Sunday, April 27, 2008

Report: IASPM 2008

This weekend was the annual meeting of The International Association for the Study of Popular Music (US Chapter). That's a mouthful, I know. Last year was my first experience with the IASPM conference, and I was glad to be able to return.

This year's conference was conveniently held in Iowa City. Although part of the charm of conferences is going to different places, (and exploring their bars, restaurants and record stores), there's something to be said for not having to spring for a plane ticket, hotels, etc.

This year's conference was as enjoyable as last year's, and equally as draining (although that's partially due to a few other events going on simultaneously as well). I presented a paper that's I've been working on intermittently for the last year on the recent validation/legitimation of Yoko Ono's reputation in popular culture. The presentation went well, and I met someone who's actually writing a dissertation chapter on Yoko, so we bonded over that.

Here are some highlights from this year's music geekfest:

-As part of the conference, Friday night included a performance by Jon Langford and
of Mekons fame. I wasn't familiar with them, but it was a great acoustic set and some of the best in-between song banter I've heard in a while.

I didn't make it to the conference until midday on Saturday. The first panel I saw included a very interesting paper by Luis-Manuel Garcia on the vocoder and intimacy in electronic music. Part of Garcia's paper was picking apart Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek." I was going to post the YouTube clip to share, but you're better of just hearing it rather than attaching a visual. I don't know where I first heard this song, but I loved it, then promptly forgot about it completely.

The other panel I saw on saturday was perhaps my favorite. Liz Lindau gave a great presentation on Sonic Youth, John Cage and art rock, while Josh David Jackson gave another great paper on Bowie's tactical artistic and critical resurgence in the mid 1990s with 1. Outside.

I spent the entire day at the conference on Sunday. First, Steve Pond gave a plenary on the difficulties of jazz historiography.

Then it was time for my panel. Christopher Smit gave perhaps the most creatively written presentation of the weekend on the exile of Britney Spears, drawing a metaphor between our consumption and rejection of Spears to consumption, digestion and defecation. It was humorous, well thought out, and complexly framed. My colleague Dan Faltasek then gave his take on American Idol.

Then I did some hopping around. Luckily I caught Nick Rubin's presentation on college radio and the music industry. Interestingly, I felt his critique of college radio was similar to my take on public radio, and thus made me rethink the state of college radio today.

I closed out the conference chairing a panel on the relationship of music, tv and representing place. Andrew Vincent spoke on the relationship between commercial advertisers and indie music, drawing on his experience in writing a song for an Old Navy xmas commercial a few years ago:

Trevor Harvey then shared some of his ethnographic research about

All in all, it was a great conference. I liken it to a music festival. First, there are always cool things going on simultaneously and you have to miss out on some of them. Secondly, it's a great time with interesting people, but by the end, you're totally wiped out and just want to pass out for a few days.

Sadly, I didn't get to pass out for a few days. More like 3.5 hours last night. Oy vey.

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