic likeness, recordings of their voices, and other cognate indices of their person. A series of intense negotiations thus followed between family members, friends, and representatives of Yunupingu’s record label so that his image and voice might circulate again, enabling the public animation of his celebrity avatar.
These negotiations register the distinctive character of this Indigenous media world and the extraordinary career of this Aboriginal pop music celebrity, but also index the under-determined powers of media artifacts and celebrity avatars in contemporary, digitally mediated lives. Aboriginal Australians habitually animate such celebrity personae, breathing life into such media artifacts across a range of online platforms and media networks, and are themselves addressed and animated by such artifacts in turn. These populate the lives of young Indigenous Australians as ringtones, dance tracks, and Facebook avatars, and are increasingly central to the ways that Aboriginal Australians negotiate death and mourning. The paper draws on an emergent media studies analytic of animation to illuminate how such vocal avatars of musical celebrity are given life and traverse Aboriginal media. What kinds of agent are these Aboriginal avatars? How might they provincialize our understanding of grief, mourning, and death itself?



Moderators
Speakers
JC

Jack Curtis Dubowsky

Bio Jack Curtis Dubowsky is a composer, author, educator, and filmmaker. Dubowsky’s monograph, Intersecting Film, Music, and Queerness, bridges musicology, cinema studies, and queer theory. Easy Listening and Film Scoring: 1953-1978 is forthcoming on Routledge. Dubowsky is a member... Read More →
MS

Meagan Sylvester

BioMeagan Sylvester is a published author of over fifteen book chapters and journal articles. Her research topics of interest are Music and National Identity in Calypso and Soca, Music of Diasporic Carnivals, Narratives of Resistance in Calypso and Ragga Soca music, Steelpan and kaisoJazz... Read More →
DF

Daniel Fisher

BioDaniel Fisher is associate professor of anthropology and director of the Experimental Ethnography Lab at UC Berkeley. He is author of The Voice and its Doubles (Duke, 2016) and co-editor of Radio Fields: Anthropology and Wireless Sound in the 21stCentury (NYU, 2012). His work... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 2:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
Demo Lab

2:00pm PDT

The Sounds of the City in “Death” and “Rebirth”
  • Alex Blue V – “Detroit, I Don’t Mind Dying: Musical Narratives of Death in a Supposedly ‘Dead’ City”
Detroit, Michigan has been laid before us like a cadaver, executed by the twin barrels of outsourcing and white flight, ready for autopsy (LeDuff 2013), and now ripe for reanimation, renaissance. This is the oft-repeated saga of contemporary Detroit - a fetishized collage of abandoned buildings, empty lots, extinguished dreams, and inevitable death. But as Detroit’s music has often shown, and artists in the hip-hop scene continue to show, the report of this death is an exaggeration. But as corporate interests and gentrifiers attempt to flip properties out from underneath the city’s long-time residents, artists and fans defiantly flip these coroner’s reports, creating and performing songs that embrace their apparent death.
In this presentation, I draw from my ethnographic fieldwork experiences, interviews, recorded music, and music videos to illuminate a resilient Detroit identity that is formed through a cultural intimacy (Herzfeld 1996) with death. My research reveals the use of hip-hop as a tool for the crafting of identity, as a medium for alternative forms of community organization, and as an emergent counter-archive and counter-narrative in Detroit. Hip-Hop has often been framed as a 'voice of the streets' that speaks directly to, and from, the Black experience; it is treated as an inevitability, given the assumed dire conditions of Black urban life. In contrast to this, I illuminate hip-hop in Detroit as agential and active rather than pathological, or necessary for survival. Detroit artists don’t necessarily create music about death because they have to, nor do they only create music about death. Rather, they have been given unsolicited news of their death, and have chosen to turn this into a powerful site for the creation of identity and community. The deliberate use of death in musical narratives within the Detroit hip-hop scene shows the stubbornness, audacity, and creativity of the living.
  • Allie Martin – "Go-Go is (Not) Dead, Long Live Go-Go: Narratives of Death in Washington, DC's Local Music Scene”
In 2017, Complex magazine posted the following tweet about go-go music, DC’s local genre of funk that has been around since the early 1970s: “How DC killed go-go: and why Goldlink created its memorial.”  The tweet, linked to an interview with rising hip-hop artist Goldlink, received a wave of criticism from the local DC community for a number of reasons: Goldlink is technically from northern Virginia, not DC proper.  Also, if anybody killed go-go, it wasn’t local DC (often used to distinguish from federal Washington).  Finally, and the reason I focus on in this paper—go-go is not dead, and to describe it as such is indeed an act of violence.  In this paper, I unpack the narrative of death surrounding go-go music in the wake of DC’s rapid gentrification, considering both those who believe it dead and those who work every day to keep it alive.  I argue that narratives of black death, including that of go-go music, often anticipate an ending that has not occurred, in turn acting as a mode of silencing.  Proclaiming go-go to be dead silences those who still live for the genre, and sensationalizes gentrification in the city, a process whose violence needs no embellishment.  Drawing on interviews with members of the go-go community, participant observation, and histories of the scene, I consider the ways that go-go music has shifted, morphed, and moved.  The genre is not dead, and lives on in internet communities, institutionalization, and in daily performance.  This paper, part of a larger ethnographic project focused on listening to gentrification in the nation’s capital, seeks to counteract premature memorialization with amplification of the sounds of everyday black life.  
  • Jeffrey Melnick – "Halls of Justice: Reckoning with Terry Melcher"
    Terry Melcher is likely best known in the popular consciousness as the only son of Doris Day and the guy the Manson Family did not kill. According to the most accounts, Manson believed Melcher  was going to be his route to music business success.  When Manson sent his minions to wreak havoc on Cielo Drive it is because he knew the address because of his connections with its previous inhabitant: Terry Melcher.  Melcher never quite recovered from his brush with the Manson Family. He testified at the 1970 trial and more or less retreated during the early years of the decade. But he reemerged in 1974 with his self-titled debut album: here he finally processes his brush with Manson in a set of originals and covers songs that narrate life in Los Angeles as catastrophe.
In my recent book on the Manson Family I try to situate Melcher and Manson as emblems of the dysfunctional relationship that had developed between powerful agents of the emerging hip Los Angeles music business on the one hand, the more marginal edges of the counterculture on the other. Here I want to give Melcher's 1974 record more attention that I was able to in the book.
    Terry Melcher is at once an expression of Los Angeles mainstream celebrity culture and a withering indictment of it. While formally conventional, vocally and thematically the record reads as unrelenting misery.  The record  tells tales of a complex moment in the cultural history of Los Angeles,  when the promises made by the new social and political collectives of the 1960s were disintegrating in the wake of Richard Nixon's election.  Terry Melcher is a serious, self-lacerating piece of popular art which attempts to evaluate the social changes in Los Angeles represented by the Manson Family. Terry Melcher is a complete downer: I feel confident that I will make conference-goers really want to hear this record if they haven't already and listen in a new way if they have.



Moderators
RS

RJ Smith

BioRJ Smith is the author of biographies of photographer-filmmaker Robert Frank (American Witness: Da Capo Press, 2017) and James Brown (The One: Gotham Books, 2012). His The Great Black Way: LA in the 1940s and the Lost African American Renaissance (Public Affairs, 2006) won a California... Read More →

Speakers
AB

Alex Blue V

BioAlex Blue V is a doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology at University of California - Santa Barbara, and a predoctoral fellow on the Music faculty at Ithaca College. Though hip-hop is his primary focus, his research interests include various intersections of music, race, sound... Read More →
AM

Allie Martin

BioAllie Martin is a PhD Candidate at Indiana University in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology Department. She is currently a Smithsonian Pre-Doctoral Fellow conducting dissertation fieldwork in Washington, DC. Her research explores the intersections of gentrification... Read More →
JM

Jeffrey Melnick

BioJeff Melnick teaches American Studies at UMass Boston.  Earlier in his career Melnick was a member of the editorial collective that produced Journal of Popular Music Studies for five years.  Melnick has published widely in American cultural history, beginning with A Right to... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 2:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
Learning Labs

2:00pm PDT

“There will be no death”: Prince’s Afterlife in Place, Deed, and Image
  • Kristen Zschomler – “From the Northside to Paisley Park: Prince’s Minnesota”
Kristen Zschomler has been grounding Prince in his Minnesota context through her work identifying key properties associated with the artist. The story of Prince is not simply that of a remarkable, outsized talent; it is inextricably linked to the story of place. Minneapolis, and later Chanhassen, helped shape his life and work and provided him the space and opportunity to flourish. This is evident at every level, from his commitment to hiring local personnel to the frequent call-outs to his hometown in his music to his choice to live and work in Minnesota throughout his life. For the past two years, as part of the regulatory process to identify places of historic significance associated with Prince, Kristen has been researching, fact-checking and clarifying the locations on Prince’s journey from Minneapolis’ Northside to Chanhassen’s Paisley Park; from a child prodigy to an international superstar. Her work presents a fascinating and revealing excavation that often challenges long-held narrative and perceptions about Prince. Kristen’s presentation will highlight key corrections to the Prince narrative that have come from her research, as well as discuss the response of fans touring Prince’s foundational locations and how that is changing their perception of him and his legacy. The contexts she presents also challenges long-held beliefs about Prince’s beloved hometown. Prince’s Minneapolis and his experience growing up there were shaped by positive and negative elements, from strong music and arts programs in the schools to racial housing covenants and school segregation that kept Minneapolis racially divided. Finally, Kristen will demonstrate the need to take this type of research out of the gray literature or academic setting and make it accessible to Prince fans and the general public, through a demonstration of the online digital tour she and colleagues from the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College developed (http://digitours.augsburg.edu/tours/show/3).

  • Emma Balázs – “The People’s Museum for Prince: Inverting the Curatorial Lens from Artist to Audience”
The People’s Museum for Prince is a curatorial response to the sustained public mourning for Prince and the memorialization activities emerging in his complex afterlife. The museum turns the spotlight on the audience, seeing those who loved the artist as a valid source of expertise and a rich source of content. Conceived as a space to honor and reflect on the intimate, personal dimensions of our connections to an artist, the first exhibition of the museum collected personal stories, artifacts and artwork in order to create a portrait of Prince through the lives he touched. More than a fan museum, it is also envisioned as a center of artistic, curatorial and scholarly research, and a gathering space for the Prince community. A long-term vision for the museum includes exhibition, education and community programs.
The first exhibition of the museum was held in Minneapolis in May 2018 and presented personal stories, artifacts and artwork from more than 30 Prince fans across the world. It welcomed near 1000 visitors and received strong local encouragement to continue. The vision for the museum is to establish a permanent home in Minneapolis, with nomadic manifestations in Prince cities around the world, calling for local contributions in each. Planning is underway for a new manifestation in Minneapolis in 2020, with other US and European cities being actively considered. In each city a new portrait of Prince will emerge, formed through the multidimensional lens of the artist’s diverse audience.

  • Suzanne Wint “Would Anybody Remember to Remember You?”: Philanthropy as Participatory Culture in Prince Fandom"
Within days of Prince’s April 21 death, his associates and friends recounted stories of the musician’s quiet philanthropy and generosity. Celebrations of his life around his June 7 birthday already honored this legacy of giving through donations to charities he had supported. As it became clear Prince had not left a will, many in the purple orbit jumped in to fill the gap, and two years on, charitable giving has become part and parcel of fan-organized events in the Twin Cities.
In this paper I consider two facets of sustained organized giving in Prince fandom: as a form of participatory culture, and in shaping Prince’s continued legacy. While participatory culture typically describes acts of direct artistic production such as creating fan fiction, videos or art (Jenkins et al 2009), I show how contributions to music and arts education programs in Prince’s memory are creating a new generation of musicians and new generations of Prince fans. By highlighting Prince’s silent giving, his fans and associates actively shape Prince’s posthumous legacy. And though Jensen (2005) claims that the dead celebrity can no longer shape her own image, I suggest that Prince crafted his afterimage and legacy by exhorting audiences to have “Love4OneAnother” (also the name of his erstwhile charity).
As case studies, I examine two non-profit organizations formed in 2017. PRN Alumni Foundation, comprised of former employees of Paisley Park and Prince, initially reached out to organizations directly supported by Prince that provide opportunity for youth. Purple Playground is a fan-based group that raises funds through events, merchandise, donations and grants for their youth music program Academy of Prince. This research is based on participant-observation at PRN Alumni Funk ‘n’ Roll Weekend fundraising events in 2017 and 2018, and communications with Purple Playground’s founder Heidi Vader around various fundraising events in 2018.

Moderators
MM

Michaelangelo Matos

BioMichaelangelo Matos is the author of The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America (Dey Street, 2015) and is at work on Can’t Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop’s Blockbuster Year (Da Capo, fall 2019). His writing on DJs appears regularly in Mixmag and... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Kristen Zschomler

Kristen Zschomler

BioKristen Zschomler is a Minneapolis-based music historian with Sound History, LLC, who has researched, written, and presented widely on Prince. Through her deep respect and love for Prince and his extraordinary body of work, Kristen believes passionately in telling his story in... Read More →
EB

Emma Balázs

Bio Emma Balázs is a PhD student in Interdisciplinary Art at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. She received her MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, focused on collaborative curatorial practices. She has taught at SUNY Purchase, Columbia... Read More →
SW

Suzanne Wint

Bio Suzanne Wint has engaged in two years of ethnographic fieldwork on public mourning of Prince’s passing. She earned the Ph.D. in ethnomusicology and the M.A. in Music History and Theory from University of Chicago with research on the classical music scene in Kampala, Uganda... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 2:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
Sky Church

3:45pm PDT

Korean Spectres: Manifestations and Apparitions of Korean Pop Music
  • Heather Willoughby – “The Death of Han: Towards a New National Ethos in Contemporary Korean Pansori”
Pansori is a Korean narrative genre in which a solo performer recounts a complex story through song, recitative, and simple gestures to the accompaniment of a drum. Originating in the 17th century, and reaching its peak in the 19th century, five extant tales continue to be performed, each embedded with Confucian mores. Although all of the tales convey a wide variety of emotions, it has been claimed (Willoughby 2002) that central to each is a national ethos of han (resentment and/or profound sorrow).  In addition to traditional performances, today there are also a wide variety of changjak pansori (newly-created pansori); however, there exist significant differences between the original and contemporary performances, the latter of which can be considered a subset of pop, rather than traditional music in some respects. For example, although the distinctive tone color of traditional pansori is sometimes heard, younger singers rarely produce extremely raspy vocalizations–the very sound of han.  Additionally, although not often completed in one sitting, a traditional pansori tale would last four to eight hours; new-created pansori performances, on the other hand, are quite brief, often only ten to twenty minutes in length. More importantly, however, there has been shift in the subject matter, and by extension, emotional expression in the contemporary tales. Of significance, modern stories are nearly always light-hearted, humorous, and rarely delve into profound or controversial social issues, as is common in the traditional tales. Thus, the death of han and the possibility of the creation of new national ethos.

  • Anthony Yooshin Kim “Diasporic Tears For Fears: Transpacific Circuits of Kpop’s Emotional Transnationalisms”
Melancholia and nostalgia infuse the archive of the Kim Sisters’ stardom, a long-forgotten Korean American girl group who achieved the zenith of their popularity and success during 1960s Cold War America. In this paper, I examine how the Kim Sisters represent a ghosted Korean wave before the state-sanctioned Korean Wave (hallyu) of the 1990s and 2000s which unexpectedly (and uncannily) came back to life through the parallel rise and development of South Korean soft power and digital and social media technologies. Traversing physical and virtual space+time, I illuminate how their virtuoso music-making across shifting geopolitics, geographies, and generations is shadowed by the conjoined spectral presence of the “forgotten” Korean War as well by as their mother, the legendary Korean singer Yi Nan-Young, originator of the famed trot song, Tears of Mokpo. I show how their “military” performative training by their mother on the American bases in South Korea enabled the conditions of possibility for their incredible discovery and thus, their diasporic arrival to the US. I track the fantastic productions of their lives, careers, and feelings across the Pacific that seep into their repertoire of stories, songs, and performances, including their musical and emotional refrains of singing for chocolate from American GIs to surviving the still-hot debris of the Korean War, holding the record for most appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (22 times), and finally, becoming godmothers of the cultural economy of nostalgia in present-day South Korea.

  • Myoung-Sun Song – “The ‘Death’ of the K in KPop: BTS as Global Pop Phenomenon”
What is the “K” in Kpop? From scholars and music critics to journalists and fans, this is a question that has driven many discussions and conversations on Kpop. From its birth, Kpop—especially the music of idol groups—has been a contested genre in which Koreanness or Korean identity has been challenged in discourses of hybridity and transnationalism. In this paper, I look at the “K” in Kpop by examining the seven-member boy band produced by Big Hit Entertainment: BTS (a.k.a. Bangtan Sonyeondan | Bangtan Boys | Bulletproof Boy Scouts | Beyond The Scene). In 2013, BTS debuted as a “hip hop idol group” and within a six-year span achieved global success as demonstrated by the garnering of awards including the 2017 & 2018 Billboard Music Award for Top Social Artist; 2017 & 2018 Teen Choice Award for Choice International Artist; 2018 American Music Award for Favorite Social Artist; 2018 Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Global Music Star; and 2018 MTV Europe Music Award for Biggest Fans. As can be seen from the awards above, a large part of BTS’ success is credited to their loyal fans (Army). In international media, BTS has been named not as “Kpop sensations,” but rather as “global pop stars.” In the “death” of the “K” in the labelling of BTS, a new understanding and definition of Kpop is needed. In order to do so, I will examine the music video to the 2018 single “Idol” (featuring Nicki Minaj) as a case study in the re-thinking of hybridity, transnationalism, and identity in Kpop.


  • Valerie Soe – “Because I Miss You: Jung Yonghwa and Kpop Lyfe, Death and Rebirth”
On March 5, 2018 Jung Yonghwa, leader of the popular Kpop band CNBLUE, began his mandatory 21-month service in the South Korean military. For many Kpop stars this can spell the death of their popularity, as two years is an eternity in the fickle and mercurial South Korean entertainment world. Yet Yonghwa may well be able to successfully return to his musical career once his military service ends, in part because he has proven his ability to survive the intensely vicious, bellicose attacks of the South Korean media.

This presentation looks at two recent live performances by Yonghwa of his ballad, Because I Miss You. On Dec. 18, 2017 Kim Jonghyun of the Kpop group SHINee committed suicide, and two days later at a concert in Japan Yonghwa paid tribute to his friendship with Jonghyun by belting out a poignant, emotional rendition of this song. Yonghwa also performed the song in March 2018 at his last concert that took place two days before his enlistment, after a six-week period during which the South Korean media attempted to bury him and kill off his career under a storm of controversy and character assassination. The presentation looks at the way that Because I Miss You thus becomes an elegy to the struggles and difficulties of the Kpop lyfe. It also explores how Kpop stars including Yonghwa and are often sacrificial lambs for the machinations of that country’s powerful political and economic forces and how despite this Yonghwa may be able to rise like a phoenix and staved off the symbolic obliteration of his musical life.




Moderators
RJ

Robin James

BioRobin James is Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte and co-editor of The Journal of Popular Music Studies. She is author of three books including The Sonic Episteme: acoustic resonance, neoliberalism, and biopolitics and Resilience & Melancholy: pop music, feminism... Read More →

Speakers
HW

Heather Willoughby

BioHeather Willoughby received her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Columbia University. Recent research and publishing efforts focus on gender and image-making issues in Korean popular music and contemporary pansori performance practices, as well as diverse topics covering comparative... Read More →
AY

Anthony Yooshin Kim

BioAnthony Yooshin Kim received his Ph.D. in Literature/Cultural Studies from the University of California, San Diego and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies at Williams College. He is writing his first book, Dissonant Sounds: Transoceanic Circuits of Popular... Read More →
MS

Myoung-Sun Song

BioMyoung-Sun Song is an Assistant Professor at Sogang University’s Department of American Culture. She received her Ph.D. in Communication from University of Southern California. Her research focuses on the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, and (national) identity... Read More →
VS

Valerie Soe

BioValerie Soe is Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. Since 1986 her experimental videos, installations, and documentary films have exhibited worldwide at museums, galleries, and film festivals, and on broadcast and cable television. She... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 3:45pm - 5:45pm PDT
Demo Lab

3:45pm PDT

Musical Mournings in an Age of Loss
  • Erik Broess – “A Dying Art Form? A Century of Necro-Tech: From Séances to the Superbowl”
A voicemail; an mp3; a YouTube video—there are many digital artifacts in which the voices of the dead can be interred. With technological advances, there exists the increasing potential for both the living and deceased to commingle in a new digital limbo. I argue that the popular music industry is at the vanguard of implementing this new ‘necro-tech’—e.g. holograms, posthumous duets—while comparable industries, like Hollywood, have been more cautious. I use the term ‘necro-tech’ to understand the various technologies and techniques that allow living and non-living actors to collaborate such that the boundaries between the two becomes nearly indistinguishable. My thinking here emerges from an ongoing research project regarding technology and music making in late nineteenth-century séances, which I understand as historic precedents of the privileged relationship between the music industry and the afterlife.

I consider a series of case studies from the contemporary music industry, such as Kendrick Lamar’s much-lauded posthumous conversation with the late Tupac Shakur on To Pimp A Butterfly and Justin Timberlake’s more polarizing duet with the late Prince during the Superbowl halftime show, among others. I also consider examples from other industries, such as an abandoned plan to computer animate the late Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Hunger Games franchise. Taking a long view, I position these contemporary case studies alongside previously overlooked descriptions of song, voice, and technology from nineteenth-century séance archives. In doing so, I map the emergence of the frameworks inherited and negotiated by the pop industry in the present. I understand the various necro-techs employed by the contemporary popular music industry as emerging in relation to the nineteenth century’s well-documented spiritual, technological and, I argue, sonic fascination with the afterlife.

  • Emily Mackay – “The record shows: ‘My Way’s strange dominance of the funeral charts”
In spring 2019, it will be 50 years since Frank Sinatra released My Way, a song that, in countries around the world, remains the No 1 choice in popular music played at funerals.

My talk will try to work out why so many choose to go out on that note. I’ll start with delving into the song’s strange history which, far from universal, is very specific. It began as Comme D’Habitude, a song sung by Claude François about love turning into disillusion. Paul Anka heard it on French radio while on holiday and thought it “a shitty record”, with something about it, but “ a very French lyric: le money, les eyelashes, le coffee, whatever”. He rewrote the words for, and in the voice of, Sinatra, at a time when his idol was thinking of quitting the business.

I’ll ask Anka whether he ever imagined it as a funeral song, and why he thinks it’s such a popular choice. (He’s previously said of its many covers: "Everyone thinks it's their song - but how many people really do it their own way?")

I’ll examine My Way’s adaptability in versions from Sid Vicious via Joe Frazier to Nina Hagen, and look at other popular funeral songs worldwide – from Always Look On The Bright Side of Life, a testament to the terrible British sense of humour, to Only Time by Enya, a soothing popular choice in Germany.

Finally, I’ll look at what it’s like, if you’re grieving, to actually sit through these songs. Is My Way really the best choice? (Frank opted for Put Your Dreams Away (For Another Day) at his own funeral, and his daughter claimed he’d come to hate the “self-serving, self-indulgent” Anka song.) And if it isn’t, what could end its reign at the top of the funeral pops?


  • Elijah Wald – “It’s Easy to Love Us When We’re Dead”
As every symphony season proves, dead people have created much of the world’s most wonderful and least threatening music. They have also provided decent, broadminded people with safe ways to demonstrate our love for other cultures.
I’ve spent much of my adult life playing, listening to, and writing about blues – which means I’ve spent much of my life in rooms where there were more black people onstage than in the audience, if there were any black people there at all. It also means I’m constantly fielding the question, “Why aren’t young African Americans interested in blues?” My responses have evolved over the years, but one is that if blues concerts drew crowds of young African Americans, my white questioners wouldn’t be there.
That response was prompted in part by the German klezmer revival and the more recent surge of klezmer bands throughout central Europe. I recently was the only Jew at a crowded klezmer concert in a synagogue in eastern Poland. When I mentioned to the organizer that this felt kind of weird, he said, “We have to keep this culture alive to prove Hitler didn’t win.” But if the culture were alive, would a synagogue be full of Catholics playing klezmer?
What is being preserved when we embrace dead people’s music, and what is potentially being ignored, dismissed, or destroyed? Do we have a particular right to our parents’ culture, which they might not have properly appreciated, or to other people’s culture, if they don’t appreciate it? My parents are dead, so I can honor their memories by going to eastern Poland, where they never chose to go… and honor my musical heroes by going to the Mississippi Delta, which most of them left as soon as they had the chance…

  • Ned Raggett – “Vibrating Together Within The Infinite: Reflections on the Azusa Plane’s ‘Armonia Aphanes Phaneros Kreisson’”
In June 2012, I helped coordinate the release of For Lee Jackson in Space, an online tribute and fundraiser dedicated to the memory of Jackson, a well-known writer and enthusiast in the modern psych underground community, who had died earlier that year. All were original submissions except the final track, which I selected: “Armonia Aphanes Phaneros Kreisson,” written and recorded by Jason DiEmilio under his musical name, the Azusa Plane, and released as the second album on the Camera Obscura label, founded by Tony Dale. DiEmilio had been dead for six years at that point, and Dale, two years. This presentation, underpinned by a playback of the song itself, will touch on personal memories but also discuss larger questions of legacy and presence, and what the song has become, at least, for me -- what is left behind and the constructions and strategies pursued to try to not forget, and whether that is simply too hopelessly romantic a vision. Discussion will range from an accounting of how each of the three passed on and how they chose to address or present what resulted in their passing to how they considered their own legacies and what they wanted to leave behind, if consciously chosen. It will also touch on death in other forms -- format and business death (Camera Obscura no longer exists, and released most of its work only on CD), scene death (the ceasing and transformation of the contexts all three worked in) and more. Ultimately this is an accounting of afterechoes and memories, of grappling with pasts, of when overlapping presences collapse into a song that seems like it could still go on forever.



Moderators
avatar for Daphne A. Brooks

Daphne A. Brooks

BioDaphne A. Brooks is Professor of African American Studies, Theater Studies, American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. She is the author of two books: Bodies in Dissent:  Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Durham... Read More →

Speakers
NR

Ned Raggett

BioNed Raggett continues to scratch his chin at things when given the chance, which tends to happen a lot. (He is fairly consistent in that regard.) When not writing for various locations including Bandcamp, the Quietus and KQED Arts, he tends to be thinking about things like whether... Read More →
EB

Erik Broess

BioErik Broess is a Ph.D. student in musicology at the University of Pennsylvania where he is affectionately known by his colleagues as “The Ghost Guy.” His current research draws attention to amateur music making in nineteenth-century séance ritual and its connection to twentieth-century... Read More →
EM

Emily Mackay

BioEmily Mackay is a freelance writer and copy editor based in Southend-on-Sea in the UK. She was previously reviews editor at NME, and her writing has also appeared in The Guardian, The Observer, Uncut, the Quietus and more. In 2017, she published her first book, for Bloomsbury’s... Read More →
EW

Elijah Wald

It’s Easy to Love Us When We’re DeadAs every symphony season proves, dead people have created much of the world’s most wonderful and least threatening music. They have also provided decent, broadminded people with safe ways to demonstrate our love for other cultures.I’ve spent... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 3:45pm - 5:45pm PDT
JBL Theater

3:45pm PDT

The Death and Afterlife of Music Collections
  • Oliver Wang – “You Can’t Take It With You (Can You?): The Afterlife of Music Collections”
Like other forms of collectible objects, records may have considerable emotional and financial value to the collector but they can pose challenges for heirs and estates that have little interest in preserving those collections after the passing of the collector her/himself. This paper explores the myriad ways in which both various parties plan for and/or deal with these realities, drawing upon interviews with record dealers, estate attorneys, and record collectors and their survivors. Partly, this papers addresses the logistics of dispensing with collections and the decision-making around “fairness” that may arise amongst friends/peers who feel entitled to its remnants. Partly, it addresses the idea of collections as emotional repositories and what it means, symbolically, for survivors to deaccession objects that held great meaning to the collector but little to themselves.

  • Ali Colleen Neff – “A Digital Afterlife: Social Networking Sites and the Music Archives of West Africa”
The materials that preserve, mark and commemorate global communities of musical practice—that write sounds, scenes, styles into global musical consciousness—collect in vastly different form the world over. While all of these media are meant for circulation, some of these forms are more static; shelvable, while others elude conventional forms of archiving.

For the young people of urban Dakar, Senegal, popular music takes the form of Sufi praise songs (zikr); these carry through mobile soundsystems that fill the urban streets, sandwich between the latest mbalax pop songs at the club, and bind the devoted to their faith through ecstatic processes of amplification and reverberation. They are not bought or sold, but instead come in the form of cell-phone field recordings, collected during Sufi ceremonies and kept on mobile memory cards that are, in turn, exchanged and copied by groups of friends over afternoon tea.

Every Senegalese cellular customer is amassing an extensive digital archive in her pocket; in each kilobyte, the substance of devotion, of belief, and of grace: a principle called zahir across Islamic tradition. In Senegal, a masterful praise singer is known by her ability to harness zahir to produce a direct sonic path to Allah for her listeners. This public communion carries over into the private and personal realms, as devotees relive and extend their religious experience through their home speakers.

In this piece, I draw from my extensive ethnographic fieldwork with woman Sufi praise singer Sokhna Khady Ba, who died suddenly in 2015. Her musical presence—a voice that she inherited as a traditional griotte praise singer and developed through a series of encounters with the saints in her dreams—has persisted after her death in the form of innumerable digital recordings. Since her death, hundreds of field recordings of her zikr have appeared online, digitally reviving the power of her spiritual presence. The ownership of this Sufi sound is collective; the archive is alive; the sound and song is available to all anywhere, at any time, without cost.


  • Joe Schloss – “See Here How Everything Lead Up To This Day’: On Throwing Away My Dead Tapes”
In the seventies, eighties, and nineties, it was common for devotees of the Grateful Dead scene to amass huge collections of live concert recordings on cassette tape. Over the last fifteen years, the rise of digital media has made all of these recordings easily available in much higher quality online, thus rendering thousands of obsessively curated tape collections effectively worthless.

Deciding whether or not to keep an object necessarily includes an assessment of its value, which in turn requires both a set of standards and a set of criteria for evaluating the object with regard to those standards. The process of discarding a music collection thus provides a unique opportunity to unpack a set of cultural principles, including principles that collectors themselves may not even be consciously aware of.

Among other things, the evaluation of a Grateful Dead tape collection in this way can provide particular insight into the conceptual relationship between two different understandings of live music recordings: the recording as a self-contained artistic object that is authored by musicians; and the recording as an incomplete document of a shared experience that is authored collaboratively by a community. What are the cultural and economic implications of these two views? What is their relationship to each other? What social processes produce them, and what social processes do they facilitate?


  • Allen Thayer – “The Resurrection of a Failed Salvation: Tim Maia's Rational Reevaluation”
At the height of Tim Maia’s (Brazil’s answer to James Brown with the appetites of Barry White) soaring fame he joined a radical, extraterrestrial-obsessed cult and created two-plus albums of some of Brazil’s - and the globe’s - best funk and soul music. After parting ways with Rational Culture in 1975, Tim rarely spoke about his time or the music he created during those years and the two volumes of independently released cult funk were lost to obscurity.

Obsessive and enterprising vinyl dealers in São Paulo started ripping and selling CD-R’s of rare and out-of-print albums and in this process Tim Maia’s two cult records starting to see a new life as a new generation of Brazilians who grew up on Tim’s hits discovered these mysterious and beautiful albums. After lingering in obscurity for decades, by 2007, Tim Maia Racional Vol. 1 & 2 were both included on Rolling Stone Brasil’s list of 100 Greatest Brazilian Music Albums, the first landing at #17, higher than any other album of Tim’s and the second at #49.

Tim Maia did everything in his power to ensure the death of Tim Maia Racional Vols. 1 & 2, a brief period of his musical career that he considered embarrassing and regrettable. Just before he died, these recordings were reborn, given a new life and cultural meaning by a new generation of musicians and music fans.

Allen Thayer, author of the recently published volume in the 33 ⅓ series, Tim Maia Racional Vols. 1 & 2, will explore the unusual path these albums took from rejection and obscurity to recognition and appreciation by Brazilian music fans and how music collectors, singers, beat-makers and MCs drove this process.


Moderators
DR

Dwandalyn Reece

​​​​Dwan Reece is Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.  She curated the museum’s permanent music exhibition, Musical Crossroads, and co-curated the 3-day grand opening  music festival, Freedom... Read More →

Speakers
OW

Oliver Wang

BioOliver Wang is a professor of sociology at CSU-Long Beach and the author of Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews of the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the former editor of the Journal of Popular Music Studies. He produces and co-hosts the music appreciation podcast... Read More →
AC

Ali Colleen Neff

BioAli Colleen Neff is a music writer, filmmaker, turntablist and media anthropologist based in Portland. Drawing from her lifelong work with global music communities, she works to integrate innovative subcultures, women, and marginalized communities into the global digital landscape... Read More →
JS

Joe Schloss

BioJoe Schloss is an interdisciplinary scholar who studies the way people use music and dance to develop new perspectives on social, cultural and political issues. His books include Foundation: B-Boys, B-Girls and Hip-Hop Culture in New York (Oxford University Press: 2009), and Making... Read More →
AT

Allen Thayer

BioAllen Thayer is a music journalist and radio host (KMHD) who lives in Portland, OR. Allen is a senior writer and associate editor for Wax Poetics his writing has been published in The Fader, The Utne Reader as well as liner-notes for releases on Light In the Attic, BBE, and Luaka... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 3:45pm - 5:45pm PDT
Learning Labs

3:45pm PDT

Wake Up to Reality: Forty Years of Musical Responses to HIV/AIDS
In 1981, the New York Times published its first reports of a mysterious illness among homosexual men in New York City. Initially called GRID, then renamed AIDS, the epidemic claimed thousands of lives over the next fifteen years. Pop music’s initial response to HIV/AIDS was as delayed that of the Reagan White House: indeed, musical responses to the epidemic were slower to appear than those in literature, performance art, theater, and film, and they remain less familiar to audiences today. 

In the early 1980s, dance music, itself reeling from the collapse of the disco market, still allowed its artists the expected tension and release set to an increasingly synthesized pulse; but by the mid to late 1980s, well-known and subcultural artists, from Prince and Michael Callen to Pet Shop Boys, were actively creating original musical works about (or referencing) HIV/AIDS. In the mid-1990s, the advent of effective treatments (for some) meant that musical representations of AIDS quickly tapered off; and in the twenty-first century, new classes of drugs, preventative treatments, and the injection drug epidemic once again shifted representation of HIV/AIDS. Today, HIV/AIDS is still most often (mis)represented in popular music as an inevitable death sentence, and as a disease that almost exclusively afflicts (white) gay men; questions linger about how pop music has managed the multi-decade HIV/AIDS crisis in terms of race, gender, sexuality, class and nationhood.

This roundtable will examine pop musical responses provoked by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Chrissy Shively considers Patrick Cowley’s “Goin’ Home.” The architect behind Sylvester’s most euphoric performances, Cowley was one of pop music’s first AIDS casualties. Alfred Soto will discuss how Athens party band The B-52’s cobbled together “Deadbeat Club” in the aftermath of the AIDS-related death of guitarist and aesthetic linchpin Ricky Wilson, substituting a fulsome harmonic sense for Wilson’s guitar chording as a way of establishing a sense of fellowship to ward off the gloom. Ann Powers summons U2’s “One” to talk about how heterosexual white artists find their place within the language of the epidemic by invoking the sermonic or the oracular. Jason King will examine Neneh Cherry’s hip-hop reworking of Cole Porter’s 1950s jazz standard “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” and Francesca Royster takes on Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let's Talk about Sex,” situating the hip-hop classic in a conversation about owning female black sexual knowledge and pleasure in the face of shame and victim blaming.
 
Finally, in the country and pop realms, Matthew Jones will look at Reba McEntire’s 1994 milestone ballad “She Thinks His Name Was John” as a ballad shimmering surface and yearning melody seem to project empathy for the person with HIV/AIDS but whose lyrics tell a very different story; and Barry Walters investigates Swedish rock band The Ark’s “Disease,” about an HIV-negative person finding the profile of an HIV-positive person online and deciding he/she’s willing to love him/her without any kind of emotional or physical barrier, even if their story ends in mutual, painful death.


Speakers
MJ

Matthew Jones

Matthew J. Jones is a musicologist and visiting assistant professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Miami University of Ohio whose work focuses on queerness, illness/disability, and musical practices. His essay “Enough of Being Basely Tearful: ‘Glitter and Be Gay... Read More →
avatar for Jason King

Jason King

BioJason King is Associate Professor, Director of Global Studies, and Director of Writing, History & Emergent Media Studies and the founding faculty member at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. He is the program curator of Future Pop Music Studies, an... Read More →
AS

Alfred Soto

Alfred Soto is a visiting professor of communications at Florida International University. He runs the website Humanizing the Vacuum. He was features editor of Stylus Magazine. His work has appeared in Billboard, The Village Voice, The Miami Herald, Rolling Stone, Slate, MTV, Pitchfork... Read More →
CS

Chrissy Shively

BioChrissy Shively is an internationally touring DJ/producer with an eye toward dance music history: his previous projects “My Year of Mixtapes” and “My Year of Edits” focused on the history of house, disco, and other electronic dance genres. He currently runs two house music... Read More →
AP

Ann Powers

BioAnn Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs. She is the author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music (2017). Powers... Read More →
FR

Francesca Royster

Francesca T. Royster is Professor of English at DePaul University, where she teaches courses in Shakespeare Studies, Performance Studies, Critical Race theory, Black Feminisms, Gender, Queer Theory and African American Studies. She received her PhD in English from University of California... Read More →
BW

Barry Walters

Since starting his career in the ‘80s at The Village Voice, Barry Walters has been a Senior Critic at Rolling Stone; the primary music critic for The San Francisco Examiner, Out, and The Advocate, and a longtime contributor to Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, Pitchfork... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 3:45pm - 5:45pm PDT
Sky Church

5:45pm PDT

Opening Reception
Thursday April 11, 2019 5:45pm - 7:00pm PDT
Culture Kitchen

7:30pm PDT

GOING UP YONDER: HOW MUSIC MAKERS AND WRITERS CONFRONT LOSS AND GRIEF
GOING UP YONDER: 
HOW MUSIC MAKERS AND WRITERS CONFRONT LOSS AND GRIEF 
A keynote panel conversation at The Museum of Pop Culture’s “Only You and Your Ghost Will Know: Music, Death and Afterlife” Pop Conference
Keynote produced by Jason King
in conjunction with Billboard 
and 
New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music 

featuring

ISHMAEL BUTLER, musician, Shabazz Palaces, Knife Knights
DAPHNE A. BROOKS, writer/scholar, Yale University
DAVID TOOP, musician/writer/scholar, London College of Communication
EFRIM MANUEL MENUCK, musician, Godspeed You! Black Emperor
STEVE PERRY, singer/songwriter/producer
ANN POWERS (panelist and moderator), writer/author, NPR Music

When: Thursday April 11th at 7:30 pm sharp
Where: Sky Church, Museum of Pop Culture
325 5th Avenue North, Seattle, Washington
Admission: Free with Conference Registration
https://www.mopop.org/popcon

Musician Nick Cave—who tragically lost his son Arthur in 2015—wrote a powerfully sensitive open letter to a fan about how he copes with mourning. Cave’s reply went viral last year; in it, he offered a trenchant reminder that “grief is the terrible reminder of the depths of our love and, like love, grief is non-negotiable.” Indeed, to live is to constantly be reminded that everything must change: none of us are immune from the looming, inevitable finality of death (unless you envision death as a transition rather than a terminal destination). Music makers and music writers alike find ways to process the losses of family, friends, partners, pets, the ends of relationships, and the closing of artistic chapters and legacies—and some of us do so by mourning, and grieving, in and through art. Along the way, our own mortality haunts us, stalks us, obstructs us, propels us, and sometimes frees us, too.
 
To kick off a multi-day conference at Museum of Pop Culture on the connections between music, death and afterlives, the keynote conversation invites a phenomenal panel of musicians, songwriters, producers, authors, and scholars to muse about the impact of grief on the creative process, and how the creative process functions in and around—and against and through—profound loss. Among the subjects on the table for discussion: music, spirits, phantoms, and ghosts; the promises and challenges of writing obituaries, elegies, and eulogies; how artists find the space to cope with the departure of loved ones and essential collaborators; and how artists creatively rummage up tools of melancholy or resilience as responses to loss. On board for the discussion: Ishmael Butler, the creative force behind Shabazz Palaces and founder of jazz rap mainstays Digable Planets; Daphne Brooks, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of African American Studies at Yale University, and author of books like Bodies in Dissent and the 33 1/3 entry Jeff Buckley’s Grace; Efrim Manuel Menuck, the creative force behind acclaimed Montreal-based bands Godspeed You! Black Emperor And Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra; Steve Perry, the legendary singer-songwriter who earned global fame as the voice of Journey and whose recently released solo album Traces (his first in nearly twenty five years) is a powerful testament to love, loss and heartbreak; David Toop, the iconic musician, author, and professor of audio culture and improvisation at the London College of Communication, whose forthcoming manuscript, Flutter Echo, considers the complexity of memories and personal experiences; and moderator/panelist Ann Powers, NPR Music Critic and author of many books, most recently Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul. The event is produced by Jason King of New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music and will be presented in conjunction with Billboard.

For more information, visit the Pop Conference page: https://www.mopop.org/popcon

Moderators
AP

Ann Powers

BioAnn Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs. She is the author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music (2017). Powers... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Daphne A. Brooks

Daphne A. Brooks

BioDaphne A. Brooks is Professor of African American Studies, Theater Studies, American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. She is the author of two books: Bodies in Dissent:  Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Durham... Read More →
avatar for Ishmael Butler

Ishmael Butler

Ishmael Butler is the creative force and architect behind groundbreaking groups like Digable Planets, Shabazz Palaces, and Knife Knights. After hip-hop group Digable Planets disbanded, Butler was preparing to emerge from years of near-complete silence. He unveiled his new outlet... Read More →
avatar for David Toop

David Toop

David Toop has been developing a practice that crosses boundaries of sound, listening, music and materials since 1970. This encompasses improvised music performance, writing, electronic sound, field recording, exhibition curating, sound art installations and opera. It includes seven... Read More →
avatar for Efrim Manuel Menuck

Efrim Manuel Menuck

Efrim Menuck is a legendary Montréal-based musician and the founder of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion. He’s gained a much-deserved cult status among fans of political punk, post-rock and avant-noise songcraft alike. Menuck celebrates 25 years of unflinching... Read More →
avatar for Steve Perry

Steve Perry

Steve Perry is a legendary singer-songwriter who earned global fame as the voice of Journey before going on to significant solo success. Christened as one of the greatest singers of all time by Rolling Stone, Perry made a contribution as frontman that helped Journey to emerge as... Read More →


Thursday April 11, 2019 7:30pm - 9:15pm PDT
Sky Church
 
Friday, April 12
 

9:00am PDT

Cultural Memorials
  • John Dankwa – “Music and the Afterworld: The Case of Akan Highlife Songs in Ghana”
Highlife is a syncretic musical style which fuses traditional Ghanaian rhythms and melodies with European instruments and harmonies. Originating in the early twentieth century along the Fanti coast of southwest Ghana, highlife music rose to prominence particularly in the 1960s. Highlife songs deal with a wide range of themes. However, most highlife song texts dwell on subjects that may be classified under the domain of misery brought about by social mobility, injustice, marriage, betrayal, poverty, hard luck, witchcraft, and death etc. The emphasis of these themes, nonetheless, finds its highest expression in the funerary traditions of the Akan, the dominant ethnic group in Ghana. The expatiation of the theme of death in highlife texts more particularly brings the artist face to face with Akan traditional beliefs. One of such is the belief in the life hereafter. The Akan believe that death is an undeniable reality and phase of life that awaits all. However, among the Akan death is not seen as an end to life. Instead, it is considered a kind of new birth into another world, where one lives on as a changed, transformed human, modified in status and power. In this paper, I explore the theme of death and life hereafter in highlife music, arguing that highlife song texts present a real picture of Akan popular beliefs about life after death through implicit and explicit invocation of the spirit of a deceased to assume certain significant roles in society.

  • Amy Frishkey – “The Artist as Ancestor Spirit in Garifuna Popular Music”
The death of forty-seven-year-old Andy Palacio on January 19th, 2008, triggered waves of remorse within the minority Garifuna communities of his native country, Belize. Since he was nineteen years old, Palacio served as an ambassador for Garifuna culture in a multitude of guises: as a literacy worker in nearby Nicaragua, as the international star of a regional dance music called punta rock, as Cultural Ambassador and Deputy Administrator within Belize’s National Institute of Culture and History, and, finally, as the frontperson of an award-winning world music supergroup called the Garifuna Collective. Considered an outward-looking outsider by his Belizean Garifuna brethren while still alive, Palacio’s call to cultural and linguistic preservation on world stages became a posthumous guiding light for younger generations and formerly begrudging peers. His final transformation from earthly to spiritual being at a young age validated his regular tendency to keep one foot upon foreign soils both literal and metaphorical. As one of his peers put it, “He is with the ancestors now,” and an outpouring of commemorative songs by former bandmates depicted his new communality with deceased elders and newfound communality with contemporaries.
My presentation excavates the meeting ground of popular music and neo-traditional Garifuna spirituality and values that Andy Palacio forged late in his career. In particular, I examine how the basis of this spirituality within the Garifuna people’s Afrodiasporic heritage dovetails with postcolonial narratives at work within the world music industry to fashion new anchors of cultural relevance for Garifuna living transnationally. I argue that outside accolades for, and celebrity status of, musicians from the Garifuna Central American home communities create a parallel between cosmopolitanism and the otherworldly realm believed to be occupied by ancestor spirits.


  • Kembrew McLeod – “The Death and Life and Death of a Great American City: New York, Underground Culture, Gentrification, and the Ghost of Jane Jacobs”
Writer and activist Jane Jacobs published The Death and Life of Great American Cities in 1961, when New York City’s economic foundations crumbled into dirt — something that cultivated rich strains of underground culture. As a result, the inhabitants of a roughly one-square-mile area of Lower Manhattan changed the way we think about music, art, performance, and human sexuality throughout the 1960s and 1970s. These events were set in motion by a tight-knit creative community that made sparks fly as they brushed against each other. Expressing themselves without much thought about career development or sound business plans, they did it collectively in the spirit of fun and adventure when they crossed paths in bars and other venues. A half century later, this fiscal and cultural dynamic has dramatically been inverted, turning New York City into a place that is much more difficult for artists and other outsiders to thrive, much less survive. Unfortunately, Jacobs’s preservationist instincts—which saved Washington Square Park and the SoHo area from being paved over—did not account for the way that gentrification would burden artists, people of color, and the working poor. New York’s contemporary real estate boom began when the city government strongly encouraged property development in the 1980s, and by the 1990s the real estate gold rush shifted downtown, which led to the closing of CBGB, the Knitting Factory, Tonic, and other downtown venues that programmed innovative musical acts. To help visualize the relationships between these urban spaces and the people who inhabited them, Kembrew McLeod’s presentation will draw on research from his book The Downtown Pop Underground and its content-rich website, TheDowntownPopUnderground.com. This digital humanities project makes connections between several dozen downtown denizens and the places they inhabited, literally mapping the ways that scenes live and die within certain geographic spaces.

Moderators
MS

Meagan Sylvester

BioMeagan Sylvester is a published author of over fifteen book chapters and journal articles. Her research topics of interest are Music and National Identity in Calypso and Soca, Music of Diasporic Carnivals, Narratives of Resistance in Calypso and Ragga Soca music, Steelpan and kaisoJazz... Read More →

Speakers
JD

John Dankwa

BioJohn Dankwa is an adjunct assistant professor of music at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. John teaches courses in West African drumming and culture. His research interests focus on music and affects in Ghanaian funerary traditions, the communicative functions of Ghanaian... Read More →
avatar for Amy Frishkey

Amy Frishkey

BioAmy Frishkey is an ethnomusicologist who works in Austin as a music curator for brands (Mood Media) and a folkloric podcasting producer-instructor (Texas Folklife).  Her writing explores Afrodiasporic identity, exceptional vocality, belonging, gender, and spirituality in popular... Read More →
KM

Kembrew McLeod

BioKembrew McLeod is an award-winning author of several books whose writing has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Slate, and Salon. His most recent book is The Downtown Pop Underground: New York City and the literary punks, renegade... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
Demo Lab

9:00am PDT

Minoritarian Aesthetics and Sound Politics
  • Joshua Javier Guzmán – “Stripped life: The Bags, The Brat and lo-fi performance”
This paper focuses on Chicana feminist rejections of virtuosity and mastery through a style politics of low-fidelity (or lo-fi) to the norm. The paper will briefly examine the biographies and punk cultural production of Alice Bag, lead singer of the infamous The Bags, and Teresa Covarrubias involvement in the underground East L.A. Chicano punk band The Brat in order to trace the reworking of lo-fi from a musical style into a way of life or attitude under the rise of neoloberal policies. The main substance of the paper considers musical performance and close readings of two song lyrics, “Sanyo” by The Bags and “Attitudes” by The Brat read alongside the Italian feminist Marxist tradition and works by Chicana feminist theorists such as Norma Alarcón and Chela Sandoval. The point is to show how lo-fi aesthetics marks a stripped-down account of life and the failed reproduction of the norm. Lo-fi even resonates with how women of color feminists in the 1980’s utilized low grade, often makeshift DIY publication venues such as Third Woman Press, Kitchen Table Press, and Aunt Lute to circulate their ideas. Lo-fi then is not only an attitude but also a mode of circulation and mediation grounded at the intersection of women of color feminism and underground punk culture. Together these sites demonstrate how lo-fi operates at the everyday and mundane regions of life in the form of an attitude circulating as a critical rejection of the hyper-commodification of the public sphere under Reagan and Thatcher’s early socio-economic policies.


  • Fiona I. B. Ngô – ““’She’s Brown/ She’s Smart’: Latinx Punk Feminisms”
This paper considers the queer minoritarian politics of Downtown Boys, a Latinx punk band from Providence, Rhode Island. Over the course of their recorded work spanning 2012-2017, Downtown Boys have tackled important social and political issues such as the proposed building of a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, the legacies of slavery, and the engineering of permanent poverty. Their music, both in terms of lyrics and sonically, resists what feminist geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore terms a “horizon of death,” represented by the lack of life chances allotted to people of color through institutions such as the prison industrial complex and capitalism. Set against this speeding toward death, Downtown Boys struggle towards life, survival, and freedom, as singer Victoria Ruiz vocals press against her listeners’ comfort, exhorting them to understand histories of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Music rushes and floods, two saxophones entwine behind lyrics that proclaim, “She’s Brown; she’s smart,” and “I will trade you/ cash/ gold/ lies/ gone.” Drums and guitar come crashing through “Do you want more?/ Than the scraps they leave out on the floor/,,,Than the shit they throw you on the floor?” Utilizing frameworks established by cultural theorists Michelle Habell-Pallán, Fred Moten, and Christina Sharpe, this paper places Downtown Boys’ music within a political economy that understands capitalism in terms of violent histories of racialization. Downtown Boys establish a pedagogical approach to both understand and re-define racial epistemologies through queer minoritarian aesthetics. As such, their sonic onslaught establishes a queer undercommons, or what the band Algiers calls “the underside of power,” a space for life within and against the necropolitical context of the racial and imperial order.

  • Joshua Chambers-Letson – “Death Resonance: Race, Music, and Worldmaking in N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth”
This paper veers from the domain of popular music to attend to music’s relationship to racialization, death, and worldmaking in a popular (genre) literary form through a reading of the place of music in N.K. Jemisin’s popular science fiction/fantasy trilogy The Broken Earth. Jemisin’s novels are set in a world that could be our earth’s distant future, or long forgotten past, where orogenes (a minoritarian race who are sub- or a-human within the dominant ideology of their time) have the power to control and quell the earth’s ongoing war with humanity. Dehumanized and enslaved, orogenes are the scions of a race of people (the Niess) long ago destroyed in a genocidal holocaust. But orogenes are also the only people with the ability to activate and use a powerful energy matrix of “obelisks,” which are the only hope for life’s survival on earth. This ability manifests as a capacity to sing with, to, and tune the obelisks. Thus, an enslaved, minoritarian race’s ability to “save” the world by giving birth to a new one is rooted in their ability to sing in a resonance with both the earth and the “obelisks.” Indeed, it is the ability of orogenes to resonate with what W.E.B. Du Bois might have called the “sorrow songs” of the Niess that allows orogenes to activate a long-forgotten power to either destroy and give birth to new worlds of potential and more life. This paper attempts to resonate with Jemisin’s resonance, by drawing on theorizations of black sound (from Du Bois to Nina Simone or Daphne Brooks) to consider how the intergenerational resonance of people subject to slavery and genocide to create the conditions of possibility for the ending of this, unlivable world, and the making a new and better one whose song is yet to be sung.

Moderators
SK

Summer Kim Lee

BioSummer Kim Lee is a Mellon Faculty Fellow in English at Dartmouth College. She earned her PhD in Performance Studies from New York University. She is currently working on her first book project, Unaccommodating Acts: Asian American Aesthetics and the Limits of Sociality, which... Read More →

Speakers
JJ

Joshua Javier Guzmán

BioJoshua Javier Guzmán is Assistant Professor in the Department of Gender Studies at UCLA. He co-edited a special issue of Women and Performance entitled "Lingering in Latinidad: Aesthetics, Theory and Performance in Latina/o Studies.” Joshua is currently working on a  book... Read More →
FI

Fiona I. B. Ngô

BioFiona I. B. Ngô is an Associate Professor in Asian American and Gender and Women’s Studies at UIUC, and is the author of Imperial Blues: Geographies of Race and Sex in Jazz Age New York. “Punk Anteriors,” an issue of Women & Performance co-edited with Elizabeth Stinson... Read More →
JC

Joshua Chambers-Letson

BioJoshua Chambers-Letson is an associate professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University he is the author of After the Party: A Manifesto for Queer of Color Life (NYU Press, 2018) and A Race So Different: Law and Performance in Asian America (NYU Press, 2013). His academic... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
Learning Labs

9:00am PDT

The Life and Death (and Maybe Even Rebirth) of Country Music
  • David Cantwell – “Would You Lay with Me in a Field of Stone: Country Music’s Death Obsession”
Death—the fear or fact of it; the inevitability of it—is foundational to country music. The first country hit, Fiddlin' John Carson's "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane" from 1923, was about a man waiting to die. The first song recorded at the genre's so-called "Big Bang," those famous 1927 Bristol Sessions, was "The Dying Girl's Farewell." The breakout stars from those same sessions, Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family, first recorded "The Soldier's Sweetheart," about a woman mourning the death of her lover during WWI, and "Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow," respectively. Through the decades, countless exemplars of the country song—“He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Independence Day,” “Travelin’ Soldier”—have also been songs about death or dying. At the same time, and in sharp contrast to other genres, country has favored songs and albums that either honor long-gone legends or fret about the future of the genre itself. Frequent show-closing singalongs of “Can the Circle Be Unbroken” are both literally about mourning a dead mother while following her casket to the grave yard and figuratively about honoring the music’s founding family—all while enacting fingers-crossed hopes against the death of the music. Why is country so fixated upon mortality? This paper will attempt to answer that question while considering how country music has remained country—and how it may continue to do so, no matter how it sounds.
Critic

  • RJ Smith – “Now I Lay Me Down to Weep: Skeeter Davis Walking with the Zombies”
Skeeter Davis’s 1963 hit “The End of the World” is a numb incantation of despair. Maybe even a view of a post-apocalyptic world; at least it certainly seems like that to the singer, as she walks through a world in which everything seems to go on as it did the day before, and yet everybody around her seems different (spoiler alert: because they are dead!). It feels teenaged, it feels Victorian, it feels infinite. This paper will examine the history of a song, starting with its backstory, steeped in family tragedy and car crashes. The song came at a pivotal moment in country music history, and capitalized on seismic changes in Nashville to become a hit on country, pop, easy listening and rhythm and blues charts. Today it is used on screen to illustrate apocalypse (Under the Dome, The Leftovers, The End of the F***ing World); in books on coping with bereavement it is offered as a balm; in times of war, it is banned by the BBC. This paper will probe the song’s deathless power, examine the power of essential cover versions and ask why men should think twice before trying one (looking at you, Rivers Cuomo).


  • Jada Watson – “The Endangerment of Female Representation in Country Music Culture: Changing Billboard Methodologies and Ecological Diversity on the Hot Country Songs Chart”
Billboard charts are curators of popular music culture. Billboard charts bring order to otherwise chaotic consumption behaviors, processing, archiving, and transmitting a musical product’s commercial activity to radio programmers, streaming services, and record labels. Through this process, a cyclic relationship exists between Billboard and these actors, which make programming decisions based on the chart results. In so doing, these charts document and shape a genre’s cultural ecosystem.
Although often made to account for shifts in technology, changes in Billboard’s methodology exert significant impacts on the health, vitality and sustainability of genre cultures. The October 2012 revisions of the long-running Hot Country Songs (HCS) chart offers a critical example of these impacts. After more than two decades of ranking popularity according to country format radio airplay alone, Billboard applied its Hot 100 methodology to the chart, combining digital sales, streaming, and airplay from all radio formats. This new methodology has radically changed the genre’s ecosystem—rewarding crossover artists, significantly reducing the number of artists reaching the coveted #1 spot, and nearly erasing women from the HCS chart and, by extension, from country radio.
Theories of social remembering (Misztal 2003; Strong 2011) offer a critical framework for considering the credibility of record keeping within a culture that disadvantages and systematically ignores women. This paper explores the role of Billboard charts in the process of shaping country music culture, as an instrument that systematically “remembers” some artists, while “casting away” or “forgetting” others. In the current context, women are increasingly at risk of becoming endangered species – ultimately threatening the health and vitality of the genre’s culture. Drawing on the results of a data-driven analysis of the HCS chart, this paper argues that Billboard’s new methodology has contributed to the radical extinction of variety and erasure of women’s narrative voices within country music culture.

  • Jewly Hight – “Country Wide: The Death of a Simplistic Narrative of Country Music Identity”
As the essential work of Diane Pecknold, Nadine Hubbs and Karl Hagstrom-Miller has shown, the crystallizing of the popular narrative that country music is exclusively the property of white working people was a lengthy process, spanning the categorization of early recordings into “hillbilly” and “race” records, academic and industry institutions’ efforts to map out a direct lineage from folk roots to popular forms, conservative politicians’ opportunistic identification with the genre and condescending outside interpretations of it. But it’s become a lot harder to maintain a neat and simple notion of who makes country music, and for whom, because country identity, built for so long on emphasizing commonality, is beginning to acknowledge the significance of difference too. African-American country stars like Charley Pride and Darius Rucker once found acceptance by emphasizing what they shared musically, regionally and culturally with country tradition, but younger voices like Priscilla Renea, Kane Brown and Willie Jones foreground their racial identities as enriching their angles on country music-making. Where country music has long been home to ribbing between genders that ultimately called for a sort of good-natured coexistence, the industry is beginning to reckon, in halting ways, with relational and professional gender disparities. There have also been early steps toward acknowledging the existence of country’s queer demographic, at least behind the scenes and at the fringes of the industry. And country music’s campaign to be viewed as a viable demographic with an upwardly mobile audience long ago gave way to the reality that its working and middle-class values are often blended, and sometimes in conflict. This paper will draw on original reporting and critical analysis to show how the simplistic narrative of country identity met its end.



Moderators
Speakers
RS

RJ Smith

BioRJ Smith is the author of biographies of photographer-filmmaker Robert Frank (American Witness: Da Capo Press, 2017) and James Brown (The One: Gotham Books, 2012). His The Great Black Way: LA in the 1940s and the Lost African American Renaissance (Public Affairs, 2006) won a California... Read More →
DC

David Cantwell

BioDavid Cantwell lives in Kansas City, MO. He writes about popular culture for The New Yorker and Rolling Stone Country and has also written for Slate, Pitchfork and No Depression. He was the 2017 winner of the Chet Flippo Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism, and is... Read More →
JW

Jada Watson

BioJada Watson is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa, where she teaches in the School of Music, in Information Studies and in the Digital Humanities. Her research focuses on the development of genre cultures and communities, with an interest issues related to gender... Read More →
JH

Jewly Hight

BioMusic journalist and critic Jewly Hight is a Contributing Writer at NPR Music, and her work also appears in The New York Times and New York Magazine/Vulture.com. She was the inaugural winner of the Chet Flippo Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism and published her first... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
JBL Theater

9:00am PDT

“Ain’t Got No, I Got Life”: Vitality, Exuberance, and Life Force/Àse in Black Popular Music
  • Daphne A. Brooks – “Of Ultralight Beams & Other Radiant Weapons: Black Sonic Vitality on the Freedom Struggle Front Lines”
This is a paper about the ethical and aesthetic anatomy of African American protest songs—past, present, and future. It takes as its point of departure an exploration of the ways in which classic vernacular songs born out of the long Civil Rights Movement campaign, songs like “Get on Board Little Children,” “If You Miss Me from the Back of the Bus,” “Sweet By and By,” “Keep Your Hand on the Plow,” “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round,” “Guide My Feet,” “I’m Going to Sit at the Welcome Table” were, at their core, songs that faced and rejected the threat of social and material annihilation by way of a kind of spiritual and moral defiance that manifested itself in terms of form as well as content. This kind of resistance is inextricably linked to black music genres and traditions across the centuries, but at its essence, this thing that we might call black sonic vitality is a secret weapon that artists and grassroots activists have put to use during both key revolutionary moments and seemingly minor-key and fleeting pop events. In both cases, the exuberant black musical gesture—from Nina’s 18-minute plus medley of “My Sweet Lord/Today Is A Killer” to Kanye’s extravagant ensemble SNL piece, “Ultralight Beam”—has drawn on the ethos of the canonical protest song, the assertion that the insurgent rejection of anti-black dispossession, displacement, and destruction can be actualized in sound. Framed as a conversation with students in my 2017 freshmen protest music seminar, this paper moves toward a reflection on how to write songs of dissent in our present age of peril and precarity, and it ultimately builds a playlist of sounds and sights from disparate sources—concert footage, film clips, mega-hits and deep cuts from artists as varied as Sweet Honey in the Rock and Aretha to Algiers and Esther Phillips—that constitute the radiant weapons of our ongoing, new world-making battle to claim the value and potency of black life in the face of structures insisting on its negation.

  • Jason King – “A Voice That Could Wake the Dead: Loleatta Holloway’s Fire-Relighting Vibrational Vocal Superpower”
Chicago-reared singer Loleatta Holloway is mostly known for her explosive 1970s and early 1980s Salsoul disco dancefloor stompers like “Hit and Run” and “Dreaming” —to say nothing of her jaw-dropping vocals on two classic Dan Hartman productions, “Vertigo/Relight My Fire” and “Love Sensation.” By the late 1980s, as hip-hop and house producers turned samplers into instruments, Holloway’s outsize wailing became a burnin’ hot commodity on hip-hop and house tracks like Black Box’s “Ride on Time” and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations.” The buoyantly energetic, astonishing vibrational resonance of Holloway’s spectacularly rangy and pyrotechnical larynx—in tandem with her love for joyously sassy monologues—has always offered a thrilling and erotic counter-aesthetic to the grim, harsh realities of black / queer unfreedom in the 1970s and AIDS-defined 80s. Holloway’s queer sense of phrasing/timing met its match in songs like “I May Not Be There When You Want Me (But I’m Right on Time),” that were themselves thematically focused on timing. And her vivacious hits songs are full of metaphors of ignition, locomotion and erotic explosiveness. At its best, Holloway’s badass gospel-inspired vocalizing was the vital, authoritative, ferocious sound of life itself, beating away anerotic death at the door.

  • Sonnet Retman – “Animating Cab Calloway’s ‘Minnie the Moocher’: Talkartoons and Trickeration in the Archive of Modern Black Performance”
For all of Cab Calloway’s popularity as an entertainer in the 1930s and 40s, he has not made much of an appearance at the Pop Conference. Yet we find the trace of him everywhere, in swing’s hep and bebop’s hip, in Michael Jackson’s moonwalk, in Janet Jackson’s rhythm nation, in Prince’s sartorial splendor, in Outkast’s sampled hooks and even a Tupac cover. By all accounts, Calloway’s presence was “larger than life.” I take up that claim by exploring his charismatic stage persona and his literal animation in the Talkartoon, the rotoscope talkie cartoon invented by the Fleischer brothers in the late 1920s. How might we think through the contradictions of early recording technology for black performers by examining the particular ways in which Calloway haunts this machine?

Praised by animators for their innovation and condemned by ethnomusicologists for their “remarkably racist” content, the Fleischer Studio’s jazz cartoons constitute a fraught archive. The earliest existing film footage of Cab Calloway appears in “Minnie the Moocher” (1932), a Talkartoon co-starring Betty Boop, a year after Calloway recorded his hit song. The song provides the soundtrack and loose storyline for the cartoon, an interpretation of Minnie’s descent into an opium-fueled dream of Swedish Kings, gold houses and diamond cars and most likely, addiction. In this version, a teenaged Boop runs away from her strict immigrant German Jewish parents only to find herself in a phantasmagoric forest haunted by black and grey haints, rendered primitive, sexual, criminal and perverse. She hides in a cave where she encounters an undulating walrus-ghost—none other than Cab Calloway in rotoscoped form--who serenades her with the cautionary tale of Minnie. Boop flees home chastened by the deathly perils of an erotic, exotic black underworld shaped by the bodily traces and musical sounds of Calloway and his band, the Missourians. As the film cuts from live footage in its opening titles to animation, attempting to bottle Calloway’s charisma in cartoon form, it both enacts and contains his “body magic.” What exceeds the cartoon’s narrative? What remains? What kind of hauntology is this? In its opening frames, we see a young Calloway in “mesmerizing slow motion” on the cusp of stardom and a long career. We also see and hear the trace of his sister Blanche Calloway’s performance repertoire that so influenced his stage show, including the scatting and call and response routine immortalized in “Minnie the Moocher.” In this paper, I attend to the afterlife of these images and sounds to think expansively about the archive of modern black performance in the early moment of recording technology.


  • Zandria F. Robinson – “Sonic Asé: Black Folks Making It So in Life, Death, and Beyond”
Black folks across the Diaspora have used art and sound to "make it so," to manifest the Yoruba concept of asé, which in part encapsulates the human ability, through God, the orisha, and the spirits of the ancestors, to transform one's circumstances. Sound as a pathway to asé takes tremendous effort, as a seeming cacophony of sounds from drums to yelps to shouts are required to conjure this personal power and vitality and, where necessary and possible, transfer it to the collective. This paper considers what it means to achieve asé through sound, focusing on how black artists theorize and celebrate the transition from death to spirit. Did Jesus raise Lazarus, or was it the thick, braided sound of Aretha Franklin's voice on Amazing Grace that brought him back to life? Were the Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready to Die and Life After Death albums extended prayers for safe passage to the other side? How did Erykah Badu's "Telephone" ensure Jay Dilla's eternal life, and how does Frank Ocean's trip across a black River Styx increase his power to make things so? These and other artists sound a pathway to the other side, to other possibilities, and to the eternal; in tandem, they offer to us methodologies for vitality and make-it-so-ness on this side.

Moderators
avatar for Jason King

Jason King

BioJason King is Associate Professor, Director of Global Studies, and Director of Writing, History & Emergent Media Studies and the founding faculty member at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. He is the program curator of Future Pop Music Studies, an... Read More →

Speakers
avatar for Daphne A. Brooks

Daphne A. Brooks

BioDaphne A. Brooks is Professor of African American Studies, Theater Studies, American Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale University. She is the author of two books: Bodies in Dissent:  Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Durham... Read More →
SR

Sonnet Retman

BioSonnet Retman is an Associate Professor of American Ethnic Studies at the University of Washington. She is author of Real Folks: Race and Genre in the Great Depression (Duke 2011). Her work on race, gender, genre and performance has also appeared in journals such as American Literature... Read More →
ZF

Zandria F. Robinson

BioZandria F. Robinson, PhD is a writer and associate professor of sociology whose work focuses on race, popular culture, and the U.S. South. She is the author of This Ain’t Chicago: Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South, co-editor with Sandra L. Barnes and Earl... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
Sky Church

11:15am PDT

Death in the Dance
  • Erin MacLeod – “Death and the Sound Bwoy—Voices from Beyond the Grave in Sound Clash”
There’s a whole lot of death in Jamaican sound clash—sound bwoys getting buried, full sound systems being killed, fatal blows in musical form. End-of-life metaphors are commonplace in the tune-driven sport of sound clash, pitting songs and sounds against each other in the interest of domination and survival. One of the key tools in this competition between rival sounds is the dubplate: a special, personalized recording that hails one sound system team over the next in the most creative of ways. Sound systems fight to the death using these tracks, commissioning dubplates of the latest and greatest artists.
But sound systems and soundmen that have been around for more than a minute can have artillery in their possession that has the potential of being impossible to compete with: the dead artist dub. UK radio DJ and long-time sound clash competitor David Rodigan has been known to play dearly departed artists like Garnet Silk, Dennis Brown or Prince Buster in the interest of showing up his opponent. Wyclef Jean has tried to prove his legitimacy as a sound man through releasing a much-questioned dub plate from Michael Jackson. And Irish and Chin, the most renowned of sound clash promoters, have established full rounds in which sound systems must only play artists who are no longer with us and therefore can’t be paid to voice a dub in the present day.
Describing and thinking about the role of this death discourse and voices from beyond the grave, this presentation will argue for the importance of these practices in establishing not only a historical record within the competition, but also for the ways this underlines the constant relevance of foundation reggae music. When the latest voices are as valuable as those long dead, it impresses upon the listening audience that the past is always present, and retaining history is key to moving forward.

  • Chrissy Shively “New Beat Fashion: Grave desecration in the Belgian dance music scene”
At the dawn of the 1980s, Belgium was viewed by many as a provincial backwater of Western Europe: no one considered this small country to be cutting-edge, fashionable, or worldly. Over the course of the decade, however, Belgium would develop a legendary dance music scene, with local goth and industrial bands absorbing American disco and house influences to create new genres like EBM, New Beat, and Belgian Rave, which in turn had a massive impact on the evolution of dance music and club culture in Chicago, New York, London, Berlin, and beyond.
Simultaneously, the small Belgian city of Antwerp was becoming an unlikely center of the fashion industry, with young designers like Dries Van Noten, Walter Van Bierendonck, and Ann Demeulemeester creating forward-thinking, cerebral designs that would contribute heavily to the visual language (and club looks) of the 1990s and today.
This presentation will look at the Goth-inspired “New Beat Fashion” at the intersection of these worlds: specifically the trend of incorporating images from tombstones into club-wear outfits, and the resulting cases of cemetery vandalism that swept Belgium in 1988-1989.

  • Rachel Shimp – “Your Sound: The Eternal Return of Kemistry & Storm”
There's no conversation about the early days of jungle/drum and bass without mention of DJ duo Kemistry and Storm, cofounders of the genre's most influential label, Metalheadz. But 20 years after Kemistry's death in a freak accident, at the crest of her global popularity, talk persists of the genre's gender imbalance. There's a hashtag called #NormalNotNovelty. Still the woman in jungle is hidden, ghostlike: if not dead then underrepresented, endlessly hustling for inclusion and recognition. In 2017, the Metalheadz DJ night booked 78 men to one woman.
Would the label and the genre be more diverse today if Valerie Olukemi A Olusanya had lived into the new millennium; if her DJ partner Jayne Conneely's career wasn't sidetracked and shattered by grief? How is Kemistry's life remembered by her peers, proteges and disciples?
    In 1998's Generation Ecstasy, Simon Reynolds left Kemistry's name out of the index and absent from the story of drum and bass. Another definitive book, Brian Belle-Fortune's All Crews, pays respect to her and other women instrumental to jungle in the '80s and '90s. In 2016, Storm shared a memorial Facebook page of snapshots and bootlegs. We learn how the pair chose androgynous monikers and would hide their gender to promoters, yet shrugged off backhanded compliments and discrimination. Storm has also shared details of Kemistry's emotional state, including prophetic-seeming comments that she would die young.
This presentation will share the story of Kemistry and Storm, how they propelled a new genre in 1990s London and how their legacy is forever entwined with tragedy. Through photos, interviews and tracklists we'll get into the music that Kemi was obsessed with, and the reverberations of her passion that can be heard and felt in Metalheadz label philosophy and the overall scene today.
  • Michaelangelo Matos – “Interstellar Outback (Lexington, KY)—August 26-28, 1994”
The summer of 1994 was the Summer of Love for the Midwest rave scene. That April, despite freezing weather, the inaugural Furthur (headliner: Aphex Twin) took place on a tiny campground in rural Wisconsin, drawing some 1,500 people from around the U.S. Soon after, a number of smaller regional scenes began planning their own campout raves. Coming the last weekend of August, right before the largely school-going scene headed back to school, Interstellar Outback had a scene all-star lineup (Richie Hawtin headlined) and happened at an intersection of scenes—the southern tendrils of the Midwest, the northern tip of the more sporadic and spread-out Southern U.S. scene. (Florida doesn’t count; Florida is an entity unto itself in dance music.)
    Near the end of the third day, an accident happened. A 23-year-old woman named China took a dose of heroin and went into cardiac arrest. She flatlined for eight minutes; was revived by paramedics; and came back to life with no medical or mental issues whatsoever—a statistical near-impossibility. For weeks afterward, the implications of this event rocked the U.S. rave mailing lists. China herself wrote a response to the entire thing that remains available to view online (http://hyperreal.org/raves/spirit/caring/Overdose_grrrl.html).
    This presentation will recreate the event and its aftermath using the mailing list posts, extensive interviewing from my book The Underground Is Massive, and new interviews with participants. Chief among these will be Marea Stamper, a.k.a. the Black Madonna, the DJ and producer, whose mother’s phone number is on the flyer.

Moderators
JD

Jess Dilday

Jess Dilday is a genre-queer DJ, producer, and writer based in NYC. As former editor of the IASPM-US website, Jess created the site’s mixtape series and has presented at multiple conferences on topics relating to queerness, underground music, and nostalgia. They are currently an... Read More →

Speakers
MM

Michaelangelo Matos

BioMichaelangelo Matos is the author of The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America (Dey Street, 2015) and is at work on Can’t Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop’s Blockbuster Year (Da Capo, fall 2019). His writing on DJs appears regularly in Mixmag and... Read More →
CS

Chrissy Shively

BioChrissy Shively is an internationally touring DJ/producer with an eye toward dance music history: his previous projects “My Year of Mixtapes” and “My Year of Edits” focused on the history of house, disco, and other electronic dance genres. He currently runs two house music... Read More →
EM

Erin MacLeod

BioErin MacLeod has a PhD in communications from McGill University, has taught at the University of the West Indies and presently teaches Caribbean Literature at Vanier College in Montreal, Canada. Her research interests lie in intercultural relationships that connect culture and... Read More →
RS

Rachel Shimp

BioRachel Shimp is a writer and editor living in Seattle. She has considered herself an everyday junglist since 1998.


Friday April 12, 2019 11:15am - 1:15pm PDT
Learning Labs

11:15am PDT

Digital Deaths
  • Amy Coddington – “Forecasting Rap’s Demise”
In 1992, Rick Dees, prominent Los Angeles DJ and successful Top 40 countdown host, took out a full-page advertisement in radio trade journal Radio & Records. Featuring an image of a gravestone inscribed “R.I.P. RAP, 1988-1992,” Dees’ advertisement declared the most popular new genre of the last decade dead. “It was fun while it lasted,” he claimed, but now Top 40 radio had “stopped rapping and resumed entertaining.” Dees wasn’t the first member of the music industry to predict rap’s demise. Many in the industry believed rap to be a passing fad and patiently waited throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s for rap to go the way of the pet rock. But Dees’ advertisement went further; not merely content with rap slowly withering away, Dees wanted it to immediately perish.

But why did Dees, whose livelihood was dependent upon the fad-driven hit parade, want this style of hit music to disappear? In short, rap made Dees’ job difficult. Despite the genre’s strong and still growing popularity, rap hadn’t won over all Top 40 radio listeners. Many Top 40 stations who aired Dees’ countdown, concerned about listeners tuning out the minute they heard someone speaking in rhyme, refused to play the genre. In this paper, I examine how Top 40 radio programmers in the early 1990s dealt with rap. While some programmers, capitalizing on the genre’s popularity, played a considerable amount of rap, others retooled the Top 40 format to protect white listeners from the sounds of hip hop and the people of color associated with the genre. Dees’ advertisement drew attention to the struggle over rap’s place in the Top 40 mainstream, proclaiming his allegiance to a mainstream where rap didn’t belong. But in doing so, he also highlighted the crumbling nature of that very mainstream. For it was not rap that died in the early 1990s, it was rather the dominance of Top 40 radio that perished, as the format disintegrated into niche sub-formats each targeting only a part of the mainstream American public.

  • Robin James – “‘WOXY’s Gone To Heaven’: neoliberalism and the death of the ‘future of rock and roll’”
Modern rock radio station 97X WOXY (“The Future of Rock and Roll”) died and came back to life several times. It broadcast at 97.7FM in Oxford, Ohio, from 1983-2004, when the FM license was sold and the station was down for two months until resurrected online. WOXY.com broadcast until 2006, when funding problems took them off the air for a few months. In 2007 they partnered with NPR station WVXU to resume terrestrial broadcasting. Finally, in March 2010 the station completely ceased broadcasting, again due to insufficient funds.

Most accounts in the academic and popular press treat WOXY as a casualty of fledgling online radio. While this was certainly a factor, it was not the only factor. The first decade of the 21st century included cultural and aesthetic developments that made modern rock as the future of rock and roll a decreasingly coherent and relevant project. The rise and fall of 97X is a microcosm of the broader impacts maturing neoliberalisms were having on pop music at the turn of the millennium.

For example, with shows like “Blues Breakfast,” “97XXXTRABEATS,” “Local Lix,” and “Dreadloxx,” 97X reflected the genre eclecticism that was always a part of post-punk. While such eclecticism used to represent an alternative to mainstream listening habits, by the early 21st century technological developments like iTunes and aesthetic shifts like “omnivorous” listening made such eclecticism common, not elite or subcultural. Similarly, formerly anti-capitalist DIY practices became the very heart of capitalist production in “indie” and “craft” hipster economies. Even the dominant concept of the future shifts: neoliberal speculation replaces modernist avant-gardeism. Neoliberalism altered aesthetic and social conditions to create a context in which “the future of rock and roll” is something that seems both literally and figuratively in the past.

  • Liz Pelly – “Thoughts and Prayers in the Background”
Streaming services have increasingly shaped music listening into a more passive experience, one where listeners think less about individual artists or albums they’d like to listen to, instead opting for playlists. Among the new norms that the streaming era has ushered in are mood and activity playlists, which now have an outsized impact on how users of streaming services, particularly Spotify, interact with music. These include all sorts of emotional wallpaper, ranging from “Happy Hits” to “Life Sucks,” and indeed, even a playlist for dealing with the loss of a loved one: “Coping with Loss.” Over 108,000 Spotify users currently follow this playlist. “When someone you love becomes a memory...find solace in these songs,” reads its description.

For my Pop Conference paper I will hone in on examining the “Coping with Loss” playlist and consider the greater role that mood-based playlists have in the ways our relationships with music is changing at the whim of streaming services. My paper would also consider the other death-themed playlists on Spotify, particularly the thoughts-and-prayers-type playlists that have tended to pop up on the front page of Spotify following mass shootings and other tragedies. For example, after the October 31, 2017 terrorist attack in NYC that killed eight people, Spotify ran a playlist titled "NYC Strong" with the description: "We mourn the tragic deaths in NYC and stand in solidarity with the indomitable city and its people against terror" and featuring songs like “New York State of Mind” and “Walk On the Wild Side.” I’ll look at what these playlists mean and the greater implications of multi-billion-dollar data companies exploiting tragedy and vulnerability for their own brand-building and profit, highlighting many of the shortfallings of the streaming economy in general along the way.


  • Nina Posner – “I Think I Did It Again:” The Legacy and Reincarnation of the Early ‘00s Pop Song
For the past decade, several artists and DJs (both on the fringe and within the mainstream) have devoted their practice to the destruction and reincarnation of the pop song through the calculated manipulation of digital technology. Within the circles of underground club music, artists like SOPHIE and Amnesia Scanner are creating bombastic and disorienting musical forms that draw, in fantastically warped ways, from early 2000s, Max Martin-informed pop, and in turn constructing alternative and parallel sonic afterlives with their own set of sociocultural implications.


In my presentation, I will trace a lineage that brings us up to the present, drawing from linchpins like New York City’s GHE20G0TH1K and Los Angeles’ Wildness parties, record labels like LuckyMe and Pelican Fly, and albums such as Azealia Banks’ Broke With Expensive Taste or Grimes’ Art Angels, in addition to supplemental material that will include testimonies from industry insiders. The early 2000s were arguably pop’s Golden Age, due in no small part to the advent of digital production technology, as well as the era’s socioeconomic context. If we are presently living in what writer Ayesha Siddiqi terms “Bush era redux,” how are other cyclical phenomena embedded in the music we are making today? Is it a death and a rebirth, or as Amnesia Scanner says, “another life,” existing simultaneously? What does the future look like if we’re currently living twenty years in the past? I will also delve into the potentialities of alternative forms of digitized vocals, from Diamanda Galas saying

Moderators
RN

Regina N. Bradley

Bio:Regina N. Bradley is Assistant Professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, She writes about race and sound, hip-hop, and the contemporary Black American South. Her first book, Chronicling Stankonia: OutKast and the Rise... Read More →

Speakers
RJ

Robin James

BioRobin James is Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte and co-editor of The Journal of Popular Music Studies. She is author of three books including The Sonic Episteme: acoustic resonance, neoliberalism, and biopolitics and Resilience & Melancholy: pop music, feminism... Read More →
AC

Amy Coddington

BioAmy Coddington is an assistant professor of music at Amherst College, where she teaches classes on American popular music. She is working on a book entitled How Hip Hop Became Hit Pop: Rap, Race, and Crossover on Top 40 Radio,  which explores how rap broke through to a mainstream... Read More →
LP

Liz Pelly

BioLiz Pelly writes about music, culture, streaming and the internet. She is a contributing editor at The Baffler, where she writes a column about how the world of music is being reshaped by the platform economy. She lives in New York.
NP

Nina Posner

BioBased in New York City, Nina Posner is the manager of label marketing at DFA Records and a freelance music journalist whose work has appeared in Resident Advisor, Crack, The Fader, Mixmag, The Wire, and more. Their research and writing interests span queerness, affective physicalities... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 11:15am - 1:15pm PDT
Demo Lab

11:15am PDT

What Becomes Legend Most: “Music Matters” Writers on Musical Afterlives
  • Fred Goodman – “Lhasa, Record of a Death Foretold”
How does death re-contextualize an artist’s work?
When the Montreal-based American singer/songwriter Lhasa de Sela wrote the songs for her third album, Lhasa, they – like the songs on her prior LP, The Living Road, were largely drawn from her daily life; a dedicated diarist, Lhasa took artistic inspiration from and wrote about her relationships, dreams, and spiritual yearnings. Then, on the eve of the recording sessions, the 35-year-old singer was diagnosed with breast cancer – a diagnosis that neither stopped her from making the album nor prompted her to revise any of its songs or add new material. Indeed, if Lhasa hadn't gotten ill – she died a few months after the album’s release on New Year’s Day, 2010 -- no one would hear much on Lhasa that’s unsettling with the exception of "I'm Going In," a song about transfiguration and rebirth. Yet it is impossible to listen to the album today and not experience it as a death foretold any more than one can view Van Gogh's last paintings of crows in a corn field without feeling the claustrophobia and dread preceding his death. It’s more than irony: a listener can’t unlearn that the artist was ill and soon died. That knowledge provides the context for listening in a different direction.
In the case of Lhasa, one readily hears death lurking in these songs. And while there is a melancholy tone to some, it's more than that: one can literally go song by song and feel a haunted fatalism illuminated by images about the tragic nature of life that shines a perhaps unintended but accurate light on its creator. Lhasa was an unusually intuitive artist, exceptionally intelligent and sensitive and obsessed with the kind of questions that have no answers. When dealing as she did on this record with the commonplace and every-day -- which to her meant our pursuit of life, love and meaning -- she could write and sing with both passion and subtlety, and her search for universal symbols resulted in songs that can carry many meanings. Whatever their initial inspiration, they now suggest some kind of apprehension of her condition (and ours). Her death pushed the listener to suspect that Lhasa was feeling things that, while largely unsaid, are hardly absent. The broader question her work suggests is how an artist's passing can provide a new light for examining and experiencing their work.


  • Karen Tongson – “Karen Carpenter’s Queer Horizon”
    Nearly every Carpenters biography, documentary, made for TV movie, and lurid tabloid news magazine in print or on television has insinuated, if not overtly advanced the thesis that Karen Carpenter’s anorexia nervosa was triggered by a dearth of affection and love from her mother, Agnes. Randy Schmidt, the author of the authoritative biography Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter, describes Agnes’ “hypnotic hold” on her daughter, which included interfering in Karen’s love life, as well as with her professional choices. In the postmortem on Karen’s life, Agnes has emerged as a type: the suffocating, overprotective mother, who arrests her daughter’s erotic and social development by keeping her entombed in the family home. We will never truly unearth the root causes that fueled Karen’s struggles with anorexia. The pains and pathologies are undoubtedly multiple, and gnarled. In this presentation—excerpted from my book Why Karen Carpenter Matters, which is debuting at PopCon this April—I explore the possibility that Karen Carpenter may have wished, in some way, to unsex her own body, and thus shelter it from scrutiny, especially given everything else we know about her early life, and how often she chafed against gender constraints. Moving between Karen’s biography, her adoring reception from queer audiences, and some of my own maternal conflicts over moving through the world as a genderqueer person, this presentation speculates on Karen Carpenter’s queer afterlives, and the horizons of our knowing.


  • Tom Smucker – “Dying and Not Dying as Career Moves in the Biographies of the Beach Boys”
With two good memoirs, three biographies, three made for TV movies, and one well-received theater movie, it might be hard to remember that time in the late 1960s and early ‘70s when the Beach Boys in the USA were both out of favor and hard to explain or describe. The best of the British Invasion bands appeared self-aware, confident in presentation, able to absorb and project ideas about artistic careers, pop taste, and celebrity. The Beach Boys, like their east coast counterparts the Four Seasons, remained perched near the top of the pop charts after the arrival of the Beatles and Stones, but could not inspire their own coherent public story.

The death of Dennis Wilson in December, 1983 supplied the hook, an ending (alcoholic surfer drowns) that suggested a beginning (sunny teenagers) and a middle (Charles Manson); a cautionary tale about the 1960s for the Reagan era. I didn’t like the TV movie and the bio that used this frame - I understood the group to have been both gloomy and sunny from the start - but it made a punchy narrative ready for extension when, presumably, Brian Wilson would be the next Beach Boy to die.

Instead, youngest brother Carl, the onstage bandleader, Brian’s extra ears in the studio through Pet Sounds, succumbed to cancer in 1998, effectively ending the original Beach Boys as a real band. Then, counter to expectations, Brian came back to life, began touring, completed Smile in 2004 and has been touring ever since. This resurrection generated a new biography and storyline, extending the cultural impact of the Beach Boys beyond the 1960s, beyond the 1980s, into a new millennium.


  • Donna Gaines – “All Good Cretins Go To Heaven: Life After Death with the Ramones”
The Ramones hated everything---geometry, the nine-to-five world, and the screaming spoiled brats of Forest Hills. But they loved chicken vindaloo, rock and roll radio, surfinbrrrds, horror movies, and TV. The Ramones loved New York City and America too. Most of all, they loved you. The Ramones Ministry was ultimately about the hidden injuries of youth, all the stuff nobody talks about. That vague sense of dread that follows us through the day, through a lifetime; unhinged, agitated, bored, I wanna be sedated—drugs, alcohol, depression, drama, or violence. Even as they grappled with it themselves, the Ramones offered the kids another way. “The band will always be in your heart,” said Marky with rueful tenderness. “And I hope that when something bothers you, some part of the Ramones is there to help you.”

The Ramones showed every fan, any person, that it was OK to be yourself—That’s radical, a vital, charismatic connection to primal sources and truths is what makes men and women holy. Miraculous, mystical, metaphysical and mysterious---like the unconditional love promised in Jesus. Lou Reed said  I have a guardian angel, I keep him in my head, And when I'm having nightmares. He shows me dreams instead. Guardian Angels in Harley jackets, ripped jeans, sneakers and dirty t-shirts, bad, bad brains, the sacred and the profane. On a daily basis, Ramones fans still ask themselves, “What would Joey do?,” praying for strength and guidance in their every day affairs. Young kids who’ve never even seen the band live worship them with a devotion and reverence typically reserve for the certified deities of organized religion.

Meantime, here on golden pond, I’m still talking to Joey and Dee Dee, blasting “I Don’t Care,” drumming out all the bad news with “Commando” or “Havana Affair” sixteen times a day. Ramones lyrics long ago replaced the more noxious childhood dogmas pumped into my brain. At any age, in any town,

Moderators
EM

Evelyn McDonnell

Evelyn McDonnell has written or edited seven books, including Rock She Wrote, Queens of Noise and Women Who Rock. She is series editor for Music Matters, published by University of Texas Press.  She has been a pop culture writer at The Miami Herald and a senior editor at The Village... Read More →

Speakers
FG

Fred Goodman

Bio    Fred Goodman is the author of Why Lhasa Matters, to be published in the fall by University of Texas Press. His previous books include The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce;  Fortune’s Fool: Edgar Bronfman... Read More →
KT

Karen Tongson

Bio    Karen Tongson is the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, and Why Karen Carpenter Matters. She is associate professor of English, gender & sexuality studies, and American studies & ethnicity at USC. Her writing and cultural commentary have appeared in the Los... Read More →
TS

Tom Smucker

BioTom Smucker is the author of Why The Beach Boys Matter and has been writing about pop music since Woodstock. He wrote the chapter on disco for The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, the chapter on gospel music for Stranded, and the chapter on Carpenters and Lawrence... Read More →
DG

Donna Gaines

BioA sociologist, journalist, minister and social worker, Donna Gaines has written on a wide range of topics for venues such as SPIN, Rolling Stone, the Village Voice. Her work has also appeared in fanzines, textbooks, trade collections, and scholarly journals.  Dr. Gaines has... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 11:15am - 1:15pm PDT
JBL Theater

11:15am PDT

Raise Your Voice: Music and Mass Violence
My voice has a quiver
A quiver is where you keep arrows until you shoot them.
-Jim Carroll, “8 Fragments For Kurt Cobain,” Void of Course (1998)

In the late 2000s, many Americans have met the growing horror of mass violence with a growing disruption of mass silence. There are voices at work, tirelessly calling out the interlocking racist, misogynist, homophobic, ableist structures that have fueled and enabled the deadly rage of men with guns. When lives are in danger and legislators send quiet, safe thoughts and prayers, U.S. communities are responding with voices raised in impassioned speech, poetry, and song. They take to the streets and they take the mic and they give voice, to those erased from the world--gagged, stifled, strangled, torn apart by bullets. They entreat each other, as survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida did, to “be the voice for those who don’t have one,” for those from whom all future singing was taken. Voices might waver in mourning. But then they rise.

This 120-minute roundtable, through brief presentations and engaged discussion with the audience, will listen to the voices that sound against mass violence. Participants will consider how music has been intertwined with recent mass violence and its aftermath:

  • The musicopolitical work of young students—particularly students of color—in the national school walkouts and the March for Our Lives against gun violence last spring. In ethnographic work involving dozens of these student musicians, a common thread surfaced: the idea of voice as a vehicle for agency. 
  • Musical responses to mass shootings perpetrated against African Americans such as the music-inflected community memorial for those lost in the Louisville, Kentucky Kroger, and the Childish Gambino video for “This is America” referencing the Charleston church shooting.
  • The tensions in the country music community regarding the NRA, following the mass shooting of country fans in Las Vegas in 2017 (often described as the largest modern mass shooting) and Thousand Oaks in 2018. While country stylistically has everything it needs to be a perfect instrument for collective mourning, its voice has been muffled by the genre’s complex relationship to gun culture and arguably some of the kinds of grievances that often drive white mass shooters.
  • The significance of music and dance in queer lives impacted by the 2016 shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. The roundtable will discuss how the Pulse shootings reminded queer revelers of the continuous assault that their bodies have endured, especially when those bodies express pleasure and submission.
  • Musical responses to two mass shootings affecting Asian American communities: the murders committed by Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech, and the anti-Sikh shootings at the Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara in 2012. The roundtable will include analysis of two works by Asian American musicians: the “hip hop forum” (Be)Longing by Byron Au Yong and Aaron Jafferis, and the music video “Lavaan” by Zain Alam.

Speakers
KM

Katherine Meizel

Katherine Meizel is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University. She holds doctoral degrees in ethnomusicology and singing. Her book Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol (IU Press) was published in 2011; she also wrote about Idol for... Read More →
KM

Kimberly Mack

Kimberly Mack holds a Ph.D. in English from UCLA, and she is an Assistant Professor at the University of Toledo. Her book, Fade to Black: Blues Music and the Art of Narrative Self-Invention from Bessie Smith to Jack White, is under contract with the University of Massachusetts Press... Read More →
CW

Carl Wilson

Carl Wilson is the music critic at Slate, as well as the author of Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste (Bloomsbury), and a contributor to Billboard, The New York Times, and other publications. He lives in Toronto, where he helps curate the Trampoline Hall... Read More →
AS

Alfred Soto

Alfred Soto is a visiting professor of communications at Florida International University. He runs the website Humanizing the Vacuum. He was features editor of Stylus Magazine. His work has appeared in Billboard, The Village Voice, The Miami Herald, Rolling Stone, Slate, MTV, Pitchfork... Read More →
EH

Eric Hung

Eric Hung is an ethnomusicologist, public historian and pianist who studies Asian American history and music. Currently Executive Director of the Music of Asian America Research Center and Adjunct Lecturer in Information Studies at the University of Maryland, he was a tenure track/tenured... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 11:15am - 1:15pm PDT
Sky Church

2:00pm PDT

Facing Death
  • Vivien Goldman – “David Bowie – Life After Life, Death after Death”
In the considerable scholarship and media around David Bowie, there is one profound aspect that has been little explored – Bowie and Buddhism. It is his lifelong connection with Buddhism – even, when he was a Satanist, during the coke-addled “lost” Los Angeles years that culminated in his return to London, giving a Nazi salute to shocked fans – that enabled Bowie to create arguably the most specific and penetrating recorded dance with death, in his consciously pre-mortem album, “Blackstar.” The voodoo rituals in that video specifically open a gateway to the next world. The musical that was produced in NY shortly before his death, “Lazarus,” also deals with the central conceit of the Easter festival, the Christian interpretation of many such even more ancient myths – the Rising.

Bowie’s preoccupation with Buddhism is in part a “generational thing.” Certainly, Buddhism was part of the hippy ambiance of the 60s he lived so thoroughly in his teenage Beckenham Arts Lab, free festival days. He almost became a Buddhist monk – but his mentor urged him to stick with music. Buddhism was a tool that helped him deal with the death of his schizophrenic elder brother, who had led him to jazz clubs in seedy Soho. Equally, he would find a home in the Tibet Houses of both UK and US.

The thin red thread of Buddhism clearly weaves through his lifetime’s recordings, from the 1960s “Silly Boy Blue” (“Mountains of Lhasa” – his tribute to Lama Chime Yong Dong Rinponche) on through “Space Oddity” whose protagonist embraces death as a form of eternal life… and just as he had slain his original birth identity as David Jones, Bowie invoked the mythic King who must die to rise again, when he killed Ziggy Stardust on stage, though knowing that ZS would never fade away. Bowie’s many transformative incarnations represent as many revolutions of identity as he could fit into one earthly passage. In his will, Bowie requested a Balinese Tibetan cremation ceremony.

  • Grace Elizabeth Hale – “‘Flirted with You All My Life’: Death and the Art of Vic Chesnutt”
In a powerful sense, all of Vic Chesnutt’s music is about the afterlife, the life he lived and the art he created as a singer-songwriter based in Athens, Georgia in between his many suicide attempts.
He was eighteen the first time, less than a year out of Pike County High School, and still living with his parents outside the tiny town of Zebulon, Georgia. In his words, he got “drunk as a coot” and drove his 1968 Buick LeSabre into a ditch and flipped it about two a.m. Easter morning. The accident broke his neck. Doctors did not think he would survive. More than once he technically died and was revived. Altogether, he spent about fifteen months in the hospital with what he later described as “an incomplete spinal cord injury.” Unable to play guitar, he discovered books. “I didn’t read until I broke my neck.” As Chesnutt recalled thinking, “oh, this is what words do. Oh, they’re powerful.” He learned the art of language in that hospital bed. A year later, he moved to Athens and discovered bohemianism, living for art. It is not a cliché to say that art saved his life, though anti-depressants, which he mostly refused to take, would have helped, too. It is also true that he never gave up flirting with death.

Another time, he was on the road alone, opening for Bob Mould, playing songs he would release on West of Rome and had mostly written during a dark period when he lost his grandparents and his dad to cancer and himself to heroin.  It must have been hard, singing his guts out night after night to the accompaniment of his battered acoustic guitar, reliving old despair in front of another musicians’ fans.  In mid-November, chasing Mould’s bus to the next gig, his van broke down outside of Albany, New York.  A weary Chesnutt tried to hang himself inside the vehicle from the wheelchair lift.  A police officer spotted the van beside the road and stopped to investigate.  Knocking on the window, he told the man inside that he could not kill himself there.  Instead of arresting him, the cop loaded Chesnutt and his wheelchair into the police car and drove him to the Albany Mission, a homeless shelter run by the Salvation Army.

There would be other suicide attempts and lesser acts of sabotage, including an overdose in 1994 when Chesnutt was performing in Europe.  In March 1997, in the midst of his nation-wide tour in support of his major label debut, the aptly titled About to Choke, he drove off in the van stranding Tina and his then drummer Jimmy Davidson and another musician in Minneapolis without their wallets and luggage.  Tina had to call a friend collect and ask him to wire money.  Only later did she and Jimmy find out that Vic had driven to St Louis.  It was either there or in a similar episode in Jacksonville, Florida, the town in which Chesnutt’s birth parents gave him up for adoption, that he spent three days sitting in his wheelchair at the side of the pool with rocks in his pockets thinking about rolling himself in.  Even when he seemed good, he would point out to friends places where he could hang himself or wake up in the morning and yell “damn it” because he was still alive.  
My paper uses interviews with people who knew Chesnutt well and analysis of his music to explores how the songs Chesnutt wrote about death gave him a reason to live.

  • Robert Christgau – “All the Time in the World: The Living End in Peter Stampfel and Willie Nelson”
With my 77th birthday scheduled to arrive four days after the conference is over, I propose a paper focusing on two artists who in actuarial theory are even closer to death than I am. Who knows, one of them may croak before the conference begins, as may I. Peter Stampfel just turned 80, although he was a stripling of 74 when he unleashed "All the Time in the World," which advocates a positive attitude toward personal mortality and which I plan to begin by playing for its full 3:37. Stampfel still gigs a lot and I'd recommend inviting him out to Seattle, perhaps with his 43-year-old helpmeet Jeffrey Lewis. That would be an easier get than Willie Nelson, now 85, who since turning 80 has released more albums than I have time to count—pushing a dozen, including 2018's Last Man Standing, which begins: "I don't want to be the last man standing/But wait a minute maybe I do." But the focus will be 2014's putative collaboration with his older sister Bobbie Nelson, December Day, its fulcrum what I call the Senile Dementia Suite, which begins: "I don't know where I am today/I don't know where I was yesterday/This song has so many notes to play/I just hope to hit them today" and continues through the new "Amnesia," the old "Who'll Buy My Memories," an Al Jolson cover, and the paradoxically philosophical "Laws of Nature." Leonard Cohen may also be adduced somewhere in here. But I'll definitely return to Stampfel, not least because at his 80th birthday celebration I got the idea for this presentation after hearing him perform a new one called "In the Graveyard" that he's promised to record to help me out. Its gist is that there are many dead people in the graveyard, and that living people like to fuck there because it gives them a thrill.

Moderators
JH

Jack Hamilton

BioJack Hamilton is assistant professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia, and the author of Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination (Harvard UP, 2016). He is also the pop critic for Slate magazine, and his writing has appeared... Read More →

Speakers
VG

Vivien Goldman

BioVivien Goldman is a writer, broadcaster, educator and post-punk musician. Her music journalism was first publied in the UK in 1974 and she is the only writer to have been poached between all 3 of the old "inkies" -- Melody Maker, New Musical Express and SOUNDS, where she was Features... Read More →
GE

Grace Elizabeth Hale

BioGrace Elizabeth Hale is Commonwealth Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Virginia and a 2018-2019 Carnegie Fellow.  She is the author of Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South (Vintage, 1999) and A Nation of Outsiders: How the White... Read More →
RC

Robert Christgau

BioLongtime Village Voice critic and editor, retired NYU prof, perennial pop conference presenter, and current Noisey columnist Robert Christgau published his third collection, Is It Still Good to Ya?, this past October, and his fourth, Book Reports, this week. Both are with Duke... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 2:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
JBL Theater

2:00pm PDT

Gospels
  • Mike McGonigal – “‘I’ve Got the Holy Ghost and Fire’: Pentecostal pandemonium and the liberating force of sanctified gospel music in six recordings from 1964”
In theory, gospel is the least commerce-driven of all American musical forms. From a modern perspective, it might not be too much of a stretch to attach the ballyhooed “DIY ethos” to the sanctified religiosity of the Azusa Street Revival in L.A., which birthed the Pentecostal and Holiness movements. The decade-long revival started in 1906 and was a visceral response to what its adherents saw as the more uptight restrictions of the contemporary church. The members of the nascent Apostolic movement wanted the freedom to freely exhibit an ecstatic immersion in the Holy Spirit by such means as speaking in tongues, and to worship together in a mixed-race environment. They also felt that the process of becoming a preacher should be far less complicated, and that women should be allowed to be preachers. It’s no coincidence that the Azusa Revival ended just five years before the birth of modern gospel, around the time of Tom Dorsey’s conversion: though evangelical, these were modern, democratic movements.

This presentation examines an overflowing handful of knockout songs from the pivotal year 1964, a time when gospel was firmly entrenched as the soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement, and a time of revolutionary developments in the music’s sound. We explore all this via these six tunes: a tightly wound stomper by Opa Locka, FL’s long-running C Lord Cs; a delirious story-song by the queen of song sermonettes, Edna Gallmon Cooke; a blast of pure streetcorner church frenzy courtesy of Detroit’s Brother Will Hairston; a very contemporary upbeat tribute to the holy ghost by Gladys McFadden’s Little Rock, AR-based Loving Sisters,who often “opened” for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at protest events; a short digression courtesy of Cleveland’s genius interpreter of spirituals in jazz, Albert Ayler; and we end where we started, in a sense, with a folk revival recording of sanctified blues by Rev. Robert Wilkins.


  • Gene Booth – “Hipsters In My Eyes: Why You Didn't Buy Death's Gospel Record”
The Detroit proto-punk band Death was ignored during its initial 1971-1977 “lifetime.” Then, in 2009, they were rediscovered, their music rereleased to a surprising and unprecedented revival among tastemakers, cratediggers, hipsters and other categories of rock collector/aficionado (nerd). This was life after death for Death, albeit one that was rigorously prescribed, cult-ivated and fetishized for their new audience. The 2012 doc, A Band Called Death, further enshrined the band in a veneer of signifiers, glossing over any parts of the story that didn’t fit, focusing instead on the acceptably “cool saga” of how the (white) record hounds found them and righted history’s tragic wronging. Death’s story became more about their the post-fans and crate-digger culture than the band itself. The movie all but ignored the social contexts Death negotiated; it’s essentially an advertisement, like much of the new 33 1/3-style buyer-guide “criticism.” And there the post- and meta-narratives ended.

Except for this hidden middle chapter: in 1980, between the old and new Death, they morphed into a furious, contradictory gospel-rock outfit called 4th Movement! Drag City reissued their self-titled, private press album last summer, but it was as disregarded as the 70s material had been admired. Why? Its sounds were almost as inspired, as rocking, as Death’s! And you can’t blame the dismal sales on “spirituality” since contempo-indie liberally submerges in those purifying waters. Alive, dead and reborn, but this gospel pre-post-death/life was a walking dead. The lack of interest (again!) highlights the underlying hipster apathy towards the band; they want novelty, passing through with the windows rolled up. Black rock is cool, but black people? Not so much.

The paper includes previously unexamined intersections between the band and African-American radicalism in 70s Detroit as well as Detroit gospel. It also features a new interview with the surviving members of the band.
  • Steacy Easton – “Streets Paved with Gold: Joey, Rory, Country Hymnody, and Selling Protestant Death”
Joey and Rory Feek were successful chart country song writers, including landing a number one hit for Blake Shelton (“Some Beach”), but decided in the middle of their careers to become performers, starting on a reality competition show for CMT. They were the runners up there, and though their first single was a cheating song, they soon reimagined themselves as deeply pious. It was a rural kind of piety -- overalls, homeschooling, farming, and another reality show that showcased all of it.

The reality show lasted four seasons, and was a moderate success. The work seemed to be part of the conservative pushback against Obama's cosmopolitanism, and depending on how close a reader was to the Feeks’ demographics, it could be read as earnest or cornpone, cynical or deeply heartfelt. This cynicism became even more complicated when Joey was diagnosed with cervical cancer in late 2016. The last work that Joey and Rory performed and recorded was a set of very traditional Southern Protestant hymns about receiving Christ and the afterworld.

American Evangelical Protestantism has always been ambivalent, especially in material matters -- its pendulum swings between the sonorous terror of the Louvin Brothers or the Stanley Brothers’ “O Death” and the golden optimism of Brad Paisley's “When I Get Where I’m Going” or Craig Campbell's “Outskirts of Heaven.” Plus, it seemed like hymn singing was a recent trend for people who were just on the edge of being has-beens. (Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, and Josh Turner have all released albums of country hymns in the last few years.)

I want to write about the Feek album as an act of settling into dying, as a calm entrance of surety -- to talk about it as a devotional object, but also about how that devotion works in relationship to both very real biographical facts, and to the potential contemporary cynicism of marketing death to an audience who seemed attuned to it.



Moderators
CZ

Christina Zanfagna

BioChristina Zanfagna is an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and the Co-Director of the Center for Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University. Her book, Holy Hip Hop in the City of Angels, explores the intersections of religion, race, and geography in Los Angeles gospel rap... Read More →

Speakers
MM

Mike McGonigal

BioMike McGonigal has produced dozens of reissues of gospel, includingFire in My Bones, Noah Found Grace, and Life is a Problem. Author ofbooks about Galaxie 500 and My Bloody Valentine, he edited theinfluential art-punk fanzines Chemical Imbalance and Yeti. McGonigallives in Detroit... Read More →
GB

Gene Booth

BioGene Booth teaches middle school in Chicago. He drew the cover of Palace’s Arise Therefore album and several Will Oldham t-shirts and posters. He was Drag City’s first in-house publicity director. Gene has written reviews for the Village Voice and Slant magazine, and his defense... Read More →
SE

Steacy Easton

Streets Paved with Gold: Joey, Rory, Country Hymnody, and Selling Protestant DeathJoey and Rory Feek were successful chart country song writers, including landing a number one hit for Blake Shelton (“Some Beach”), but decided in the middle of their careers to become performers... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 2:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
Demo Lab

2:00pm PDT

Music's Afterlives: The Museum Effect
A growing number of museums and historic sites are working to preserve and interpret the history of popular music. The “museumification” of popular music is interpreted by some as a musical death of sorts that freezes its subjects in time. However, there is another way to think about music in terms of an afterlife and what it represents. Is it just the sonic and material evidence we have as proof of its existence? Do the acts of commemoration, canonization, reappraisal and resurrection transform a musical death into something totally new? What happens with our collections and exhibitions when we face the literal, or figurative death of a given artist, genre, performance or event? What narratives do we choose to put forward and what do we choose to leave out? This roundtable panel of seasoned museum professionals will discuss their work in preserving and constructing music’s afterlife, exploring the intention behind their work, audience responses and the inherent challenges and opportunities they encounter in blurring the lines between life and death.


Speakers
DR

Dwandalyn Reece

​​​​Dwan Reece is Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.  She curated the museum’s permanent music exhibition, Musical Crossroads, and co-curated the 3-day grand opening  music festival, Freedom... Read More →
TG

Theodore Gonzalves,

BioTheodore S. Gonzalves is a scholar of comparative cultural studies and has taught in the United States, Spain, and the Philippines. Gonzalves’ research has received generous support as a Fulbright scholar, a Moeson Fellow at the Library of Congress, and a senior fellow at the... Read More →
JM

Jacob McMurray

BioJacob McMurray joined MoPOP in 1994 during the initial development of the institution and has held several positions, including Curatorial Assistant, Researcher, Associate Curator, Curator, Senior Curator, and since November 2018, his current role of Director of Curatorial Affairs... Read More →
TA

Timothy Anne Burnside

BioTimothy Anne Burnside is a Museum Specialist in the Office of Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC (NMAAHC). She works closely with object donors and museum colleagues to build collections and develop... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 2:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
Sky Church

2:00pm PDT

The Rebirth of the B-Side
  • Roundtable featuring Will Stockton, D. Gilson, Rebecca Wallwork, Jordan Ferguson, Evie Nagy, Jovana Babović, Shawn Taylor
 “Make me a present and make it something sweet. / Small enough to go unnoticed and big enough to compete,” the ghost of Elliot Smith pleads from his 1998 B-side, “How to Take a Fall.” Since the invention of the vinyl record in 1948, the term “B-side” has referred most literally to the second side of the disc. The B-side means the flip side – sometimes the place for filler tracks, but not always, and less so for LPs as the idea of the album developed after the mid-twentieth century. On singles issued to record stores, the B-side became a place to showcase non-album tracks, demos, remixes, and live songs. As opposed to the song promoted on the A-side, the B-side housed something else, something presumably worth hearing, but also something generally considered lesser. Singles sold to casual listeners who wouldn’t pay for the album and, because of the B-side, to fans who already owned the album. As commercialized superfluity, B-sides were also marketed to a fan’s obsession: to the desire of music listeners – and completists – for more of an artist’s catalog.
For obsessives such as ourselves, the B-side haunts the A-side, giving the album as a discrete concept innumerable afterlives.
B-sides were not always unpopular. Several, including Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and The Smith’s “How Soon is Now?” superseded their A-sides on Billboard charts. The exception nonetheless proved the rule: the B-side was secondary.
As vinyl records became cassettes and then single-sided compact discs, the B-side didn’t disappear. Instead, it became an even more powerful marketing tool to drive up overall sales in the “post-album” age of the twenty-first century. As the MP3 digitized music, however, and the market for physical copies of singles crashed, the B-side has threatened to become obsolete. Today B-sides still survive as “bonus tracks” appended to iTunes purchases, or extras awarded to specific streaming services. But they no longer seem as crucial to the experience of music, or to the appreciation of an album, as they once did. 
This roundtable questions: How have B-sides shaped the consumption of music and our identity as music fans? To what extent should the B-side be considered lesser than, or secondary to, A-sides? How has the B-side countered the development of the album?  How has the advent of streaming music reconfigured our notions of the B-side? And finally, how have B-sides from the past been rediscovered and loved following the death of prominent musicians and artists?
We offer this roundtable in preparation for the release of 33 1/3: The B-Sides, forthcoming from Bloomsbury. Each participant on the roundtable has contributed to this volume. Here, we asked that each participant present a five-minute manifesto addressing one or more of the questions above. From these manifestos, we will invite the audience to participate in a conversation about B-sides as a haunting device — the ghost you know and love — in keeping with the conference theme


Speakers
WS

Will Stockton

Will Stockton is Professor of English at Clemson University. With D. Gilson, he is the author of Jesus Freak (Bloomsbury, 2018) and the editor of 33 1/3: The B-Sides. His other books include Members of His Body: Shakespeare, Paul and a Theology of Nonmonogamy (Fordham UP, 2017).
DG

D. Gilson

D. Gilson is Assistant Professor of English at Texas Tech University. With Will Stockton, he is the author of Jesus Freak (Bloomsbury, 2018) and the editor of 33 1/3: The B-Sides. He is also the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time (Sibling Rivalry, 2015). 
RW

Rebecca Wallwork

Rebecca Wallwork is a writer based in Miami Beach. She has written about travel and culture for publications including Interview, Rolling Stone, and The Sunday Telegraph. The one-time Music Editor of Interview, Rebecca currently works as a copywriter and content director in the travel... Read More →
JF

Jordan Ferguson

Jordan Ferguson is a freelance culture writer from Toronto, whose work has appeared in The Wire, Bonafide and the Red Bull Music Academy. He is the author of J Dilla’s Donuts (2014) for Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series, co-author of a forthcoming volume on a renowned music video game... Read More →
EN

Evie Nagy

BioEvie Nagy is the author of the 33 1/3 book on Devo's Freedom of Choice, and the former Music Editor at Billboard and Managing Editor at Rollingstone.com. Her previous PopCon paper topics have included the joy of terrible singing, the birth of nerd rock, the problem with a cappella... Read More →
JB

Jovana Babović

Jovana Babović is an assistant professor of history at SUNY Geneseo. She teaches, researches, and writes on urban and popular culture. She is the author of the 33 1/3 volume on Sleater-Kinney’s Dig Me Out (2016) and Metropolitan Belgrade: Class and Culture in Interwar Yugoslavia (University... Read More →
ST

Shawn Taylor

Shawn Taylor is a university lecturer, co-founder of www.thenerdsofcolor.org, and the co-founder of the Black Comix Arts Festival. He has bylines in Rad Dad, Ebony Magazine, The New York Times, Fusion, numerous anthologies, and a host of academic journals. His sneaker and music collections... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 2:00pm - 3:30pm PDT
Learning Labs

3:45pm PDT

Death Narratives and Undead Mythologies
  • Ginger Dellenbaugh – “25 Minutes to Go: Voices of the Disciplined and Punished”
Since the ruling of Gregg v. Georgia in 1976, which ended the brief, ten year hiatus on capital punishment in the United States, 1,400 people have been executed across the country. Currently, there are 2,743 inmates on death row.

Just as civil rights organizations have been demanding the abolishment of the death penalty for decades, there is a long tradition of death row balladry as protest in not only American, but European, popular music. Stemming from the broadside tradition in the United Kingdom, the “Bänkelgesang” in Germany, and French “complainte canard,” songs like Jimmy Minor's Death Row, Johnny Cash's 25 Minutes to Go, or the Böhse Onkels'Es ist soweit focus this trope on the last minutes of life, countering the public exercise of disciplinary power with an externalization of an imagined, private, inner-voice.

In contrast to the engaging energy of the collective protest song, the death row confessional is direct and intimate. Its politics are not of action, but of affect. The use of 1st person address, as well as harmonic repetition and narrative evasion, lend these ballads a kind of quiet resistance. Some end abruptly, some drift off in dream-like haze, but they evade the final cadence. In a penal system that silences, these imagined voices slip the rope. 

  • Greil Marcus – “Love and Death in the American Rock ‘n’ Roll Novel”
From Harlan Ellison's 1961 "Spider Kiss" on down--but especially after the figurative death of the Beatles in 1970 and the literal death of Elvis Presley in 1977, death (and sometimes faked deaths) have been coded in the rock 'n' roll novel. Themes of the star as succubus or demon, fans as a devouring horde, the music business as a slaughterhouse, course through Nik Cohn's "King Death," Jim Dodge's "Not Fade Away," P. F. Kluge's "Eddie and the Cruisers," Cathi Unsworth's "The Singer" (she's from London, but the American story has to have at least a token English person), and dozens more I can't reference here because I'm 2000 miles away from my shelf of classics and forgotten pulps. Some are tragic, some are comic, many are comic in spite of themselves, but the theme is coded in rock 'n' roll itself--since almost as soon as people discovered what rock 'n' roll was, others were saying what people have never ceased to say: "Rock 'n' roll is dead."

  • DeWayne Moore – “The Death of the Myth of the Blues Savant”
On the first page of Stephen Calt and Gayle Dean Wardlow's book King of the Delta Blues, we read a story about H.C. Speir receiving a letter from Charley Patton and driving up to Dockery Farm to listen to Patton audition for him.  The rest of the book tells us that Speir drove around to small towns all over the South looking for talent to send to the major record labels.  No one has ever so much as questioned the claims of Speir, and Patrick Huber and Brian Ward point out the highly fantastic nature of Speir's tales in the recent book A&R Pioneers.  Yet, the two authors are way too astonished at the “willingness of commentators to accept the notion that he was some kind iconoclastic blues savant.”   They simply could not believe that other music scholars swallowed so wholly the fantastic story of HC Speir.  Huber and Ward, therefore, are oblivious to the fact that it was not Speir’s story at all.  There were serious problems with the interviews conducted by Gayle Dean Wardlow, who, in fact, invented the myth of the “blues savant." He constructed portions of the mythic biography for H.C. Speir that reflected his own adventures as a record collector.  In fact, Speir never even discovered Charley Patton and sent him to record for Paramount Records.  It never happened.  And my presentation will demonstrate that Wardlow manipulated interviews to discredit other talent scouts who lived and worked in the Delta and ascribe the discovery of Charley Patton to H.C. Speir.  The center of the recording world in Mississippi was not Jackson, but rather a little town in the woods called Itta Bena, and the central figure in the recording world in 1920s Mississippi was an Italian immigrant named Raffaele Lembo.  My presentation will include audio and visual elements and make the persuasive case that talent scouts did not go around hunting down artists in the 1920s. They were businessmen who operated stores and bought advertisements inviting musicians to visit their stores.  Lembo rarely left the confines of his music stores to discover talent in 1920s Mississippi.  

  • Joseph Thompson – “Undead and Unreconstructed: The ‘Good Old Rebel’ and the Ghosts of the Confederacy in Popular Song”
As recent protests and violence surrounding the removal of Confederate monuments remind us, the ghosts of the Civil War continue to haunt our present. Sometimes those ghosts show up in the form of a marble monument, and sometimes they show up in popular songs, from early string band renditions of “Dixie” to Hank Williams Jr.’s “If the South Woulda Won.” And while the Confederacy will never rise again, its ghosts, its symbols, and its ideologies of white supremacy refuse to die.
This paper traces how that undead Confederate past has haunted the living through the 150-year history of a song called “I’m a Good Old Rebel.” Initially written as a joke in 1866, the “Good Old Rebel” delivers the first-person point of view of a Confederate veteran who laments his side’s loss with violent language like, “I hate the Yankee Nation / And everything they do; / I hate the Declaration / Of Independence, too.” The narrator then spends six verses raging in the dialect of a poor white southerner and claiming to hate the Constitution, the Union, and the U. S. flag before concluding, “I won’t be reconstructed / And I don’t care a damn.”
By following the “Good Old Rebel” from a joke through its publication in southern newspapers, its inclusion in folksong collections, and its recordings on country albums, this paper explores the song’s impact on historical memory and constructions of white supremacy across the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. More recently, racist activists have adopted the “Good Old Rebel” as an anthem for white supremacist communities on the internet. This usage has provided a new chance for the ghosts of the past to inform those who ascribe to anti-statist and white power ideologies in our current moment.

Moderators
OW

Oliver Wang

BioOliver Wang is a professor of sociology at CSU-Long Beach and the author of Legions of Boom: Filipino American Mobile DJ Crews of the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the former editor of the Journal of Popular Music Studies. He produces and co-hosts the music appreciation podcast... Read More →

Speakers
GD

Ginger Dellenbaugh

BioGinger Dellenbaugh is a musician and historian who has written and lectured on music and politics, the pedal steel guitar, and the cultural history of the voice. A trained opera singer, she performed for over a decade in Europe and the United States. Ginger is currently completing... Read More →
DM

DeWayne Moore

BioDr. DeWayne Moore is a historian of African American and Public History and executive director of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. Since, 2014, he has been responsible for the memorials to musicians T-Model Ford, Henry “Son” Simms, Frank Stokes, Eddie Cusic, Mamie “Galore” Davis... Read More →
JT

Joseph Thompson

BioJoseph M. Thompson is a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow and a doctoral candidate at the University of Virginia. His dissertation, “Sounding Southern: Music, Militarism, and the Making of the Sunbelt,” traces the economic and symbolic connections between the country... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 3:45pm - 5:45pm PDT
Sky Church

3:45pm PDT

The Ghosts of Centuries Past
  • Bethany McLemore “‘They heard her singing her last song’: Nineteenth-Century American Song and the Consumptive Body”
Scholars in American Studies and Musicology have thoroughly examined the popular preoccupation with death in all facets of nineteenth-century U.S. culture. As musicologist Jon Finson points out, nineteenth-century Americans’ constant exposure to illness, death, and dying made its infiltration of popular song “a necessity” more than “a macabre obsession.” I argue that this “necessity” weighed more heavily on women than men, and with the added burden of personal risk. Women were in many ways more intimately tied to songs about death: 1.) they had more frequent interactions with this music through practice and performance, 2.) the largest portion of songs about death deal with the death of children and of young women, 3.) women played a large role in caring for the ill and planning memorials, and 4.) women were perceived as more susceptible to the deadliest disease of the nineteenth century: consumption.

In this presentation, I consider consumption’s impact on parlor song texts, musical style, and on women’s identity formation and performance. A disease thought to be both intrinsic and womanly, consumption was linked in contemporary thought to womanly activities and consumer goods like parlor song. I examine the complex interactions between these songs and consumption, both of which cohabitated the parlor and are of the body—they impact or are created by the capabilities of the lungs. These interactions reveal contradictory impulses to attach meaning and importance to women’s lives on the one hand, while idealizing their material wasting and death on the other. I argue that women’s song performances simultaneously enabled performances of frailty and death as central components of gender identity, reflected the daily experience of death (and I argue, specifically the experience of consumption), and provided the images and means of coping with staggering loss.


  • Emily Margot Gale – “Sentimental Death Songs and the Death of Sentimentality”
This paper mines the canon of well-known—and some lesser known—nineteenth-century popular songs to provide an overview of sentimental death songs. I will consider the following questions: What gestures are used to convey grief in sentimental songs? In what ways were abstractions of death such as the willow tree used in sentimental songs? How did religion factor into these songs? And, what makes one death song sentimental while another might be considered anti-sentimental?
In the nineteenth century, death and sentimentality went hand in hand. Literary critics suggest that death is an archetype of sentimental literature; similarly, death features as an important topic in sentimental songs. Nicholas Tawa explains that “lamentation and death, expressed either as an elegy on the idea of death in general, or as mourning for a particular person” served as the basis for many popular songs from the beginning of the nineteenth century through to the Civil War.
Sentimentalism, according to Janet Todd, “delivered the great archetypal victims: the chaste suffering woman, happily rewarded in marriage or elevated into redemptive death.” But not all sentimental death songs were about women. In fact, songwriters wrote sentimental death songs about a range of people or stock characters: the Civil War soldiers in “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight”; the sailor in “The Ocean Burial”; the enslaved in “Listen to the Mocking Bird”; and even the tree of “Woodman, Spare That Tree.” No one was exempt from death and many had a sentimental song to go along with it. In countering the received history of the “dying daughters and crying mothers” familiar to readers on nineteenth-century sentimentalism, I query whether sentimental songs have died a death of their own in contemporary pop.
 

  • Sara Marcus – “‘A haunting echo of these weird old songs’: Du Bois and Sonic Disappointment”
Our era’s political and historical losses are commonly conceptualized as occasions for mourning, which emphasizes a response to the enduring and irreversible absence effected by death. Yet music’s complicated relationship to death and liveness invites reflections on other modes of encountering loss. In this paper, I discuss W.E.B. Du Bois’s writing about the Sorrow Songs, as well as transcriptions and descriptions of African American song produced during Reconstruction and its aftermath—the periods and media through which these songs came to circulate as popular music—to argue that we should be talking about music’s relationship to loss and afterlife in terms of disappointment.
Disappointment, which I theorize here as desire that outlives its time of possible fulfillment, is a genre of affective afterlife that follows in the wake of closures less definitive than death: It is born in those shifts in historical possibility whose degree of finality is often hard to assess. Music, in its forms of transcription and sound recording, archives practices and performances that are both finished and ongoing, simultaneously “dead” and “live,” making music a particularly helpful medium for tracking disappointment.
W.E.B. Du Bois’s theorization of the Sorrow Songs in The Souls of Black Folk is often associated with mourning, as in Joseph Winters’s recent work, or with its Freudian counterpart melancholy, as Jonathan Flatley has detailed. Yet when Du Bois praised the songs as “the music of…the children of disappointment,” he valorized these slavery-era compositions not because they stood for irrevocable loss and grief but rather because they were ongoing evocations of a past era that many would have preferred to leave behind. In his work, the songs become audible as old cultural registers of disappointed desires that paradoxically open onto an unforeclosed future.

  • John Shaw – “When Malindy (or Aretha) Sings: The Complex, Haunting Presence of Paul Laurence Dunbar in American Music”
In Cicely Tyson’s youth, the recitation of poetry provided a pastime in many African American homes and communities as well as on professional stages. The most beloved poet in Black America was Paul Laurence Dunbar, who wrote of Black dignity and pride and retained his centrality for decades after his 1904 death.

In many poems Dunbar described musical performances in African American styles that died before recording or transcription could preserve them. Sometimes he compared the music to white people’s, always asserting the superiority of the former. Dunbar undermines white supremacism, persuading us of the preeminence of Black music, making us long to hear the wind bands, banjo players, and singers that he wrote about. The poems reach past the grave of musical history, raising the silent ghosts of vanished practices.

Dunbar’s poems imply: African American musical genius evinces racial equality. Writing in his wake, W. E. B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson made the argument explicit, citing Black music as proof of equality. Both men admired Dunbar and regarded him as a friend.

In a sideline career as a song lyricist, Dunbar brought, with composer Will Marion Cook, ragtime to Broadway. Popular theater historians have ignored the team, instead awarding the “first” for Broadway ragtime to white songwriters. Nevertheless, Dunbar remains a presence, his name gracing schools and government buildings in Black neighborhoods across the country, lines from his poems appearing in the work of African American writers to this day. Cicely Tyson climaxed her eulogy at Aretha Franklin’s memorial service with a roaring recitation of a Dunbar poem that she may have heard as a child. A touchstone in Black culture, he remains a spectral presence in white culture, his influence and precedence buried and hidden. His unique work evokes lost treasures; his reputation reveals vexed history.



Moderators
MJ

Matthew Jones

Matthew J. Jones is a musicologist and visiting assistant professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Miami University of Ohio whose work focuses on queerness, illness/disability, and musical practices. His essay “Enough of Being Basely Tearful: ‘Glitter and Be Gay... Read More →

Speakers
BM

Bethany McLemore

BioBethany McLemore serves as Instructor of Musicology at Baylor University, teaching courses in American Music, Jazz, and Music History since WWI. She holds a PhD (2016) from UT-Austin. Bethany’s current research concerns the practice of corseting, examining its impact on the body... Read More →
EM

Emily Margot Gale

Sentimental Death Songs and the Death of SentimentalityThis paper mines the canon of well-known—and some lesser known—nineteenth-century popular songs to provide an overview of sentimental death songs. I will consider the following questions: What gestures are used to convey grief... Read More →
SM

Sara Marcus

“A haunting echo of these weird old songs”: Du Bois and Sonic DisappointmentOur era’s political and historical losses are commonly conceptualized as occasions for mourning, which emphasizes a response to the enduring and irreversible absence effected by death. Yet music’s... Read More →
JS

John Shaw

BioJohn Shaw is the author of This Land That I Love: Irving Berlin, Woody Guthrie, and the Story of Two American Anthems. 


Friday April 12, 2019 3:45pm - 5:45pm PDT
Learning Labs

3:45pm PDT

You Do It To Me Every Time: Detritus, Resurrection, and the Haunting Sounds of Race
  • Summer Kim Lee – ““Asian Girlfriends and their White Musicians”
Most know the lyrics Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo cries out in the band’s song, “El Scorcho”: “Goddamn you half-Japanese girls! You do it to me every time.” Since then, Cuomo has apologized, not necessarily for that lyric, so much as for the album the song is on. At the time of its 1996 release, Pinkerton, named after a character in Giacomo Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly, went against Weezer’s clean, bright production, and moreover included Cuomo’s unexpectedly dark, embittered lyrics about love and sex. Following its initial mediocre reception, the album has earned cult status, and the song, and that line, persist. This paper considers the ways this line has been taken up and answered by those it hails: the figure of the Asian girl, but moreover, the Asian girlfriend of the white indie musician. Ever since most notably Yoko Ono dated John Lennon, the Asian girlfriend of the white musician has been the troubling muse that disrupts the masculine homosocial bonds of the band; she cannot be trusted. Even more so when we consider the rumors of who Cuomo was specifically referring to in the lyric: his ex-girlfriend and musician Jennifer Chiba, who is most known for dating singer-songwriter Elliott Smith up until he died by suicide in 2003, and who was under investigation and subject to scrutiny by Smith fans, who were convinced Chiba had something to do with his death. Given speculation and suspicion around this figure, always in relation to the white male musician, I consider artist Alison S.M. Kobayashi’s short film Music is Magic or, Goddamn You, Half-Japanese Girls (2016), wherein the Asian girlfriend is reimagined not in relation to the masculine homosociality undergirding a predominantly white indie music scene, but rather through Kobayashi’s intimate bonds with her sister, as Asian girlfriends playing with one another.

  • Iván A. Ramos – “‘Looking for All to Be Rendered’: Ghosts and Detritus in Lonnie Holley’s Sound”
This essay listens to the musical output of multi-disciplinary artist Lonnie Holley and the ghosts that haunt his work. Holley first began his career following the death of two of his sister’s children in a fire. Lacking economic resources, Holley built the tombstones for the children using found materials, which led to a prolific career in which he has been classified for the most part as an outsider artist, before turning to music over the last two decades. Holley’s musical recordings deploy unconventional instrumentation and rhythm progression, his voice raw with restrained emotion, delivering lyrics without any consistent meter or rhyme scheme. Throughout three full length albums, Holley has developed a sound that in some ways mirrors and expands upon his sculptural work. In this essay, I analyze how Holley deploys detritus as the aesthetic principle that guides his work. In particular, I linger on how Holley’s deployment of matter onto the sonic attempts to reimagine a beginning of the world rooted in Blackness.

  • Douglas S. Ishii – “It’s Blitz!: Karen O, the Ghosts of Race, and the Afterlives of Multiculturalism”
From histories of genre to the political economies of performance and distribution to charges of appropriation, the construction and reinforcement of racial difference has been central to music-making and its attendant visibilities.  Taking up the MoPop 2019 theme of “Music, Death and Afterlife,” this panel theorizes from four different coordinates the relationship between race, art-making, and memory within a mainstream that constantly forgets: Filipinx femme rock from the niche cult to a resurgence; the figure of the Asian girlfriend of the white male musician; the outsider artist working through sonic imaginings of Blackness; and the biracial rocker who built an image on estrangement.  Riffing on the panel’s title, which thematizes repetitions with a difference, each paper thus centralizes racialized figures that haunt, linger, and attempt to cross-over in ways that bring their incomplete relationship to the past into the present.  Grappling with their spectral presence through feminist and queer of color analytics - resurrection, intimacy, detritus, and ontopoetics, this panel seeks to engage a conversation about how these artists clarify the power of sound, difference, and musical norms in their efforts to make space within foreclosing scenes of partial listening.


Moderators
EM

Erin MacLeod

BioErin MacLeod has a PhD in communications from McGill University, has taught at the University of the West Indies and presently teaches Caribbean Literature at Vanier College in Montreal, Canada. Her research interests lie in intercultural relationships that connect culture and... Read More →

Speakers
SK

Summer Kim Lee

BioSummer Kim Lee is a Mellon Faculty Fellow in English at Dartmouth College. She earned her PhD in Performance Studies from New York University. She is currently working on her first book project, Unaccommodating Acts: Asian American Aesthetics and the Limits of Sociality, which... Read More →
IA

Iván A. Ramos

BioIván A. Ramos is assistant professor of LGBTQ studies in the department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland. He was previously a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ethnic Studies at UC Riverside. He received his PhD in... Read More →
DS

Douglas S. Ishii

BioDouglas S. Ishii is Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing, Literature & Publishing at Emerson College. His work broadly examines the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality in popular media, and his first book project theorizes the role of cultural capital... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 3:45pm - 5:45pm PDT
Demo Lab

3:45pm PDT

Still Here: A Roundtable for Rashod Ollison
  • Roundtable featuring Regina Bradley, Jack Hamilton, Emily Lordi, Mark Anthony Neal, Ann Powers, Karen Tongson, Carl Wilson 
The grief comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. And life keeps moving: Babies are born, leaves change from green to red to brown, the sun slides down and springs back up. We all have an expiration date. If anything, the grief should push us to embrace the Now that much more, to love in ways that are funky, free and foolish but you give it anyway. And, if you're lucky, it comes right back while you're still here. 
        Rashod Ollison, 2016

This panel honors and celebrates the memory of Rashod Ollison, an award-winning journalist, memoirist, lover of life, and passionate dropper of F-bombs whom we lost suddenly and much too soon in October, 2018. A brilliant, wry, shit-talking sweetheart whom one close friend called the “freest black man” she had ever met, Rashod lived with and wrote about music with profundity, economy, and grace. 

Each participant in this roundtable will select a passage from Rashod’s writings (journalistic, autobiographical, etc.) and explain how it has shaped their way of hearing a particular artist, performance, or song. In so doing, we hope to reveal the durable lives and afterlives of seemingly transient things—the medium of journalism and the social-media-based relationships many of us had with Rashod—and, of course, to pay tribute to his enduring and vital presence.


Speakers
RN

Regina N. Bradley

Bio:Regina N. Bradley is Assistant Professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, She writes about race and sound, hip-hop, and the contemporary Black American South. Her first book, Chronicling Stankonia: OutKast and the Rise... Read More →
JH

Jack Hamilton

BioJack Hamilton is assistant professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia, and the author of Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination (Harvard UP, 2016). He is also the pop critic for Slate magazine, and his writing has appeared... Read More →
EL

Emily Lordi

Emily J. Lordi is associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the author of Black Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature (2013), a 33⅓ book on Donny Hathaway Live (2016), and a forthcoming book about soul aesthetics. She... Read More →
MA

Mark Anthony Neal

Mark Anthony Neal is Professor of African & African American Studies and Professor of English at Duke University where he is Chair of the Department of African & African American Studies and Founding Director of the Center for Arts, Digital Culture and Entrepreneurship. He is the... Read More →
AP

Ann Powers

BioAnn Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs. She is the author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music (2017). Powers... Read More →
KT

Karen Tongson

Bio    Karen Tongson is the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries, and Why Karen Carpenter Matters. She is associate professor of English, gender & sexuality studies, and American studies & ethnicity at USC. Her writing and cultural commentary have appeared in the Los... Read More →
CW

Carl Wilson

Carl Wilson is the music critic at Slate, as well as the author of Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste (Bloomsbury), and a contributor to Billboard, The New York Times, and other publications. He lives in Toronto, where he helps curate the Trampoline Hall... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 3:45pm - 5:45pm PDT
JBL Theater

6:00pm PDT

Resurrecting Rock Bands
  • Dan Booth“Band Names, Brand Names, Forever Lineup Changes, and Trademark Law”
Locke said, “For should the soul of a Prince, carrying with it the consciousness of the Prince’s past life, enter and inform the body of a Cobbler as soon as deserted by his own soul, every one sees, he would be the same Person with the Prince, accountable only for the Prince’s actions. But who would say it was the same Man?” Locke's hypothetical, fodder for metaphysical scifi classics like Face/Off and Freaky Friday, is an everyday issue for bands that replace members and keep going. How many Platters, Drifters, Beach Boys, Doors, or Misfits can leave and still be enough of the same band to keep using the same name? Not all dismemberments are equal. Fans write off some bands as no longer genuine after a given lineup change, while they accept others no matter how many pass through the revolving door.

These issues of band identity and integrity get distorted in the Marxist’s nightmare that is modern trademark law, which makes a quasi-property right out of the affective value that fans associate with a band name. Trademark rights only exist if people identify the name with a particular source, but when the band’s classic lineup members don’t control those rights, they can be forbidden from performing under the name they made famous. And the band’s internal agreements and disagreements don’t have to take into account the public’s perception, so fans often reach different conclusions than judges would dictate. This paper presents an alternate history of rock through the lens of court filings from band name trademark disputes — often the last public record of recriminations when bands split up.

  • Hugo Burnham and Jon King – “SIC TRANSIT GLORIA (Nothing New Compares to Old You)”
The lives of professional musicians are defined by endings. Gigs, songwriting partners, and band members, come and go. Mojo, style, and audiences can disappear in a blink. A musician’s best work can depend on transient collisions of musical interests, inspiration, and emotional connections. These beautiful accidents can become defining moments of a life. Or train-wrecks, as musos don’t walk softly on each other’s dreams. And in a beat, it can all be over. Mutual respect and shared dreams shattered, left wondering where the money went.

It rarely ends well. Their moment gone, musicians can drown in seas of narcissism, substance or alcohol abuse, and litigation. Once-supportive comrades become raging enemies with Lilliputian scores to settle. The years can pass in bonfires of the vanities fueled by rows about money, authorship, and intellectual property. Rather than an ending, a never-ending endgame, breakups ‘n’ makeups for the sake of the quids, bucks, euros, even frequent flyer miles, with the great work a distant memory. This isn’t the end, my only friend.

Reputations become the battleground and reunions re-ignite smouldering fires of resentment. A typical ending: Jimmy Corgan’s, "The truth of the matter is that guitarist James Iha broke up the Smashing Pumpkins …Not me, not drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, but James. Did it help that bassist D'arcy Wretzky was fired for being a mean-spirited drug addict, who refused to get help? No, that didn't help keep the band together, not at all."

Hugo Burnham and Jon King, founder members of Gang of Four will entertainingly give it up for avarice, greed, pride - and put it together for Oasis, The Smiths, Bacharach/David, The Eagles (et al) to illustrate a roll call of misery. We will bring this common story to life with our shared experience - a microcosm of stupidity, clusterfuck, and glory.


  • Dusty Henry – “In Your Afterglow: Rock Star: INXS, Rock Star Excess, and Reality TV Resurrection”
Reckoning with the loss of lead singer is tricky business. For every AC/DC or Pink Floyd, there’s a Van Hagar or Iron Maiden with Blaze Bayley. It’s an unenviable position to be that’s made worse when their bandmate has deceased, adding a level of emotional trauma that extends to the fanbase itself. But there’s one notable example that isn’t often brought up in these conversations. One that’s so blatantly absurd and bewildering, you have to wonder how it even began.

Of all the music competition reality television that’s emerged in the past few decades, Rockstar: INXS may be the most baffling. It’s the band grappling with the death of their lead singer in a way that’s almost blasphemy, taking to a trendy format in the wake of American Idol to find a replacement for their friend, collaborator, and co-founder Michael Hutchence. It’s a curious way to grieve and move on – teaming up with Mark Burnett (whom, among many other successful projects, practically re-introduced the world to Donald Trump with The Apprentice).

The show came at an era where “rock and roll” was more or less “dying,” no longer the coolest aesthetic in music and beginning its decline as the dominant genre in the world. Yet, in 2005, the excess was still all the rage. Rock Star: INXS offered an alternative to the pop pastiche of American Idol, having contestants sing songs from The Rolling Stones and Radiohead (even some deep cuts from Jeff Buckley and Failure made their ways onto TV sets across the country). Eventual winner JD Fortune helped the band find minor success with the quickly turned around album Switch before he was unceremoniously fired and rendered homeless. But the real lessons of Rock Star are about how we treat the dead, consume our music, and how media adapts to their audience – repercussions we’re still reeling from today. By examining this odd era in an iconic pop-rock band’s history, maybe we can understand where we go wrong in mourning our heroes and succumbing to pop culture trends. As Fortune himself would sing on his INXS hit “Pretty Vegas,” “It ain’t pretty when the pretty leaves you with no place to go.”

Moderators
AZ

Annie Zaleski

Annie Zaleski is an award-winning freelance journalist, editor and critic based in Cleveland, Ohio. Previously, she was on staff as an editor at the Riverfront Times and Alternative Press; currently, she’s a contributing writer at The A.V. Club and a columnist at Salon. Her profiles... Read More →

Speakers
DB

Dan Booth

BioDan Booth is a lawyer at Booth Sweet LLP in Massachusetts whose practice is concentrated on copyright, trademark, defamation, and First Amendment litigation. His six previous Pop Conference presentations were on Phil Ochs, George Clinton, Sly Stone, last dances, true threats, and... Read More →
HB

Hugo Burnham

BioDrummer, Hugo Burnham is currently the Assistant Professor of Experiential Learning and Internship Coordinator for the Visual and Performing Arts School at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. He has spent 19 years in academia following his post-musician years in artist management... Read More →
JK

Jon King

BioLead singer, songwriter, and band lyricist, Jon King is currently Managing Director of Special Projects at Vice Media based in London, UK, following careers in tour and live event production, digital media, broadcasting, and marketing. Alongside this, he re-joined the original... Read More →
DH

Dusty Henry

Bio Dusty Henry is a staff writer for KEXP.org in Seattle, Washington. His work has appeared in Consequence of Sound, Seattle Weekly, City Arts Magazine, Vinyl Me Please, and The Grey Estates. A native to the Northwest, he’s constantly pursuing stories of the region’s fabled... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 6:00pm - 7:30pm PDT
JBL Theater

6:00pm PDT

Say Their Names
  • James McNally“Sometimes it Snows in April: 24 hours in London and Long Island, a rap trauma”
On April 22 1993, Black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in suburban South London. Hours later in New York, Dingilizwe ‘Subroc’ Dumile was struck by a car, attempting to cross the Long Island Expressway. Two deaths, 3,500 miles apart: an appalling coincidence that would haunt hip-hop on either side of the Atlantic. This paper attempts to connect the aftershocks of these tragic events. Drawing on rap lyrics, interview material, sonic texts and biography, it navigates their respective personal, political, cultural and aesthetic repercussions, seeking the hidden tributaries that link them.

With Lawrence’s death, this decisive episode in British race politics is analyzed for the first time via its influence on London rap. With the drum already tightening on race relations in 1993, it argues this Black British every-teen became a spring-loaded metonym for the everyday pressures facing London rap’s core community. Transfigured through rap lyrics and news samples, his death, in effect, became part of the pressure-cooker aesthetics characterizing British rap in the early-90s.

Dumile’s death registered a more personalized trauma. As teenage producer of rap group KMD, Dumile enjoyed a symbiotic partnership with his brother Daniel, a.k.a. Zev Love X. Drawing partly on lost interviews, this section analyzes how, as Zev battled grief through a three-year wilderness, Dingilizwe’s absent-presence helped shape the sound and tenor of his new rap identity. Achieving widespread influence as MF Doom, Zev sees this ‘solo’ career as an after-life for ideas they co-developed together.

Finally, the paper turns to the under-the-surface connections between these two deaths and the transatlantic links between the two contexts. Exploring Lawrence’s own enthusiastic engagement with the wave of pro-Black New York hip-hop that KMD belonged to, it will ask how the group’s potent analysis of race might help illuminate his case.


  • Isaac Silber – "Sampling Her Name: Echoes of Sandra Bland in Bearcat’s “CHARGED UP - SANDY SPEAKS”
This proposal coexists within and between the categories “Say Her Name,” “Ghosts in the Machine,” and “Hauntings,” focusing on the song “CHARGED UP - SANDY SPEAKS” produced by the DJ Bearcat. In this song, Bearcat layers samples from one of Sandra Bland’s online video logs over an ambient, slowed down version of Drake’s “Charged Up,” which works to memorialize her in her own voice, and to provide her words the space to continue to reverberate after her tragic death in the hands of the state in July of 2015. I’m interested in focusing on the sampling choices that Bearcat makes in terms of which phrases she includes, which she plays fluidly without any editing, and which she pauses, cuts short, or chooses to repeat at varying speeds, as a kind of phonic material dialogue occurring between Bearcat and Bland in/as the process of sampling. I want to think about how this sampling dialogue acts to amplify Bland’s words, and crystallize moments in which her words, directly addressing racism and police brutality, take on new meaning after her tragic and untimely death. I also want to think about the ways in which the context of an ambient loop, in its own haunting familiarity, provides a sonic space for such a memorializing dialogue to occur. This presentation is in tribute and honor to the memory of Sandra Bland, following the traces Bearcat lays for us for carrying her memory forward into a future that continues to Say Her Name.


  • Jade Conlee – “‘Slow motion for the ambulance, the project filled with cameras’: The Voice of Kendrick Lamar as Already Dead”
Kendrick Lamar’s interview with the voice of Tupac Shakur at the end of the 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly is one of the most memorable encounters with the afterworld to emerge from pop music in recent years. But what if, rather than recalling Tupac’s voice to the world of the living, the interview locates Kendrick’s voice as always-already beyond it? Throughout the album, Lamar’s lyrics emphasize the continuity of social death with actual death in his native community of Compton, interweaving narratives of gang and police violence with descriptions of the political disenfranchisement imposed on ghettoized black communities. Positioning his recorded voice between and beyond life and death, Lamar offers a reading of hip-hop at large as a necro-politically haunted artistic medium. This characterization is borne out in the ghostly visual language of the “Alright” music video, where Kendrick floats above the streets of LA, and in the interrogation of gun sounds and metaphors as sonic signifiers of authenticity in G-funk in the song “King Kunta.”

Fundamentally characterized by gun violence and social death, hip-hop is equally sustained by the life-after-death facilitated by recording technology. Yet this technology is far from an uncomplicatedly positive actor in Lamar’s analysis. Lamar’s critiques of the mainstream hip-hop industry and American political institutions intersect at media representations of black suffering, as shown in lines like, “Slow motion for the ambulance, the project filled with cameras” from the song “Hood Politics.” Aware that hip-hop runs the risk of similarly contributing to a mainstream, white fetishization of gang violence and black suffering that fails to address their causes, in TPAB, Lamar deploys recording technology’s uncanny separation of voice from body to sketch out a position of political agency specific to the recorded voice of hip-hop that exists outside the embodied necro-political economy.



Moderators
AM

Amalia Mallard

Bio​Amalia Mallard is an independent scholar and the founder of The Laughing Archive, a repository and critical analysis of laughter in recorded music. With degrees in Political Science and Africana Studies, her Master's thesis, "Locating and Retracing the Modern Black Aesthetic... Read More →

Speakers
JM

James McNally

BioJames McNally is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol. His PhD – the basis for his forthcoming first book – is the first written history exploring the impact of hip-hop’s early years in London. A once prolific journalist, James wrote for the magazine Hip-Hop... Read More →
IS

Isaac Silber

BioIsaac Silber is currently pursuing a Master’s in Performance Studies at NYU, where he focuses on the mode and practice of sampling as a tool to discover new potential genres of the human. Isaac is also a multi-instrumentalist performer and recording artist, with his first album... Read More →
JC

Jade Conlee

BioJade Conlee is a writer and pianist pursuing a PhD in Music Theory at Yale University. She studies twentieth-century classical and popular avant-garde practices as sites of collective memory and trauma. As a performer she specializes in European and American modernism and the performance... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 6:00pm - 7:30pm PDT
Learning Labs

6:00pm PDT

Sonic Hauntings
  • Devin McKinney – “Between Light and Nowhere: Space and Spectrality in Certain Pop Records”
A quality common to great ghost stories in prose and film is that they occur at the right distance. Consider the framing narrations of many Victorian tales; the dead governess across the lake in The Innocents (1961); etc. Distance embodies the puzzle and problem of the ghost story, its basic allure, which is that the larger explanations of death and life will, like the revenant itself, come tauntingly near yet be forever out of reach.

In the theoretical thing we call space, there’s the positive kind, where something is, and the negative kind, where something is not. The one may be frenetic yet inert, the other a void that is full of presence. Ghosts exist in negative space, and certain records which use the negative space of distance are effectively ghost stories in sound. They conjure their haunts not usually through any lyrical reference, but by sculpting air in certain ways. A singer retreats from a microphone; a producer adds a touch of echo; sound is otherwise manipulated to create a strange middle place between sender and receiver—each is a way of making an opening for the otherworldly.

In this talk, I’ll focus on six records which use space, specifically distance, as a conjuring of the ghostly, a hope that someone or something will make itself known. In most records ever made, as in most ghost stories ever written, that invocation has gone unanswered. Preparations were made, some form of prayer was uttered, and nothing happened: the ghost—indifferent, unimpressed, other places to be—simply stayed away. Here are six records which brought the ghost back.

  • Devon Léger – “‘The World We Saw In These Songs’: Traditional Artists Invite Long-Dead Archival Voices to the Stage”
Young traditional artists today draw from field recordings in both archives and private collections to find inspiration, and to immerse themselves in a world that’s mostly been lost. Spending hours with the recordings, these artists obsess over long-dead voices and the vanished sounds and environments that surround them in the tapes. Building personal connections to the recordings, a new wave of performers is bringing these voices directly onstage, or interacting with them in the studio, as if they were alive. For Canadian First Nations artist Jeremy Dutcher, his "ancestor player" (a mic'd ipad on his piano) enables him to sing and speak directly with the ancestral voices that he had thought lost. Struggling to understand their songs, most of which had been suppressed, Dutcher came to know the voices in the recordings personally. Now they join him onstage each night and travel with him. For singer, song collector, and folklorist Sam Lee, the field recordings that connected him to British Traveller culture still retain their dreamlike quality. Each singer's memory of a song is different, and the recordings capture the fractured haze of these memories. Lee’s recent album weaves his voice around crackling old recordings, and represents the shifting nature of the tradition to him. For American folk singers Anna & Elizabeth, years of work in archives looking for old songs became a way of life. During performances, the pair have taken recently to inviting a third member to the stage, the long-dead traditional singer Margaret Shipman. Opening their laptop to a microphone, Shipman’s voice, recorded in 1941, rings out on the song “Jeano.” Anna & Elizabeth’s voices join in harmony, rendering a duo a trio with this lost voice. As they say about their new album on Smithsonian Folkways “this record grew out of the desire to show you the world we saw in these songs.”


  • Anastasia Howe Bukowski and Adam Gill – “Haunting Itself: Lana Del Rey’s Americana”
American pop revivalist Lana Del Rey is no stranger to ghosts. Indeed, everything about her self-erected iconicity evokes the shivering spectre of time, from songs that lyrically lament the beautiful tragedy of dying young, to videos in which she is literally figured as a ghost, to the heavy-handed nostalgia for a bygone era of capital-A Americana that explicitly lurks throughout the whole of her artistic project. Working through the robust citational practice which dramatizes Del Rey’s music and mediated persona, this paper will establish in her work a sense of what French philosopher Jacques Derrida has described in his 1993 text Spectres of Marx as “hauntology”: “the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive.” What this paper will advance is an opportunity to think of how Del Rey’s pop project enacts a performative re-iteration of the nostalgic spoils of post-industrial Americana through citation, rendering these tropes perverse, distant, and, indeed, ghostly in the process. Appearing in her songs and populating her videos are references to no less than Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, JFK and Jackie O, Marilyn Monroe, Walt Whitman, the suicide of Peg Entwistle, Bruce Springsteen, Tennessee Williams, David Lynch, The Eagles, Woodstock, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” Allen Ginsberg, the visual spoils of Old Hollywood, and the aching expanse of the southwestern desert as watched from the back of a motorcycle. One can thus say that Del Rey’s artistry is haunted by a ghostly, indiscriminate spectre of Americana, rendering in her mediated presence an experience of temporal instability or an apparition of the past that never fully realizes itself in the present, allowing her retrofuturistic self-characterization to exist in a hauntological state of ghostly suspension.



Moderators
JH

Jewly Hight

BioMusic journalist and critic Jewly Hight is a Contributing Writer at NPR Music, and her work also appears in The New York Times and New York Magazine/Vulture.com. She was the inaugural winner of the Chet Flippo Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism and published her first... Read More →

Speakers
DM

Devin McKinney

BioDevin McKinney, an archivist at Gettysburg College, is the author of Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History (2003), The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda (2012), and Jesusmania! The Bootleg Superstar of Gettysburg College (2016). He’s appeared in... Read More →
DL

Devon Léger

BioDevon Léger is a music writer and publicist based in Seattle, Washington who covers North American music traditions with a focus on marginalized artists in the roots music community. He has written for Noisey, Paste, MAGNET, No Depression, The Bluegrass Situation, Folk Alley... Read More →
AH

Anastasia Howe Bukowski

BioAnastasia Howe Bukowski is a doctoral student at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Her research is situated at the intersections of pop music, television studies, and queer studies, with a specific interest in the televisual... Read More →
AG

Adam Gill

BioAdam Gill is a doctoral student in Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture at the University of Southern California. His research interests include continental philosophy, critical theory, queer theory and 20th and 21st century popular cultures and subcultures. He is currently... Read More →


Friday April 12, 2019 6:00pm - 7:30pm PDT
Demo Lab
 
Saturday, April 13
 

9:00am PDT

Gone But Not Forgotten
  • Josh Langhoff – “Selena, Ariel Camacho, and Two Tragedies That Reshaped Regional Mexican Music”
In 1995 the 23-year-old Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla died at the hand of her fan club president. She was already the biggest act in Tejano music, itself the hottest sound on the U.S. radio format known as Regional Mexican; but in death, Selena became a household name. Her posthumous bilingual album, Dreaming of You, debuted atop the Billboard 200 and became the best-selling Latin album of all time. A generation later Selena remains an icon, but the same cannot be said of Tejano music itself. “Tejano Market Hits a Lull,” read Billboard’s ominous 1997 headline, and in 1999 the Houston Press reported, “The Tejano scene is all but gone.” Over the ensuing decades the Regional Mexican format would turn to other sounds -- most recently sierreño, an austere style that exploded in popularity after a different twenty-something singer, Ariel Camacho, died in a 2015 car accident.

After these styles’ respective stars died, why did keyboard-led, pop-friendly Tejano fade from the airwaves but sierreño -- a drumless genre propelled by ornate tuba lines -- became inescapable? To learn why, I’ll examine the aesthetic and commercial trajectories of both styles and the evolving Regional Mexican audience. I’ll also explore how the U.S. infrastructure for Mexican-American music has developed. Central to this story is the man who discovered Camacho, Ángel Del Villar, the owner of DEL Records and the person who realized modern sierreño could be viral youth music. Since Camacho died, Del Villar has kept the singer’s band going with two different replacement leaders; he’s also seen norteño stars like Gerardo Ortiz and Calibre 50 hop aboard the sierreño bandwagon. What insights do these styles’ respective death bumps give us into the machinations of the Regional Mexican industry and the identities of its U.S. audiences?

  • Micah Salkind – “#FKAlways: Between Narrative Closure and Living Culture in Chicago’s Frankie Knuckles Memorials”
In June of 2014, The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) honored the late Frankie Knuckles by hosting a massive dance party in Millennium Park. Standing on the stage of the Pritzker Auditorium, then-Commissioner Michelle Boone welcomed all the house heads. Calling Knuckles a “treasure,” Boone said that the Godfather of house music “made it into the ranks of the artists and innovators who came to this City, not just to contribute to a musical genre, but to create one themselves.” She went on to demand that the genre of house be held in the “same high regard as our City’s other musical legacies, such as jazz, blues, and gospel.” Knuckles’ premature death marked a significant shift in the ways that Chicago officials and cultural leaders have framed house music’s legacies in musical performances and public art. The Pritzker memorial, Chicago’s yearly #FKAlways celebration at Smart Bar, and graffiti tributes demonstrate the challenges of hagiographic memorialization; Knuckles is at once an icon, undisputed as a major progenitor of house music culture, yet he is also just one of many artists who gave shape to the genesis and efflorescence of house music. Further, house music and culture continue to evolve in the City of their birth and across the world. How do performances of memorialization and posthumous remembrance coexist with a contemporary social dance scene that is still a font of musical influence and cultural resilience? This paper explores some of the many tensions that come into play when the narrative closure proposed by a foundational artist’s death is upended by the ongoing cultural work that shaped their life.


  • Christina Zanfagna – “Jazz Mecca: The Church of John Coltrane and the Death of Black San Francisco”
Some popular musicians are memorialized at funerals, through books and films, or second line parades. Others have churches created in their honor. Following the death of John Coltrane on July 17, 1967, Franzo and Marina King founded the African Orthodox Church of Saint John Coltrane in honor of the late saxophone legend. Established in in San Francisco in 1971, the church operated under the belief that Coltrane, who serves as its modern-day patron saint, was sent to guide souls back to God. Using jazz as devotion, the Sunday services included “sound baptism” as a form of spiritual practice. Incense smudging and guided meditations on “A Love Supreme” were animated by a mixture of Coltrane jazz and gospel. Not only did congregants explore the sonic and spiritual afterlife of famed jazz musician, but also offered counseling services, youth music programming, and a vegetarian soup kitchen. For most of its existence, the church operated out of a storefront on Divisadero Street until it moved to Fillmore Street in 2006. A black mecca that was home to a thriving jazz scene in the 1930s and 40s, by the time the Coltrane church landed on the famous Fillmore corridor it was a shadow of what it used to be. The Fillmore district, or Harlem West as it was sometimes referred to, was targeted by San Francisco’s postwar new redevelopment agency; thousands of black homes and businesses were driven out in the name of urban renewal. In this paper, I will explore the sonic and spiritual afterlife of Coltrane as it was worshipped on the forgotten grounds of black San Francisco. Against the backdrop of increasing gentrification, I ask, what are the political, economic, and social factors that shape which musical lives and spaces get remembered and honored after they are long gone?

  • Eric Weisbard – “Deader Elvis: If the King Is Gone, Then So Are . . . You?” 
When Aretha Franklin died on August 16, the same day as Elvis Presley and Robert Johnson, I thought about the old Lester Bangs chestnut from roughly four decades earlier: "one thing: we will never again agree on anything as we agreed on Elvis." Hey, I posted on Facebook, Bangs was wrong. We agree on Aretha! And immediately the question came back: wait, we agree on Elvis?
    Of course, Elvis left the building for some as far back as the invented quote, sourced most fully in Michael Bertrand's Race, Rock and Elvis: “The only thing Negroes can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes.” But what I want to do here, building off research on the development of popular music writing of all kinds, is to show him entering the building, too:  Gilbert Chase's anti-genteel tradition America's Music; blues traveler Samuel Charters long before his Elvis fable; that early Harlan Ellison novel Rockabilly; another Robert Johnson, once a swing kid, offering a first, very local account Elvis Presley Speaks! Stanley Booth unearthed Dewey Phillips for "the lead of a lifetime": "Talkin' about eatin' pussy, me and Sam Phillips used to make old Elvis sick with the stuff." When did that start to be the lead of a lifetime and when did it stop being that?
I won't be definitive. But I can page through why this story gained and lost power, why Elvis books are better than Beatles books because questions of greatness eat at them and more women write them, and why if, as George Jones once sang, "the King is gone and so are you" we'd better figure out who that you, formerly a we, might be.

Moderators
ZF

Zandria F. Robinson

BioZandria F. Robinson, PhD is a writer and associate professor of sociology whose work focuses on race, popular culture, and the U.S. South. She is the author of This Ain’t Chicago: Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South, co-editor with Sandra L. Barnes and Earl... Read More →

Speakers
CZ

Christina Zanfagna

BioChristina Zanfagna is an Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and the Co-Director of the Center for Arts and Humanities at Santa Clara University. Her book, Holy Hip Hop in the City of Angels, explores the intersections of religion, race, and geography in Los Angeles gospel rap... Read More →
JL

Josh Langhoff

Selena, Ariel Camacho, and Two Tragedies That Reshaped Regional Mexican MusicIn 1995 the 23-year-old Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla died at the hand of her fan club president. She was already the biggest act in Tejano music, itself the hottest sound on the U.S. radio format known... Read More →
MS

Micah Salkind

BioDr. Micah Salkind is the Special Projects Manager for The City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Humanities in the Department of American Studies at Brown University. A DJ, sound designer, and curator, Salkind collaborates with... Read More →
EW

Eric Weisbard

Bio​Eric Weisbard, an associate professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama and co-editor of Journal of Popular Music Studies (send work our way!), organized the Pop Conference from 2002-2018. He's the author of Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
Learning Labs

9:00am PDT

On Air, Online, and in the Club: Hauntings, Specters, and the Dynamics of Keeping Musical Connections Alive
  • Eddy Francsico Alvarez Jr. – “Sequined fantasmas in the rubble of demolition and gentrification: sonic and spatial memories of queer latinx los angeles”
 Building on my larger project on queer Latinx Los Angeles, this paper focuses on the sonic archives and afterlives of two popular hangouts for queer Latinxs. Arena was a queer nightclub in Hollywood, a haven for underage queer brown youth in the 1990s. At El Conquistador Mexican Restaurant in Silverlake, with its sequined, campy décor, on any given day, patrons could hear music by Thalia, Shakira, or Selena, a Latina pop music playlist, that made us feel like we were at a Latinx gay club. Both establishments closed down in the last recently due to gentrification, obliterating physical spaces of leisure and belonging for marginalized communities. Arena was bulldozed and El Conquistador was remodeled and renamed, both sites leaving affective, sensorial and sonic traces, hauntings, debris, that remind us of what was lost but also what remains, part of a process I call "finding sequins in the rubble." Using autohistoria-teoria, interviews, photos, musical recordings, and social media posts, this paper is an invocation of the ghosts that linger in the affective and sensorial archive of queer life and loss in Los Angeles. As I invoke these sequined fantasmas (ghosts), I "listen queerly" to memories of both of these sites, specifically to one interview I conducted at El Conquistador that includes music and other sounds in the background, and to house music remixes like DJ Irene's which we danced to at Arena, and can be found online. This paper functions as an-going and developing soundtrack of Latinx queer spatial afterlives in Los Angeles.

  • José Anguiano – “Listening to the Audience of the Art Laboe Connection”
Radio pioneer Art Laboe’s on air career spans from the 1940s to present day. Laboe pioneered the dedication radio format, coined the phrase “oldie but goodie,” and is a popular culture icon across a sprawling Southern California landscape of working-class and Latinx communities. Although Laboe has made a decades long living listening closely to the taste of his listeners media research has ignored his enduring audience that turns to the syndicated Art Laboe Connection for the familiar mix of “oldies,” soul, newer R&B tunes, and the countless on-air dedications.
This presentation reports findings of research interviews with 15 listeners of the Art Laboe Connection radio show and 1 year of recordings of the radio broadcast. The interviewees ranged from 20 to 65 years old. This range speaks to the longevity of the show and the intergenerational impact of the music played on the radio program. Listeners were asked to detail their connection and affection for the show and the radio icon.
Listening to listeners of Art Laboe I’m interested in how fans carry on the legacy of particular songs and genres as cultural memory passed down. I’m also interested in the articulations and silences embedded within the sentimental on air-dedications. The, usually, romantic dedications underscored a gendered voicing of heterosexual courtship but often also absence and loss. Listening closely between the sighs, the sobs and whispered pleas the audience is drawn into what Karen Tongson calls “remote intimacies.” Often the dedications target city pointed toward the recipient of the dedication being incarcerated and the radio was the only way to connect. The affective articulations and intimacies of the radio format connect listeners across time and space.


  • María Elena Cepeda – “A Masculinist Narrative that ‘Fails to Satisfy’: Maluma, Feminist Memes, and the Specter of Pablo Escobar”
 Since 2012, twenty-four year old Medellín, Colombia native Juan Luis Londoño Arias – better known by his stage name Maluma – has emerged as a dominant force in the transnational reggaetón industry. Marked by his “Pretty Boy/Dirty Boy” image, for many reggaetón fans he has come to embody an extension of the genre’s traditional reliance on overtly sexist lyrics and imagery in tandem with its shift towards a seemingly less politicized and “whitened” regime of representation. Within this context, my presentation analyzes the figure of Maluma and potential interpretations of his music and persona through the lens of what Henry Jenkins characterizes as media narratives that “fail to satisfy.”
    The first of these unsatisfactory narratives considers the Medellín reggaetonero as a self-styled macho colombiano whose discursively violent lyrics are quite literally haunted by the specter of the city’s best-known hypermasculine local son, Pablo Escobar, and the global media discourses still attached to the dramatically violent period during the 1980s and 90s marked by the rise and spectacular fall of the narcotics kingpin. Indeed, the seemingly overnight growth of Medellín reggaetón’s industry in recent years might be read as a positive response to this masculinist narrative. The second of these unsatisfactory narratives, or the emergence on social media of a popular series of “feminist Maluma” memes, illustrates how fans grapple with problematic media narratives in an attempt to express alternative discourses that ultimately re-semanticize Maluma. By focusing on Maluma’s emergence from the Medellín reggaetón industry within the context of the Pablo Escobar narrative haunting the city, as well as the creation of the “feminist Maluma” memes, this presentation underscores the ongoing impact of historic media discourses on current cultural production, as well as the centrality of gender in the creation and contestation of such musical narratives.

  • Yessica Garcia Hernandez – “Jenni Vive: The Erotics of Keeping Jenni Rivera’s Legacy Alive”
 Born and raised in Southern California, Jenni Rivera was the first female singer to achieve international stardom in the Mexican music genre of Banda Sinaloense. She tragically died in an airplane crash at age 43 in 2012. Rivera’s fans admired her not only for her music, but also for being a single mother who took ownership of her sexuality, survived domestic violence, and fought for the rights of immigrants and poor women. Through participant observation and fan oral histories, I examine how Rivera fans keep her alive by attending posthumous tribute events like the Jenni Vive concerts that have taken place both in the United States and Mexico. I start the paper with the Jenni Vive concert in Long Beach, California in 2015 and the making of a Jenni Rivera memorial park the same year. I then move to my fieldwork trip to the site where Jenni died in the sierra (mountains) of Iturbide, Monterrey in 2016. I analyze a letter that a Mexican J-unit fan delivered on behalf of another US J-Unit fan. This letter demonstrates the transnational connections between fans from both sides of the US/Mexico border. I use these two examples to elaborate on what I am calling the erotics of keeping Jenni alive which focuses on how fans maintain relationships with each other even though the person who brought them together is not alive. Framing fandom as an engagement with the erotic, allows me to elaborate on the power of music for collective intergenerational healing.  A song that I analyze in detail is “Mariposa de Barrio”, as this song played a crucial role in the Jenni Vive concert in Long Beach and the creation of the park. I argue that “Mariposa de Barrio” is a sonic pedagogy of Latina Survivance, a life philosophy that Ethnic Studies scholar Juana Maria Rodriguez describes as refusing victimhood and instead centering agency and pleasure.  I end by tracing the hashtage #JenniVive to locate the cultural production and rituals fans engage to keep Jenni alive.


Moderators
Speakers
EF

Eddy Francsico Alvarez Jr.

BioEddy Francisco Alvarez Jr. received his PhD in Chicana and Chicano Studies from University of California, Santa Barbara. He is an Assistant Professor at Portland State University in the departments of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and University Studies. He is working on... Read More →
JA

José Anguiano

BioJosé G. Anguiano is an Assistant Professor in the Honors College and the Department of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Anguiano is a cultural studies scholar with a primary focus in listeners and audiences of popular music. Dr. Anguiano’s... Read More →
ME

María Elena Cepeda

BioMaría Elena Cepeda is Professor of Latina/o Studies at Williams College, where she focuses on Latina/o media and popular culture. Cepeda is the author of Musical ImagiNation: U.S.-Colombian Identity and the “Latin Music Boom” and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Latina/o... Read More →
YG

Yessica Garcia Hernandez

BioYessica Garcia Hernandez is a doctoral candidate and filmmaker in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California San Diego. Her scholarship bridges fan studies, sound studies, women of color feminisms, fat studies, girl studies, and sexuality/porn studies to think... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
JBL Theater

9:00am PDT

Death and the Maiden: How Gender Follows, and Sometimes Leads, Musicians to the Grave
Roundtable featuring Holly George-Warren, Lucretia Tye Jasmine, Evelyn McDonnell, Solvej Schou, Michelle Threadgould

And why's Janis Joplin's life read as a downward spiral into self destruction? Everything she did is filtered through her death. Roger Gilbert-Lecomte, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, River Phoenix -- all suicided too but we see their deaths as aftermaths of lives that went too far. But let a girl choose death -- Janis Joplin, Simone Weil – and death becomes her definition, the outcome of her ‘problems.’” -- Chris Kraus

“Janis was not so much a victim as a casualty. The difference matters.” -- Ellen Willis

Women spend much of our lives trying to throw off constraints based on gender. Sadly, we can’t even escape them in death. Interpretations of our afterlives are still shaped by the bodies we have shed – if they are interpreted at all. In this roundtable, five noted scribes (all contributors to Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce. Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl) will explore and compare the legacies of several musicians, including Janis Joplin, Sharon Jones, Patsy Cline, Karen Carpenter, and Selena. We will also explore the way some musicians make death a theme, or trope, of their work while living. Among the topics/questions explored will be: 

  • The impact of women artists who've proselytized and "kept alive" the work of their own heroines (often forgotten by the public): aka, Janis & Bessie Smith, Bonnie Raitt & Sippie Wallace, and Maria Muldaur & Blue Lu Barker.
  • How Latinas’ deaths —especially Selena’s — end up becoming metaphors for pain and a culture's dreams. 
  • How women such as Laurie Anderson and Diamanda Galas incorporate themes of death into their music.  Patti Smith uses music and lyrics as an open forum for espousing the intricacies of loss, from singing about artists she’s looked up to (e.g. Jim Morrison on Horses) to personal loss (her late husband, brother, bandmate, Robert Mapplethorpe, etc. mourned on Gone Again).
  • Karen Carpenter’s death began a public discourse on eating disorders, an addiction without the rock 'n' roll cool of typically male addictions such as heroin and alcoholism. Eating disorders -- as with all health issues typified by women -- are not as openly discussed, much less healed, as substance abuse. 
  • A death whose cause is not revealed may simply be a request for privacy. But sometimes it's because shame compels secrecy. Are some deaths – suicides, eating disorders, drug addictions – more shameful for women than for men?
  •  How disease leading to death breaks open the archetypical image of women and women’s bodies on stage, as in the case of Sharon Jones, whose 2013 cancer diagnosis, chemo treatments, remission and then relapse didn’t keep her from singing and performing ferociously until the end of her life. “I say to the cancer, get up and get out. GET. UP. AND. GET. OUT,” she shouted to the audience while opening for Hall and Oates in 2016.
  • How underrated female musicians gain a bigger following after death, and with music released posthumously.

Speakers
EM

Evelyn McDonnell

Evelyn McDonnell has written or edited seven books, including Rock She Wrote, Queens of Noise and Women Who Rock. She is series editor for Music Matters, published by University of Texas Press.  She has been a pop culture writer at The Miami Herald and a senior editor at The Village... Read More →
HG

Holly George-Warren

Holly George-Warren is the author of sixteen books, including Janis: Her Life and Music, due in October 2019 from Simon & Schuster. Her liner notes on Joplin's The Pearl Sessions earned a Grammy nomination in 2014. She previously wrote the biographies, A Man Called Destruction: The... Read More →
LT

Lucretia Tye Jasmine

BioA zine-making artist and writer from Kentucky, Lucretia Tye Jasmine earned a BFA in film from NYU (University Honors Scholar), and an MFA in Critical Studies from CalArts. Lucretia has contributed to Alien She; the Getty; the Punk Museum Los Angeles; The LA Beat; Please Kill Me... Read More →
SS

Solvej Schou

Solvej Schou is a California musician and writer. Formerly staff at The Associated Press and EW, she is ArtCenter College of Design’s staff senior writer, has been published by the LA Times and NY Times, and contributed to the 2018 book Women Who Rock. Solvej has interviewed musicians... Read More →
MT

Michelle Threadgould

Michelle Threadgould is a biracial, Chicana journalist. Her work has been featured in CNN, Pacific Standard, KQED, The New York Observer, Remezcla, and Latino USA. Michelle covers Latinx punk, experimental and political music. Seven of her essays were featured in the seminal music... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
Sky Church

9:00am PDT

Ghosts of Electricity: On Bob Dylan
  • Roundtable featuring Taylor Black, Evan Donahue, E. Glasberg and Genevieve Yue
The role of the artist is to give life to immaterial forces, to render an otherwise invisible world in concrete terms. Or, to put it in St. Gregory words, “every time the sacred text describes a fact, it reveals a mystery.” These are principles that guide this roundtable on Bob Dylan’s musical imagination.  
    “Ghosts of Electricity” will meet Dylan where he is most comfortable: in the graveyard of his own mind. As a songwriter, Dylan is mercurial and evasive. The territory that he covers in his music is oriented toward the past, but not the past that can be found in history books. The very literary paths connecting him to the Deep South—via the Mississippi River and Highway 61—only led to his more mysterious acceptance and transfiguration of Southern tradition. His adaptations of and cross-overs into American folk genres have given these old forms new life. Yet these new forms are haunted by the past they transform.
    The “mythical realm” of folk songs has become the world of Dylan’s musical science; populated not so much with specific individuals or partisan politics, Dylan’s visions are, as he says in Chronicles: Volume I, haunted by “vividly drawn archetypes of humanity, metaphysical in shape, each rugged soul filled with natural knowing and inner wisdom. Each demanding a degree of respect” (236). In this roundtable we want to pay our respects to the vision of the past and present and future that Dylan has been evoking through an artistic territory constantly expanding, through space and in time, even as he, as a man and an untimely public figure – a self-styled “walking antique” – can often seem like a ghost with a very real presence.  


Speakers
TB

Taylor Black

Taylor Black's presentation, "The Last Radio is Playing," will take on a decidedly preacherly manner. Turning to Dylan's song "Shooting Star," Black will discuss the ways Dylan prophecies and imagines damnation in this wonderful, serious song about the unraveling universe.  BioTaylor... Read More →
ED

Evan Donahue

Evan Donahue will look at some of Dylan's sonic memorials, from "A Pawn In Their Game" (1965) to "Tempest" (2012), considering the ghosts that these songs name and invite us to listen to as voices calling out from the radio waves, memorializeing tragedies, from Medgar Evers, to Emmet... Read More →
EG

E. Glasberg

E. Glasberg’s presentation, “Visions of...,” will discuss the visual dimensions of “Blind Willie McTell,” recorded in 1981 and only published in 1991 on Bootleg Series 1-3. As a place-less or lost song, “Blind Willie McTell” wanders a landscape haunted by the history... Read More →
GY

Genevieve Yue

Genevieve Yue wants us to (re)consider Dylan's oft-ignored apocalyptic film, Masked and Anonymous (2003). She'll discuss the ghosts yet-to-come and the "guise of the future" offered up in the film, which presents a benefit concert that marks the end of time.BioGenevieve Yue is an... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
Demo Lab

11:15am PDT

A Country Song Will Survive: Death and Rebirth in Country Music
  • Nick Murray – “Death by the Steam: Fossil Fuels in the Country Imaginary”
In 1924, Vernon Dalhart recorded "Wreck of the Old 97"; a ballad that told the story of a fatal
train crash near Danville, Virginia 21 years earlier. The song became country music’s first hit,
and its success helped create the genre as we know it today, encouraging Victor to seek out new
artists like the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. This means that from the beginning, country
music has been connected not just to death but to a specific kind of death: death related to
consumption of fossil fuels. “Just shove on in a little more coal,” Dalhart’s conductor orders. It’s
this that ultimately kills him: The train goes too fast, its speed pushes it off the rails and the
conductor is found "scalded to death by the steam.”
Starting here, my paper examines the historical connection between country music and carbon
energy (itself made by the refinement of long-dead organisms) as both developed from coal
mines of Appalachia to the oil fields of Texas and Bakersfield. It asks how this shift—from an
economy of coal to an economy of oil—conditioned the musical shift from hillbilly to honky-
tonk and influenced the fatalism for which country lyrics have long been known. Country artists
like Merle Travis and Hazel Dickens have long used songs about the death of miners to protest
injustices that flow from the extraction of coal. This paper examines that body of work alongside
seemingly apolitical songs by singers like Faron Young, reconsidering their foreboding
attitude—occasionally described as nihilism—in the context of our carbon economy in which the
burning of old dead things threatens to kill the planet as we know it.

  • Amanda Martinez – “The Long Urban Cowboy Movement: Rethinking Country’s Mid-Eighties Death Sentence”
In 1985, The New York Times claimed the death of country music could be near, reporting: “Audiences are dwindling, sales of country records are plummeting and the fabled Nashville Sound…may soon sound as dated as the ukulele.”  Such a bleak prognosis came in stark contrast to the massive success the genre had enjoyed throughout the first half of the eighties, when “Urban Cowboys” reigned and Barbara Mandrell’s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool” resonated with growing numbers of Americans. But to what extent was country’s death sentence an overreaction and misinterpretation of the genre's more longterm success? Sure, by 1985 country record sales had declined, but they only did so when compared to the genre’s record-high success in the early eighties.

My paper reconsiders country music’s mid-eighties death sentence, and reimagines country’s declining sales as simply a point of transition in what I call “The Long Urban Cowboy Movement.” I argue that country’s declining (though still healthy) sales were viewed so starkly in part because the genre’s uncool, middle-aged associations were no match for a growing young and hip demographic who preferred new outlets like MTV. I consider the longer roots of country’s Urban Cowboy craze, tracing it to the “redneck chic” moment of the 1970s, and the extended success of the music throughout the eighties, when the Country Music Association doubled down on its middle-aged associations and aggressively targeted an affluent and urban baby boomer audience.

  • Jonathan Bernstein – “Most People Are Good: Country Music And The "Death of Civility" in The Age of Trump”
Most People Are Good: Country Music And The Death of Civility in The Age of Trump
Six days before the 2016 election, Tim McGraw stood in front of a multiracial choir at the
Academy of Country Music Awards to perform his latest single, “Humble & Kind,” a song that
preached non-partisan compassion. Throughout the first two years of the Trump presidency, a
series of high-profile singles from commercial country’s most well-regarded hitmakers have
documented, with increasing urgency, a narrative of cross-cultural unity and empathy, beginning
with McGraw and including “Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good,” Kenny Chesney’s “Get
Along” and Carrie Underwood’s “Love Wins.” These songs can be read as simultaneously
revolutionary and reactionary: they are are both radically forward-thinking pleas for justice in a
corporate-controlled climate hesitant to wade into social politics (Bryan’s song includes a nod to
queer acceptance) and pseudo-nationalist calls for complacency and bipartisan nostalgia that can
be read as country music’s vocalization of the increasingly popular notion of the “death of
civility.”

My paper will look at how this premise of what I’d like to call Country Universalism has become

country music’s foremost commercial, moral and social narrative during the first two years of the
Trump presidency. I will trace the economic, cultural, and political forces that have shaped this
narrative in part by examining country music award show ceremonies, music videos and
interviews with prominent songwriters and musicians. I will explore how the country universalist
impulse can be understood as the latest iteration of country music’s long history of using popular
song to romanticize and resuscitate long-extinct American ideals and symbols. In a genre that
subsists on the transformation of the nostalgic imagined past into the mythological present, my
paper will examine how and why the notion of American unity has come to serve as the story
country music is most invested in telling about itself over the past three years


Moderators
CW

Carl Wilson

Carl Wilson is the music critic at Slate, as well as the author of Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste (Bloomsbury), and a contributor to Billboard, The New York Times, and other publications. He lives in Toronto, where he helps curate the Trampoline Hall... Read More →

Speakers
NM

Nick Murray

BioNick Murray has worked as an editor at Rolling Stone and the Village Voice, and he has contributed to publications including Viewpoint and the New York Times. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia
AM

Amanda Martinez

The Long Urban Cowboy Movement: Rethinking Country’s Mid-Eighties Death SentenceIn 1985, The New York Times claimed the death of country music could be near, reporting: “Audiences are dwindling, sales of country records are plummeting and the fabled Nashville Sound…may soon... Read More →
JB

Jonathan Bernstein

BioJonathan Bernstein is Brooklyn-based writer whose work has appeared in Oxford American, The Guardian, GQ, The Village Voice, Pitchfork, Vulture, and No Depression. He is currently a research editor at Rolling Stone


Saturday April 13, 2019 11:15am - 12:45pm PDT
Learning Labs

11:15am PDT

Ghosts in the Archive
  • Samantha Silver – “Ordinary Ghosts in the Radio Archive: Major Bowes’s Original Amateur Hour
Since American Idol and the advent of YouTube, the figure of the amateur— the ordinary American poised for stardom— has resounded in the soundscape. This paper traces the figure of the amateur back to radio’s Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour (1935-1945). Touted as ‘democracy on the airwaves,’ this show invited listeners to participate through voting for acts by telephone, and through auditioning themselves.

This paper takes seriously the sonic connections and affective bonds formed and sustained as musical intimacies reverberate across time and space. An archive of moments, the recordings contain emotionally charged interactions between the host and the amateurs as they were actively gendered (the ingénue, the neighborhood boy), and racialized (the Chinese-American crooner, the African-American quartet). Scandal ensued in 1936 when a fan magazine revealed these off-the-cuff interactions to be scripted. What was at stake for listeners in these debates? The spontaneity of live performance created the conditions of possibility for speaking out and pushing back, as the “scriptedness” revealed the dominance of the culture industry producers to define what was ordinary.

With attention to ongoing MoPop discussions about recovering the role of those marginalized in music history, this paper centers the “ordinary” and the “marginal” performers who were given air time in great numbers. The ghosts in the archive linger in the sounds of nervousness and refusal of the performers. Based on recordings at the Library of Congress, radio fan magazines, and original archival research on the show’s 7,000 contestant files, this paper listens to the broadcasts as a series of idiosyncratic performances, using performance studies and affect theory to offer new approaches to radio history.

  • Matt Payne - “Living Music, Dead Labor: Sound Reproduction and Cultural Politics of ‘Liveness’”
Towards the end of his life, jazz bassist Charles Mingus said in his characteristically dark humor, “I can’t even presently afford to die with the comfort of knowing that I have beaten the jackals who prey on dead musicians.” This paper explores the conditions of possibility of such a statement: What are the implications of the fact that sound reproduction has transformed musical labor to the point that, as Mingus suggests, industry exploitation of musicians can carry on into the afterlife?

Using Mingus’s observation as a prompt, my paper explores the recent phenomenon in which consumer interest in the music of superstars such as David Bowie, Prince, and Aretha Franklin seems to spike at the time of their passing. I will follow Mingus’s lead and skeptically approach the celebratory narratives surrounding these musical deaths: Should we consider the increased interest in these musicians as honoring the dead or as exploitation of dead labor? What does it mean for living musicians to increasingly have to compete with the dead for the attention of listeners who have unprecedented ease of access to vast archives of music through platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music?
  • Theodore Gonzalves – “Walking Through the Graveyard of Guitars”
As a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, one of my jobs is to help care for the nation’s most precious objects, including musical instruments as diverse as Stradivarius violins, Dizzy Gillespie’s upturned trumpet, a nineteenth century banjo made in Annapolis, and Prince’s yellow cloud guitar. This presentation takes you behind the scenes to the non-public storage unit that is just a few feet from my office—where a reproduction of Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein guitar sits next to a Paul Reed Smith model decorated with the image of a multicolored dragon. Nearly all of these instruments were played by men. One of my current projects involves helping to tell the story of rock pioneer June Millington, co-founder of Fanny, the first all-female band to land a major record label release in 1970. In this paper, I’ll talk about the private tour I gave to June through this graveyard of guitars and how American musical history is haunted by her absence.



Moderators
GW

Gayle Wald

Gayle Wald currently chairs the American Studies department at George Washington University and is a former editor of Journal of Popular Music Studies and Bloomsbury’s 33-1/3 series. She is author of three books, including It’s Been Beautiful: Soul! and Black Power Television... Read More →

Speakers
SS

Samantha Silver

BioSamantha Silver is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the George Washington University. She writes about American popular music, performance studies, and women’s gender and sexuality studies through a historical lens. She is interested in performance history, embodiment... Read More →
MP

Matt Payne

BioMatt Payne is a PhD student in American Studies at George Washington University, where he is exploring a dissertation about the ways jazz and bluegrass musicians of the early 20th century made use of phonographs in their musical learning and how this pedagogical technique has influenced... Read More →
TG

Theodore Gonzalves,

BioTheodore S. Gonzalves is a scholar of comparative cultural studies and has taught in the United States, Spain, and the Philippines. Gonzalves’ research has received generous support as a Fulbright scholar, a Moeson Fellow at the Library of Congress, and a senior fellow at the... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 11:15am - 12:45pm PDT
Demo Lab

11:15am PDT

Haunted Hearing
While the phonograph redefined the sonic landscape, vinyl album cover art redefined how African Americans engaged with visual art. This panel explores the sonic homages and gestures that bridge the past by making the “ghosts” present in contemporary recordings. By retracing the role of laughter, the African centered philosophies of ancestor reverence, the radical queerness of Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Prince, we will highlight the call-and-response that is initiated by the audience – not the performer.
  • Amalia Mallard – “HA! Laughing In Rhythm”
In 1968, Elvis Presley deployed the “holy laugh” during his televised performance of LaVern Baker’s gospel-inflected R&B hit “Saved” (1961). Presley not only conjured the Holy Spirit, but a long history of laughter used in African American musical vernacular. This pattern is repeated frequently: Charles Penrose’s “The Laughing Policeman,” (1922) appropriated George W. Johnson’s “The Laughing Song” (1890); Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message,” (1982) inspired Genesis’s “Mama,” (1983).
In contrast, T.D. Rice’s “Jim Crow” minstrel stage archetype was considered incomplete without the performative “negro” laugh. Furthermore, vaudeville performer and “grandfather of country music,” Uncle Dave Macon added his staccato laugh to his rendition of “Run, Nigger, Run” (1925). But, who or what is the target? Consider also the laughs heard on: Harry C. Browne’s “Nigger Love A Watermelon, Ha! Ha! Ha!” (1916), the lyrical version of your friendly ice-cream truck jingle; Collins & Harlan’s “Nigger Loves His Possum” ( 1 9 0 6) ; Skillet Lickers’ “Nigger In The Woodpile” (1930). The hostile backdrop of Jim Crow laws, 1877-1965, runs a parallel course with the invention of Edison’s phonograph, the inception of the recording industry, and the flourishing of the music business – all of which forces the listener to reconsider the meaning and implications of laughter in recorded music.
Yet, laughter in recorded music is often discarded as non-essential information. However, visual artist Carrie Mae Weems, challenges the viewer to consider the significance of (inaudible) laughter when she superimposes historical portrait photography with “HA” in her series, “From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried, 1995-96.” These laughs, like Weems’s portraits, frozen in time, remind us of the disembodied voices first heard on early incarnations of the phonograph. The strangeness of hearing a voice apart from its owner – like a ghost.

  • Nia I’man Smith – “I Talk With The Spirits: Ancestral Acknowledgment, Reverence and    Communing in Contemporary Black Music”
The idea that those who transition this life can exist as immortal figures as dictated by the thoughts, words, and deeds of we, the living, is no stranger to many cultures. The belief that it is the responsibility of the living to keep the dead alive through acts of acknowledgment and reverence permeate throughout the Black Diaspora as an African cultural retention rooted in traditional African spiritual/religious practices. As a communal soundtrack to the past, present, and future, forms of cultural retention such as ancestor acknowledgment, reverence, and communing can be heard across genre lines in Black music.

From Hip Hop's use of multi-genre instrumental and vocal samples to the holy grail of “jazz standards” that countless generations of Black American Musicians play to develop and showcase their “chops," these acts can be identified as embodiments of ancestor acknowledgment and reverence when contextualized as an African cultural retention. Furthermore, they aid in the artists' ability to illustrate for the listener their "communing" with ancestral voices and sounds to emphasize connections to a collective history, a particular individual or individuals, and/or a quest to seek counsel.

Guided by the presence of the voice of Max Roach on Nicholas Payton's, Afro-Caribbean Mixtape (2017), Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone on Melanie Charles',The Girl with the Green Shoes (2017), and 2PAC on Kendrick Lamar's song, “Mortal Man” from the album, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015), this presentation will explore how Payton, Charles, and Lamar use vocal samples as sonic embodiments of African cultural retention in their acknowledgment, reverence, and communing with ancestral figures and genres. (261 of 300)

  • Steven G. Fullwood – “The Haunting Queerness of Whitney, Michael and Prince”
Lesbian rumors dogged Whitney Houston most of her adult life primarily due to the omnipresence of her best friend and later creative director, Robyn Crawford. Those rumors once again surfaced after Houston's death because of a first person article by Crawford where she states, "[Whitney] was a loyal friend, and she knew I was never going to be disloyal to her. was never going to betray her." The queer whispering that trailed Michael Jackson and Prince's public and private lives hindered and enhanced their careers. For Jackson, it happened sporadically during his teens and then later as an adult whose personal life was frequent fodder in the tabloids, particularly in 1993 and 2005 when he was accused and acquitted of sexual abuse of a minor. Prince, the most androgynous of the three, however, skirted the line in full eye makeup and heels throughout his four-decades-long career.
This presentation intends to explore the radical queerness connecting the three pop stars who came of age during the Black Power and Arts movements, post-Stonewall and the Women's movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Each had to negotiate a heterosexist culture that cringed at the amorphous, ambiguous or asexual sexuality shaping Whitney, Michael, and Prince.
The pre- and postmortem haunting speaks of their legacies in profound ways and offers a lens into the literal and sometimes figurative "queering" each endured as an international superstar and representative of the black community. Queerness is obviously not new to black culture but it's critically different depending on the gaze, no pun intended. Blackness itself is queer in white culture, a derivation from what is considered "normal" and is often regulated to the margins. Queerness in the black culture could take many forms: strange, weird, non-heterosexual, and therefore not acceptably black.

Moderators
DG

David Gilbert

BioDavid Gilbert is an assistant professor of history at Mars Hill University in Asheville, North Carolina. His first manuscript, The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace (UNC Press), won the American Library Association’s Choice... Read More →

Speakers
AM

Amalia Mallard

Bio​Amalia Mallard is an independent scholar and the founder of The Laughing Archive, a repository and critical analysis of laughter in recorded music. With degrees in Political Science and Africana Studies, her Master's thesis, "Locating and Retracing the Modern Black Aesthetic... Read More →
NI

Nia I’man Smith

BioNia I’man Smith is the creator of THE BLACK CONNECTION, a multi-platform exploration of her interests in the music, visual culture, and Orisa tradition of the Black Diaspora. Inspired by the work of Zora Neale Hurston, Amiri Baraka, and AfriCOBRA, her independent research seeks... Read More →
SG

Steven G. Fullwood

BioSteven G. Fullwood is a documentarian, archivist and writer. His published works include Black Gay Genius (2014), To Be Left with the Body (2008) and Carry the Word: A Bibliography of Black LGBTQ Books (2007). He is the former assistant curator of the Manuscripts, Archives... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 11:15am - 12:45pm PDT
JBL Theater

11:15am PDT

Ghost Pop
  • Roundtable featuring Geil Marcus, Paula Mejia, Ali Colleen Neff, Zandria F. Robinson, Tyina Steptoe, and Melissa Weber
This is a roundtable with a participatory feature; a roundtable with a song-shaped hole in it; a roundtable configured around a mystery, or a series of mysteries. Each of our panelists will choose a pop song that has had a complex and surprising afterlife—an influence in music, culture, and society that has both escaped and exceeded the original, which therefore survives both everywhere and nowhere, a ghost unable to come to rest. Each panelist will narrate this afterlife—but without naming the song!—for 5 minutes, after which the audience will be asked to guess the original and to add any aspects of its afterlife that they might be able to summon. 


Moderators
JC

Josh Clover

Joshua Clover is the author of six books including poetry, cultural history, and political theory; he ‘s been translated into a dozen languages. His most recent book is Riot.Strike.Riot: The New Era of Uprisings (Verso 2016). He has been senior writer for SPIN and the Village... Read More →
EL

Emily Lordi

Emily J. Lordi is associate professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and the author of Black Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature (2013), a 33⅓ book on Donny Hathaway Live (2016), and a forthcoming book about soul aesthetics. She... Read More →

Speakers
TS

Tyina Steptoe

BioTyina Steptoe is an associate professor of history at the University of Arizona. Her writing has appeared in publications such as the American Quarterly, Journal of African American History, Oxford American, Houston Chronicle, and TIME. Her award-winning book, Houston Bound: Culture... Read More →
AC

Ali Colleen Neff

BioAli Colleen Neff is a music writer, filmmaker, turntablist and media anthropologist based in Portland. Drawing from her lifelong work with global music communities, she works to integrate innovative subcultures, women, and marginalized communities into the global digital landscape... Read More →
ZF

Zandria F. Robinson

BioZandria F. Robinson, PhD is a writer and associate professor of sociology whose work focuses on race, popular culture, and the U.S. South. She is the author of This Ain’t Chicago: Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South, co-editor with Sandra L. Barnes and Earl... Read More →
PM

Paula Mejia

BioPaula Mejia is a writer and editor. Her work on music, culture, and other ephemera has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Paris Review, Rolling Stone, and other publications. In 2017, she co-founded and edited NPR Music’s Turning the Tables, an editorial and concert... Read More →
MW

Melissa Weber

Bio Melissa A. Weber is an M.A. student in musicology at Tulane University in New Orleans, her home. Her research encompasses black popular music, namely funk, disco, early hip hop, and Washington, D.C., go-go. As the award-winning DJ Soul Sister, she hosts shows on WWOZ and Red... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 11:15am - 12:45pm PDT
Sky Church

1:45pm PDT

Afterlives of the Sample
  • Jack Hamilton – “‘Let’s Take It Back’: Sampling as Memorial in the Music of J Dilla and Kanye West”
In 2014 the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture acquired the late J Dilla’s Akai MPC 3000. The MPC sampler/sequencer and its 16-pad interface, designed by Roger Linn in the late 1980s, had long been among the most iconic instruments of hip-hop; the Smithsonian’s acquisition of Dilla’s machine suggested that the MPC was now also history, in a number of senses, as the 21st century had in fact seen a steep decline in sample-based hip-hop since the form’s “golden age” of the 1980s and 1990s. This paper explores the genealogy of the digital sampler as an instrument, its emergence as a central force in hip-hop in the 1980s and 1990s, and culminates in an extensive consideration of the sampling practices of J Dilla and Kanye West, both of whom emerged from midwestern metropolises near the end of sample-based hip-hop’s golden age. I argue that West and Dilla’s music acted as a site of musical memorial in a number of senses: first, and most directly, the two producers often gravitated towards semi-obscure relics of earlier musical genres, thus memorializing, even while chopping and altering, the musical history of prior generations. But I will also argue that both Dilla and West were also working to preserve the memory of the golden age of sample-based hip-hop itself. By the turn of the 21st century sample-based hip-hop was increasingly imperiled, beset by expensive copyright challenges as well as the perceived aesthetic degradation of the form through “beat jacking” practices that had become prevalent in the late 1990s. Through their manipulations of musical pasts—West through his “chipmunk soul” technique, Dilla through his innovations in rhythmic and metric displacement—these two artists forged new aesthetics of memory that would prove immensely influential in the long aftermath of hip-hop’s sampling revolution.


  • Nate Patrin – “A Break in the Loop: Life, Death, Time and Afterlife in J Dilla's Donuts
James Yancey knew he was in ill health for years before the blood disorder he had became a life-threatening condition. And when it was finally time for him to confront his looming mortality head-on, he created the 2006 album Donuts, the last work he released in his lifetime and one of the most brilliant and revered works of sample-based music ever created. Donuts has been interpreted as a musical self-eulogy, a farewell to family, friends and fans that is still pored over and deconstructed by listeners well over a decade later -- and an enigmatic work at that, since all its messages and sounds come from other artists' records, leaving Dilla's own voice allusive and abstract.

This brings up a series of questions: how do you say goodbye through beats? Does the intrinsically reinterpretive nature of sampling carry extra levels of personal connection, memory stimulus, and the resurrection of forgotten and discarded moments in time? What did it mean for Dilla to complete a record on his deathbed that continuously evoked the chronology-distorting, time-extending possibilities of samples and loops -- ones that extended to the album's titular, circle-and-loop-fixated imagery (including a track titled "Time: The Donut of the Heart")? And what are the implications of Dilla tributes and homages that saw others acting as continuations of his sound -- from his close friend Madlib's 2008 Dil Cosby and Dil Withers suites, to companies that promise to give DJs digital "sample packs" that let them play with the same carefully curated beats that Dilla did?

These questions will be addressed through the lens of sample culture, its essential creative core of transforming existing works, and Dilla's unique methodology of manipulating the sounds he creates from them. Dilla has arguably become more popular in death than he was in life, and remains a sort of patron saint of hip-hop production among people who still revere sample-based beats. But is it possible to truly understand what his last statement hoped to bestow on his potential musical successors, or are wannabes just content to speak superficially through his style, as if their MPC drum machines were Ouija boards?

  • Zach Schonfeld – “Poverty’s Paradise: The Remarkable Afterlife of 24-Carat Black”
In 1973, the funk group 24-Carat Black released an unheralded masterpiece on the legendary soul label Stax Records—and then disappeared. That LP, Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth, was masterminded by the Motown composer Dale Warren as a high-concept funk-rock opera excoriating African-American poverty and neglect. The result was too bleak, ambitious, or downright bizarre to reach mainstream audiences. 24-Carat Black collapsed when Stax went bankrupt in 1975, and the group’s only completed album sank into cultural obscurity.
But that’s where the story gets stranger. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth was resurrected by producers as a lost treasure of the Stax era and became a remarkably ubiquitous source of rap samples and breakbeats. The surviving members of 24-Carat Black watched in disbelief as their music was sampled by Eric & and Rakim, JAY-Z, Digable Planets, and—more recently—Pusha-T and Kendrick Lamar. As singer Princess Hearn says, “It was like something was being rebirthed from the dead.” Yet the surviving members of 24-Carat Black remain unrecognized and, in some cases, living in poverty. Unable to reap payments from the sample clearances due to rights issues, they are worn down by the same racist neglect they were singing about 45 years ago.
This presentation will use 24-Carat Black’s remarkable story to explore questions of cultural rebirth. Ghostly snippets of 24-Carat Black’s masterpiece have become a blueprint for hip-hop producers, yet most rap fans don’t know its name. What does it mean for an album to be left for dead and then reborn through samples excavated by a future generation of cratediggers? What impact does rap’s preoccupation with ’70s soul samples have on the long-forgotten and often struggling artists whose music is being recontextualized? Drawing on my recent investigative feature on 24-Carat Black for Pitchfork, I’ll also consider the broader pattern of black soul musicians being cheated out of compensation and recognition. This particular story intersects with profound larger issues in the music business, including exploitation, sonic excavation, poverty, and artistic and legal dimensions of sampling.

Moderators
AS

Alfred Soto

Alfred Soto is a visiting professor of communications at Florida International University. He runs the website Humanizing the Vacuum. He was features editor of Stylus Magazine. His work has appeared in Billboard, The Village Voice, The Miami Herald, Rolling Stone, Slate, MTV, Pitchfork... Read More →

Speakers
JH

Jack Hamilton

BioJack Hamilton is assistant professor of American Studies and Media Studies at the University of Virginia, and the author of Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination (Harvard UP, 2016). He is also the pop critic for Slate magazine, and his writing has appeared... Read More →
NP

Nate Patrin

BioNate Patrin is a resident of St. Paul, Minnesota, whose writing currently appears regularly on Bandcamp Daily and Stereogum. He has also written for Pitchfork, Red Bull Music Academy, The Vinyl Factory, and Minneapolis/St. Paul alt-weekly City Pages. His first book, Bring That... Read More →
ZS

Zach Schonfeld

BioZach Schonfeld is a writer, journalist, and critic. He was formerly a senior writer for Newsweek, where he reported on culture for the print magazine. Zach studied English at Wesleyan University, where he ran the campus blog Wesleying. He has also written for Pitchfork, Stereogum... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 1:45pm - 3:15pm PDT
Learning Labs

1:45pm PDT

Reissues and Record Companies
  • Melissa A. Weber “Planned Obsolescence: Uncle Jam Records and How the P-Funk Empire Rose Again”
In 1979, the P-Funk empire, led by George Clinton, was at the top of Black American popularity and consciousness. Singles by Parliament and Funkadelic, whose groups consisted of the same band members, hit #1 on Billboard’s R&B Singles charts, and various offshoot projects such as Bootsy’s Rubber Band and the Brides of Funkenstein enjoyed success with a loyal Funkateer fan base. That year, Clinton also overshadowed his Dr. Funkenstein persona with a new character, Uncle Jam, who would appear in a subversive Huey Newton-esque pose on the cover of the Funkadelic LP Uncle Jam Wants You. In 1980, Clinton would use Uncle Jam as the mission-driven catalyst for a new record label, his own Uncle Jam Records, which was distributed by CBS and was to represent the pinnacle of P-Funk power. But by 1981, the label was essentially dead along with, to most accounts, the P-Funk empire, as Parliament, Funkadelic, and other offshoot groups disbanded. According to Clinton, he knew the demise was coming, as he often discussed the “planned obsolescence” of the group(s), which may have been too popular with fans and too political for CBS. He told the L.A. Times in 1989, “But like with anything, there's a planned obsolescence that comes around. When you get to that stage, there's nothing you can do short of a freak situation. . . . After so many records, it's time for somebody else.” However, out of the ashes of Uncle Jam came the rebirth of the P-Funk army in the form of an unlikely character – Clinton as solo artist in 1982. This paper explores the legend of the rarely discussed Uncle Jam Records, and how Clinton and his loyal musicians reemerged to the top from the brink of near-obsolescence in just one year, creating with it a P-Funk resurrection.  


  • Andrew Flory – “Reissuing Creativity or Creative Reissues?”
This paper will consider the role of creativity in the work of reissue producers. Reissue work may be viewed in a number of ways; it can be consultative, proactive, destructive, and sometimes history-changing. When faced with the task of bringing to life recordings that have languished in the vaults for close to 50 years, how much agency should modern reissue producers have over their output? Is there responsibility involved in this sort of work? Should producers advocate for transparent reissues that reveal the work of the original artist, or to try make the record sound as good as possible? How do we determine if the latter is appropriate or successful? I will reflect on these questions using ideas from aestheticians about the ontology of works, an example of a completed Mozart work, and a discussion of the work of an art “restorer.” The core of my discussion will revolve around a number of Marvin Gaye recordings that I have completed as reissue producer, including an expanded edition of the 1972 Trouble Man project, and a more recent set of standards-oriented recordings spanning nearly two decades. In working with this material, I faced many of the issues described above, and will use them to bring tangibility to the discussion. I will provide audio examples to support my case studies, showing examples of questions that arose during my process. In a music industry constantly employing different listening formats, reissues are endemic to popular music. Their creativity matters more than you might think.

  • Morgan Luker – “The Immortal Voice: Repetition, Reissues, and the Posthumous Values of the Recorded Musical Past”
This paper explores how the notion of the musical past is organized and manufactured through the practice of repetitive listening and the commercial reissue of historic sound recordings across markets and media formats. I focus on the recorded work of Carlos Gardel (1890-1935), an iconic Argentine singer and early film star who died in an airline accident in 1935 but remains a key point of reference in Latin American popular culture to this day. I’m interested in the innovative ways Gardel deployed the technologies of recorded sound to cultivate his celebrity persona across then-emergent formats of mass media (film, print, radio, etc.) during his lifetime, but also in how the popular reception of Gardel’s violent and unexpected death reframed the sound and reception of what came to be marketed and heard as his “immortal voice.” The continuous commercial reissuing of Gardel’s recordings following his death played a crucial and creative role in this process, from narrowing the scope of his commonly heard repertoire (which canonized him specifically as a tango singer) to the sometimes elaborate reworking of a recording’s actual sound via remastering and other sonic interventions at the moment of reissue. In examining the phenomenon of reissuing these historic recordings, I trace the intertwined impulses towards commercial value (in terms of back catalog) and noncommercial value (in terms of cultural heritage) that have come to characterize our understanding and experience of what is valuable not only about the posthumous celebrity voice but about the recorded musical past as such. This, in turn, helps us better understand what Jane Bennett calls the “vibrant” materiality of historic sound recordings as physical objects, agentive musical things that have made constitutive contributions to the organization of contemporary musical culture and the sensorium through which music as such is conceived, engaged, and understood today.

Moderators
Speakers
MW

Melissa Weber

Bio Melissa A. Weber is an M.A. student in musicology at Tulane University in New Orleans, her home. Her research encompasses black popular music, namely funk, disco, early hip hop, and Washington, D.C., go-go. As the award-winning DJ Soul Sister, she hosts shows on WWOZ and Red... Read More →
AF

Andrew Flory

BioAndrew Flory is Associate Professor of Music at Carleton College. He has written extensively about American rhythm and blues and is author of the book I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B (Michigan, 2017). Working directly with Universal Records, Andrew has served as consultant... Read More →
ML

Morgan Luker

Bio:Morgan Luker is Associate Professor of Music at Reed College. An ethnomusicologist, Morgan's scholarly work focuses on the cultural politics of Latin American music. He is the author of The Tango Machine: Musical Culture in the Age of Expediency (University of Chicago Press) and... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 1:45pm - 3:15pm PDT
Demo Lab

1:45pm PDT

How Survivals, Grief and Legacies Unfold in American Music
  • Roundtable featuring Holly Gleason, Caryn Rose and Annie Zaleski

Moderators
KH

Keith Harris

BioKeith Harris is the former and current music editor of City Pages in Minneapolis. He has written about music, culture, and law for a wide range of publications, several of which still exist. Maybe one of these days he’ll finally write a book. One two three four five six seve... Read More →

Speakers
AZ

Annie Zaleski

Annie Zaleski is an award-winning freelance journalist, editor and critic based in Cleveland, Ohio. Previously, she was on staff as an editor at the Riverfront Times and Alternative Press; currently, she’s a contributing writer at The A.V. Club and a columnist at Salon. Her profiles... Read More →
CR

Caryn Rose

Caryn Rose is a New York City-based writer, archivist and music historian who has contributed to Pitchfork, Vulture, Salon, Billboard, the Village Voice, the Guardian, NPR, among others. In 2018, she authored five essays, ranging from Aretha Franklin to Joan Jett, for the anthology... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 1:45pm - 3:15pm PDT
JBL Theater

3:30pm PDT

80s Afterlives
  • Thomas Inskeep – “Death Disco: Pet Shop Boys and AIDS”

Over nine years after The New York Times published the first major newspaper article on what would eventually be known as AIDS (“Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals,” July 3, 1981), the British synth-pop duo Pet Shop Boys released “Being Boring” as the second single from their 1990 album Behaviour. “Being Boring” can now be seen as the ur-text of songs about AIDS and its ravages -- specifically, loss -- and the apex of music influenced by/responding to the AIDS/HIV epidemic, especially as concerns its impacts on gay men.

Plenty of artists, from Janet Jackson to Coil, have recorded and issued musical responses to AIDS, but no one’s come close to writing and recording as many songs about the disease than the Pet Shop Boys. From 1987’s “Hit Music” to 1996’s “Discoteca,” you could actually assemble a full album of songs Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have released about AIDS, either directly or indirectly (and in some cases, interpretations are like automobile mileage, and yours and mine -- and even theirs -- may vary).

This is important for the historical record, as we look back on how the music industry responded (or didn’t) to AIDS, but was also significant in its moment, as PSB were speaking directly (though often in code) to those being most affected by the health crisis. And they were doing so directly through their Imperial Phase, which assured that plenty of people heard what they were saying. In this paper I’ll discuss how Pet Shop Boys did more than anyone in popular music to artistically chronicle AIDS, especially over its first 15 years.

  • Andrew Hamlin – “Broken News?, or, Behind The (Death) Mask:  Advances of the Quantum-Actual Bogus Man Under The Flag of Michael Jackson”
2010 brought Michael, the first posthumous album of fresh material from Michael Jackson.  Almost as swiftly, though, came allegations that three of the new tracks—“Keep Your Head Up,” “Monster,” and “Breaking News”—didn’t feature the King of Pop’s vocals at all.
Accusations from the Jackson family and others produced denials from Sony Music Group; finger-pointing to a Jackson impersonator named Jason Malachi; and eventually a class-action lawsuit from a fan who felt cheated, bolstered by testimony from “forensic phonetician” Dr. George Papcun, who slouched towards said singing as phonus balonus.
I’ll address all of the above in my presentation, particularly the role of a “forensic phonetician.” I’m equally interested, nevertheless, in the notions of “authenticity,” “feeling,” “genuineness,” and “identity” raised by this did-he-or-did-he ain’t conundrum. What happens when the world’s most famous shape-shifting, identity-tweaking control freak loses, through death, all shot-calling power—to the point where the suspect videos crop up on YouTube with commercials for a new and risky sleep aid… (shudder)
I’ll address the songs themselves. “Keep Your Head Up” sketches an overworked waitress—could the “real” superstar identify with someone so far from his strata? “Monster” affirms the male-primacy-as-horror-film-creature metaphor stretching back to “Thriller” and “Is It Scary”; deception advancing under easy cover? “Breaking News” skewers an avaricious press with all the zeal of “Leave Me Alone,” from faked(?) news reports to the singer’s passionate third-person defenses of “himself.” Unless the “Michael Jackson” blustering Michael Jackon’s righteousness isn’t Michael Jackson at all.
Finally I’ll wade fearlessly into reading the comments—YouTube and elsewhere—giving the fans’ side. How do the folks who really matter, voting with their clicks, judge realness, from fakeness? How, finally, can we, and should we, draw any lines? Is this news fated to remain broken, or at least in pieces?

Moderators
NM

Nick Murray

BioNick Murray has worked as an editor at Rolling Stone and the Village Voice, and he has contributed to publications including Viewpoint and the New York Times. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia

Speakers
TI

Thomas Inskeep

BioThomas Inskeep is a freelance writer, pop critic, and blogger (Oh Manchester, So Much to Answer For) originally from the midwest, now living in Santa Cruz, California. He was a staff writer at Stylus Magazine from 2005-07, and has been a staff writer at The Singles Jukebox since... Read More →
AH

Andrew Hamlin

BioAndrew Hamlin likes to photograph shoes and write about dog shit. He was born and raised in Seattle, where he resides today. He’s film critic for the “Northwest Asian Weekly,” and he’s published arts coverage, criticism, haiku, and photography, in the “Stranger,” “San... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 3:30pm - 5:00pm PDT
Learning Labs

3:30pm PDT

Global Currents
  • Meenasarani Linde Murugan – “ ‘M.I.A. coming back with power power’: Documentary Resurrections and Feminist Disarticulations”
This paper examines the music documentary MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. (2018) in relation to its efforts to resurrect M.I.A.’s career. M.I.A., born Maya Arulpragasam, is a Sri Lankan Tamil, who grew up mainly in London as a result of being a refugee of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Growing up as a refugee and immigrant she felt initially estranged from English, however it was this unease with the language - her inarticulateness - that later became key to her provocateur take on visual media and music. Defined by glitchy visual aesthetics, a globally promiscuous yet electronically based sound, and a refusal to answer a question “straight,” M.I.A. defied categories in her (always already) transnational emergence as a pop star and rapper in 2004. In the past 15 years she and her music have been the subject of several academic essays, album reviews, and celebrity profiles that puzzle through her mix of radical aesthetics, inarticulate politics, ascendance in wealth, and at this point pop culture ubiquity, only to be rivaled by perhaps now a pop culture datedness. Given this change in her life and celebrity - but less so in her music and beliefs - this paper seeks to take up M.I.A.’s sonic and visual aesthetics and politics in light of the different interviews and profiles that have emerged over the years where she has been characterized as merely “radical chic” or explicitly “anti-Black.” Rather than exculpate her for the problematic things she has said and done, this paper wants to take full account of them as they point to a failure of her feminist politics, especially at the intersections of Third World and Black Feminisms. Of course, this failure is largely erased from the music documentary that largely archives, pays homage, and revives her persona. As recent documentaries about women music artists - Amy (2015), What Happened, Miss Simone? ( 2015), Miss Sharon Jones! (2015), Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (2017) - all deal with death and/or pastness, this paper locates in MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. a refusal of death even as the artist has been deemed ‘dead’ or ‘canceled’ by many popular music fans.

  • Mina Tavakoli – “Metaphoric, Diasporic: The Mythical Legacy of Persian Pop Diva Googoosh”

The abortive power of the 1979 Iranian Revolution swiftly shuttled the country’s existing popular culture into a shallow grave. The authoritarian theocracy, led by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, ushered in – among other decrees – an era of hush, wherein pop music was formally banned, and women’s voices and bodies were forced to retreat from the public sphere.

In the decade leading up to ’79, a young woman named Faegheh Atashin, later and more famously monoynmmed ‘Googoosh,’ was arguably the most visible and vocal woman in the country. Pickling the sound and promise of a nation’s first experimentations with ‘global’-sounding pop music, Googoosh – a child actress turned pop phenom – represented a future-forward Iran of the pre-Revolution Pahlavi monarchy. Upon the turn of the Revolution, the Westernized, Tina Turner-loving, Azerbaijani-born it-girl was incarcerated, then forced into a twenty-year long exile from performance.

With a series of enduring singles that would later congeal into Pol (“Bridge”) – an album formally pressed in 1995, now heralded as a keystone of Persian pop – Googoosh’s legacy as Iran’s orphaned diva marries not just the notion of diasporic rebirth, but endurance despite – or perhaps, in light of – a socio-politically mandated public ‘execution.’

This paper uses Googoosh’s body of work – as actress, singer, and sex symbol - as a framing device to investigate the role of nostalgia amid and after socio-political upheaval. What sort of weight has Googoosh, as metaphor, had to bear, and how has she interacted with this narrative? What relationship does Googoosh, as an artist, have toward country, and how has her legacy retroactively been interwoven with projections of the political? Perhaps more broadly, how do living pop stars transcend their own mortality and become figures of national myth?

Moderators
DM

DeWayne Moore

BioDr. DeWayne Moore is a historian of African American and Public History and executive director of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. Since, 2014, he has been responsible for the memorials to musicians T-Model Ford, Henry “Son” Simms, Frank Stokes, Eddie Cusic, Mamie “Galore” Davis... Read More →

Speakers
ML

Meenasarani Linde Murugan

BioMEENASARANI LINDE MURUGAN is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. Her research focuses on television history and theories of race and visuality, with special attention to popular music, fashion, and diaspora. Her essay... Read More →
MT

Mina Tavakoli

BioMina Tavakoli is a writer based in Washington, D.C.. She works as a contributing writer for NPR Music and NPR Books, where she focuses on experimental art and dance music, as well as within NPR’s in-house creative agency as a copywriter and brand strategist. Other writing of... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 3:30pm - 5:00pm PDT
Demo Lab

3:30pm PDT

To Live and Die in Seattle
  • David Gilbert – “Jimi Hendrix and the Electric Sound of Transcendence”
Hendrix sang about death a lot. Alongside the obvious—“Little Wing,” “Angel,” “Machine Gun”—Hendrix painted multi-layered sonic portraits of the afterlife in metaphorical and deeply moving songs such as “I Don’t Live Today,” “Castles Made of Sand,” and “1983…(A Merman I Should Turn to Be).” For Hendrix, death symbolized a release from worldly concerns and, often, a rebirth of fresh new ideas, personalities, and planetary landscapes. Although the characters and narrators in his songs pass away at a remarkably high rate, they almost always “fly on” and leave the Earth for a better place. In these ways, Hendrix explores death, not as finality or (only) tragedy, but as transformation, discorporation, and transcendence.
While the psychedelic lyrics are key themes in his oeuvre, Hendrix used breath-taking and Earth-shattering approaches to the electric guitar to mark his transcendent ideals in sound. Like Robert Johnson and the Delta blues masters of the pre-WWII era, Hendrix was a rare guitarist of his generation to incorporate his singing melodies within his guitar lines, an approach that allowed him to “comment” on his lyrics and add musical emphasis to key phrases. Hendrix was also, obviously, a master of electronic effects pedals and Marshall amplifiers, innovations that also helped add to the Hendrix’s sonic desire to transcend limitations and to concoct new visions for the world in electric feedback. In Hendrix’s imagination, the afterlife can offer explorations of the subterranean depths of the unconscious, as in Atlantis where “Starfish and giant foams greet us with a smile…and the killing noise [of war on land are] out of style.” Or death might also bring the bright and high-flying celestial airwaves of Little Wing, as evoked by the soaring melodic guitar solo that takes the beautifully intricate arpeggios of the song’s intro section high into the sky.
By examining Hendrix’s songs about death and transcendence, this paper explores the interplay between the guitar master’s lyrical imagery and his sonic advances. I hope to reveal the ways that Hendrix invented new approaches to the electric guitar in the service of his fundamental aim: to create images of better worlds and richer human lives for his audiences. Hendrix’s diverse array of inventive guitar sounds and his electronic, extra-musical sensibilities, when paired with his lyrical imagery, created the 1960s sound of Earthly transcendence.

  • Charles R. Cross – “My Hometowns: The Fractured and Broken Relationships Between Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain and Their Hometowns of Seattle and Aberdeen”
The story that no one in Seattle wants to talk about involving Jimi Hendrix is a story of institutionalized musical racism, police corruption, race red-lining, and cultural myopia when it comes to the city’s most famous musician. In modern day Seattle thinks of itself as a progressive city, but it essentially ran Hendrix out of his hometown for the crime of “riding while black” in a car. Most reports of Hendrix’s life tell of him joining the Army out of patriotism, instead of the truth, which is that he was given the choice of military service or jail. In Hendrix’s youth, Denny Way, just outside MoPop, was the “race” line for musician’s unions (until the late sixties), meaning that Hendrix couldn’t have even played in MoPop and been paid. It’s a dark and sordid history of a city that likes to think of itself as multicultural. It’s been even more shameful since Hendrix’s death in 1970, and after he became a superstar. Despite multiple efforts to honor Hendrix, hysteria about drugs and race stopped Seattle for decades from doing anything official to commemorate him until recently (MoPop’s construction had something to do with changing that). In Aberdeen, Kurt Cobain in death has suffered a similar fate: the city voted down efforts to even put a sign with his name on it. Finally, some Nirvana fans constructed a park on public land, forcing the city’s hand. This presentation will examine and detail the news events of the post-death legacy of these two famous men in their two cities of birth. I will also analyze why the public face and official face of these cities have been so different, and how these stories contrast with how musicians have been honored in other municipalities, and how Seattle has treated sports legends. This is the Seattle story (and the Aberdeen one) that no one in this city wants to talk about, but we can’t all sit here in a Pop Conference focused on death and memorial without looking at how this very city has handled this with these two men.

  • Mairead Case – “‘Just to wake up tells me I must be brave’: The Life & Legacy of Mia Zapata”
In July 1993, Mia Zapata was murdered on her way home from the Comet, a bar in Seattle. Zapata was beaten and raped, and strangled with the cord of her hoodie. The medical examiner identified the body because he liked her band, the Gits. People brought yellow roses to the funeral, and teens like me started cutting the cords from their hoodies.
After the burial, Seattle bands helped raise over $70,000 to investigate Zapata’s death, while other local artists and musicians co-founded Home Alive. Five years later, the case went cold, but teens like me kept wearing knuckle rings home from shows. We carried pepper spray. It was a specific kind of mourning: we missed a band we loved, and we were frightened we’d die too. And we didn’t even know Mia personally.
Ten years later, Jesus Mezquia was arrested for Zapata’s murder. The DNA matched, but nothing else linked these two humans: a white woman who went to art school and played and sang in bands, and a Cuban man who came to the U.S. in the Mariel boatlift and fished for his living. Mezquia never testified, maintains his innocence, and is currently in prison.
My paper aims not to solve anything anew, or to re-traumatize or de-humanize. Rather, and from the maelstrom of #metoo and #sayhername—buzzwords for things many of us have always done, always said—I want to look at how we remember Mia, and why, and most importantly: what now. I will use source materials, intersectional Seattle music history, original interviews, and my embodied experience as a white cis woman who grew up in Seattle and now works in schools and jails. “Just to wake up tells me I must be brave,” sings Zapata in the song “Second Skin.” “Almost makes me think I’m dead.”

Moderators
Speakers
DG

David Gilbert

BioDavid Gilbert is an assistant professor of history at Mars Hill University in Asheville, North Carolina. His first manuscript, The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace (UNC Press), won the American Library Association’s Choice... Read More →
CR

Charles R. Cross

BioCharles R. Cross is the author of nine books, including three New York Times’ bestsellers. His 2001 biography of Kurt Cobain, Heavier Than Heaven has been published in 32 countries, and his 2005 bio of Jimi Hendrix, Room Full of Mirrors, has been in 20 countries.. Cross was Editor... Read More →
MC

Mairead Case

Bio Mairead Case (MFA, PhD) is a working writer and high school English teacher. She also teaches part-time at the Naropa School of the Arts and the Denver Women’s Jail, and is a CNF Consultant at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Mairead attended anti-racism trainings at... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 3:30pm - 5:00pm PDT
JBL Theater

3:30pm PDT

#Vivasnoqueremos/Wewantusalive: Collective Versada and Dance Workshop
  • Workshop featuring Iris C. Viveros Avendaño, Milvia Pacheco, Emilia Lopez Guzman and Ana Gabriela Cano aka “Black Mama” 
This workshop brings together the founder of Mujeres Grabando Resistencia (MGR)/Women Printing Resistance collective with Seattle community-based poets and dance practitioners to propose a dance and versada (poetry) workshop. This workshop demonstrates how collective popular print and community-music making nurtures #Vivasnoqueremos/Wewantusalive, an anti-violence campaign connecting artists/musicians and activists in Mexico, Latin America, and the U.S.  As part of larger ancestral, Afro-diaspora, and gender-equity social movements demanding protections for communities and biodiversity vulnerable to neoliberal policies rarely made visible to general audiences, MGR collaborates with community based fandango tradition musicians to create space for visual art, music, and dance to resist gender-based violence in Mexico. Since 2014, MGR has provided free workshops that share print-making techniques as a tool to respond to the ways violence against women manifests in our lives, centering art-making as a collective healing tool. Participant’s prints become part of a shared transnational archive intended for display in public spaces to spark dialogue about transforming this violence.  

Before the 2019 Pop Conference, MGR will hold a Seattle workshop to strengthen translocal ties with U.S. based art and music movements raising awareness about missing and murdered indigenous women. PopCon participants will respond to these prints by creating collective versada paired with music and dancing. Facilitated by Iris Viveros, Emilia Lopez, and Milvia Pacheco this workshop is based on oral tradition techniques shared by Fandango elders. Fandango, from Veracruz, Mexico, is a XV century Afroindigenous tradition that nurtures relationships, convivencia, joy, and social justice activism through participatory music, poetry, and dance of son jarocho (think Ritchie Valen’s La Bamba). Participants of all skill levels will elect to join a small group to write verses or create percussive dance. The groups will combine and, with the facilitators live musical support, will share their collective response. Opening and closing remarks by Estafania Narváez and Ana Gabriela Cano aka “Black Mama,” respected hip hop feminista from Ecuador. 


Moderators
Speakers
IC

Iris C. Viveros Avendaño

Iris C. Viveros Avendaño was born and raised in Mexico. A Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies Ph.D. candidate and McNair Scholar at the University of Washington, her academic interests emphasize the integration of third world feminist approaches to the analysis of colonial legacies... Read More →
MP

Milvia Pacheco

Milvia Berenice Pacheco Salvatierra is an Afrolatina artist, born in Caracas, Venezuela, where she trained in dance and theater.  Experiences with trauma at an early age fueled her drive toward movement and she devoted her life to reaching liberation through art and movement. As... Read More →
EL

Emilia Lopez Guzman

Emilia Lopez Guzman is a founding member of Mujeres Grabando Resistencias (MGR). In July 2014, MGR began to spread a graphic campaign #VivasNosQueremos on the streets and digital social networks. The project’s objective is to create graphics with clear and understandable messages... Read More →
AG

Ana Gabriela Cano

Ana Gabriela Cana aka “Black Mama” is an Afro-Ecuadorian hip hop feminista musician residing in Quito, Ecuador and who contributes to #vivasnosqueremos. She is from the Esmeraldas, near the Columbian border, home to long-standing Afro-Ecuadorian cimarrón communities who escaped... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 3:30pm - 5:00pm PDT
Sky Church

5:15pm PDT

Reckonings and Revivals in Southern Hip-Hop
  • Regina N. Bradley – “Heavy is the Head: T.I.’s Grief and Reckoning in the Trap”
This paper is an examination of death and mourning in “the trap” using the music of Clifford “T.I.” Harris. Harris, one of the forefathers of trap rap as a southern hip hop genre, complicates the trap’s representation as an illicit and nihilistically masculine space by offering the listener personal reflections on the loss of loved ones and even himself. Against a sonically stark backdrop, Harris talks about the tangibility of death and dying as a young Black man in the contemporary South. Much of Harris’ emotional work is done through the fragmentation his performance personas – one persona being the polished and Hollywood ready “T.I.” and the other his drug dealer persona T.I.P. I seek to map out the evolution of Harris’ expression of stages of grief and his ultimate acceptance of death through his music, particularly that of his best friend, Philant Johnson, who was murdered in 2006. Harris presents the trap as mourning space, sonically and culturally reckoning with his grief to make it legible via hip hop.

  • Tyina Steptoe – “I Seen A Man Die: Mourning in the City of Lean”
From tattoos to murals to tribute songs, commemoration of the dearly departed has been a fundamental part of hip hop since its inception. This paper analyzes how Houstonians have memorialized hip hop icons like DJ Screw, Pimp C, and Big Moe. The focus on Houston highlights the distinctiveness of the city’s hip hop scene by examining the culture of lean – the recreational consumption of prescription-strength cough syrup. DJ Screw and Big Moe, both proponents of “syrup sipping,” died of heart attacks. Pimp C’s death was due to a combination of sleep apnea and codeine-promethazine. Also known as sizzurp and purple drank, lean has left an indelible imprint on life, death, and music in modern Houston.
This paper uses gender and the notion of polyculturality to frame the discussion of death and memorialization. Using songs from the 1990s, like Scarface’s “I Seen a Man Die” and UGK’s “One Day,” and continuing with Travis Scott’s recent commemorations of DJ Screw, the paper examines how changing notions of black masculinity have shaped these Texans’ responses to death. The paper also shows how Latinx cultural expressions have helped shape the visual aesthetics of mourning in Houston. Modern Houston is approximately 24% black and 44% Latinx, and the city’s sonic and visual expressions arise from polycultural blends of Mexican and black southern traditions. For example, Latinx artists have created murals of deceased musicians that link black Houston to the visual cultures of Mexico and the Borderlands. Mourning in Houston, then, takes part of its visual aesthetic from Latinx artists who have left their mark on the local hip hop scene.

Moderators
AC

Amy Coddington

BioAmy Coddington is an assistant professor of music at Amherst College, where she teaches classes on American popular music. She is working on a book entitled How Hip Hop Became Hit Pop: Rap, Race, and Crossover on Top 40 Radio,  which explores how rap broke through to a mainstream... Read More →

Speakers
TS

Tyina Steptoe

BioTyina Steptoe is an associate professor of history at the University of Arizona. Her writing has appeared in publications such as the American Quarterly, Journal of African American History, Oxford American, Houston Chronicle, and TIME. Her award-winning book, Houston Bound: Culture... Read More →
RN

Regina N. Bradley

Bio:Regina N. Bradley is Assistant Professor of English and African Diaspora Studies at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, She writes about race and sound, hip-hop, and the contemporary Black American South. Her first book, Chronicling Stankonia: OutKast and the Rise... Read More →
EN

Erich Nunn

“Here in Cabbagetown they put they white ass out”: Hip-hop, Gentrification, and the Afterlives of an Atlanta neighborhood                   Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood grew up around the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill, which opened in 1881 and operated for nearly... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 5:15pm - 6:45pm PDT
JBL Theater

5:15pm PDT

Immigrant soundscapes of remembrance, presence, and solidarity
  • Roundtable featuring Jorge N. Leal, Alina R. Méndez, Alexis N. Meza and Crystal R. Pérez
This roundtable will take a historical approach to collectively discuss how Latina/o/x artists have chronicled immigrant experiences and have made the lives and struggles of immigrants visible. We will discuss how through music and film, artists center and present the dignity of migrants.  Most significantly, through onsite visual analysis, the participants will discuss how artists and everyday people have pushed against nationalistic constructs to demonstrate their human solidarity towards immigrants, regardless of their nationalities. 
Artists and their music have always played a crucial role as the cultural accompaniment of social movements. In our conversation, we will seek to expand the traditional notion of politics in understanding the ways that Latina/o musicians have been at the forefront in articulating a sense of pan-ethnic Latinx solidarity that counters not only anti-immigrant sentiments but also intra-Latina/o tensions. In doing so these artists have created politics of “solidarity” challenging the historical characterization of Latino/as as “underserving” and global capital’s attempts to render them disposable. We will examine how the visual work and actions Los Tigres Del Norte, Café Tacvba, and Ana Tijoux provide a narrative of Latina/o dignity, resilience, and solidarity.
We will examine the footage used by Rock Angelino’s band María Fatal in their videos to consider how immigrant musicians in Los Angeles have connected the political activism in Latin America with the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s to contest the xenophobia directed at them during the 1990s. By drawing on past political actions in the hemisphere, María Fatal merged the historic and continuing political demands of Latin American Youth, Latina/o migrants, and Chicanas/os/xs. The music and videos of María Fatal mark several key historic moments that display the determination and dignity of Latinas/os against racism and nativism in the past and present.
We will proceed to analyze scenes of A Better Life (2011), a Hollywood feature-film that centers the experiences of L.A. undocumented Latin American gardeners. The film provides an important insight into the discursive currency of the undocumented Latino body in the 21st century. In paying attention to the film’s Latina/o music, the radio listening practices, and music venues featured in the film, we will examine how “soundscapes” have become an important terrain for undocumented folks to forge oppositional political and cultural collective identities. Thus, giving birth to new iterations of belonging and to immigrant soundscapes that contest their “civil death” given their precarious immigration status in the American metropolis.  
Finally, we will delve on the multiple messages that the song “Remember Me” holds in Disney/Pixar film Coco (2017). The song is used in Coco not only depict death, the afterlife, and memory, but also with the affective tools to cope with family separation and generational trauma. We will ponder how a film explicitly centered around death and memory, also provides its international Latinx audience an anthem that also evokes a collective sentiment for family (re)unification. 
We will finalize the roundtable by collectively discussing how these historic and recent examples can lead us to develop more inclusive and expansive practices of solidarity in the present and future.


Moderators
JA

José Anguiano

BioJosé G. Anguiano is an Assistant Professor in the Honors College and the Department of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Anguiano is a cultural studies scholar with a primary focus in listeners and audiences of popular music. Dr. Anguiano’s... Read More →

Speakers
JN

Jorge N. Leal

Dr. Jorge N. Leal is an urban and cultural historian whose research focuses on how youth culture producers and participants have reshaped the urban space in Southern California transnational Latina/o/x communities. Previous to pursuing his doctoral training at UCSD, Leal was an active... Read More →
AR

Alina R. Méndez

Alina R. Méndez is Assistant Professor in the American Ethnic Studies department at the University of Washington, Seattle. Dr. Méndez received her PhD in US History from the University of California, San Diego and BA in Latin American History from the University of California, Berkeley... Read More →
AN

Alexis N. Meza

Alexis Meza is from the San Fernando Valley, CA. She earned an M.A. in U.S. History from UC San Diego. Her academic interests are in critical refugee studies, migration, and labor. Her research and community involvement have centered on the Central American diaspora. She teaches courses... Read More →
CR

Crystal R. Pérez

Crystal Roxana Pérez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Literature Department at UC San Diego. Pérez is a literary and cultural studies scholar specializing in Chicanx Literature and Culture. Her dissertation, “Placing Los Angeles in Latina/o/x Chicana/o/x Cultural Production, since... Read More →


Saturday April 13, 2019 5:15pm - 6:45pm PDT
Learning Labs
 
Sunday, April 14
 

9:00am PDT

1960s/1970s

  • Tom Kipp – “Understanding David Cassidy: Appreciating the Artistry and Tragedy in a Fifty-Year Career in Music and Show Business!”
For David Cassidy, rocketed to unfathomable worldwide stardom during Fall 1970, there was nevertheless always a haunted sense of failure and frustration. As a successful 20-year-old actor/musician much more avid about B.B. King and Electric Ladyland than the mainstream Pop he cut in his role as breakout star of TV’s The Partridge Family, he came to loathe the oft-hideous contractual demands made of him.

Later, at just the moment he’d freed himself from both the show and the strict, formulaic recording methods it enforced, he was driven into immediate retirement from live performance by the death of a young female fan (along with the injuries suffered by hundreds of other attendees) at a May 26th, 1974 London solo concert.

Just 24, Cassidy now faced the prospect of never escaping his legacy as “Teen Idol of the ‘70s”, and soon afterwards the impossibility of reconciliation with his supremely talented, infamously combative, alcoholic father (singer/actor Jack Cassidy), who was burned to death in a horrifying accident two years later at 49.

The performative inheritance from his father, mother (actress Evelyn Ward), and actual stepmother/TV mom (Shirley Jones) weighed heavily, but when David died in late-2017, he left behind decades of memorable portrayals on television and the Broadway stage, fine solo music, and nine vastly-underappreciated 1970-73 Partridge Family albums, on which his vocals themselves serve as the auteurist “glue”, in perfect collaboration with the finest songwriters of The Brill Building and the cream of The Wrecking Crew.

David Cassidy’s is a voice whose soulful, vulnerable melancholy could shift effortlessly into husky celebration, with an easy sensuality entirely befitting the sexiest teen icon since Elvis! His virtually-accidental rise to Pop Star #1 marks him as The Ultimate American Idol, but the price he paid for this unsought fame bears witnessing and careful analysis, casting aside several decades of misguided critical opprobrium.

My presentation will explore the multiple rebirths that characterize Cassidy’s sui generis life and career, and will attempt to properly memorialize his wildly-varied accomplishments, at long last!

  • Tim Quirk – “The Hidden Depths (And Odd Backstory) of the Literally Mortifying ‘Seasons in the Sun’”
Terry Jacks' recording of "Seasons in the Sun" is one of those songs whose massive success in the moment makes later generations wonder what the hell was wrong with everybody in olden times. His tale of a dying man saying goodbye to his friend, his father, and his wife sold over five million copies in the 1970s, but has appeared near the top of "Worst Songs of All Time Lists" ever since, due to its demonic combination of an infectious melody, bathetic lyrics and a vocal performance sung entirely in the register of a pet owner asking if doggie wants a treat.
But "Seasons in the Sun" is deep, dammit. It began life as "Le Moribund," a very cynical, and very French, Jaques Brel song, before Rod McKuen cleaned it up a bit for American audiences and turned it into semi-tuneful Beat Poetry in 1963. A decade later, Terry Jacks did his best to excise every last bit of misanthropy from his AM-radio dominating version, but this presentation will argue that Jacks' recording was so massive not because he succeeded, but because no amount of studio sweetening and lyrical mainstreaming can disguise the t

Moderators
JL

Josh Langhoff

Selena, Ariel Camacho, and Two Tragedies That Reshaped Regional Mexican MusicIn 1995 the 23-year-old Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla died at the hand of her fan club president. She was already the biggest act in Tejano music, itself the hottest sound on the U.S. radio format known... Read More →

Speakers
TK

Tom Kipp

Bio: Tom Kipp began publishing music criticism in 1979 (at age 16), and is a frequent contributor to East Portland Blog. He was the original music critic at The Stranger (from 1993 to 1997), and has presented at nine previous Pop Conferences. During the 1980s he was active in two... Read More →
TQ

Tim Quirk

BioTim Quirk spent more than 10 years as the singer and lyricist for the punk-pop band Too Much Joy (who recorded their own version of McKuen's version of "Seasons in the Sun"). He’s also been a regular contributor to Raygun and The San Francisco Chronicle, and overseen the music... Read More →


Sunday April 14, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
Learning Labs

9:00am PDT

Funeral Rites
  • Banning Eyre – “Dancing with Death: The Festive Funerals of Madagascar”
Perhaps it has to do with life on a large, remote island. Malagasy people have long felt an intense connection to the particular spot of land associated with their family, and there is a strong pull to die and be buried there, wherever else one’s life may have taken them. Family tombs are proudly displayed on homesteads, sometimes ornately decorated, often visible to passers by on the roadways. When a family member dies, lengthy rituals ensue, almost always involving music. At funerals in the rugged southwest, tsapiky bands crank out high-energy electric guitar music literally for days—without stopping. The Antandroy of the far south sing passionate improvised funeral songs, known as beko—a kind of local blues—to send off the the spirit of the newly deceased. The ubiquitous marovany zither is used to bring about trance and facilitate communication with dead ancestors. And in the highlands, bones of ancestors must be removed from the tomb every few years to be rewrapped and reinterred—but only after a multi-day ritualized dance with the bones, accompanied by traditional music and the eating of oily rice. Nowhere in the world is music more a more cherished and visceral link between the worlds of the living and the dead. The paradoxical blend of death’s ravishing pain and Malagasy music’s frenetic joyfulness is a human dynamic every bit as surprising and unique as the island’s famed flora and fauna. In this talk, we enter the trance world of Madagascar’s musical culture of death, with particular focus on the logistics and and emotional passage that occurs at a three-day tsapiky funeral.

  • Russell Rodriguez – “Funeral Ritual or Just a Mariachi Gig?”
As mariachi music within the United States has expanded throughout, what Américo Paredes referred to as “Greater Mexico,” the commercial value of this music style has increased extensively, and subsequently has been integrated into the cultural fabric of the United States. Mariachi music and musicians have been included in commercials (Jack in the Box Southwest Salad), movies (Jerry Maguire, Glory Road, The Heartbreak Kid), and are integrated into school curricula throughout the Southwest and many Latino populated communities throughout the nation. As a result, the popular imagination around mariachi music has influenced researchers (mostly in Mexico) to refer to the contemporary mariachi as commercial, commodified, or modern, breaking away from traditional aspects that define what mariachi music was in 19th and 20th Century. This paper is to demonstrate that ceremony and ritual take on a different guise in the sense of presentation, participation and performance, sustaining the mariachi as a vibrant cultural practice. Funerals within the Mexicano, Chicano and Latino communities have afforded a fountain of work to working mariachi musicians, which include providing music for catholic masses, memorial services and music at burial sites. Since the inception of the Misa Panamericana, mariachi musicians have been playing a version of this liturgical repertoire. A funeral repertoire, however, has not formally been developed, as that of the mass. What is argued in this presentation is that the repertoire for funeral rites, instead of being a set of traditions constituting a specific ritual routine and repertoire, is rather a dialogic process in which musicians and mourners (family and friends of the deceased) are given the chance to remember and memorialize through popular songs that have specific meaning or a specific connection to the deceased.

  • Joseph Schafer – “Ritual Necromancy: Heavy Metal’s Funereal History”
Heavy metal as a genre has a well-deserved reputation for morbidity. Its subgenres include “death metal” and “funeral doom”. Its most prominent bands —Metallica, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career — fill stadiums with songs about the horrors of war, the inner psychic state of serial killers, the plight of those crushed by the demands of industry.

These song topics are not purely imaginative exercises, and owing to the genre’s roots in the blues, from which it derives its morbid tradition and diabolical foundation, metal has a confessional tradition — specifically a subsect of songs, spanning its subgenres, which function as funeral rites remembering those in the band.

These are haunted songs, by haunted bands. But they are a self-inflicted haunting. These songs include vocal takes from deceased band members, passages written by dead band members, and the like. We can see them as a kind of necromancy, a voluntary haunting, an invitation from the band to their former members to continue existing in their art and perpetuate both the band and its members living and dead in the memories of listeners. The metal funereal practice frequently brings out the best in its songwriters. It is a stream in the most white-hot and molten core of the culture. It is the heaviest metal.

Some examples:
Metallica used discarded compositions by their deceased first bassist, Cliff Burton, as well as a spoken word section attributable to him, for the song "To Live is to Die", the penultimate instrumental on their classic album 'And Justice For All', which turned 30 this year the band has a complicated relationship with this record, as do fans. Famously its bass is nearly inaudible, a choice which seems to be a sort of mourning for Burton's loss, a creative decision which has informed virtually all commercial metal record production since.

Norway's Mayhem, a problematic band for many reasons, used vocal takes from their deceased original singer, Per 'Dead' Ohlin (the irony was certainly not lost on them) on the song "Funeral Fog", the lead track on their debut album 'De Mysteries Dom Sathanas,' an album which is often cited as the high water mark of the black metal genre in 1994.

Seattle's own Bell Witch used scrapped vocal takes from their deceased drummer, Adrien Guerra, to create their 2016 album 'Mirror Reaper', which made several year-end lists.

  • Paul Fess – “Lead Belly in the Archive: ‘Goodnight Irene’ and the Death Drive”
In this presentation I consider Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter’s haunting waltz “Goodnight Irene” for the ways its entrance into the American music archive was animated by a combination of racial attitudes about folk music and the Freudian death drive. Lyrically “Goodnight Irene” hinges on its juxtaposition of love and death, the singer’s pining laments and his willingness to take his own life. More than this, though, the song’s movement into the canon of American song indicates how impulses to preserve American cultural artifacts often took on the character of circumscribing notions of minority cultures while also giving the illusion of simply safeguarding this material for futurity, enacting what Jacques Derrida has termed the twin archival impulses of commandment and commencement. Within this rubric, “Irene”’s placement in the archive both preserves a piece of black American folk culture while implying definitions for what each of those terms signify. I consider three episodes in the circulation of “Irene”: it’s presence in a 1935 March of Time newsreel that featured Ledbetter, the Weavers’ 1950 hit studio recording, and a recording of one of Ledbetter’s concert performances of the song. The newsreel, which gives us the mythology of Ledbetter’s violent past and his discovery by John Lomax, has Derridean archive fever on full display, depicting the field recording of “Irene” being placed in what Jonathan Stern might call a “resonant tomb” at Library of Congress. Along these lines, the Weavers’ version of the song, recorded the year after Ledbetter passed away, continued its homogenization by limiting the song’s references to death

Moderators
CR

Carlo Rotella

BioCarlo Rotella's books include Playing in Time, Cut Time, Good With Their Hands, October Cities, and, forthcoming in April, The World Is Always Coming to an End:  Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood.  He writes for the New York Times Magazine, he has been a columnist... Read More →

Speakers
BE

Banning Eyre

Banning Eyre is an author, guitarist and radio producer, and Senior Producer for the Peabody Award-winning public radio series Afropop Worldwide. He comments for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. He has studied African guitar styles for over 30 years and written two... Read More →
RR

Russell Rodriguez

BioRussell C. Rodríguez is an assistant professor in the Music Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  He has contributed chapters to anthologies on Latina/o expressive culture and has worked as a curator and producer for the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and... Read More →
JS

Joseph Schafer

Bio:Joseph Schafer is a Seattle-based writer and editor whose body of critical work has centered on heavy metal as a genre and culture. His work has been published at SPIN, NPR, Noisey, Bandcamp and The Stranger. He served as the editor of storied metal webzine Invisible Oranges from... Read More →
PF

Paul Fess

BioPaul Fess teaches at LaGuardia Community College (City University of New York). He specializes in American literature, African-American literature, and Sound Studies. He is currently working on a book project that examines how music structured the politics and literature of race... Read More →


Sunday April 14, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
JBL Theater

11:15am PDT

Old Gods and Old Ghosts
  • Richard Cobeen – “Life’ll Kill Ya: Loudon Wainwright III and Warren Zevon’s Mordant Confrontations with Death in the #MeToo Era”
Loudon Wainwright III and Warren Zevon spent their careers writing songs that continually reference, embrace, confront, and celebrate death, including the novelty hits that made them famous (“Dead Skunk” and “Werewolves of London”). Using humor to detail this obsession broke with the past and yet still embraced a curdled white male privilege.

I will discuss how Wainwright and Zevon took their backgrounds in folk and country music, two genres immersed in songs about death, and changed the focus and impact of this fixation, often deflecting it and holding it at arm’s length with corrosive, absurd and dead-eyed humor, which rarely appears in similarly influenced artists’ death music, such as Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind or Richard Thompson’s “Wall of Death” or “When I Get to the Border.”

This new vision reinvigorated the connection between an obsession with death and their primary audience of middle class white men. Wainwright and Zevon’s chronicling of the assorted exploits of white male entitlement and self-absorption ultimately lands on a subject central to all of white male art - the “injustice” of ever approaching death. The distancing use of humor in depicting the singular act they have to share with all others, along with the “bad boy” behavior described in their songs, which Wainwright and Zevon both embodied in real life (detailed in Wainwright’s memoir and Crystal Zevon’s oral biography), is often lost on their majority white male audience (LoudHeads laughing at all the wrong places, Paul Nelson’s Zevon intervention story), while outsiders sigh at yet another man who can’t see around his blinkered worldview. Even the self-criticism can’t help but also celebrate, which prevents their art and obsession with death from retaining the impact it once had in the current evolving acknowledgement of white male entitlement.

  • Sean Latham – “‘All Things Had Run Their Course’: The End of Bob Dylan”
Since at least 1964, Bob Dylan has been saying a relentless goodbye: first to his folk audience, then to rock fans, Christian believers, and lately (with those five long discs of crooning covers) to the very idea of the singer-songwriter. This talk will draw on material in the Bob Dylan Archive to argue that the songwriter has a particular talent for fashioning endings that seek to wrest meaning from a flux of chaotic images without resorting to either sentimentality or resignation. In this sense, Dylan sees death as an affirmative act of creation and his writing reaches us from beyond a grave that he has dug.

To make this case, my paper will focus on two moments when Dylan constructed murder ballads about his own career—deliberate attempts to impose an ending rather than create something new.  First it will look at “Restless Farewell” and the “11 Outlined Epitaphs,” both of which appeared on The Times They Are A-Changin’ and were hastily written in the immediate aftermath of the Newsweek article that revealed the truth about this past.  I will then look at “Tempest,” one of the last original songs he has publicly released.  Drawing on manuscript and studio materials available exclusively in the Bob Dylan Archive, I’ll argue that in both cases he seeks to impose an ending on his own music-making by imagining the aftermath of his own death.  These songs are both about the demise of Dylan himself—first as the symbol of generational struggle and, later, as a semi-mystical repository of the American musical tradition itself.  Looking closely at these moments when the songwriter imposes an ending on himself will reveal how Dylan then opens a space for the past to haunt his performances without descending into either despair or nostalgia.
  • Carlo Rotella – “Musical Ghosts at the Avalon”
Kanye West has been making noises lately about returning to South Shore, on the South Side of Chicago, where he lived for a few years until somebody tried to steal his bike and his mother decided to move. "Call it black flight," she wrote in a memoir. By sort of promising to finance the revitalization of South Shore's Avalon Regal Theater, a defunct vaudeville palace, West has inserted himself into a tangle of neighborhood stories heading in different directions: a narrative of black reinvestment and self-determination pushes one way; pushing in another direction is the narrative of the black middle class's disappearance as it hollows out, ages out, heads South or to suburbia.

That's a frame in which to consider the plans of J. Gary, the young Adam Smith-quoting neighborhood entrepreneur who bought the Avalon for $100,000 in 2016, to stage holographic music shows that bring back to South Shore the ghosts of Curtis Mayfield, Redd Foxx, Jackie Wilson, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Dinah Washington. Invoking these spectral exemplars of an era of entertainment stretching from swing to soul is not just about musical nostalgia; it's also about nostalgia for a golden age of upward mobility and civic life identified with the Black Metropolis.

Other voices coming out of South Shore these days, especially those of drill rappers like G Herbo and Lil Bibby, tell a very different contemporary story of haves and have nots, retreat from public life, violence, and unlikely mobility. Listening to the musical conversation in South Shore between them and the ghosts of the Black Metropolis gives us a way to think about how music can tell the story of a neighborhood's overlapping eras and orders--especially stories about who stays and who goes, who moves up and who doesn't.

Moderators
Speakers
CR

Carlo Rotella

BioCarlo Rotella's books include Playing in Time, Cut Time, Good With Their Hands, October Cities, and, forthcoming in April, The World Is Always Coming to an End:  Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood.  He writes for the New York Times Magazine, he has been a columnist... Read More →
SL

Sean Latham

BioSean Latham is the Walter Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Tulsa, where he serves as Director of the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities and founding Director of the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies.  He is the author or editor of eleven books... Read More →
RC

Richard Cobeen

BioRichard Cobeen is a third grade teacher at Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley, CA. He presented at the 2018 MoPop Conference.


Sunday April 14, 2019 11:15am - 12:45pm PDT
Demo Lab

11:15am PDT

Parents and Children
  • Keith Harris - “The Dead Moms of Popular Music”
There are lots of songs about moms. Pop music is sentimental stuff, after all, and what could have more universal sentimental appeal than the love of a mother? Well, how about the death of a mother? Three major figures in popular music—Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Kanye West—all lost their moms, and those deaths had an unsurprisingly significant effect on each artist’s life and art. (All, you’ll notice, are men, which will be certainly be germane to the discussion.)

In this paper, I’ll not only look at how Presley, Lennon, and West addressed this loss in their music, whether implicitly or explicitly, and also how critics, historians, and fans have understood the death of each artist’s mother in the context of his life and career. In other words, what is the role of motherlessness within that interplay of art, myth, projection, and biography that makes up a pop star’s persona. (I’ve got a dead mom of my own, and may bring personal experience to bear upon the discussion, depending on how much discomfort I determine the author and audience can handle.)

My hope is to contrast the idiosyncrasy of Presley, Lennon, and West’s experience with pop’s more straightforwardly sentimental lore about mothers. Pop songs stress universality—many people have mothers, many mothers die. But the nature of pop stardom is that it stresses uniqueness—in this case how the death of a particular mother has a particular effect on a particular musician. The tension between these two characteristics adds a richness to our experience of music by creating a dialectic between the emotions we imagine our ideal selves experiencing and the experiences we hear our idealized stars relating.


  • Evie Nagy – “The Living Years: The Problem With Pop and Dead Dads”
Losing a parent is something that most people will at some point experience, by the laws of time and averages. It might be expected or a shock, devastating or a relief, or generate in one moment the most complex range of emotions a single human is capable of feeling—as rich if painful a source of inspiration for artistic expression as there could be.

But as we all know, there exists no nearly universal yet highly individual emotional experience that pop culture, especially pop music, can’t find a way to mythologize and exploit in the most annoying of ways. This is particularly true about a dead father, who as the trope will tell you, represents the secondary parent but the primary source of power, pain, pride, and continuity in a family. He also represents the arbiter of lifelong cultural taste—a father’s failure to shape his child through his record collection may be his biggest failure of all. Where a mother leaves a sum total of individual choices, a father leaves a legacy. A dead dad means the end of abuse, the fallout of neglect, or the loss of superheroic guidance and wisdom, without which the child struggles to be whole. The problem with pop and paternal loss isn’t that music can’t be a powerful channel for processing grief or honoring memory, but that with a few exceptions, the literal transposition of that grief to song is often forced into cliched narratives that lionize, demonize, or generalize to almost comical extremes. When Mike Rutherford sings “I know that I'm a prisoner to all my father held so dear, I know that I’m a hostage to all his hopes and fears,” nuance and relatability are about as dead as his dad.

Speaking of baggage, you may infer that I have some. When my father died suddenly at the age of 42—my age now—I was eight years old. I lost my primary caretaker and cultural influence, and I’ve therefore been a lifelong critic and analyst of how this kind of loss is represented in pop culture and music, one of the things that connected my dad and me so deeply when he was alive. This paper will explore how pop seizes on and exploits, though at rare times deftly captures and heals, the literal death of a patriarchy.
  • Ann Powers – “Just Another Lady Without a Baby: Women Confront Child Loss, Mother-Child Separation and Childlessness by Choice or Circumstance”
When Jenny Lewis sang “I’m just another lady without a baby,” in 2014’s “Just One of the Guys,” her blithe intonation and the song’s sparkly arrangement suggested that this was just another of the singer-songwriter’s witticism’s. But the verses suggested otherwise. Lewis’s narrator -- perhaps herself then, at 38 – is an aging bon vivant staring down her own unplanned obsolescence, surrounded by her male friends’ younger female companions and preoccupied by the kind of anxiety that ticks like a clock. Some women fans undoubtedly identified with that character’s acknowledgment that no amount of cool can remedy not only her internal struggles, but her awareness that a lady without a baby still doesn’t quite fit into the “normal” world’s encultured safe zones, even when they are labeled bohemian.

Popular music hasn’t comfortably dealt with motherhood since the sentimental songs of home and heart that dominated the 19th century gave way to the sexy soundtracks of the jazz age and beyond. Under pop’s paradigms, women are expected to be mostly zipless fucks, fertile with desire but not with actual eggs. When motherhood does factor into popular songs, it’s usually romanticized in a hazy glow, though the burdens of the role might occasionally be evoked for pathos. Even less openly acknowledged, however, are the choices or circumstances that nullify or conceal motherhood: miscarriage, the loss of a child who died, infertility, the birthmother’s decision to place a child in adoption, and abortion. Yet many women artist who’ve intimately known these common experiences have written about them, sometimes obliquely, and sometimes with the ring of catharsis.

This presentation examines the ways in which women have addressed the lack of a child in a woman’s life – whether defined as a loss or an absence, a fateful blow or a decision – through their music, and as part of their public lives. Joni Mitchell, Patti Smith and Maggie Roche were all young birthmothers whose music attested to the ways that their adopted children haunted them but also inspired the drive to create. Judy Collins, who lost her son Clark for several years of his childhood in a custody battle and later endured the tragedy of his suicide, wrote a memoir bluntly assessing her experience as a mother in a music world that made that role sometimes feel impossible. Dolly Parton never bore a child, but expressed the anguish of losing children in her fascinating string of “Dead Baby” songs of the 1960s and ’70, and later became a metaphorical mother to thousands through her child literacy charity. Mary J. Blige, who chose to remain childless in light of her own difficult childhood, sang of how that choice affected her status within romantic relationships in songs like “Your Child.”

Women songwriters like Polly Harvey, Jean Grae and the Dixie Chicks have been applauded for dealing with the relatively taboo subjects of abortion and miscarriage, but just as there is no universal experience of these realities, neither is there a clear path for women to write about them. Some artists have resorted to sentimentality, while others, like Harvey, have rendered scenes so immediate that they are difficult to absorb. While mostly remaining strongly aligned with a woman’s right to choose, these songwriters have explored the complexity of reproductive choice in no uncertain terms.

One of the most interesting aspects of this growing body of work is that it is not just about the mother-child relationship, but about women’s bodies and their status in the world: as Lewis sings, to be “another lady without a baby” is to inhabit an empty category that can only be filled by a woman’s own testimony about what it’s like to live there. Acknowledging the loss or absence of a child also troubles the pop imaginary in several ways: it forces listeners to acknowledge that sex has

Moderators
TQ

Tim Quirk

BioTim Quirk spent more than 10 years as the singer and lyricist for the punk-pop band Too Much Joy (who recorded their own version of McKuen's version of "Seasons in the Sun"). He’s also been a regular contributor to Raygun and The San Francisco Chronicle, and overseen the music... Read More →

Speakers
AP

Ann Powers

BioAnn Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs. She is the author of Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music (2017). Powers... Read More →
EN

Evie Nagy

BioEvie Nagy is the author of the 33 1/3 book on Devo's Freedom of Choice, and the former Music Editor at Billboard and Managing Editor at Rollingstone.com. Her previous PopCon paper topics have included the joy of terrible singing, the birth of nerd rock, the problem with a cappella... Read More →
KH

Keith Harris

BioKeith Harris is the former and current music editor of City Pages in Minneapolis. He has written about music, culture, and law for a wide range of publications, several of which still exist. Maybe one of these days he’ll finally write a book. One two three four five six seve... Read More →


Sunday April 14, 2019 11:15am - 12:45pm PDT
JBL Theater

11:15am PDT

Reimaginings and Resuscitations
  • I. Augustus Durham – “Donny Hathaway’s Liebestraum
In the early 1970s, having been trained at Howard University in the Music Department—a curriculum which “focused solely on European classical music, and the exclusion of black vernacular music”1—, Donny Hathaway emerged in R&B/Soul with an array of musical catalogs to draw from as he charted his short yet profound career. Known for records like “This Christmas”, among other notable tracks, he was as accomplished a pianist as he was a singer- songwriter. But how much of his classical training bled into his black vernacular?
Roughly a century prior to Hathaway’s birth, Franz Liszt composed Liebesträume, a three-part work for piano with its most famous piece being “Liebestraum No. 3”. Derived from German poems by Ludwig Uhland and Ferdinand Freiligrath, the piece—translated “the love dreams”— ironically syncs with Hathaway’s “A Song for You”. All the more intriguing is a pianistic moment where, hypothetically, the lyrics of both pieces concretize a deathly asymmetry: while Freiligrath poeticizes, “O love, love as long as you can/O love, love as long as you may/The time will come, the time will come/When you will stand at the grave and mourn”, Hathaway vocalizes, “I love you in a place/Where there’s no space or time/ . . . /And when my life is over/Remember when we were together”.
In this paper, I argue that Hathaway’s rendering of Liszt not only exhibits how blackness reinvents consciousness, musically and otherwise, but also how a (love) dream finds completion and is no longer deferred. Moreover, in this dream sequence, Hathaway’s (re)interpretation creates “classical black vernacular music”, a mode of haunting where the muscles of the ear are as pertinent as those of the fingers, those of the head as those of the heart.

  • Katherine Reed – “The Haunting of Hunger City: Afterlives of Bowie’s 1984 Project”
To speak of ghosts in David Bowie’s career is almost a commonplace: the musician himself invoked old personae, images, and lyrics throughout his work, up to and including his final album, Blackstar. However, one small episode in Bowie’s turbulent mid-1970s carried an outsized impact, its shadow stretching across various projects for at least the next decade. In a career of overt returns and knowing winks, Bowie’s planned 1974 film, Hunger City, remains one of the least acknowledged hauntings of his oeuvre.

This paper will examine the genesis and afterlife of Bowie’s Hunger City. Born of a failed musical adaptation of Orwell’s 1984, the project became a film proposal that showed many of Bowie’s lifelong obsessions, the melding of various arts and fascination with science fiction and dystopian futures chief among them. Its plot an inherited concept, Hunger City’s plans also draw on visual language from German Expressionism and musical structures from shows like Cabaret. Through archival evidence, I track the project’s changes from the Diamond Dogs album to stage musical to aborted film. The world shown in storyboards and character sketches did not die with Bowie’s film plan, though. I argue that stage shows from 1974 through the 1980s’ Serious Moonlight and Glass Spider tours continue to show a fascination with the same characters, situations, and visual language apparent in the film materials. It is in the ghosts of Hunger City that we can see a private fixation, not included because of its coded meaning for fans (who were never to see the failed film), but rather its lingering thrall for Bowie himself. Hunger City provides a window into his working process and the ideas that continually pulled him.
  • Maya C. Gibson – “Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday: Resuscitative Acts in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Audra McDonald is one of musical theatre’s current Broadway darlings. With an unprecedented six Tony awards and a string of acclaimed performances from the stage and screen, McDonald earns multiple kudos as both a singer and as an actress. Yet, in taking on the role of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill in 2014, McDonald stakes her vocal reputation on impersonating Holiday’s aged, addicted, and vulnerable voice as she neared death, at the tail end of her illustrative career. McDonald supplants her stronger voice with an almost perfect replica of Holiday’s weak and abused one as heard on multiple contemporaneous recordings. Although many critics deemed Holiday’s late recordings “too hard to listen to,” they sat mesmerized when McDonald emulated them in tone and timbre for Lady Day at Emerson’s. In matching Holiday’s brittle tone quality, McDonald presents us with a new erotics of Lady Day’s voice: Holiday’s musical sound is symbolically (re)placed in a healthy (i.e., sound) body.

The act of mimicking Holiday’s voice is, in this instance, not only interesting, but it is also culturally reparative. McDonald mends a cultural memory of Holiday steeped-in-tragedy by embodying and then fusing two of her most durable-but-conflicting stereotypes: Holiday as an anti-feminist victim and Holiday as a resilient proto-feminist survivor. McDonald’s representation of Lady Day is simultaneously a voyeuristic portrayal of the jazz legend near death and a mode of psychic recuperation that bridges time, narrative, and historical distance through ritualized performance. Thus McDonald reconfigures Holiday by reconciling the two competing and conflicting frames that define her. In doing so, she resuscitates Holiday’s image, allowing her to breathe again for a new generation of listeners.

Moderators
DC

David Cantwell

BioDavid Cantwell lives in Kansas City, MO. He writes about popular culture for The New Yorker and Rolling Stone Country and has also written for Slate, Pitchfork and No Depression. He was the 2017 winner of the Chet Flippo Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism, and is... Read More →

Speakers
IA

I. Augustus Durham

BioI. Augustus Durham is the 2018-2020 President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in English at the University of Maryland, College Park. Having completed his Master's and doctorate in English at Duke University, as well as certificates in African & African American Studies, College Teaching... Read More →
KR

Katherine Reed

BioKatherine Reed is an assistant professor of musicology at California State University, Fullerton. Her research interests include musical semiotics, pre-existing music in film, and popular music, particularly David Bowie’s 1970s. Reed’s work has appeared in Popular Music and... Read More →
MC

Maya C. Gibson

BioMaya C. Gibson teaches courses in the Honors College at the University of Missouri. Her research focuses on the jazz singer, Billie Holiday, but more broadly, she thinks about 19th and 20th century American and African American music(s) writ large—fine art music, popular music... Read More →


Sunday April 14, 2019 11:15am - 12:45pm PDT
Learning Labs
 


Twitter Feed