24 April 2007

it's all over now

like EMPtiness and harmony. (i need someone to conference me.)

ee em pee ee em pee ee em pee. let's see. what did i learn?

highlights from friday included:

simon reynold's informative rundown of londoncentric dance music of the last 15-20 years, with awesome sample clips. apparently he went way over his time allotment (and he didn't get to finish his paper - he skipped his further comments on lady sovereign - but i really didn't notice at the time. i think this was the first time i understood the difference between jungle and drum'n'bass (which made me think i really need to listen to more of the former and less of the latter.)

daphne carr's investigative report on hot topic, whose sources were primarily postings from the dozens of myspace groups whose sole purpose is to advocate for or against the store. i'm not sure i'd ever heard the terms "scene" and "scenecore" before (apparently they're what "glam-punk" and "emo" [the same thing?] are called by their detractors - that makes the new fall out boy single make a little bit more sense.

robert fink's proposal that james brown's "soul power" is a rhythmic and political response to stokely carmichael's "black power" chant of several years earlier - riffing off the benjamin quip that aestheticized politics demands politicized art. [the jb tune had j-clo air-drumming along in his seat]

douglas wolk's fascinating illumination of clydie king, a (mostly) forgotten-by-history soul/r&b/rock singer of the '50s/'60s/'70s, whose session work dominates classic rock radio but who never achieved success in her own right - perhaps as wolk posits because, as a black female, she was shunted into soul and disco and would never have been allowed to make a rock record. that presentation came with a fantastic and impressively eclectic mix-cd, which i'm listening to right now.

• discovering that joshua clover, sasha frere-jones, and dominique leone aren't really very much like my mental images of them. dom, in particular is so unassumingly ordinary, endearingly grinny and almost dadlike (though youngish) for the savvy p4k esoterica correspondent and abstractronica artist that he is. [man, i've been loving "nous tombons dans elle" for years now!] his virtually-interesting (but nicely extemporaneous) talk about the effect of p2p and the internet on the speed(s) of music consumption/digestion unfortunately got too bogged down in unnecessarily thorough explanations of message boards and the like - and really really unnecessary summaries of relativity physics - before it got the chance to reach any real insight. (the take-away message, as iterated later in the conference, was that some people will form an opinion about an album after only listen to 20 sec of each track.)

sasha is also very ordinary looking (and not youngish) with more self-effacing bumblingness than i might have guessed - his talk started as mostly verbatim from his rather lengthy précis, but rambled toward an unexpectedly insightful conclusion that R+B (especially the "cyborg strain" he opposed to the historically familiar likes of mary blige), is a "faceless raceless projection" (did he say holographic? something about shiny), ontologically self-contained; that it never extends beyond the world of the club, and so contains no potential for socio-political responses ("no rioting" my notes say); that it's the most incredibly awesome detention music ever devised - and "it's our music." he also inadvertently coined (?) the phrase "hip-nop," and read the titles of the 2005 and 2004 billboard #1 hits in sequence, with repetitions, as found poetry.

joshua's presentation was one of the best of the conference (as was this panel generally - maybe not coincidentally it was one of only two, the first and the last, that i stayed at for their entire duration), with excellent use of multimedia and what i guess was critical karaoke technique to discuss songs - by scorpions, jesús (?) jones, roxette, and deee-lite - from a period just slightly before my own musical awareness. as he put it, from "1989," though not necessarily from 1989 - his piece started with a discursus on scare-quoted dates and collectively imagined historical moments - in this case the putative beginning of something (the post-cold war era) that, from my perspective, doesn't seem to have unfolded in a way consistent with the tone and nature of those particular choice cuts; perhaps we've ended up at something closer to what clover called "nerf humanism."

there was also the ellen willis tribute session, with touching remembrances from folks that knew her or didn't - including christgau, who met her when they were eleven, and later lived with her and then had his heart broke, who said she was one of very few people he'd readily admit were smarter than him. "she wasn't shy" he said: "she was thinking" and probably ignoring you. most people read from her work and glossed her ideas on a broad range of topics. some phrases from my notes: "the ethical valence of not caring" "profusion of commodities offered as compensation for oppression" "the erotic as moral/ethical grounds of society" [on rock music:] "even when the content was anti-woman, anti-sexual, anti-human, the form [in its inherent humanity/sexuality] urges that chick in her bedroom forward." one young speaker, who had never met her, said that her writing had been a touchstone for him in trying to connect with and understand the '60s that he didn't live through. anne powers asked: "how did we get from pro-sex feminism to 'who wants to be the next pussycat doll'?"

so that's friday. more later.

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