Session 5A – Workshop: Popular Music, Age and Ageing
Murray Forman and Line Grenier
Abstract: We propose a workshop in order to open a space for focused discussion and reflection about possible approaches to age and aging in popular music. We seek to identify existing theoretical and analytical links — or to establish new connections — between popular music studies and other disciplines (such as critical/cultural gerontology).
Session 5B – Music and Politics II
Tiffany Naiman, “Camp Fascism: The Tyranny of the Beat”
Abstract: Camp is often identified with gay male culture as a type of code, sensibility, process of humor, or textual reading that creates safe space, alleviates anxieties of living in an often dangerous heteronormative world, and establishes a system of signs, allowing for mutual recognition in reception. My project considers an alternate form of this sensibility found in industrial music that I have coined “camp fascism,” which employs the symbols, style, and, at times, language of fascism in performances. It can be understood as a means of transmitting a mode of political subversion, a call for revolt against the growing forces of corporate consumption and production.
The industrial bands I examine, Marilyn Manson, Throbbing Gristle, and Laibach among others, deal in camp fascism; they play with modes of control used by totalitarian states, simultaneously granting fans submission to a charismatic leader and appropriating fascist iconography while attacking the politics of fear. Exaggerating the elements within their own society and using fascist symbols to represent those tendencies, these musicians mock neoliberialism, stripping away its benign appearance to reveal the threat beneath.
Industrial music’s appropriation of fascist symbolism demonstrates how the genre intersects in surprising ways with debates around masculinities, neoliberal capitalism, and war. By reflecting upon a camp framework that goes beyond the stereotypical homosexual connotations, I hope to begin a conversation regarding camp as political action. By placing camp in the realm of the political, it becomes a tool of power; how that power is read determines how it is wielded. Consequently, I will also consider the potential harm that may arise from this kind of camp when it is not appreciated by an audience as such, and will relate that fraught situation to a coded musical history of attempted revolution and consciousness raising.
Clare Neil, “BOOM goes the Global Protest Movement: Exploring Connections between Heavy Metal, Protest, and the Televisual through System of a Down’s ‘Boom!’ Music Video”
Abstract: Activist musicians have often adopted the persona of an oppressed group or the “everyday regular person” in their performances. I will explore Philip Auslander’s concept of “musical personae” as it extends the ideas of Umberto Eco’s “open work,” and apply these principles to System of a Down’s music video, “Boom!” Bob Dylan, for example, used his “Okie” persona to draw his audience closer to his music. The audience’s interpretation, then, helped to form his persona and later music performances.
“Boom!” a music video by Armenian-American metal band, System of a Down, was filmed during the global protest of the Iraq war on February 15th, 2003. Directed by Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine), the video uses a combination of protest footage, protester participation and an animated sequence to reinforce the politically charged lyrics and rhythmic music. By inviting the protesters to involve themselves in the creation of the video – by singing choruses or speaking their opinions – System of a Down successfully present the protester persona and invite the music video audience to think independently and engage further with the subject matter.
The importance of the average person’s role in protest is paramount: the video asserts that each person in society is responsible for participating in a global dialogue. System of a Down’s use of heavy metal to convey this message demonstrates an understanding that not all listeners will connect to their activist message, not all people will listen. However, heavy metal provides a set of rhythmic and timbral conventions that allow for the expression of anger and frustration that “Boom!” conveys. In my paper, I will explore the video’s use of heavy metal musical representations with re-enforcing visual elements, lyrics and protester participation, to better understand its reception and place in the context of post-9/11 America.
Richard Sutherland, “A Place in the Country: Heimat in 1970s German Rock Music”
Abstract: The dominant image of German rock music in the seventies is Kraftwerk’s “dystopic industrial sublime” (Monroe, p. 214), a vision of the future in which technology has largely displaced humans. In musical terms this was reflected in the heavy reliance on electronic instruments and studio techniques, not only in Kraftwerk’s recordings, but also those of bands such as Tangerine Dream or Neu! However, amongst these bands that, alongside of these, loosely comprise the genre ‘krautrock’ or ‘kosmische’ music, there is also an equally strong preoccupation with escape from the urban, industrialized environment, to less modern, more bucolic settings. This is expressed, not only in lyrics but also more prominently through the visual media of album and promotional artwork. This is also a crucial feature of the creative practices of a number of these groups, particularly Faust and Cluster, both of whom retreated to rural settings in which to live and work. This pastoral orientation is a prominent feature in the countercultures of other countries at the time, but it also has deep roots in German culture. The term Heimat is commonly used to refer to this nostalgic, pastoralist aesthetic, which has found expression in many incarnations from art, to film, to social and political movements. Despite the fact that a number of critics continue to position this music in oppositional to the Heimat aesthetic (see, for instance, Stubbs, 2014), the paper argues that, in this respect in particular, there are, in fact, significant continuities between progressive 1970s German rock music and traditional German culture.
Session 5C – Sites of Production
Gabrielle Kielich, “The Recording Studio: Rock History Icon and Tourist Destination”
Abstract: Enthusiasts of the rock band Rush recently created and posted the first instalment of a documentary titled Le Studio — Temple of Sound on YouTube. The documentary tells the story of Le Studio, the now-defunct environmental recording studio located in Morin Heights, Québec. In the 1970s and 80s Le Studio, originally owned by André Perry, was among the most exclusive recording studios in the world (Théberge 1997: 194). Following Perry’s departure in 1989, it began a steady demise and has now sat abandoned for over a decade. Le Studio figured prominently in Rush’s career: the band recorded Moving Pictures and six other albums there, used the studio as a backdrop in music videos, and identified it as the setting of a pivotal moment in their musical direction (McFayden et al. 2010). Therefore, Le Studio became a distinguished location for Rush fans. This paper addresses how this documentary follows a trend of fan-made “pilgrimage” videos depicting visits to the site of Le Studio, and serves as an entry point to a broader discussion on defunct studios as tourist destinations. In this way, the recording studio is foregrounded as an important and visible artefact of rock history. The paper will address how the studio-as-destination demonstrates fans’ treatment of the studio as an icon, with site visits facilitating a connection between fan and band through the studio’s physicality, while their filmic representations create shared insider experiences. Moreover, it will analyze distinct patterns in the videos’ content: on one hand, the videos are imbued with fans’ nostalgia for what the studio was and, on the other, champion what it still could be. The paper will illuminate music production and space/place as forms of iconography in a rock band’s career and will highlight how these videos reflect new possibilities for mediated fan expression and participation.
Samuel Olatonbuson, “Sound Production in Nigerian Churches Auditoria: A Sociological Phenomenon in the 21st Century”
Abstract: In Africa, sound is arrogated to power and power to sound; and the loudest sound is the most powerful. This cultural factor has crept into worship sessions within the churches auditoria, everyone wants to be heard, the pastor wants to speak at the highest volume, the choir wants to sing at the highest volume and the congregation also wants to praise God at the same volume level. This has created a kind of a ‘war of sound’ situation within the church auditorium which has also led to “Noise Production” rather than “Sound Production’. Although, several researches had been carried out in the area of sound with focus on music and speech recording studios (analogue and digital), concert, recital and theatre halls. However, research on sound within the church auditorium has been neglected by scholars and researchers. This paper investigates these neglects as predicaments to effective sound production in the church. This paper records zero percentage of normal sound production and sound tolerance in all the purposively selected church auditoria and therefore concludes that church sound production in this century is devoid of good management and treatment especially, during congregational worship services. This poses great dangers to the health of the choir, the preacher, the congregation and the society as a whole.
Chris Wilson, “Commercial Artistry and the Embracing of Contradiction: The Creativity of Nashville Songwriters”
Abstract: The TV show Nashville has shed an unprecedented light on the songwriting community in the actual Nashville, which has been a benefit to the songwriters whose songs are featured on the show and raised the public profile of Nashville songwriters generally. However, the show’s portrayal is problematic in several respects, reinforcing a Romantic view of songwriters while negating the broader commercial and cultural context in which Nashville songwriters work and how their “creativity is integrally tied to changing historical processes, technologies and social conditions, and conceptions of individual and society” endemic to their work (Negus 2004: vii). Acts of songwriting are carried out away from the public eye, such that their depiction on Nashville has little to be measured against. Yet my aim is not ultimately to unpack how songwriters are misleadingly portrayed, as I have not encountered any Nashville songwriters who are anxious to do so in the course of my fieldwork there. Rather, I examine how Nashville songwriters utilize and manipulate the economic, cultural and social capital they have acquired in order to promote themselves and their songs and to tactically reinforce commonly held perceptions of their work while challenging others. This is succinctly observed in performances at the Bluebird Cafe, a venue that is also fictionally portrayed on Nashville. By analyzing particular scenes and songs from Nashville I juxtapose how songwriters are depicted in these instances with how songwriters work on Music Row, perform themselves at the Bluebird and make the choices they do when writing songs. Nashville reinforces many of the the central contradictions of country music that are crucial to its longstanding relevance as a genre and site of negotiation, which as my talk argues is equally relevant and to the task of writing songs for a living in Nashville.
Session 6A – Crossovers
Melvin Backstrom, “Seastones and the Crossover of High Art and Popular Music within the San Francisco Rock Music Scene”
Abstract: One of the defining characteristics of the San Francisco rock music scene (1965-75) was the use of high art musical elements and practices within popular music contexts. And there is perhaps no better example of such merging than performances of Ned Lagin’s Seastones during concerts by the rock band the Grateful Dead in 1974, and its LP release in April of 1975. Featuring performances by such rock music luminaries as Phil Lesh, David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, and Grace Slick, Seastones is a pioneering work of sound synthesis and signal processing. Its live performances in 1974 were, in fact, the first to use an on-stage digital computer and to feature the processing of acoustic and electric sounds in real time.
Although inspired and conceived within the high art music tradition that Lagin was trained in at MIT and Brandeis, and bearing no resemblance to what is commonly conceived of as popular music, Seastones was realized within the rock music world of the Grateful Dead with the help of various associated musicians. It thus poses important questions as to the articulations, definitions, and limitations of musical boundaries. Based on extensive conversations with Lagin, as well as newly available archival sources, this paper discusses the live and LP release versions of Seastones, as well as its connections to the stylistically ecumenical and highly improvised music of the Grateful Dead. It thus offers insights into the history of crossovers between high art and popular music while also shedding light on an important, though largely unknown, composer and his work.
Paul Merkley and Students of U of Ottawa, “Music of the Marier Family and Networks for Production and Creation: The Practice of Theatrical and Occasional Popular Music in Central Canada from the Silent-Film Era to the 1970s”
Abstract: In the course of inventorying and studying a large collection of music (much of it orchestral) used to accompany silent films in theatres in Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, stamps of ownership indicated directors of some film-music orchestras, of whom René Marier is the subject of this paper. His career, the repertoire, and inscriptions on the music (some of which can be connected to cue sheets) provide a picture of the practice of this art. We interviewed his grandson and were given materials belonging to the director’s son, John Marier, a composer of popular songs, music for theatre, and occasional music. Musical autographs, holographs, recordings, and correspondence show his activities, as well as the network of his connections to lyricists, producers, and other musicians (including Belafonte). This paper traces the careers and popular-musical activities of the two Mariers diachronically from the silent-film era to the 1970s.
Session 6B – Composition
Paul D. G. Hartley, “The DAW is an Instrument: Changing Perspectives of Music Composition in Contemporary Turkish Film”
Abstract: Computer-aided musical composition has come to completely dominate the contemporary film industry in Istanbul. Once an expensive extravagance, film composers have now come to totally rely on digital audio workstation software and synthesized instruments to produce the films scores that fill the New Turkish Cinema with sound. The rise of the DAW has been so complete that synthesized orchestras are now the norm in the perennially cash-poor world of Turkish filmmaking. This has had far-reaching implications for the work of composers. Today, film composers do everything from writing the music, crafting the sounds, to mastering the final cues. Additionally, their musical practice has come to be normalized across the mediascape enabled by the software itself so that they share a great deal with their contemporaries in Hollywood and beyond. And because their compositional practice is entirely tied to the DAW, their process more closely resembles that of electronic musicians who create electronic dance music and experimental computer music. In this paper, I outline the nature of DAW-enabled film composition and argue that this new form of technologically mediated composition more closely resembles the act of performance than it does composition. The composers use the DAW as a musical instrument—a fact that stretches the experiential timeframe of musical performance and alters their relationship with the musical sound. With this paper, it is my intention to outline how the case of film composition in contemporary Turkish film production (as I observed it in 2010-2011) gives us an example that can aid in fully understanding the implications of what computer-aided music composition has done to the act of making music.
Daniel A. Walzer, “Sound Environments: Fostering Diverse Compositional Practices in an Undergraduate Music and New Media Program”
Abstract: This paper explores the powerful influence of affordable technology on compositional practices influencing curricular decisions and learning outcomes for a course entitled “Digital Synthesis and Remixing” in the newly proposed Bachelor of Music in Composition and New Media at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
Students enrolled in the Digital Synthesis and Remixing course must capture a wide assortment of everyday sounds using a portable digital recorder or mobile device. Field recordings take place outside the confines of a traditional recording studio or sound stage; ultimately requiring the student to explore multiple sonic environments. Throughout the field recording experience, students document and organize each sound in a spreadsheet. Participants upload the sounds to an aggregate course drive and categorized each recording by timbre, sound quality and duration.
The first major composition project requires students to use other found sounds in the database to compose a new sound-collage piece of specific length and form. Sound manipulation and remixing occurs using digital synthesis tools found in commonly accessible digital audio workstations. This practice challenges students to create a new abstract piece with preexisting material. Once the compositions are finished, students write a reflective essay in which they describe how the source materials enhanced or limited their compositional approach.
This paper explores the sound-collage as an introduction to music and new media integration, while encouraging critical listening skills, form and analysis, basic digital signal processing and creative expression. Additionally, this paper reflects on how the course supports a broader mission of preparing students for 21st century music and compositional practices.
Session 6C – Gender
Marlie Centawer, “‘The Camera Gets a Studdered Shot’: Liz Phair and the Photostrip as Subversive Indie Media”
Abstract: Located in the Wicker Park district of Chicago, the Rainbo Club serves as one of the city’s ultimate hipster ‘dive’ bars. In the early 1990s, the Rainbo served as meeting space and hub for local bands and artists, including members of Urge Overkill and local visual artist/musician Liz Phair. Relocating to Wicker Park, Phair worked with producer Brad Wood at Idful Studios (a veritable stone’s throw from the Rainbo) to record her debut studio album Exile in Guyville (Matador 1993). Interestingly, Phair was encouraged by Overkill member and close friend Nash Kato to create a new album cover after Matador Records rejected her original design. Heading to the Rainbo’s black and white photobooth, Phair posed for a series of photostrip images which resulted in Guyville’s iconic cover (the image selected, and cropped, by Kato). Curiously, the photostrip as visual motif appears not only on Guyville but also in promotional print advertisements and music videos for the album’s two singles, “Never Said” and “Stratford-on-Guy.”
This paper explores the ways in which Phair reconfigures the photo booth and photostrip as a vehicle for performing identity and sexuality. The relationship between the emotional geographies of the Wicker Park music scene circa 1991-93 and the ways Phair’s music and photography interrogated a distinctly masculine, cultural space (dubbed appropriately enough as “Guyville” by Overkill) will also be discussed. Further, the visual culture associated with the photobooth lends itself to traditions surrounding portable photography; the ‘postmodern’ photostrip acts as a form of portable self-identification connected to the historical daguerrotype and also resonates with selfie culture. This paper suggests that Phair use of the photobooth (as space) and photostrip (as artefact) in the aforementioned examples challenge commercial image production by emphasizing a riot-grrrl aesthetic to preserve a distinct cultural moment in American rock and roll.
Alyssa Woods and Lori A Burns, “‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Bitch’: Female Appropriation of Female Objectification”
Abstract: Hip-hop’s objectification of women has been the topic of popular and scholarly debates (Rose 1994 and 2009, Perry 2004, Railton & Watson 2011), with Meredith Levande (2008) arguing that there has been an increase in sexualized images since the late 1990s. Recent trends by female artists have involved appropriating and exaggerating modes of objectification typically employed by male Hip-hop artists. For instance, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Lily Allen, Beyoncé, and Jennifer Lopez all released videos during 2013-14 featuring themselves in hyper-sexualized dance representations referencing mainstream Hip-hop videos. Minaj’s “Anaconda” (2014), Allen’s “Hard Out Here” (2013), Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” (2013), Beyoncé’s “Partition” (2014) and Lopez’s “Booty” (2014) are illustrative of this trend. Each can be connected through intertextual references to the work of mainstream male artists. This paper argues that these works by female artists interrogate and offer a counterargument to the dominant trend of graphic sexualization within popular culture and the music industry. While one can argue that these representations of the female body perpetuate objectifications of women’s bodies in Hip-hop, I suggest that they also contribute to an increasingly prominent discourse of reclaiming the female body. Using expressive strategies such as emphasis, exaggeration, parody, and satire, these videos demand a closer look at the issue of female objectification.
This paper examines the ways in which these artists rely on intertextual references to enter into the discourse of female body objectification. While their videos have received harsh critiques for promoting hyper-sexualized images, a close analysis of the intertexts and the expressive strategies adopted by the artists will enhance our understanding of the cultural commentaries that lie at the heart of the work. The analysis reveals how these artists create resistant cultural critiques while still operating within industry norms, thus remaining commercially viable.
Session 7A – Queer Representations II
Christopher Culp, “Serial Temporality and the Queer Art of Musical Theatre”
Abstract: A recent trend in serial television is the inclusion of musical theatre manifesting in musical outbursts , musical episodes, and fully musical television series. These moments inject queerness into television with their ability to juxtapose temporalities and disclose desire in its ruptures, providing a queer legibility of the ineffable. In other words, musical theatre’s break into song gives serial narratives a unique access to the internal states of the characters on an affective plane through the collapse of perceived time, often delimiting queer desire through radical negation of progressive time. The television serial, as described by Feuer and Newcomb, aims at an unending story that yields an indefinite sense of temporality. Musical theatre aims for closure in order to serve comedy’s function of mediating oppositional concepts. A musical serial, then, must navigate the sense of closure signified in musical form (in both the harmonic function of the song and the genre expectations) while continuing the serial prolongation of plot.
Glee, a serial musical, foregrounds the prolongation of narratives through the constant unfolding of relationships akin to soap opera. In setting them to music, however, these desires become audible in place of legible, erasing Camp sensibility and the queer ambiguity in mere legibility. This is indicative of Glee’s popularity in representational political discourse. Musical episodes, like “Once More, With Feeling” in Buffy, engage with temporal dissonances directly through self-reflexive gestures, opening up the episode for a multitude of readings, which sometimes reveal risky or even life-threatening desires. These episodes enact a radical rupturing that, when integrated with series as a whole, become affective centers of engagement for the audience as they challenge the sense of naturalism developed in the series, yet disclose the perception of time qua music qua ineffable, internal states.
Zoë E. Gross, “‘If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me’: ‘Homo-Hop,’ Queer Liberalism, and Macklemore’s ‘Same Love’”
Abstract: Hip-hop artist Macklemore has become a controversial icon in the mainstream music scene. The release of his 2012 single, “Same Love,” positioned Macklemore as an advocate for same-sex marriage and a voice against homophobia in hip-hop music. The song has been touted by many as a new gay rights anthem and a brave stance for a hip-hop artist to take within a genre that is notorious for its sexism and homophobia, notably the once popular slang term “no homo.” “Same Love” has also become the centre of debate and backlash, including from radical queer activists who problematize Macklemore’s white heterosexual privilege and normative politics, declaring him the new celebrity leader of “Gay, Inc.” Macklemore is considered by many to be one of the ‘first’ hip hop artists to publicly speak out against homophobia and in favour of same-sex marriage. However, he has also been accused of taking over the representational space of those queer rappers of colour who perform in the sub-genre “homo-hop.”
In this paper, I first examine the tension between homo-hop, queer activists of colour, and the Macklemore phenomenon, which relies on marriage equality as a stand-in for broader issues of sexual, gender, and racial equality. Second, I explore the music video for “Same Love” which, in telling the ‘birth to death’ story of the racialized protagonist’s life, props up depoliticized and normative narratives of LGBTQ* communities, whiteness, and American exceptionalism. I contend that narratives of queer liberalism prop up homonationalism and a racialized progress narrative, which operate to ‘straighten’ the lives of gays and lesbian through (homo)normative happiness scripts (Ahmed 2010; Eng 2010; Puar 2006). Ultimately, “Same Love” emerges within discourses of colour-blindness that insist that ‘queer is the new black’ and that marriage equality has replaced the (completed) fight for civil rights and racial equality.
Tommy R. Mayberry, “‘[R]aise your voices, sing a battle song’: William Blake’s and RuPaul’s Rebelution”
Abstract: William Blake, Romantic Period poet and painter, has long been considered and understood through musical parlance. He is well known for his lyrical poetry – i.e. his Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789; 1794) – and his Prophetic works, America: a Prophecy (1793) and Europe a Prophecy (1794), begin with Preludiums that visually and poetically explore themes of captive and liberated bodies and sexualities. Nearly two hundred and twenty years later, contemporary drag queen and recording artist RuPaul is up to an uncannily similar project of bodily and sexual liberation with his song “Get Your Rebel On” in which he sings, “Stand up, light a fire up / Gotta fight to live how you wanna love.” For this paper, I propose to argue that RuPaul is musically taking up the torch Blake imagistically lit with his “fiery” rebel character Orc (10.3) and the “[d]ark virgin” counterpart the Nameless Shadowy Female (3.11) to re-place the Romantic Period disenfranchisement of slaves and women into our contemporary disenfranchisement of drag queens/kings and trans- bodies.
My argumentative project for this paper is two-fold. I will argue that the Blakean characters Orc and the Nameless Shadowy Female pre-figure contemporary drag and trans- bodies and that RuPaul post-figures Blake with the shared mission of liberating bodies and sexualities through visual/musical culture. However, RuPaul has not created a music video himself for his song; thus, I am further proposing to do so on his behalf for this conference to see what happens when I set music and text to image and video for a musical text that I am arguing is a culturally-synthesized moment of a project that began with Blake in the Romantic Period. As a drag queen myself, I will do this through research-creating a music video of RuPaul’s “Get Your Rebel On” that will recreate and (re)perform the Preludiums’ rebellion narrative of liberation. This music video research-creation project of mine will act as Preludium to my paper itself, to open and set the stage for my orally-delivered academic arguments, ideas, and discoveries of what, as RuPaul sings, can “start [or continue] a rebel[-]ution.”
Brian Christopher Thompson, “Ambiguous Images: Imagination, Gender and Sexuality in Popular Culture of the 1860s”
Abstract: Sexual ambiguity, or gender confusion, has become a recurring element in popular cultural. It went mainstream with glam rock, in films such as Blake Edwards’ Victor Victoria, and with the music videos of Boy George, Annie Lennox and others of the MTV era. While this may seem a relatively recent phenomena, it has long been a part of Western culture. In this paper, I explore the place of the cross dressing “diva” in the original popular culture medium: the minstrel show. At the height of its popularity in the 1850s and ‘60s, the minstrel show was to North American culture what the TV variety show would become a century later. Performances comprised a mix of musical numbers and comedy routines. One of its essential elements was a cast member who specialized in “female role,” many of whom received top billing.
Despite the growth in scholarly work on the minstrel show, the “female role” and its cultural significance remain under explored. Few of these performers remained active into the era of sound recording and film, and resources were limited. This paper makes use of materials recently made available through digitization. While making reference to advertisements, performance reviews and other sources, the paper will focus on visual representations of ‘wench dancer’ found in the carte-de-visit, photographic images collected by fans of the performers. Together, these resources suggest that as with other aspects of the ‘blackface mask,’ the ‘female’ characters played on the sexual desires of the largely male audiences. They suggest, among other things, that attitudes towards sexuality were far more open than may be fully understood, and that 19th-century performers had a much in common with those of our own time.
Session 7B – Multimedia
Anthony Cushing, “Stacked & Back to Back: Video Mashups and the Music That Accompanies Them”
Abstract: YouTube and other sites of its ilk serve as an extensive repository for amateur and professional content. Users draw from this repository not only for consumption but also production. Enter the music mashup, which, for as much as it is an aural phenomenon, it is an increasingly visual art. The traditional mashup is music first, with accompanying fan or producer videos cobbled together post facto. In these ‘mashups with video’, the visuals usually flow in sequence as they follow the prominent vocals if using two or more source songs. Alternative, videos with only one vocal and instrumental source switch between visual of vocalist and instrumentalists. Alternatively, recent producers create mashups with the audio and video in tandem. Unlike music mashups, these video mashups do not conform to the forms of their source samples. Nor do they necessarily follow the generally-accepted four to five-minute maximum duration of traditional pop songs. Rather, the producer creates an entirely original song based on samples drawn from countless YouTube videos. One producer in particular, Kutiman uses split screens to display each video simultaneously with their audio. The result is a visual patchwork that makes explicit the number of samples sounding simultaneously. This paper explores proprietary production methods, the resulting song forms, adherence or diversion from standard melodic and harmonic counterpoint, and the ethical implications of authorship in this new method of mashup production.
Thomas Johnson, “Mashups and Mediation of Multimedia Meanings”
Abstract: Mashups pose a problem to traditional theoretical concerns of musical form and meaning. Entirely comprised of existing music, their structure and meaning would seem to derive entirely from their constituent sources, confusing issues of authorship, agency, and expression. For this reason, existing approaches to mashups have been sociological (Serazio 2008; McGranahan 2011), philosophical (Gunkel 2012; Sinnreich 2010), or taxonomic (Boone 2013) as scholars grapple with the genre. Most of these studies focus on relatively simple mashups and relegate the actual music to secondary status, if not ignore it outright. I will show, however, that many mashups, both simple and complex, manage to forge distinctive forms and to project original meanings precisely through their mediation of existing musical material.
To illustrate the relationship between meaning and form in mashups, I propose a methodology that draws on topics (Ratner 1980), troping (Hatten 2004), and expressive genre (Hatten 1994). By providing a field of interaction methods (Example 1), I suggest ways that these three modes of semiotic engagement interpenetrate, connecting mashups to a larger conversation regarding musical borrowing. Then, through test cases including DJ Earworm’s “No One Takes Your Freedom,” I investigate how mashed up music videos can support or contradict the musical interaction methods I provide. Indeed the relationship between similarity of sampled topics and subversive potential leads to a robust exploration of meaning that challenges a current trope that mashups’ merit lies only in their ability to create humor or subversion through “contextual incongruity” (Brøvig-Hanssen and Harkins 2012) and questions the assumption that mashup aesthetics arise from methods of construction (McGranahan 2011; Boone 2013).
Whitney J. Slaten, “Sonic Color and the Transparency of Live Music Production: Mixing Porgy & Bess on Broadway”
Abstract: How do live sound engineers’ consideration of social and technological transparency both clarify and obfuscate colorations of musical sound in the process of amplifying live popular music? In addition to amplifying music to intelligible sound levels for audiences, engineers also amplify music in ways that assert their hidden sound art, working to sonically and visually mask themselves and their equipment. Transparency is an industrial ideology that outlines methods of faithfully reproducing sounds without coloring or obscuring an original quality. Engineers use the term “transparency” in their discourse to describe this hidden mode of labor and the functionality of amplification equipment. However, live sound engineers inevitably and strategically resist this ideology by creatively coloring musical sound. These colorations not only occur technologically, but through the cultural expectations and musicality of the engineer who mixes. The practice of engineering live sound involves negotiating a series of sonic colorations that engineers associate to the visuality of computer-based graphic equalizer settings. These sonic colorations or resonances describe acoustic dimensions of a performance venue, resonance expectations of musical genres, as well as the resonances of human hearing. Thus, the practice of transparency entails engineers’ faithful adherence to fulfilling these resonance expectations, as well as a faith in their own expectations for sonic qualities of musical color. Drawing on recent ethnographic fieldwork at the Broadway production of Gershwin’s “Porgy & Bess,” this paper analyzes the mixing practice of a live sound engineer in relation to the social science of sound engineering and studies of creative labor.
Anastasia Udarchik, “Sound Visualization in Amon Tobin’s ISAM (2011): Synesthesia and the Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness in Neo-Minimalist Electronic Dance Music”
Abstract: Altered states of consciousness—such as hypnotic or trance-like states that alter our perception of time—have often been discussed within the context of experiencing electronic dance music (EDM) at live performances. The ability to evoke these altered states is often attributed to the various minimalist qualities found within EDM: repetition, hyper-clarity, minor variations, and encouragement of subtler perceptions. While this kind of aural stimulation can be a powerful cause of a subjective time lapse on its own, what are the cumulative effects on individual and collective internal time experiences when a prominent visual element is incorporated into the live execution of this music?
In support of his 2011 album ISAM: Invented Sounds Applied to Music, EDM artist Amon Tobin created a live show that demonstrated both an audio and a visual presentation of the album. Using the latest sound visualization techniques of live video mapping, abstract images are projected onto an overwhelmingly large cubic structure as Tobin performs. How is this intersensory experience different from a primarily auditory stimulation, i.e. the typical DJ-performer in front of the spectator-audience, in terms of influencing perceivers’ internal time-consciousness? And how and why do these altered states arise?
Using the phenomenological theories of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, I will engage with the discourses of minimalism, trance, audio-visual synesthesia, visual music, and intermedia. I argue that the addition of sound visualizations in the form of video images derived from Tobin’s music causes a breakdown in the perceiver’s segregation of senses, transforming these EDM concerts from principally aural experiences into intermedia spectacles that simulate audio-visual synesthesia. This consequently results in a heightened intersensory perceptual involvement with the music and a stronger lapse in internal time-consciousness, impossible to achieve through sonic means alone.
Session 7C – Social Media
Melissa Avdeeff, “Beyoncé: Social Media, Authenticity, and the Presentation of Self”
Abstract: This paper will examine the branded image of Beyoncé, in respect to her videos and Instagram/Tumblr accounts. It will explore the intersection of authenticity, image, and pop music through her use of visuals and online fan engagement.
Beyoncé both challenges and perpetuates the concept of authenticity, by presenting a consistent image across her videos. At the same time, she removes herself from her performing body by utilising alter egos: Sasha Fierce, and Yoncé. Her videos and performances show a highly sexualised female, comfortable in her body and its role in the public domain. While her image is removed from everyday life cultural norms, at the same time, she presents a contested image of an example of a contemporary empowered woman.
Beyoncé extends her public image into the social media accounts, Instagram and Tumblr, whereby she utilises the medium to provide access into her personal life. Although presented as her authentic self, the media show a lifestyle that is both highly crafted, and mediated by professional photographers and stylists. While many pop musicians utilise social media as a way to re-negotiate the fan/artist relationship and demonstrate that they are ‘just like the rest of us,’ Beyoncé constructs a parasocial relationship whereby fans glimpse into a lifestyle that is highly removed from the mainstream, showing that she is a real mother, wife, and woman, but also not representative of the ordinary.
This paper will draw on analysis Beyoncé’s public image, as documented through video and social media. I will draw on discourse surrounding the social and cultural roles of popular music and media technology. Whereas culture can be considered ordinary, Beyoncé is presenting a presentation of self that is entirely removed from the ordinary. I question what this means for fan engagement, and how fans react to these visuals.
Paula Harper, “Waking Up in a Post-Beyoncé World: How Social Media ‘Techniques of the Now’ Exploded a 2013 Concept Album”
Abstract: On December 13th, 2014, fans of pop superstar Beyoncé Knowles awoke to social media feeds populated by an initially inexplicable contagion. Literally overnight—for the western hemisphere, at least—Beyoncé, a so-called ‘visual album,’ exploded from heavily-cloaked secrecy to full-fledged viral phenomenon. For days, the album’s iconography occupied the entirety of the visual real estate in the iTunes Store and overwhelmed social media platforms; these mutually-reinforcing campaigns were accompanied and underpinned by fans’ one-click purchases, amounting to over 800,000 album sales in a three-day period.
This paper sets two strands of interrogation into dialogue. First, it explores the co-relation and co-constitution of social media platforms and their users: what particular assemblage of devices, software, and human action enabled the riotous commercial success of the Beyoncé album? Engaging with the work of contemporary thinkers like danah boyd, Kate Crawford, and others, I consider the particular affordances of feed-based social media, as well as the techniques with which users encounter and engage them—ultimately together constituting a distinct mode of comprehending and participating in what’s happening ‘now.’
Second, this paper considers the curious object Beyoncé, the pop culture product at the center of this set of relations. In the first wave of viral immediacy, Beyoncé buyers could only acquire the so-called ‘visual album’ as a holistic entity, an ordered array of music videos and audio tracks, through iTunes. Only through the establishment of this circumscribed set of formal and institutional purchasing options could Beyoncé’s producers realize and market such a seemingly contradictory product: a superstar’s ‘concept album’—an emergent pop culture zenith—promoted nevertheless on a platform of unmediated ‘honesty.’ Beyoncé’s baroque, distended pop song forms and repertoire of haunting visual tropes are thus enabled by the unlikely, even contradictory reframings of intimacy, authenticity, and immediacy afforded by social media techniques.
Bernie Murray, “Aural Perception in a Creativity Activity: Using YouTube and a Hip-hop Violinist to Develop Listening Skills”
Abstract: “Thinking in sound” takes people to a higher level of musical thinking (Hickey & Webster, 2001). This essential principle in music education engages students who become aware of sounds all around them. People listen, reflect, and analyze about the content of the message being communicated. Insights and deep meanings result from the musical thinking activity. The imagination plays a key role in music listening. A framework of musical imagination includes six functions: perception, sensing, memory, synthesizing, judgment, and experimental (Zerull cited in Dunn, 1997). Listening as a creative activity allows students to interpret and make meaning from sound. The development of the musical experienced is enhanced as listening skills become stronger. Kerchner (2000) discussed the importance of allowing time for reflection before and after a musical experience. Students gain insights and understandings from reflection whether they connection their understanding to personal experiences, dreams, or memories.
Zerull (1992, p. 27) states, “Students must listen to and concentrate on musical sounds without playing their instrument. Taking the time to listen to recordings is a valuable part of teaching improved ensemble tone quality.” YouTube provides a social media tool engaging music listeners with visual and aural information. This platform is useful for educational purposes or for people who desire to gain insights and deep meaning in music. In addition, appealing to a young audience in the classroom is also essential. In this interactive presentation, conference participants will use Dunn’s (1997) approach and music from a Hip-hop violinist to develop listening skills including: (1) tracing the map while listening to music; (2) discussing what was noticed in the map; (3) circling parts of the map that did not work; and (4) creating gestures to replace the parts that did not work.
Marianna Ritchey, “Pop Music Culture and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra”
Abstract: Introducing the YouTube Symphony Orchestra’s 2014 performance at the Sydney Opera House, artistic adviser Michael Tilson Thomas called it “the culminating of a weeklong celebration and collaboration between the worlds of classical music and technology.” Throughout the concert, the audience—those inside the venue as well as the millions watching YouTube’s live stream—were shown informational videos about the orchestra’s globally-diverse members, as well as a “mashup” of their audition videos. These videos, along with live feeds of improvised “digital painting” that accompanied the orchestra, were projected onto every surface of the opera house, including its exterior. In addition to this thoroughly contemporary visual spectacle, the concert also presented an aural one: the world premiere of “Mothership,” a new symphony by Mason Bates that incorporated improvisational sections for violin, Chinese guzheng, and electric guitar and bass, as well as Bates himself performing live on laptop and drum machine.
In spite of the YTSO’s much-hailed global diversity, the concert program consisted almost entirely of works from the Western canon. Oddly, however, the performance seemed to downplay the actual classical music on offer—none of the videos explained anything about the music, except to reiterate that it was able to transcend all national boundaries. Furthermore, the technological spectacle of the performance was often directly at odds with the sounds and sights of the music: the ventilating fans of countless digital projectors could be heard above the orchestra, and the audience’s live experience was somewhat marred by the sight of cameramen hunching over performers’ shoulders in order to create the heavily-edited footage streamed out to online viewers.
In this paper, I will examine the ways the YTSO performance deployed visual, aural, and technological tropes from popular music culture in an effort to present classical music as hip and relevant. Via David Harvey’s work on neoliberalism, I claim that the YTSO’s laudatory rhetoric of globalism and technological innovation expresses neoliberal values in keeping with current American economic policy.
Session 7D – National Identities
Darrell G. Baksh, “Still An ‘Audio-Visible Minority’? ‘(Re)Framing’ the Indo-Caribbean Image in Chutney Soca Music Video”
Abstract: Chutney soca is the name ascribed to the popular fusion of chutney, remembered and ‘re-membered’ Bhojpuri folk music traditions, and soca, the contemporary sound of Trinidad Carnival. While quickly developing into a thriving popular music industry in Trinidad since its public inception there in 1996, chutney soca has – because of a shared history of Indian indentureship that has fostered much cultural contact and exchange – also become popular amongst the community of Indian descent in Guyana. Despite histories of Afro-Caribbean political domination in both nations, under which Indian cultural expressions – including music – were perceived as ‘alien’, chutney soca has become very much representative of a popular Indo-Caribbean sound.
Yet, this sonic evolution has also involved the display of Indian imagery, dating to the birth of chutney out of the secrecy of Hindu pre-nuptial matikoor rituals and the female dance traditions that accompanied them. Having always facilitated these interactions, chutney soca offers interesting insights into the ways that sounds and images intersect to form particular representations of identity. This process has been fittingly supported by the rise of the chutney soca music video.
Accordingly, this paper seeks to examine portrayals of Indo-Caribbeanness in two chutney soca music videos by comparing visual representations of Indian ethnicity, femininity, and sexuality from an Indo-Caribbean and non-Indo-Caribbean perspective, in an effort to consider how they simultaneously shape and complicate notions of identity formation. It aims to illustrate how chutney soca music videos inform the ways that Indo-Caribbeanness is ‘(re-)framed’ in order to highlight the politics of identity negotiation and representation with which the Trinidadian and Guyanese communities of Indian descent constantly grapple, and to understand how these representations challenge ideas of chutney soca and Indo-Caribbean identity as an ‘audio-visible minority’ in societies that have been traditionally constructed as Afro-Caribbean.
David Henderson, “Sukha dukha, or the pleasure and pain of music video in Nepal”
Abstract: In her 2004 book Experiencing Music Video, Carol Vernallis expressed her ambivalence about her topic: “I loved music video before it existed,” she cheerfully claims in the first line of her introduction to the book, yet by its last line she reveals her “hope that music videos may yet evolve.” Indeed, in reflecting on Vernallis’s writing with students in my music video classes since 2005, we have felt that same ambivalence about an art form enmeshed in commercial imperatives.
As I have watched music videos evolve in Nepal since the 1990s, I have felt there as well the pleasure of what is on the screen, yet tinged with a hope that music video might escape its escapist dreams. Following trends established already in the Indian and Nepali film industries, many early music videos were celebrations of life, love, and beauty. Yet in a place where death, loss, and degradation are equally present and everywhere lamented, I held out hope that music video might yet begin to address this side of the world as well. The recent work of singer-songerwriter Lochan Rijal (lochanrijal.com) does so. In this paper I provide an overview of music video in Nepal and look more closely at the cultural and musical activism of Lochan Rijal’s work.
Jada Watson, “‘Hurtin’ Albertan’: Corb Lund and the Negotiation of ‘Geo-Cultural’ Identity”
Abstract: The concept of place is integral to country music, a genre conventionally associated with geographic regions, rural landscapes, and community values. While the genre has traditionally been described as a product of rural communities of the southern USA (Malone, 1968/rev. 2002), recent studies have demonstrated the role that urban communities played in the birth of country music (Huber 2008, 2014) and its prominent scenes, including Nashville, TN (Jensen 1998; Pecknold 2007), Austin, TX (Shank 2000; Stimeling 2011), and Bakersfield, CA (Ching 2003; LaChapelle 2007). Despite the growing interest in the relationship between music and place, these studies overlooked the importance of the place-themed songs that proliferated the genre. In her recent JSAM article, Jada Watson (2014) outlined the tradition of place-songs in country music, and offered a model for exploring how country singer-songwriters use place themes to negotiate their relationship to specific regions.
Drawing from the fields of musicology (Krims 2007; Stimeling 2012), literary studies (Fox 2009), and cultural geography (Gill 1993; Hudson 2006), this paper seeks to expand on Watson’s research, and work toward a theory of how country artists construct personalized conceptions of place. With Canadian alt-country artist Corb Lund as a case study, this paper will examine not just what place-themed songs reveal about region, community, and society, but also, what they reveal about the artist. Borrowing from political sciences, the term “geo-cultural” identity (Talukder 2013) will be invoked to interrogate issues of region and culture within an artist’s identity. Through an interrogation of lyrical themes and genre codes/conventions, this paper will demonstrate how the singer-songwriter describes life, work, and socio-cultural issues in Alberta to create diverse conceptions of place, and how his music helps construct a “geo-cultural” identity that is uniquely Western Canadian, and specifically Albertan.
Sangeeta Marwah, “Beyond the Sung Word: Locating Modernity, Nationhood & Identity in the Bollywood Song Video and its Performative Reenactments”
Abstract: The Bollywood song has historically represented a favored site for the nation’s interaction with modernity. While the song’s aural dimension has a wider extra-cinematic reach, it’s video allows for the depiction of nationhood and identity not just within the film but also beyond its cinematic boundaries, especially as re-territorialized diasporic communities engage with it to perform their own version of Indian-ness. This paper explores the song video as a contested site for the nation’s post-liberalization encounter with modernity and its ability to effect potential identity negotiation processes for its diasporic audiences, especially through subsequent performative reenactments.
In a newly independent India, differentiated censorship laws formed under colonial rule allowed filmmakers to locate transgressive action within the song’s narrative frame. As the country stepped out of its postcolonial protectionist regime, the song’s picturization introduced global travel to audiences, a persistent theme that has persevered till date with love ballads routinely shot in exotic locales worldwide. Economic liberalization in the mid-90’s set in motion a trend of conspicuous material consumption as can be evidenced in songs like ‘Suno Aisha’ (Aisha, 2010). The introduction of cable television spawned the MTV-esque song video that, further divested of the need to submit to narrative integrity, took on the task of displaying modernity’s excesses to its audiences.
As technological innovation empowers audiences worldwide with simultaneous access to cultural content, previously disengaged diasporic communities get reinscribed as national subjects, a move that cinema has recognized by targeting diasporic themes in films and songs. Within diasporic cultures, the song’s visuality remains a favored site for identity negotiation through performative reenactments such as fitness & dance classes and social (weddings, festivals etc.).
John Richardson, “Ecological Close Reading, Framing and the Case of Icelandic Surrealism”
Abstract: In this presentation I will explore the tenets of what I call ecological close reading with reference to surrealism in Icelandic popular music. The type of multimodal analysis I espouse eschews distinctions between text and context and benefits from a multimethods approach employing shifting frames of reference. While any artistic practice can be illuminated using this approach, which extends conventional critical reading, the creative praxis of surrealism exemplifies the theoretical points I wish to make here most directly, since surrealism itself is about aesthetic experiences formed with reference to shifting frames of reference combined with a sense of unfolding spontaneity. The discussion will span the confluence of punk aesthetics and surrealism in the Icelandic inter-arts Medúsa group, the bands Fan Houtens Kókó, Kukl, the Sugarcubes, Björk (who was part of the aforementioned scene), and more recent Icelandic music, including Sigur Rós, Múm, Hjaltalín, Borko, and DJ Flugvél og Geimskip.