A bee at UCI


Not in my garden but that would be good fun. Lovely day down here and my walk around campus turned up a bunch of bees like this one happily pollinating away.
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A nice closeup from the garden


Just a quick update here — been very busy, even this past weekend! I suspect this weekend will be when I can catch up properly a bit.

My latest OC Weekly piece on Ladytron is up

So at least there’s that since the EMP notes will have to wait for a final cleanup on the weekend I figure. But anyway, here’s the Ladytron piece, with a sample:

Following this tour, Ladytron will be moving to an even-higher-profile series of gigs. They’re scheduled to open for Depeche Mode’s European shows, an extremely apt combination given both bands’ deft touch with rock noise and industrial-strength beats, not to mention darkly dramatic performances and sonic styles. And much like the members of Depeche have long insisted about their own work, Wu resists classification as a “Goth” band.

“We never sought to be anything like that,” he says. “It’s all been very natural, very organic, over time—the whole ‘scary, creepy’ thing and being talked about as being Gothic maybe has relevance because we’re wearing black and not moving around much onstage. It’s a little impossible to bounce around while playing keyboards!”

Still still recuperating

Kinda, it’s just been understandably busy since I got back and there’s been a few things on my mind. But I just wanted to briefly note Carl Wilson’s kind mention of my notes over on Zoilus, as well as the use of that great shot I got of Matmos getting down on stage.

Tonight — I hope! — I will be finally updating the notes with all appropriate links and/or contact information. Also later should be a link to my latest OC Weekly article and hopefully some sort of overview of recent AMG work. Sleep is in there somewhere as well, I think.

Still recuperating

Happens every year, I go to EMP, have a blast, spend an day to catch up with sleep and all, go home and…still recuperate. (I mean, I’m going to work and all but I’m kinda wiped.)

I’ve received a variety of kind comments about the blogging work for EMP — and a couple of questions! — and I hope I’ve answered many of them. I am still in the process of reviewing my notes and cleaning up some of the technical information (correct spellings, etc.) as well as providing links where appropriate. But I’m already all in for today and I haven’t even completed the Friday notes review yet, so this will take a little time.

In the meantime, then, I encourage you to read Oliver Wang’s excellent summary of his own EMP experience — with plenty of links! — while also noting that the Vince Aletti collection The Disco Files 1973-78 is out now. Pre-ordered my copy a few weeks back, it arrived today and the thing is a total dream from what I can tell.

EMP Pop Conference 2009 — Sunday presentations

Into the final day!

Karl Hagstrom Miller, “On Intimacy, Death, and Tickets to Blur: Listening to Pop Songs about Abortion” — Karl’s thrilled to be here, admits he’s not a PowerPoint guy and away we go. Questions of the body — a woman who has had an abortion is already politicized, awareness of gender politicization is assumed by this audience. Such a woman is never a metaphor. Songs about abortion are plentiful; movement songs are left out of this study in favor of pop tunes. Metal/punk tunes using abortion as horror imagery also left out. Some tunes are crass depictions of male control over women (Ice Cube, Leonard Cohen lyrics quoted). On the polarized sides, first the Seals and Croft song “Unborn Child” — wow that’s some schlocky trash! Like the strings though, lyrics alternately address child and mother (“Stop, turn around!”). Graham Parker’s “You Can’t Be Too Strong” has him talking to the woman carrying his child — blunt images, pretty music (keyboards, guitar). Then there’s the ‘considering abortion but carrying the baby’ songs — more in a bit. Pro-choice songs: movement songs as noted (politics of the movement, male misogyny as something to react against — Consolidated example noted, rather um extreme). Digable Planets “La Femme Fetal” discussed and played, male narrator visits woman pregnant by another man, discusses the politics of the situation in the language of the movement. Self-induced abortions and the deaths of the mothers are also subjects of songs, both in prolife and prochoice songs (Parker again about incompetent doctors). More talk about the politicized split in the sphere, though women’s experiences don’t easily fall into an easy split. Various statistics noted. George W Bush comes up! Texas three step — prolife, Roe shouldn’t fall, talk parental consent laws! Will Saletan on prochoice problems in the eighties after the big coalition (who decides?). In many songs, women and some men do the three step, acknowledging both sides but saying in the middle or be somewhere else — artist can “clear space to acknowledge” this in song. Ani diFranco “Lost Woman Song,” Amanda Palmer “Oasis” (the latter gets the video treatment — wow, amazing! Cheery music, grin instead of tears, laugh instead of cry, tickets to Blur!) Concluding note on songs without the three step coded as prolife and Karl quotes a letter from a woman patient at the clinic he works at. A moving conclusion on regrets and lives not led.

Jody Rosen, “‘Oh, You Kid!’: How Tin Pan Alley Discovered the Cheating Song” — thanks to Eric first! Harry Von Tilzer/Jimmy Lucas song sheet shown, “I Love My Wife But Oh! you Kid!” written 100 years back. There was spooning and cooing but this was the first published Tin Pan Alley comic song on lust, based on a year-older song by Edgar Selden and Melville Gideon “Oh, You Kid!” that was sweetly silly love in contrast. Spring 1909 brings the first “I Love My Wife” by another bunch which sucked but then the better one by Lucas and von Tilzer came out. Clip played — great first verse and the chorus soars, happily about infidelity. “That ‘but’ my dear means you!” Complete contrast to the dolorous ballads and earlier moralism — the flirts are celebrated and even the wife cheats with a butcher! A Progressive Era “O.P.P.”! Massive hit that year apparently though novelty songs didn’t sell that much, but the song inspired many imitations and cultural references and more. Many sheet music covers shown, amazing stuff! “My Wife’s Gone to the Country (Hurrah! Hurrah!)” by Irving Berlin! Postcards shown, crazy stuff. Mencken complained about the phrase in 1921, Groucho Marx used it as a catchphrase, The Harvey Girls adaptation from 1946 played. News stories, “Oh You Suffragettes!” etc. Billy Sunday sermon from 1911 quoted but “I Love My Billy Sunday But Oh You Saturday Night” in response. More song sheets and titles shown, minstrelsy. “Everything’s At Home Except Your Wife” played. All this a reaction to older sentimentality and schmaltz though “A Bird in a Gilded Cage” was a parody! And Von Tilzer wrote it as such. “Oh You Kid” often sung in parodic fashion too, clip played. Larger question of how younger generation used and interpreted pop, news and photos shown, especially the shoe photos!

Oliver Wang, “Crash, Burn and Return: Betty Davis‘s Lost Album” — Oliver mentions his love for reissue work and offers thank yous. Talks about Davis’s plans for recording in 1976, her raucous style on stage and general reputation, quotes a lust crazed review from 1974. So why did Is It Love or Desire? take so long to surface? Bogalusa in LA was “swamp territory” said Larry Johnson. Fish out of water musicians for sure. Studio in the Country was a highly respected studio, state of the art. Funk House talked about a bit, her house and touring band since 1974, at a creative peak. Songwriting began with fragments of ideas, Davis visual with music, giving notes via tape recorder for the band to mold into the final versions. Davis used music for personal concerns, this album’s work extremely so, an intimate album. Sultry bedroom songs like “Whorey Angel,” clip played. Embodies self envisioned persona, Fred Mills admittedly nervous at singing! “Stars Starve, You Know” an answer song of sorts, a forthright and angry song about public image and reaction. Clip played, anger straightforward, “you should have been born a man!” Her independence and ambitions left her isolated but she could and did blow off steam. If only it have been released at the time! One more song, “Bottom of the Barrel,” trashes disco thoroughly pre-backlash two years later. Gatemouth Brown guested, etc. Why did the album never come out? Studio in the Country never got paid so held on to the masters, a breakdown in business with Island? Funk House and Davis split after she went to the UK, band went home to North Carolina, disappointed. What if it had come out? Not a leap forward but a refinement, focusing of ideas, could have raised her stature in putting herself forward. She wanted to be taken seriously but also a keen sense of how to use her body and public image vs private restrained self. According to her, high energy music meant high energy performance and image. Whether self conscious or not, its important to see her as part of movements and apart from them, in her own lane, which could explain how she got forgotten. At least the album is back if on the margins. Final clip, a straight ballad, “When Romance Says Goodbye,” nice way to end.

Mark Villegas, “Hitting Abroad: The Global Travels of Joe Bataan‘s ‘Rap-O-Clap-O’” — video of Joe live last year played first, good easy going stuff in San Pedro. Audience gets into it with gusto, “Pinoys in the house!” Joe is of black and Filipino descent, grew up in Spanish Harlem, stuck with missed opportunities because people debated his identity, wanted to codify him and see him one way or another. His industry challenges also result from his willingness to try new forms, thus his biggest hit “Rap-O-Clap-O,” which came out before “Rapper’s Delight!” Big in Europe and South America but not here. Discovered rap via social work in Harlem, talks of early DJs he spoke with and noted there were no records, so why not put it out? He had done music work already but his age meant he was not trusted. Hired Jonzon and Brown to record the song but nobody showed up to record! So he thought about a local DJ, then thought a bit and figured, “I can do this!” He recorded it, got positive reaction from the kids but not the labels who didn’t get it. Were they that out of it? Things started to pick up with others like Sugarhill Gang, so now the labels sought him out. But US stations never played him — Salsoul sold the single and it was a club hit in NYC and a bigger hit in Europe, 3 million records! Changed the lyrics to Spanish for Latin America, and he still gets the royalties! Has hip-hop’s story already been written in stone? Can a Filipino be a forefather of the sound? Mark discusses US influence in the Phillipines and interactions with cultural results. Joe: “I’ve been a Filipino all my life but didn’t know it.” Straddled latinidad and blackness but stuck with greater restrictions in the US, so is the global liminal? Clip played from Italian TV show from 1980, then the real thing, great way to end!

Jason King, “Maxwell‘s Urban Hang Suite: Disconnected Intimacies” — consider the politics in his work. “Fortunate” video played, extremely complicated and suggestive in questions of gaze and image, constantly gliding and cycling camera shots, singing past the video object of affection. Urban Hang Suite discussed and the concept outlined of a single bittersweet evening. The metropolitan black bachelor pad — luxury, haute coutere, solitude and privacy for the public view. Career outlined and then he disappeared after 2001 outside of fits and starts and fan frustration. Drugs? No he claimed he just wanted to grow, started taking to fans via myspace and twitter, says he’ll release stuff but…strange and creepy stuff. Blog entries read while “Whenever Wherever Whatever” plays — oh MAN that’s some Smoove B talk, self critical and not and what the…? Reappears, launches tour, sells out venues, new video in July. His whole career is about broken connection, in contact and yet, missed opportunities, incongruence, reaching toward communion and individuated, classic soul. And that’s how Maxwell treats his fans! Jason’s riff on this is too good to summarize, “a bad Sex and the City script!” Reclaiming the politics of quiet storm, a challenge and augmentation of ambient, where color and women did not exist. Quiet storm too soft, too dull in some ears, so you have to consider how to reclaim it and its intent, to cause rapture and claim attention. It’s not like other neo-soul, Maxwell calls it Caribbean ambient soul. Causes shudders, does differing things with his voice, Sade as role model (Sweetback etc). Learned to sing softly via “the women in his life,” the studied Kate Bush cover. Tyler Perry comes in for a rubbishing, neoconservatism in neo-soul noted and explored in Maxwell’s work in detail. Argument recapitulated for conclusion, separation and fragmentation in his work, the gynocentric Embryo discussed, the blindness of falling in love (thus the “Fortunate” video).

Andy Zax, “Lost in Lost Music: Rediscovering Johnny MathisI Love My Lady” — the opposite of a keynote speech! Clip of the title track played and Andy talks about wanting to do a Chic Organization box set a few years back. Chic felt underappreciated, so time for product! In August 2007 he scrounges the Warner Brothers Vault for tapes — and love the sketchy cataloging! So he scrounges and scrounges. Bring your hand cleaner and check everything because you never know what you might find! Like the Chic/Mathis tapes! A pretty big deal, A GREAT LOST ALBUM! But what does lost mean? A shorthand for a set of interactions, involving availability and knowledge and more. Music removed from the marketplace is another example, out in the world and allowed to disappear. Then there’s undocumented music, mythological music etc. like this unheard album. Clip played, very smooth and lovely, hearing the kick of the bass against Mathis’s voice. Origins of the project detailed, Chic were huge with their work and with others, Mathis was at a career crossroads in turn after years of popularity, had a large audience still and “Too Much Too Little Too Late” promised a new route back to pop. But initial attempts flamed out. So this was a risk — Chic had their process, Mathis his deliberation. Chic had total control of the sound, something to deliver to the artist. In this case, stuff that Mathis “should have been doing.” Recording details offered, less funk and more jazz, like Weather Report but with bright melodic hooks. Sounds like Al Jarreau’s This Time and Steely Dan’s Gaucho (minus the boring stuff!) Fonzie Thorton did guide vocals, a change of pace. Album recorded and ready to go and then… Mathis’s performances are solid but also detached. Rodgers figures that the assembly line approach failed here in the end. Chic continued on but nobody said anything over at Columbia and a best of album came out instead. Who rejected it? Rodgers says that the blame on Mathis management is misplaced, their own track record is solid. Is the album good? Nice but one of those rejuvenation albums like Sinatra’s “Watertown” or the like. Streisand goes rock, Minelli and the Pet Shop Boys etc. Where does that leave us? Sony doesn’t want to release it, Mathis doesn’t mind, the Chic set will have three tracks. Leaks are coming out now, Rodgers would love to see it come out and maybe rerecord bits. Another clip played, “It’s All Right to Love Me,” upbeat and we’re done! Wonderful stuff, some questions asked and a Betty Davis clip played and the conference is done! More thoughts later today!

EMP Pop Conference 2009 — “I declare WAR!”

Well that might be a bit dramatic but that was one of the key phrases (courtesy of Miss Jay Karan) from Matmos’s DJ set, one of the highlights of the performances tonight at the Sunset Tavern in Ballard. Various EMP presenters performed tonight and some photos follow, of Franklin Bruno, Sarah Dougher, David Grubbs and the merry men of Matmos:

EMP Pop Conference 2009 — Saturday presentations

Dan Booth and Disco Inferno

Okay, day two! Etc etc. This photo is from the end of the day — Dan Booth talking about Disco Inferno, one of my all time favorite bands, etc.

Josh Kun, “If I Embarrass You, Tell Your Friends: Bawdy Jewish Broads of the 1960s and the Space of the Risque” — starts with a tribute to Eve Sedgwick, Josh’s teacher as an undergrad. Pearl Williams! Little known about the night in Florida in 1961 where her American Jewish audience heard her blue routine as she appeared in all her finery. Clip is played — sass! Brass! Miss Pearlie! “She is a mother, honey!” 47 at the time, her first recorded effort, after honing her chops doing things like opening for Louis Prima. Cheating husbands, frustrated wives, battling her audience, Yiddish as a punchline and use of Jewish tunes in her act, “a big Jewish girl with a big Jewish mouth” with her predecessors and contemporaries, but Pearl wasn’t ‘aDORable!’ Williams had done Borscht Belt but it was too quaint. Belle Barth as most immediate forebear as Lenny Bruce agreed, noting older Jewish female influences. Barth as corrupter of morals! A clip is played, oh my — “Great group, the Four Skins!” Her own Borscht Belt cycle and the “dreck circuit” (mostly piano bars in hotels), initially a singer, a clip of a routine played. Great stuff! She can belt it out. Nightclubs were their performances, a place where Jewish women could claim a space for their observations and reactions, “unable to confine themselves to their proper place.” African American culture and clubs provided the model less so than Jewish culture, Josh notes connections via music, performances and routines. “A combined Jewishness and blackness” that limited their national profile in the fifties while the Jewish pop culture in the sixties limited it further. “Other than white, too Jewish, too black.” Barth bought her own club, a space of control and manipulating the audience, “messing with the men who paid to see her.” Women as going against all the stereotypes of hags and whores, being bags who loved whore jokes, “power in embarrassment.” A question of affect, expectations — not just talking about sex but rethinking it. Barth clip played, talk of mother(fucker) figures on album covers, not Fanny Brice but Mrs. Strakosh, though her character was actually wrong in Funny Girl — the risqué and grotesque was a way forward!

Karen Tongson, “Behind the Orange Curtain: Amusement and Queer Fantasy at ‘The K’ and ‘The 9.’” — Memorial Day 1984 and a teen club opens at Knott’s Berry Farm in OC, Reaganville. Conservative hotbed and suburban amusement, 1964′s “Evening with Barry (Goldwater)” party at Knott’s detailed. Knott’s as a ‘clean’ park so how did they invite in dance crews in 1984 and embrace the other? Snapshot of a larger project — how did these spots become queer locales for youth? Gwen Stefani talks about her debut solo album as being like the soundtrack to dancing at Studio K, a place and time (thus the eighties referents throughout the album). So what was it like? DJ from club: “Mohawks, makeup, danced weird, DJs were mixed and badass!” Photos from 25th anniversary party shown. Studio K as expressive venues — no official archives of Studio K though, few traces remain beyond memory, ‘remote intimacies’ — photos from veterans at the time shown. Gary Salisbury, exec who created the club, meets Karen at the Pirates Dinner Adventure! Oh OC. Shares archive paperwork, ‘take advantage of the breakdancing craze’! Studio K details provided, big success in its heyday. Salisbury mentioned his daughter going to LA clubs so why not a club in OC in a ‘safe/secure’ place? But a edgier reputation occurs due to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities settling in Buena Park, not what the execs expected. Videopolis at Disney seen as weak in comparison on several levels. Queer scene documentation at K is anecdotal, regulation through music, “Erasure breaks up gang fights, makes you want to hug!” Multiple worlds intersect — minitruck crews, KROQ’s bunch, others featured, “an aura of experimentation” but with the pop hits too. Anecdotes of queer awakenings in Studio K, “setting into motion the idea of the possibilities.” Amusement park as host of “affectional communities.” Not a bar, but a family themed environment, manufactured for profit, expands the boundaries of gay and lesbian history. New Order’s “Temptation” takes us out!

David Thomas, “Out of the Closet Shock! David Thomas Reveals That He Is Keane” — entered in progress and he’s in fine form! This is one of those ‘hard to capture’ presentations, apparently a meta story about an Albert having to present at a conference on music, with reference to Albert’s favorite pop musician, David Thomas! Oh wait maybe the name is Alfred. Too many great phrases and the question to the moderator, “Am I spitting all over you?” The Raincoats are talked about and celebrated but who can follow them? A dead end! Preservation of art, a politically motivated film festival in London, the moving and shambolic concert that followed, “I was deeply disturbed by the whole evening!” Gina says that the journalists only ever want to talk about sex, but he says “you’re being forced to kowtow to these commissars!” or something like that! “You are being corrupted by morons! SHOOT THEM!” Man this is beautiful. Talks about psychologists in Brighton who says he confused them, they called him someone with Asperger’s, now no longer confused! “Language of music should be one of secrets! Nothing transitory should intrude!” The PJ Harvey review story kills. The Raincoats can only get praise by being politically women, unknown “because they are women” — no! Because they make weird music, that’s why! Van Gogh painted weird stuff but the Raincoats are “stuck with an asterisk like Barry Bonds!” “Skip the thing about Dylan!” “Tell the punchline first!” Trashing punk as a “reactionary confection!” Obama ends identity politics? Keanism — “market a new invention? Pop music is your baby!” Would Keane emerge in mass culture? “A lost opportunity on a truly tragic scale?”

Copyright Criminals — rough cut of Kembrew McLeod‘s film on copyright and sampling shown — because it is a rough cut I will not comment on it in detail but it’s a nice overview of sampling history via hiphop and where we are now. Still rough as noted but there’s some good stuff there! Kembrew makes some thank yous and he sits down with Matmos to talk stuff over. Drew notes other films like Sonic Outlaws but that said film focuses more on the self consciously avant garde where this is different in its focus on hip hop and popular culture. Kembrew notes that most of those other films (including his others!) were focusing on white people where hiphop pushed the collage aesthetic into popular culture. Drew noted the difference between singer/songwriter/real vs sampling/parasitic/familiarity/nostalgia. Is mashup a cover for stealth oldies? But this film brings out things more interesting/militant work thus PE. Why no narrator? Kembrew notes this has been going as a film project since 2004 and didn’t want a voice of God narrator, let the artists speak for themselves. Drew: “How are you the writer, then?” (Kembrew wrote up and gave out the questions.) Various figures fell out of the film over time. Martin notes this honesty approvingly as well as letting the editing give the voices speak, but Drew says “Hey it’s about manipulation anyway! And can you finish this project?” Kembrew admits no final version truly can be done but they are working on cuts for broadcast etc. — “not a film for trainspotting insiders! For a general audience.” Notes possibilities with remixes of source material etc and other crazy projects on space sets! Martin notes a lot of original work in the film — Kembrew: “A thousand copyrighted snippets!” Working with a fair use lawyer to find the right balance for broadcast, especially involving “transformative use” as “enacting the subject of the film.” Drew: “Anything not cleared covered with a black blob.” Kembrew: “We’ve thought about it!” Drew: “Gilbert O’Sullivan won’t let you use those ugly photos of his!” Kembrew talks about his book Freedom of Expression about the subject but that in another medium it’s not so easy to talk about. Drew notes the problem with estates like Eliot and Joyce (and is happy Shakespeare’s estate died out given his research!) Kembrew notes Matmos doesn’t sample music much, less found samples more created ones. Drew noted their early tribute to Kurt Schwitters, himself a collage artist, chopping up the “Ursonata” for self release. Matador later said “Can we release it?” then checked and said “Oops the Schwitters estate are litigious now” — irony! And Drew has a bit of Schwitters art tattooed on his leg, he is living copyright infringement! So they replaced it for rereleases — alas! Audience questions! JD Considine notes the Girl Talk reference and asked “Has he been sued?” and the answer is “No! And they don’t know why!” Question: “Anyone trying to amend copyright law?” Kembrew: “Yeah, the RIAA…” Dan Booth: “About the deep history of copyright — only alluded to in the film, about copyright as artistic protection?” Kembrew: “Not enough time.” Brian Mackro: “Music industry collapse! Making it easier?” Martin: “Maybe there’s nobody who can sue anymore…ha fucking ha!” Further questions…final one from Mark Gunderson: “Liked Clyde Stubblefield’s conclusion, any other final wishes?” Kembrew: “More artists figure they should talk to each other/credit each other.” Drew liked the various reactions and we’re done! Off to lunch!

Amelia Abreu & Nathaniel Friedman, “You can’t put your arms around a memory: Object fetish and the digital realm of fandom” — if pop fans allowed themselves to be defined by the body, then there’s the question of desire, but we can’t look at them in straightforward terms due to media mediation. Stuff like Beatlemania is not rational, reaction is a crap shoot, like love! Benjamin LOLcats! Reproduction as dilution, but also the possibility of aura and being reproduced, though we cannot access the ‘real’ body so clutching a record is like holding on to surrogate flesh. Fetishizing the scarcity of the pop object, and now it is scarcer and scarcer (desktop wallpaper instead of poster on wall). Where is it all going? Back on the self — for instance, YouTube response videos. Lens to view through: Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” Recognize our object environments — files, data, “a frank record of our desire” but a nonlinear circuitous way. Bodies are more than physical, “trace bodies” as borrowed term. Social dancing thrives on imitation, signifier heavy choreography via music videos, result somewhere between original creation and corporate production. Original video gets commented on, is designed as intertextual video. (Bob Fosse references, watching/imitating choreography.) Fosse as touchpoint, choreography for the camera. Response videos as social and economic practice, technology over personal action, “culture of commentary,” not neat and linear. Turning the performer back on ourselves, “so and so is just like me!” –something ordinary in a synthetic figure. Various moments in response videos noted, “becoming the performer” but not hiding who they are. Lengthy comment quoted, self-empowerment, superstar implication, Beyonce’s own struggles between superstar and ordinary person. Few of her imitators actually look like her but what after all does she really look like? SNL parody moment noted and Beyonce’s mock misunderstanding. The Lawrence Lessig free culture stuff comes up but it’s a neoliberal flattening of disparity rather than what we see in response videos (most teenage-made music actually sucks…). Like drag — there ARE bad drag acts! Thus so many of the response videos — bad drag, not as good as we would like it to be. Largely imagined public space with participatory reward. Will the filling of free time go this route?

Carol Vernallis, “Audiovisual Change: ‘Yes We Can,’ Music Video and Viral Media in the Obama Campaign” — little bit of a loose start but basically talking about a latest/last revival in music videos due to African American artists in the time of the Obama campaign. A touch programmatic but the points are sound — as noted, viral media, video on and beyond MTV, direct participation of artists. Hmm — I might sit out transcribing here, this feels more like a useful recapitulation of particular points (the impact of video on psyche and body, aligning of physical and video body, etc.) Nice full details in the handout on various elements on the “Yes We Can” video as well as a study of “Green Light” by John Legend and Andre 3000 and the DNC will.i.am Legend collaboration. Beyonce’s “If I Was a Boy” clip shown and analyzed too.

Kurt B. Reighley, “Papaya: Strange Fruit” — opens with an apology, no YouTube clips! But it’s about a viral video. Mentions a Polish singer Ursula Dudziak who avoids lyrics in favor of a capella avant garde performances and collaborations. In checking Wikipedia Kurt finds her seventies song “Papaya” had a Philippines revival via TV show appearances, and apparently it was a huge trannie hit in Manila in the seventies under Marcos! The hell? DJ MOD was the TV show employee who suggested it, it appeared on the game show and a hit! And Kurt teaches all of us the dance! (You all should have been here.) Then Diane Sawyer did it and it was shark-jumped. National pride became a big part, various amazing examples discussed, plus Dudziak’s own favorites. A triumph of optimism over adversity say the craze’s creators! “It tickles people!” Its success a sign that the Philippines are ready for a major cultural impact on a more positive level. But the drag queens! Well the song did chart a bit in 1975 here and there worldwide and apparently female impersonators were acknowledged in Philippine society, down to massive beauty pageants! And Dudziak? Well Monzano the TV host got the success and rerecorded the song for a big hit — even a political career. There’s a terrible remake on iTunes but the original is out of print! “It was a joke, part of her warmup routine, an anomaly.” She got an uptick in bookings but that’s about it, not a household name (that’s Kurt’s job!) Great stuff.

Licia Fiol-Matta, “The Diva Ends/The Diva’s Ends: Lucecita Benitez and the Late Colonial Politics of Voice in Puerto Rico” — the finest voice in the history of PR music, a wonderfully trained and expressive vocalist. Focus is from 1969 to 1974 after her initial ‘teen’ star fame (she was in her early twenties) on radio and TV. Use of the melodramatic voice — whispering, sobbing, talking, overacting etc. “Genesis” was the turning point, a song about complete dissolution; her designer Martin did a dress design based on the Little Prince that was famous. But her PR audiences saw dress and haircut as masculine and that led to new reactions both positive and negative! The songwriter said “Too over the top!” and blamed and slammed effeminate homosexuals, thus tying in with the dress controversy. Lucecita gravitated to male role models and peers — a gesture, conceptualized by the singer? Iconic moments shown, very Shirley Bassey! Auteur image shaped by beta male songwriter. 1970 brings in an Afro and shocks PR again! Black identity clearly translated over (think Angela Davis), images more iconic and posed and artistic. Covers “part of a complete artifact, the album.” An intersection of identities and PR “anxiety.” Move into a Spanish period (recorded in Spain etc) — song “Soy de una raza pura” is played, bold and very much a mixed PR pride song, many ethnicities but “pura” — a harmonious blending but with troubling undertones given Latin American history. Her own past musical history provides hints and context. Delivery “crisp and efficient” — loudly with a desire to be heard (not always the best decision!). She developed a curiously neutral relationship with her art even as she moved into her “political period.” Eliminated facial excesses, went for dashiki designs, a gender-atypical look…and moved into a recording silence for six years, as she often performed at rallies on the left, leading to blacklisting and shut-outs. Shaped into a political icon even as she refused the social. “Camino abandonado” played. Later efforts and work discussed (returned to the studio and scored hits) Lucecita now focusing on nostalgia locked into her seventies social mode. Is the lack of concept the concept? A diva but an end to the traditional diva, an endlessly shifting signifier. PR seventies history discussed, unstable and violent, and speech wrapped up!

Karen Shimakawa, “Enka’s BlackShip” — Karen apologizes for being neither a music or Japan scholar but likes weirdness! In we go. Enka is short for “oratorical song,” a folk form of storytelling now codified in post-WWII times and seen as ‘timeless’ and rooted even though it borrows from Chinese and Korean forms. Clip played — VERY stylized. “It always looks the same!” You’ve probably heard it if you were in a certain spot/of a certain age. Equivalent of country and western? National ethos, nostalgia, excess. But sales now in decline — until last year! What happened? Clip played! Singer is an African American man with a Okinawan grandfather, Jero (Jerome White Jr), a smash hit sensation singing the form while in full hip hop gear. Label says: “The first black enka singer!” Given it is seen as a nativistic music, it is a notable moment. African American presence in Japanese pop culture has long been around but why and how? An imaginary Americanness, social alterity, conceptions of race in general. Citing research on Japanese hip hop producers, notes that the research says that said figures are very serious students of the problematic elements. It’s not minstrelsy or hip hop, it’s quite complex. Ships stuff and “enough of the metaphor!” Japan’s population decline noted, big national issue. There’s a rise in international marriage, up to 6% now, so things are changing. Nostalgia for the “home village” aka furusato is strong in society, but now free from actual geography — “a kind of atmosphere.” Jero’s appeal is representing new sources of furusato via the diaspora. Quote about the “rhythmic elements” in an interview and youth appeal noted, along with press support. (Past examples of diaspora preserving ‘Japanness’ noted.) Reprocessing the past to resituate in the present. Jero as intergenerational ambassador but is that a good thing? Old fashioned sensibilites might only be willfully blind to certain things in the present — his grandmother is celebrated by what about his actual biracial mother? She was bullied in Japan when she was young, doesn’t like to talk about it…a lacunae and a reminder of history.

Drew Daniel, “Why Be Something You’re Not?: The Afterlives of Queer Minstrelsy” — Drew tells a hilarious Glenn Danzig bit and we’re off! Earlier presentation focused on the Meatmen’s “Toolin’ for Anus,” the 7″ inch version with the skit about queer bashing. What happens when straight punks play gay, always mocking? It’s not astonishing when queercore exists — it doesn’t queer punk but punks queers. If punk is about fucking with people, what are the limits? It’s not about fingerpointing now, so now defensive apologetics about Drew’s own collaboration with minstrelsy. Mentions a 2003 show in SF he saw by a laptop dude in seventies shorts onstage, yelping about gay fucking, a style not played out as it was now. Song “Dry Hump” quoted, “hilarious and ridiculous.” Drew admits to being “intrigued” by this guy, formerly of early xbxrx now the Hawnay Troof. Plans made to come over to record — and he comes over with his girlfriend, formerly of Bratmobile! Drew felt…dry humped! Recording done, fun had, but Drew felt caught out there by the revelation of HT’s bisexuality. Why should any of this matter? Exposing the belief in singer and songwriter being one, back from the grave. It’s supposed to be punk to be real and true, thus hardcore ethics and bands with names like Integrity. But drag tells us play a fun! Can-do constructionism. Why was Drew bothered? Homonormative conservatism at heart. Fluidity should exist, cultural divisions not so simple, but aspects of minstrelsy are there, in gender and race. Yet his fundamentalist Southern upbringing and reaction might excuse it…but doesn’t. “Performs black, enacts white,” as Daphne Brooks would say. Why did Drew want to verify? He fears he uncovers homonormative naive realism — true statements exists because there’s an ontological material bedrock, false if no link exists. (I am way oversimplifying!) Performativity works only if the role player is real. (Halloween permits the drag act because it is sanctioned, the mismatch works because of straight stability.) The bisexuals? Homonormativity makes it a problem. Queer minstrelsy might work as deliberate illegible, unreliable and therefore queerer than queer. The band Always on Chapter Music is queer queer minstrelsy, pushing and destroying identities in the moment of stalemate. This and the Hawnay Troof makes you feel embarrassed at another’s vulnerability — but since it might not be real, it might be your own. Punk not just a safe space — “leave home!” “Ever have the feeling that you’ve been cheated?”

Georgia Christgau, “Dance with Me” — shows some of her high school students in a dance club clip on YouTube, Indian and Arabic-descended students admiring each others cultures and speaking of their roots, a very 21st century American story. Other stories told, nice anecdotes about the people in the dance club. It’s an illustrative mosaic of current teens of many backgrounds, Italian, Filipino, more besides, with Georgia’s own thoughts and memories and thoughts about Queens, fears of prejudice and racially loaded statements from the kids. Anecdotes and anecdotes and telling phrases and sweet breakthoughs. Was it a coincedence this club started after Obama’s election? Likely not! Merengue discussed, its transformative effects, the role of Dominicans in the school and the community, the pressures on immigrant kids, at-risk kids.

Dan Booth, “‘The Last Dance’: A Taxonomy” — songwriters use the cliché literally and metaphorically, here studied as finality, opportunity and crisis. Finality and the five stages of grief — denial (Sinatra and Mekons), anger (Halifax), bargaining (Brian McKnight, Gino Vanelli), depression (The Cure), acceptance (The Band, LaBelle). Opportunity — Drifters, George Clinton, Craig David, Donna Summer. Crisis — Graham Parker, Queen and Bowie, Disco Inferno. The final track gets a full play and analysis and it is well deserved, glad to be a part of it! The embrace of hope at the end of the bleak crisis on the lyrics is key. Saturday’s done, see folks tomorrow!

EMP Pop Conference 2009 — Oh! Industry, Oh! Diane, Oh! Ann


Liveblogging the Diane Warren keynote turned out to be impossible due to my phone almost dying but I was able to sneak off a few tweets like this:

“Ann Powers has mentioned the word poptimists to Diane Warren. The worlds are become one. Oh and Diane is a perfect raconteur!”

“Oh and Diane saying that a record label guy saying a song would not be a hit because “kids don’t know what moonlight is” = comedy!”

“Diane Warren trash-talking about Cher’s attitude = amazing. “Whatever, I got paid!””

“Diane Warren on power ballads: “It’s a vampire! You’d have to put a stake through its heart!” Gotta say this has been a great time!”

And it was. Nothing more to add but this photo featuring Diane Warren, Ann Powers and the Oh! Industry folks, who said if I didn’t send them the photo they would complain. And I wouldn’t want them to complain!

EMP Pop Conference 2009 — Friday presentations

This is actually my second attempt at this post — EMP how I just wish you could have good connections in this place…

Franklin Bruno, “‘Stone Cold Dead in de Market’: Exploiting the Voice in Post-War Calypso” — referencing its appearance in Raging Bull Franklin discusses the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan hit and its very unusual nature. Sorry about the scattershot report here, I’m typing this up while trying to catch up with Franklin’s words. Where did the song come from? The West Indies but that’s not all — ‘Rum and Coca Cola’ is a partial source given its hit status in 1945 via the Andrews Sisters. For “Stone,” it was recorded in 1939 in New York — Trinidadian calypso recorded in America. Discussion of the development of the calypso market and targeted demographics in the thirties, songwriter Wilmoth Houdini a bit of a mythomaniac who claimed all sorts of false firsts but who was a sharp operator. “He Had It Coming” is the original version of the song and is then played — a touch slower than the Ella version. Franklin calls it a bit backward-looking (4 line instead of 8 line, no grandiloquent vocabulary) but suggests that it demands a dramatic presentation. Said song is ultimately Barbadian, “Murder in the Market,” and a variant vocal only version from 1980 is played, with local additions and government references. The specific incident is unknown but Houdini brought the song ‘to market,’ removing specifics, aiming for an American market with the electric chair reference. Ella said to have picked the song but Jack Kapp a more likely candidate. Arrangement more polished but not necessarily as sharp. Franklin notes various differences, Ella’s delivery of ‘murder’ as slang, displacement of lawless supposition, Jordan as undead class clown. Franklin considers the rough situation women had in the postwar era and concludes.

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, “Jamaica Farewell: Belafonte’s Caribbean and the (Political) Erotics of US Pop”: Begins by noting the 9/11 release of Jay-Z’s The Blueprint and Harry Belafonte‘s The Long Road to Freedom, his compendium of music of black America that had been planned for thirty years, drawing on orchestrations done throughout the sixties and unearthed in the late nineties. In context, it now says more about the state of society in the sixties while Belafonte’s own success began not with American but Caribbean with his Calypso album’s smash hit. It now may sound kitsch but at the time it was very transgressive and gained a following and focus of desire. Besides his looks his use of Caribbean music allowed him to translate a ‘foreign’ style to an accepting nation. His family and leftist roots are noted, his partnership with Sidney Poitier in selling aphrodisiacs, working on his acting and his singing and struggling with finding ways to inhabit the song. His hamburger business success in the Village brought him in contact with folksingers, Pete Seeger, etc allowing him a chance to apply the techniques he had learned. His new folksong repetoire and his stage successes on Broadway, singing in particular with “Hold Em Joe” — was insulted by winning a Tony for singing not acting as he saw it! Released two folksong albums but pushed for Caribbean material, with executives agreeing to focus something on the adult market, easy on the ears but still could work with expats in NYC. The sources of the album are discussed while “The Banana Boat Song” is played, various earlier calypso hits and trends are noted, with Louise Bennett as a specific source and her recording of the song is played, quicker and playful. “Jamaica Farewell” is noted, based on the mento hit “Iron Bar,” then played, various further notes given. Island in the Sun and its film success noted (and banned through the South) — set in the Caribbean but hard to read as anything but being about the US. Belafonte as protoecho of Obama in terms of performative/liminal figure, the Black Orpheus story noted and his mother’s early love for Belafonte.

Rod Hernandez, “Love Songs in Other Tongues: Nat King Cole‘s Latin Music –from Hollywood to Hong Kong” — Wong Kar Wai‘s In the Mood for Love as what broke the Latin recordings to an English audience though the Latin audience had long loved said songs for decades. Idea for recordings came from his manager (from Honduras I think?) and Cole reacting to changes in the late fifties market. Various songs noted, apologies for not catching the titles as I should — really need to brush up on my Spanish. Cole Español and further albums discussed as well as efforts by contemporaries like Peggy Lee and Edye Gorme. Latin music often equals nostalgia in Wai’s films, various examples discussed. Quotes a critic talking about this being reflective of Hong Kong’s own syncretic culture, Philippine musicians popularizing Latin music, HK singers noted too. The framing device of In the Mood discussed then the crucial dinner scene is played, with Nat singing smoothly away as Leung and Cheung’s characters intersect. Just as beautiful on its own as part of the full film; Rod discusses the tensions and suggestions of the scene and the “Green Eyes” and “Magic in the Moonlight” lyrics as underscoring and potentially contradicting the feelings. Nat often shows cautiousness and restraint, feeling his way through the language much like the characters do through their own situations, a familiar feeling with Spanish even for Rod as he notes! A Nat song played demonstrating it very nicely (will get the title here later!)

Holly George-Warren, “Frisky and Fringed: How Wanda Jackson‘s Oomph Kept Her Off the Opry Stage” — plays “My Big Iron Skillet,” a ‘hillbilly version’ of “Stone Cold Dead,” as a handy way to bookend the panel, unintentionally! Great song of course, Wanda’s domestic revenge/sass fantasy from 1969. Ernest Tubb told her to ‘cover it up’ in 1954 before her one and only Ryman Auditorium appearance, then a late fifties clip is played showing her performing and happily ‘shaking her thing’ — kicks major ass of course! Went for skintight outfits with fringes instead of gingham and standing like a statue, belted out the numbers and formed a biracial band, swerved happily between rock and roll and country. Great quote about her lack of recognition, testimonials of her ability to hold her own on stage, using a ‘nasty’ voice and growls and more besides. How did she get the gumption to stand up to it all? Her youthful biography is discussed, an only child, singing early, seeing Bob Wills, Rose Maddux, and more! Off to Bakersfield and learning guitar and back to Oklahoma and learning piano, winning a local radio spot and became a sharp businesswoman and self promoter at 14! Big band debut at 15 with Hank Thompson, by 1954 made bigger label connections, “You Cant Have My Love” and more singles and TV shows and Elvis Presley and all the great stories! Presley said to her ‘go uptempo!’ and she sure did! Capitol wanted to make her country but she stuck to her guns, picked her own songs (very unheard of!). Various songs discussed as well as her ability to work in different styles, building into “Let’s Have a Party” and “Fujiyama Mama.” And from there to now, still touring away and now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame playing “Mean Mean Man” as she went in!

“Embodying Electronic Dance Music Cultures” — all right, a show! This is actually a neat collaborative panel/discussion/presentation featuring Mark Gunderson, Fred Church, Anna Gavanas and Bernardo Alexander Attias. Only here for the opening sequence, which begins with a moody piece from Bernardo, beats/sample zone (a bit like a cheerier Muslimgauze!). He then speaks on the question of authenticity — the idea that what they do isn’t ‘real’ music, that they are just DJs instead of motorskilled and trained musicians. Various images played, the complaint “they’re all fucking cunts!” repeated from within DJ culture from Deadmouth’s misogynist choice of words, a fear of sexual desire. Fundamental tensions noted — electronic beats cold yet embodying desire, not just to keep bodies moving but expressing sexual tension for real time and space. Anna saying “well here we are, the cunts he was talking about,” her words intersecting with further samples. She further discusses technological mediation in general from phonographs on, before going into more on electronic dance music’s specific concerns. Analog machines as more tactile/organic than digital to some ears/mindsets. General sample culture overview, tools and practices. Bernardo speaks again on prolonging musical moments, the disco/dance into house universes, beatmatching, and so forth. Fred then speaks of hip-hop’s lack of live instrumentation, further discussions of electronic forms, blissed out individual dancing vs social interaction on the dancefloor in hip-hop clubs, a validation of electronic dance music in hip-hop’s predominance in the world and especially in America where other forms do not have that profile. At this point I had to duck out to see other stuff, but really enjoyed this so far!

Leonard Pierce, “Women of Dark Desires: The Female Presence in Black Metal” — entered in progress, with Leonard talking about Metal Edge (RIP) and the large female presence in current metal in general. Black metal though — almost all male, worldwide certainly but again nearly no female participants, Countess Bathory and almost nobody else! Leonard tried but is a self-described outsider loving an insular scene, suspicious of the press, the fringiest of a fringe scene. Only two all female black metal bands and only Greece’s Astarte has scene cred. Many others named but the exclusionary scene is incredibly self-policing — no deviation ever! Women therefore represent a threat. Japan’s Gallhammer and Astarte accept this but have other priorities. Tritessa dismisses complaints but had no illusions or concerns over her role in carving out a place. Vivian of Gallhammer similarly dismisses the idea that women would be turned off by musical extremity as laughable. France has black metal but doesn’t quite seem to ‘get it’ — a black metal disco! In the US, almost no following. In Europe Cradle of Filth and Emperor might pull in female fans but of course the purists say they’re not really black metal, etc. — the old story! So there’s symphonic black metal and there’s bands like Wolves to the Throne Room and they aim to leave boundaries behind. The few female black metal fans he could find found less contempt from within the scene than from without. Gender as the path of least resistance!

Mike McGonigal, “Stained Panties and Hoarse Metaphors: Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers‘ Performance of ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ at the Great Shrine Auditorium Concert in Los Angeles, CA in 1955″ — “Touch the Hem of His Garment” is played and Mike mentions the problem of finding the song sexy especially as a nonbeliever. He talks about listening to the song over and over when he first encountered it, the opening line ‘There was a woman,’ the pause, the smooth insistence in his voice. A music where spirituality exists with other desires, ‘sensuality wrapped up in his delivery.’ Cooke bio in brief, religious upbringing, Chicago blues as influence, etc. The emergence of ‘hard gospel’ acts that the Soul Stirrers embodied, Cooke’s initial group efforts inspiring women to rush the stage (in churches!), the history of the quartet tradition discussed. Arch Harris popularized things but had too many kids in too many places and too much child support to pay! So Cooke comes in, leading a band in the shouting era but never shouted himself. Group’s image became part of the show, dressing nattily, full band backup. Bobby Womack talks about ‘the loads of pretty women all there to see Sam…constantly chasing him, and he chased them back!’ Far too much made of the seedy side of his life. Mike admits that his thesis disappeared in front of his eyes as he researched! So he plays “Nearer My God to Thee” and talks about its qualities and the circumstances of its recording, Art Rupe getting persuaded to put on the show, the massive gathering at the Shrine, produced by Robert Bumps Blackwell (good at staying singers to stay on mike). It’s the only time we get to hear Cooke shout, and when he does the audience reacts every time! It’s the opposite of smooth, the ‘realest’ we can hear him. Rupe thought it was uncommercial supposedly thus no release but who knows? It’s definitely stellar, as Mike says ‘an inducing of the ecstatic state’ made manifest. Cooke as songwriter is discussed, someone who stripped it down simply and perfectly, not seeming treacly. Songs were story songs, pastoral scenes. The original hymn discussed, its 19th century writers and its fame via the Titanic disaster. Not famous in African American life but his mom’s favorite hymn, and Cooke’s song is about her retreating away, him looking for her and finding her singing the hymn. A song as comment! First two verses set up this old time scene, then whole group kicks in, then a verse about the sheer power of song and faith that is the key. Concert created the sound of modern gospel, Blackwell sought to convince Cooke to go pop from there on, while also recording Little Richard along the way. Then a pause and an apology for dropping the sex ball! No worries!

Questions! Josh Langhoff, who I missed, in response to a question plays Faster Pussycat’s “Babylon” and my god this is sublime trash! Tim asks about the stained panties and Mike says “You’re making me revisit my shame!” and admits how it was dropped as a theme. (Title from Nick Tosches, adapted.)

Amanda Villepastour, “No Clause 28 and the Coming Out of Boy George” — the entertainment machine shapes perceptions and despite all his fame and work in his own voice, journalists do most of the shaping, especially with his extra musical stories (thus the New York street service deal, for instance). Thus this is a study of his life and sexuality through a different lens, Amanda having worked with him as a musical collaborator and keyboardist and observed his ‘strained relationship’ with the machine. Homophobia, media manipulation and more are discussed –examples of police tracking, Church reactions, Australian tabloid reactions and fiction are noted. His own ‘subjective reality’ is discussed, as well as the retreat into the ‘cup of tea’ excuse to hide the Jon Moss affair. Tony Gordon, George’s manager, encouraged keeping things quiet, while the press reactions after the band’s success — and the American music business reaction too — kept things quiet. Without clear public declarations speculation ran rampant, while his interview with Rolling Stone in 1984 was ‘more legendary hypocrisy.’ The Wogan show clip in 1989 is shown and the attempts to draw him out with a clear statement are quite amusing (and melancholy) and Amanda recalls him shaking with anger on the day. Clause 28 is mentioned and the response “No Clause 28″ is played. The current court case and imprisonment is discussed, with the rent boy’s perjury dismissed and George now in jail. Amanda concluded with general notes on confidentiality agreements and keeping things secret in entertainment — few participants have contributed their own stories when many can be and should be.

David Scott, “Gay for Play: The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name Certainly Does Sell Records” — starting with the Britney/Madonna smooch and Blur’s “Girls and Boys” we go into questions of ‘keeping a straight face’ in entertainment. Music is where ‘gay for play’ thrives as role, in-joke, shock value and fashion statement. Music hall drag entertainers are noted, Ma Rainey’s suggestiveness and hints, many other names mentioned (black females seen as less of a threat and more able to explore?). The Prairie Ramblers‘ love of ‘bananas,’ Half-Pint Jaxon‘s falsetto moans on “My Baby Rocks Me,” Merritt Brunies and his boy/girl confusions and into the swing era we go (“You’re the Top!”). More urban and sophisticated responses from Porter, Coward, etc. Ultimately a game of getting away with it with surrounding context providing an out. Francis Faye and her nightclub act and her way around innuendo are discussed and played. Camp is discussed next, “Love is a Drag” is played then more idiotic examples. Liberace and Little Richard, “Lola” and into glam! “Let’s goooooooo!” Enough macho decadence helped sugar the pill. Then there’s women and androgyny as power vs. men and androgyny as disorientation — but gay for play still remains key. Dusty’s bisexuality might have destroyed her career even as Elton struggled for a while. Bowie as the ur-example of gay for play while Hall and Oates have their own history. Peekaboo ambiguity, Michael Jackson, Pet Shop Boys, Katy Perry and emo guyliner. Genderfuck or gay phase? David’s own youthful history with Bowie fandom is discussed — it helped him understand himself for all the flaws, and the possibilities can still function.

Fred Maus, “We Were At The Beach” –the B52s are discussed since “Rock Lobster” is the focus. Its roots in surf and surf’s own roots and themes are discussed, “a serious engagement with the waves.” “Misirlou” gets played, as great as ever, then “Penetration” by the Pyramids. “Rock Lobster” and its odd structure gets broken down — differing verses and modes, odd intervals, “a lucid juxtaposition” of all elements. “Pipeline” gets played for reference to show up “Rock Lobster”‘s abbreviated parts. Gets pretty technical here, so I won’t go into every comparison! The beach in American culture from the fifties to the seventies is discussed — Anne Lindburgh’s A Gift From the Sea, beach movies, “Boys in the Sand” from 1971…(good subject but this is way too long for an EMP presentation! I’m taking a break after this before the next panel…)

Christine Bacazera Balance, “The Age of the Crew: ABDC and its Dance Dance Revolution” — ABDC short for America’s Best Dance Crew and away we go! Running since 2007 on Wednesday nights thanks to Randy Jackson — Christine wants to discuss race and gender in America through the dance lens, noting Pilipino performers in particular, street party and university nights as sites of performance. An assolationist study! Lots of laughs for that. Lots of subjects at play so back into vaudeville and the original “Meet Me in St Louis” and the gospel of muscles and vibrant civilization in the 1904 World’s Fair and the ‘original crews’ featured in the exhibition from the Philippines, rituals shown on a world stage away from context. Some CRAZY photographs from female photographic teams for fellow white Americans, a situating in visual media. Skipping forward and the next crew, males who worked in farms and factories and dancefloors, dressed up well and danced with whites and Mexicans. Bands know their chops and learned the dance crazes but got no ‘space of belonging’ outside the dancehall. Timed dances to prevent dance as pure release. Vod-a-vil develops in the islands and talent builds up and spreads back to Hollywood and Broadway. Jose de Vega in West Side Story is featured — and an EMP robot voice breaks us all up! De Vega’s role discussed, his and other actors ‘playing everyone except for themselves.’ Into Miss Saigon days and YouTube viral videos, ‘possibilities of a corporeal excess.’ Into ABDC and campus performances and cultural nights and videotapes and practicing at home and more! Too much for me to easily capture. Improvised locations for practice and lessons, patios and garages and impromptu parking lot sessions and band practices, the staging of bodies. Kababayan to Kaba Modern! A corollary to other crews, developing and exploding in the nineties and beyond, hip hop as part of a larger Filipino America, the streets can be found everywhere, intimate technology at play. It now actually looks like America! And a clip from the JabbaWockeez ruling the Charleston and more!

Ann Shaffer, “‘You Know How I Like It, Baby — Straight Hood’: Street Cred, Sex, and the American Teen Dance Fight Movie” — a quote from Lil Kim from You Got Served and a clip illustrating the tropes of authenticity at play. New hiphop dance films explore various genres, large crews, etc in distinction to the eighties breaksploitation ones. What kind of genre films? Ann argues teen dance is a good lens, with their tropes at play in turn — assertion of identity and pursuit of romance. Examples and further tropes discussed from other teen dance films, here crew is the social unit and dancefloors the sites of interaction and ‘ritual combat,’ with many elements at work. Three film clips shown — Served, Stomp the Yard, Step Up 2 the Streets — and the idealized crews demonstrated (skill, unique qualities, a key leader, etc.) Served as light side, Stomp as dark, similar but different settings and audiences, different lighting etc. leading to the lead character having to move on in Stomp. In Step Up the montage shows the rebel elements in the larger classical art school and hints how they will recombine (and all have distinct if stereotypical identities), moving into crew vs individual debates. Romance must occur in such films but not necessarily in these films — performances are solo or group, not doubles, and it’s seen as male dominated throughout. Female romantic partners usually not dancing at all, though in Step shows it via salsa dancing and exaggerated femininity on her part in dress and moves. Dance as language and metaphor and etc!

Priscilla Peña Ovalle, “Flashdance: The Erotic Video-track of Dance and Racial Ambiguity” — an incredibly serious matter! Priscilla describes the problem of being a tomboy Jehovah Witness Latina and finding connection via MTV and cable and learning to love the film and identifying with Jennifer Beals and being ‘a real girl.’ From there into talking about the film and its impact, with MTV’s origins discussed (consumption-oriented, youth focused, branded musical figures). Recall the images when thinking of the song! A memory of the body that moves to the music, instability, buying and belonging. Diversification happened with marketing playing out the logic of Michael Jackson’s breakthrough. Hollywood notes all this and Flashdance is made with an eye towards and marketed specifically via MTV’s audience. Video style editing all over the place, fashion crazes, massive commercial sales, club smashes, more! Video tie-ins to clubs instead of radio tie-ins. Irene Cara and Michael Sembello, stars! But consider the racial politics at work. Breakdancing, biracial Jennifer Beals, her body as a performer. Gender neutral name, surrogate family, liminal crossing over everywhere. Audience can read into her what they want based on who they are, though the media read her as white by default. Her features better sold the fusion of break and ballet, and of course she didn’t actually dance in the film! Think Saturday Night Fever as partial role model…and then my battery died! Sorry folks! Will be saving this and will have to hold off on Diane Warren liveblogging. Hope everyone’s good!

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