EMP 2008 Pop Conference — Sunday panels and presentations

The final batch. The official schedule for the day is here. Final thoughts on EMP will have to wait until tomorrow — I’m definitely in relax and zone mode now before tomorrow’s flight back home! — but here’s one last batch of scattershot notes. There were only two panel rotations this morning as is the case with the Pop Conference in general; this time around there was no final group session.

Thanks to everyone for all their comments and corrections; I do welcome more of them at any point!



Andrea Bohlman
, “Live from Beirut: Activist Sounds in the Blogosphere” — Kerblog by Mazen Kerbaj in Beirut started in 2006 — “bang? Blog!” Punctuation and alliteration as interpretation, activism in the wake of the Israeli invasion. Musicality of response studied, especially “Starry Night,” a widely circulated mp3. News related from scene of action, urges documentation of destruction, questioning silence. First visual representation of silences (“keep your sound!”) from personal to media level worldwide. “Starry Night” was a solo piece played and composed during a night bombing attack — track played, sounds of bombs and drones, trumpet serene then squalling amid the massive explosions, silences then shock. Keep listening when nothing is heard, the “fucking silence” is needed. Improvisation as activist parallel. Song is a snapshot, how do we experience it on the Internet? Performed within that medium, we can stop, start, pause and comment, all blurring author and readers. Users are authors and readers, a kind of mobilization. Another fragment played, breath sounds and cars and planes and bombs. Explores improv and deconstruction, a reconsideration of the instrument and the process. Music a medium that acts out, Kerbaj quoted as saying it needed to be live. Sounds of war have become everyday.

Leonard Pierce
, “Wordless in Gaza: The Radical Electronica of Bryn Jones” — play some songs or not? Better to provide some context, at least. Has been obsessed with Muslimgauze for ten years but there’s a lot of music and almost nothing biographical. Basic overview provided. Life is a total cipher, worked in isolation, barely any live shows, few interviews. More prolific than Tupac after his death. Isn’t the work enough in this case? A true enigma. Made music in sympathy with Palestinians, was neither Arab nor Muslim, the Rootsman said he had no interest in Islam, never visited the area, did not use computers, “every track begins with a political fact,” but no understanding of Arabic. Invasions of Lebanon and Afghanistan were the turning points, eternally provocative to a fault, reveled in the image of violence. An anti-Semite? Signs are there — “Israel is everywhere.” Never donated to the PLO, refused to be involved further. A fraud? Pierce notes his own background and his own unsure feelings. Jones had no interest in an Arabic fanbase. Asked about living in a free Palestine, he laughed off questions about art in that context. Angry with questions about repetition. Records do cross all musical bounds, very widespread. No impact politically but a lot of musical connections. Didn’t think too far ahead, thought career wouldn’t end since peace wouldn’t arrive. Would have continued had he lived.

Jose Anguiano Cortez, “Ay Morrissey!: Latino Morrissey Fanaticos and the Renewed Possibilities of Fandom, Race and Cultural Citizenship ” — entered in progress. Overview of Smiths/Moz impact among LA Mexican Americans. Diverse group but the most disenfranchised are the biggest followers, rebuilt fanbase in their own ways. Initial resistance turned to passion, “lonely” music built into communal melodrama and independent fanbases. Manchester memories of misery translate well to the grinding oppression in SoCal. Anti-Latino actions noted, trying to succeed hard. East LA to IE corridor provides a large fanbase. An “anti-essentialist” strategy, an embrace to mark their own American and Mexican identity. Moz addresses subject more openly — “Mexican Blood American Heart” T-shirts by fans, also banda reembrace to fight back against racist denigration. Both strategies against problem but in different aesthetic ways, claiming space. Complexity and diversity found all around, what can it teach us about Chicano music? Not simply essentialized.

Barry Salmon, “Trauma and Cine-Musical Image: Music, Moving Image and Moral Universality” — Jeffrey C. Alexander asks how the Holocaust become a generalized symbol of trauma, noting the evolution of the ‘trauma drama’ (link is via Sage and will not be open access to all users). Hegel and Durkheim noted. “An engorgement of evil.” Image forms archetype away from specifics. Aristotle and Jonathan Lear noted on tragedy, catharsis and mimesis. Aristotle holds music as crucial, cleaving to mimesis. How these stories are retold is important, sheer size of audience and depth of experience means movie and TV versions important. Anne Frank diary as key, figure and situation Americanized in movie version, music important. Hanns Eisler and Adorno to be cited. First clip played, from end of movie — slow violin and strings orchestration, vaguely Jewish violin, Anna leitmotif, very sentimental and somber during reading of diary in attic, then the triumphant conclusion, D major chord. Adorno noted saddened friend, talks of music in individuation. Schindler’s List as obvious trauma-drama, culture industry, imagine unimaginable, but what of John Williams‘ score? Does not suture film, not only cinematic glue. Clip shown of Itzhak Perlman praising the score and the idea that Williams felt the history. Clip shown stitching together a wide variety of YouTube performances — violin, guitar, piano, more. “Girl in red dress” sequence shown, children’s song as musical base, point of empathy and using children’s chorus is now standard in such films and situations. Director of Shoah says he would have destroyed a real gassing clip; Perlman cue for Schindler’s clip noted, film sequence itself heavily critiqued and cut for presentation. Solo violin as affective moment. Music governs cue in both cases. Resnais and Eisler in Night and Fog aim for something different, music in gas chamber clip suggests Mahler at start, covers bluntness of the gassing in almost playful ironic counterpoint at moments, pastoral versus fingernail marks. Cinema being montage and inevitable cliche, function of rationally planned irrationality (cf Adorno). Reveals machinery of representation in the film, dreary narration, intercuts, all undermine the obvious as such. If potential of Holocaust exceeds language, how we tell things are very important. Adorno on poetry after Auschwitz, both takes including the 1965 variation. Night and Fog as the best take on the evil of banality. (Tom Smucker notes a Jewish violinist stereotype.)

Mary Greitzer, “Sound After Silence: Solo Voice, Sexual Violence” — power of solo voice in autobio work. If responding to trauma, how inscribed? Sexual violence as seen in “Me and a Gun” by Tori Amos and “Daddy Dearest” by Lydia Lunch. Tori clip played first, second verse. What can we learn? Little physical details, instead mental portrait. Lyrics can speak to any victim, but palatable because the details are omitted. Why this successful construction of identity? Solo voice recreates status, isolation and nudity, voice breaks at many points, bring the rape near, a woundedness. Maintaining a detachment with control and resistance, lament and prayer providing healing and surviving. Formal structure is A to A around a middle C, comfortable and comforting like a lullaby, sung by a caring woman but still harrowing. Lunch’s piece a monologue, her musical qualities, especially in rhythm, is key. Progression of letter insidious, building into the horrible moments then pulling back suddenly. Control exhibited throughout as she tracks the moments and changing gears suddenly, building uneasy anticipation. Molesting first told in an out of context “sexy” voice, horrified to find ourselves aroused, thus guilty. A trace of the complicated reaction to molestation. He preys on her, she preys on us. Cyclic perpetuation, a terribly human origin. Meaning inaccessible through text alone, a symbolic induction. He taught her come, she was almost destroyed, climax builds into sobbing rage that is also a mindblowing orgasm through manipulation. Conclusion — basic feminist tenets incorporated in culture, thus Amos fits into this, speaking up and surviving, strength and inspiration. Lunch is the complicated response, addressing other truths, a deviant sexuality, a double-edged sword, excoriation and pleasure, a defense of perversions. Cause and reconciliation are critically different, confronting the erotic response. See also Bob Flanagan and his response to pain, transcendence through reconciliation. Celebrate Lunch’s reclaiming of self as feminist like Amos — “refuse to be victim of own self.”

Marianne Tatom Letts, “’You Forget So Easily’: Radiohead‘s Amnesiac as a Failed ‘Directed Forgetting’ of Trauma” — Kid A as departure with more electronic/opaque approach. Amnesiac — “forced to forget where we have come from,” so Amnesiac blurs where Kid A‘s painful birth came from but not entirely. Memory and trauma — wanting to forget but also manipulating. Amnesiac supposedly more conventional, Yorke caustic about expectations. All tracks recorded together, Amnesiac compiled after Kid A release, so erasing the first album was a false goal. Amnesiac treating Kid A as aberration. Amnesia as surviving commodity in industry. Warmer than Kid A (?) but we must read beyond. Subject repressing Kid A, redeeming lost subject. First song has disappointment in nothingess, comment on pop music world? Handout has songmapping chart between the albums, noting specific sonic and lyrical connections. Clips played for illustration. “Packt” as claustrophobic, near death experience. Reaction to near deaths in Kid A? Language as illogical syntax. Epiphany to do with subject, not listener. (Do not agree with Letts’s assumption of overall unitary lyrical subject unless it is a direct address to the audience from Yorke as public figure.) Subject in Amnesiac already dead, where in Kid A death is considered as solution. Singles as statements of intent. Insistence of truth in representation in recording while listener looks out for oneself, a violence in exploitation (thus “Knives Out” and the use of the body and devouring). Subject can be consumed, while consuming. Song played in full. Amnesiac is unsympathetic eulogy for subject. Concept is larger than the albums, Radiohead as not just band but brand, already dead and served.

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