Monday, February 20, 2006

post conference notes and bits

Just attended a pretty fun conference of the International Association for Popular Music. As far as I could tell, I was the only person presenting about law, or property rights, except for one of my fellow panelists (1)

Quite a crew: mostly ethnomusicologists, musicologists, American Studies people and communications peeps, as far as I could tell. A pretty relaxed bunch, style-wise, some snazzy peeps around (2) and (3), and a more grizzled cadre of folk, more male, and more pale, whom I projected (likely inaccurately) mostly do stuff about the 60s: ponytails abound among the older men in this segment, hip glasses among the younger. There’s my definition of snazzy. And yes, I have hip glasses. I also wore my purple metallic flats I got from Insider’s Outlet (that were almost 70% off and sigerson Morrison -SCORE), until it started snowing outside.

I kept re-writing and practicing my talk, trying to avoid the dreaded academic-syndrome (interesting work read directly from the page, result: audience death from boredom and difficulty following long and dense sentences). I think I did okay, ultimately, as far as being lively. But I felt bad because it seemed like most of the questions afterwards were ‘ask-a-lawyer’ questions like: “can I do this or is it illegal?” to which the answer is 1) I don’t think anyone knows for sure about most of these issues, and 2) I’m not talking about that, really, i'm talking about how people discussing music use categories that limit their ability to make rights claims..

Also, it didn’t help my nerves that J. Toomey who’d just given a killer presentation for the Future of Music Coalition, and whom I admire very much, was sitting front and center and seemingly focused (but not very cheerfully) on me. Considering she’d come straight off a much-delayed plane to her own presentation after what sounded like a day in transit, though, I’m amazed she stuck around at all, and i shouldn't pretend it was necessarily anything to do with me. If I was in her shoes I mighta been sleeping with my eyes open.. anyway I know it’s pointless to project onto an audience. I couldn’t keep from hoping that what I said seemed relevant or interesting, especially to folks involved in activism, because that is what I want to be a part of. And that’s one of the organizations (like the EFF) that I keep wanting to have a project or some good reason to interact with, and it hasn’t quite come yet. Early days yet I suppose.

For a first paper, it didn’t do badly, I kept to time, and a couple folk afterwards said it was clear, and people did seem generally interested (I saw some nods out there at various points). I think it was pretty different from the kinds of things other people were talking about, but it still seemed relevant to some of the folks I talked to, which is hopeful.

There were some highlights from the rest of the weekend:
  1. One of my fellow presenters (Prof. Geoff Hull, MTSU) gave an illuminating if depressing overview of the state of unpublished works, music that was never officially released. Based partly on the Capitol v. Naxos case (which I think I’ve already mentioned as one of the more depressing recent legal decisions.. what are they smoking in NY, where the Bridgeport music anti-sampling case went down as well?), and in a really recent ongoing case with some recordings of Hank Williams that were made as spots for radio and then fell by the wayside. Who has the right to sell copies of these kinds of recordings? A hint: it’s totally complicated and makes no sense.
    1. Another highlight was that he played recordings they have at the Center for Popular Music at the university where the conference was, some of which are in this unclear legal limbo.. including the Golden Gate Quartet! Lovely sounds.

  2. A killer set of papers on video game music. The one I liked best was on Grand Theft Auto’s radio station programming.. almost redeemed the game for me, it was so interesting.. although whenever I watch it I feel twitchy and sick. I think I’d just cruise around listening to the radio (assuming I managed to score a car with one somewhere). Who’s going to write the program that hacks into GTA and inserts your own programming? Hard to do on a separate platform game I guess, but I have faith. Then again the Pico-pico music one was pretty frickin fun. I am now seeking out Plus-tech Squeezebox for their fabulous sounds.

  3. Also good sounds coming from a presentation on Taiwanese rap. The content was good as well (notions of authenticity figured in a well-nuanced way), but I confess I’m even more hot for some of those records!! Some coool sounds to drop here and there, although I guess I should ask someone to vet the lyrics too
  4. karaoke at the hotel bar on the last night. too funny.
back to the conference itself, after three or four panels, I started noticing how difficult it seemed to be (or how rare) to incorporate a gender critique into one’s analysis. Either you “do gender” or you don’t, I guess. While I think there is definitely space to focus on one particular kind of analysis, I also felt like there should be a way to bring in gender as a concern more often...

I’m totally hypocritical, because I haven’t integrated a gendered or a feminist analysis into my own research and approach. I guess I can say I’m influenced by especially feminist analysis, that I see as coming from feminism, of the “personal/political” in that I’m very wary of naturalizing systems that create hierarchies of power, even if they seem to be personal/private/individual sets of acts. I don’t buy arguments that things are ‘just personal’ or ‘private/individual’ acts. But as far as incorporating a gender story into my concerns – so far, not so much. Although one of my papers this semester will hopefully do just that, since I want to get into the idea of fans and fandom and if there's a way to discuss the creativity that goes on there, as well as whether fan scan make some claims for rights to access music, and also the way fandom seems like it might be gendered (and possibly rights claims limited) - girl fans = consumers, boy fans = expertise...


  1. Re: GTA and your own radio programming. At least on the x-box, one of the radio stations you can listen to is in fact your own music that you've placed on the xbox's hard drive (ripped from CD to a protected but common content area). You can't do this with playstations, which lack a hard drive and the mechanism to register loaded music, but on the PC grand theft auto hacks are very common, and of course, controversial (ahem HOT COFFEE).

    but yes, mad props to rockstar games for having incredible taste in music of every genre. I'm surprised they haven't been approached by Sirius or XM about programming a number of GTA satellite stations.

  2. absolutely. That's what I mean by not wanting to naturalize it

  3. while the private/public distinction can be irritating because it feels meaningless, it's also true that some cultures find meaning in that distinction, and that it often carries symbolic weight. misguided or no, if people believe in something, it is interesting to understand why cultures make the distinction, what falls in either category, and what the organizing principals are.