Rockcrit and A-Mama Ann Powers thinks way too hard sometimes

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Can't Stop, Won't Stop the Pop Con

We're doing it once more, at least once more, with feeling. Dontcha like Eric's first line in the call?

Waking Up From History: Music, Time, and Place
The 2007 Pop Conference at Experience Music ProjectApril 19-22, 2007
Seattle , Washington

Music happens, then it ripples. What is the relationship between the circumstances that produce music and our swirling notions of pop's past, future, and zeitgeist? How do the times affect the notes? What factors literally and figuratively change the beat of a city? Some decry postmodern "pastiche," while others defend pop concoctions as multiculturalism in action or intoxicating aesthetics. But what are the power relationships at work when music stops time and lets us dance in place?

For this year's Pop Conference, we invite presentations on music, time, and place. This might include:

*Reading time and place into musical innovation. The breakbeat as a refunking of sonic structure and origin myth; or the social history of changing time signatures.

* The racial, class, and gender components that constitute a pop place or time's "we"; the mutating New Orleans of the hip-hop, funk, R&B, and jazz eras, for example.

*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.*Geographies of sound, or how place is incorporated sonically. Lise Waxer called Cali, Colombia, an unlikely bastion of salsa revivalism, a "city of musical memory."

*The dematerialization of the album into the celestial jukebox and other new media. Does the Chicken Noodle Soup dance live on 119 and Lex or on Youtube?*How dichotomies of nearness/experience and farness/history affect music fanship, music writing, and music making.

*The "place" of pop now, culturally, professionally, and certainly politically.

Proposals should be sent to Eric Weisbard at by December 15, 2006. For individual presentations, please keep proposals to roughly 250 words and attach a brief (75 word) bio. Full panel proposals and more unusual approaches are also welcome.

For further guidance, contact the organizer or program committee members: Jalylah Burrell (New York University), Jon Caramanica (Vibe), Daphne Carr (series editor, Da Capo Best Music Writing), Jeff Chang (author, Can't Stop Won't Stop), Michelle Habell-Pallán (University of Washington), Josh Kun (University of Southern California) Eric Lott (University of Virginia), Ann Powers (Los Angeles Times), Simon Reynolds (author, Rip it Up and Start Again), Bob Santelli (author, The Big Book of Blues), and Judy Tsou (University of Washington).

We are excited to announce that presentations from this year's conference will be considered for a future issue of The Believer.

The Pop Conference connect academics, critics, musicians, and other writers passionate about talking music. Our second anthology, Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music, will be published by Duke in 2007.

The conference is sponsored by the Seattle Partnership for American Popular Music (Experience Music Project, the University of Washington School of Music, and radio station KEXP 90.7 FM), through a grant from the Allen Foundation for Music.

For more information, go to and click on "Pop Conference."

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My First Meme!

Making my day after a lousy last week, sweet and smart Jason Gross tagged me for this book meme. Psych! Waiting to get tagged when you're a blogger is like waiting to get asked to dance when you're a freshman and a big geek (believe me, I know.) And it's about reading, something I actually occasionally do. And it's my first meme, so I'm going to do each entry twice! Here goes:

A book that changed my life: Mystery Train, by Greil Marcus. Maybe that's obvious. But it's also literally true. When I was about 20, I left Seattle in part because I was starting to write a lot about music, professionally even, and I feared becoming a "music writer." I wanted to be a poet. I stumbled upon Greil's great early work and it convinced me I could be both at once -- or at least, I could do serious work in the field that I was already loving. So thank you, sir! (Second prize: The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats. The one that led me down the path Greil pulled me back from.)

A book I've read more than once: Eros the Bittersweet, by Anne Carson. You don't have to know a damn thing about classical literature to gain much from reading this incredibly graceful, deep deep deep look at desire's pathos from one of the great category-defining writers of our time. Whenever I need some insight into the idea and realities of love, I go there. (Second prize: From the Beast to the Blonde, by Marina Warner. Lady sure knows how to interpret fairy tales. Very useful and fun!)

A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island: Though loyalty and love prompt me to say Christgau's Consumer Guide, in reality I'd probably bring Bullfinch's Mythology. It's got all the biggies, from the Western world, anyhow. (Second prize: How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. Gotta eat.)

A book that made me laugh: The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh. When I read it in high school, I had no idea what satire was, and it taught me. Now that I live in L.A., which it lampoons so beautifully, I'm laughing even more. Good movie, too. (Second prize: Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson. But that's just because I'm sick.)

A book that made me cry: Honestly, books don't make me cry. Only visual imagery and country songs do that. But there are novels that give me this exquisitely sick, twisted feeling that would be crying if reading ever made me cry. Two that don't need a lot of explanation are Madame Bovary by that French guy and Sula by that Nobel-winning lady.

A book that I wish had been written: One that represents the open adoption triad -- child, birthparents, and adoptive parents -- from all perspectives, in a balanced but emotionally open way, all the way into the child's young adulthood. We need it, not just for ourselves, but to share with the big ignorant world. (Second choice: a really good history of the alternative press in America -- is it out there?)

A book I wish had never been written: I'm not naming specifics because I don't want to be inundated with the comments certain disses would attract, but any book that represents any member of the adoption triad -- birthparent, child, a-parent -- as an irreparably damaged victim whose only life option is vitriol and bitterness. (Second choice: Any book that even implies that women can't work and be great moms, too.)

A book I've been meaning to read: Way too many. Just look on Eric's shelves. But there are always the classics: Anna Karenina and, second choice, finally finish Moby Dick! (I have, however, read and loved Melville's Pierre, or the Ambiguities, because I'm so indie rock.)

I'm currently reading: Savoring The Great Black Way: Los Angeles in The 1940s and the Lost African American Renaissance by my man RJ Smith. What a writer, what a scholar, what a listener. Also Snow, by Orhan Pahmuk, and An End To Suffering: The Buddha In the World, by Pankaj Mishra.

Added category via Jason:

A Book I Wish I'd Written: On Flirtation, by Adam Phillips. Ah, Adam Phillips! My sentence-froming god. That used to be Michael Ondaatje until I discovered this Winnicott-loving child psychoanalyst who writes the ass off any "literary" type I've ever read. (Second prize: Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems. Man, he was brave before he got famous.)

I know I'm supposed to tag people now but I think this meme has made its way around all my friends who blog, they've all posted already. So instead, why don't you readers send me your lists and I'll lift 'em out of the comments section?

Thanks again, Jason, this was fun. Though I must say, the categories caused me to omit what I think is the best American book of the last century: a little thing called Invisible Man.