Tuesday, February 21, 2006

IASPM Follow up

As you all know, I just got back from a conference presentation at the Internation Association for the Study of Popular Music - US Branch meeting at MTSU in Murfreesboro, TN.

My paper was on Mash-up's, and it generally went well. Many of the other papers were given by scholars in Media Studies, or English, or various other (non-Music) fields. In fact, there seemed to be a general lack of interest in true music scholarship in popular MUSIC studies! This is partially an outgrowth of the mission of the association, which is to draw upon a much greater audience than simply music academics, or musicians, or fans, or sociologists (etc), but rather to bring that diverse group together for a common dialogue. This mostly works, but the unfortunate result is a smaller group of people than you might imagine. This is a tight knit group of scholars that all know each other's work. I don't mean any of this as a criticism, but it did lead to rather small paper sessions!

I got a little side tracked there - back to the report. Many of the other papers that I attended included a heavy theory approach, and I don't mean music theory...more like social theory. So I spent quite a lot of time making what had been very subtle references to theory much more obvious. I'm not a fan of papers that go from quote to quote. To me, they seem like proof that the author is well read, and often the quotes don't make a lot of sense. I ended up with a number of quotes, but only two that I'd say fit into that category - one from Marshall McLuhan that I "rewrote", substituting "song" when McLuhan said "technology". The other was labelling Mash-up's as "Meta-Media." I had to fit a quote that wasn't exactly what I meant into proof that backed up my assertion that Mash-up's are meta-media. In an earlier draft, all of that info was there, but it was far more subtle.

In the end, perhaps all of that subtlety was a bit too much, as all the questions ended up being about my descriptions of the history and precursors. Yes, I know that Get Your Bootleg On is a good resource....but the damn paper is only 20 minutes long! haha! There were some big-wigs there (Mark Katz for example), but not one person talked to me afterward. They saved their comments for the other paper - on Mix-tapes.

Did I mention that the other paper was far more standard format for conference presentations? I guess I need to buy into the cool-people's club (see Kembrew McLeod if you want to know about that club).

Rebekah's paper was much more well recieved, even though there were literally only a handful of people there. Among them were the editor of the association's journal, as well as the head of the FreeMuse project. She also made good connections with some fellow ethno students.

Two great presentations on FreeMuse and on the Future of Music Coalition - Jen Toomey is an excellent leader of the latter group. Also saw some great papers on Music Video, one by Catherine Vernalis and the other by Joanna Demers.


Blogger Mike Boyd said...

The gap between music scholars and other intellectuals in the humanities is ideed interesting and problematic. It seems that it is easier to discuss and analyze visual art or literature/poetry in an interdisciplinary forum than music because of the technical language and lack of a visual to discuss (other than a score - essentially very technical language). This phenomenon is really too bad, particularly with something like popular music studies that really benefits from interdisciplinary work. To me it seems ironic because much of the cultural studies rhetoric is very technical and highly steeped in an approach-specific jargon - though in this case a syntax that has been adopted across several disciplines. It would be nice if every humanities scholar took a couple courses that introduced them to language and conventions is other disciplines so that they could become more fluid and less restrictive in terms of their interests. The unfortunate result of all of this is popular music scholarship that shys away from close-readings of works (there are of course great exceptions...Walser, McClary, others). I'm not suggesting that analysis/criticism is the only way to approach music, but by excluding it, we are severely limited in our scholarly scope. One approach that I feel might help to alleviate this dynamic is for music academics to incorporate analytic language that is accessible to non-specialists (many Cogan analyses do this well - also the "sketch studies" paper on U2 from AMS 2005 was good in this regard).

2/23/2006 1:36 PM  

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