25 February 2007

preEMPtive [prehistory edition]

[because i already used that title once before, but it's too good not to recycle. which they're probably all about in seattle anyway.]

so. EMP panels are posted. (finally!) which means i will start thinking about actually making plans to attend (since until now i couldn't be entirely sure the conference was even going to happen.)

some general preliminary reactions:

• they really ought to have someone fix up the abstracts so that the quotation marks and hyphens don't all show up as ??s; it's really annoying.

• i feel like i'm going to have to make a mix cd (or three) of all the songs being focused on by various papers. (maybe i'll make a bunch of copies to distribute as a public service act of love.)

• i'm strangely underwhelmed by this year's batch of paper topics - not sure why, but there aren't nearly as many really exciting ones as i'd hope/expect. even though there are four panels per time slot this year (instead of three), almost all of them with four presenters, i'm not seeing a lot of cases where i'll be really torn in choosing among them. which is good, i guess, but it's definitely not the way it oughtta be.

• there are a lot papers that look way less interesting (and relevant) than my proposal. (grumble grumble - but that said i don't have too much of a grudge; i've already chalked my rejection up to bio-based bias, thereby further solidifying my general undercredentialed outsider self-image.)

• a lot of the papers seem to have nothing, or very little, to do with the ostensible theme of the conference. this is somewhat to be expected, but it seems like the organizers were especially lax about that this time around. to be fair, i guess that i had been mostly thinking of the theme as "history," but there's also "time" and "place" in there, and a number of the papers are related to place, especially, in ways that don't necessarily have much to with history per se. still, a whole lot of them - a majority, maybe - only seem relevant in that they're telling histories - that is, narrating stories about various pieces of pop/rock (artists, songs, styles, etc.), past and/or present; which i would say is not really enough to make them "about" history, time, or place. you know?

of the several vague suggestions in the original call for papers, this was probably the most intriguing to me:

*Evolving notions of musical revivalism: retro culture, questions of periodization in music, and the validity of the concept of youth culture as a sign of the times.

that is, to make it even broader, music historiography: discussions about the ways we writers/thinkers conceive of (and interact with) pop music history, and also the ways that musicians (conceive of and) interact with that history in their music. doesn't seem to be a whole lot of that going on.

this one - *How dichotomies of nearness/experience and farness/history affect music fanship, music writing, and music making. - gets a little more play. and i'm definitely interested in these questions. but get much beyond that and "place" can become a metaphorical abstract to the extent that it's basically meaningless as a "theme."

anyway. some specific things that are exciting/intriguing. (aka, which panels i would choose if the conference was tomorrow.) in chronological (future-historical!) order:

Thursday April 19
>> Keynote: Jonathan Lethem
i'm definitely sort of fed up with the way fiction/literature writers get to do high-profile sidelining "amateur" gigs in muso-dom (writing music columns in major periodicals; editing the da capo best music writing series; giving keynotes at EMP) more or less on the basis of their celebrity. that said, lethem's topic, even though it is pretty much completely irrelevant to the "theme" (y'know!?), is definitely quite relevant to me specifically (as well as to him specifically, as i just got done grumbling about) and to the current state of things in general (which seems to a more consistent topic across the board) - especially given the wide range of activities he places in the spectrum between fan and "professional." should be interesting.

Friday April 20

total no-brainer about which panel to attend firstfirst, mostly because of the irresistable star-power of alyssa's boyz (sasha and joshua), but also some pretty enticing subject matter - sf-j's paper maybe in particular, an examination of the changing (or not) nature of r&b, among other things. also interested in hearing about the '80s (especially the late '80s), definitely still the phase of pop history that i feel like i know the least about. plus: soul power!

(on the other hand, dom leone's abstract is pretty appealing; it's certainly a resonant an useful topic. but there is a lot of talk about the internet etc. effect on music listenership etc. anyway it's cool that dom will be there, i'll be interested to see what he's like.)

11:00 - 12:45
not too much standing out in this time slot. except maybe this one:
“Is Rock Criticism Part of Intellectual History?”
eh? good question.

>> Lunch Session - Ellen Willis Tribute
right on.

2:15 - 4:00

Michaelangelo Matos, “A Matter of Trustafarians: Behind the Bob Marley Poster on the Dorm Room Wall” got the heads-up on this from bedbugs. sounds like a promising piece of potentially enlightening entertainment - and matos' supremes paper last year was fantastic.

the other papers in that panel - on rock t-shirts, "selling sad" and american idol - are reasonably enticing too. even though it would also be interesting to hear tim hecker talk about glenn gould. and i don't know what to think about this:
"Anticipating The Re-Emergence of The Pre-Temperate Aboriginal Drone Form as The Root And Dominant Figure In Rock Music."

4:15 - 6:00
>> The Color Line
pretty easy choice - mostly for doug wolk's, which promises to be very illuminating (i've never heard of clydie king) - he seemed very cool last year too. i'm also very interested in the good night, and good luck. paper. on the other hand, the papers on the pet shop boys vis-a-vis aids and on cliches are also pretty appealing ("people act like clichés are overused." is a great way to start that abstract.) though who knows what the hell is going on with a panel title like "songitudes."

better stuff on saturday.

9:00 - 10:45
easy to pick christgau, though i'd likely just stay for his paper (which should be relevant as well as enjoyable) and then skip out (daphne brooks on tvotr? another piece about katrina/nola? no thanks. btw, katrina wasn't last year.) though not sure which for. the women's rooms one seems potentially intriguing, though maybe not as much as "conjuring the trickster in the church of crunk." (!) also, that's an organized grad-student panel, which makes me want to go both because it's nice to see grad students and because last year's (the UW girl group panel) was definitely the highlight of that conference for me.

11:00 - 12:45
>> A Seventies:Moment
is that punctuation intentional? again, not hard to go the obvious route with the holy greil, even if i don't particularly think i care about rod stewart (no - in fact i should go for that very reason - even the abstract gets me curious about his early albums.) yuval taylor's paper seems very promising. otherwise, i wouldn't mind seeing franklin bruno, tim quirk, or nate patrin, but none of them are talking about things of especial interest, except maybe quirky quirk.

the lunch session is much harder to pick - would be sweet to see joe bataan, but i think i'll have to go with my man carl wilson (especially since he's not doing a paper this year, sadly), and come to think of it, i am absolutely interested to talk about local music scenes.

2:15 - 4:00
biggest conflict of interest so far, and it's not a very big one. on a purely genre-based level, the techno/dance panel and the country-soul panel both tug at my allegiances. certainly it would be nice to catch simon reynolds and michael daddino (both of whose topics sound awesome), but sadly they're both slotted first (at least for now), which means i'll probably miss them both in favor of seeing my friend (maybe?) charles hughes, whose paper is most directly relevant to my professed interests. well, we'll see.

4:15 - 6:00
hmmm. not sure here either. joe schloss and o-dubs make an appealing tag-team. jd considine rubbed me the wrong way a little last year, but his paper should be interesting (unless it's boring, which is a distinct possibility.) however, the janet weiss-keith-moon paper is no-way gonna be boring. whoa, that gal went to elementary school with joanna newsom!

that leaves sunday - which is still up in the air for me (whether i'll get to be there for it) b/c there seem to be no plane flights leaving in the afternoon, which is what i'd need, unless i took work off on monday. it wouldn't be the worst thing to skip it, but...this in particular is hard to pass up:

�Why the Four Seasons did not and could not have a story until 2005.� his answer is really interesting, and theoretically challenging to grapple with. my question would be, though, is it the case that they now do have a story that anyone's interested in hearing? does anybody care about the four seasons these days? because i sure do: i've recently acquired three of their albums, and they are slowly but surely blowing me away.

>> The Future of Thinking About Music for a Living
obviously a big-deal topic, for most of the people involved at the conference. me included ( i hope.) might be tired of talking/thinking about it by this point however.

i do think it's weird that they scheduled another session opposite this, though i guess it's appropriate that it's "displaced listening" - the unfortunate thing is that all three of the papers in it seem worth checking out; especially maura johnston's on listening to freestyle at home and loneliness in dance music lyrics.

so that's that. now what?

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