• London conference was Awesome!

    I had a fantastic time rolling around London for a few days this last weekend. Ostensively there to present a paper entitled The Contemporary DIY Experimental Music Scene in Los Angeles: Metamodernity and Philosophical Hermeneutics,” I also took the opportunity to get good and lost several times in my efforts as an urban flâneur. Having spent the last three years in Los Angeles, the urban density of London was a welcome reminder of my time in New York and, though to a lesser degree, even Chicago. The real standouts were, the pubs, of course—for their endless supply of inexpensive beer on cask at the perfect temperature—but also a concert organized by Music We’d Like To Hear. In their twelfth season, MWLTH programs mostly contemporary music, often with the composers in attendance at concerts. The program I caught featured works by Newton Armstrong, Carola Bauckholt, Bunita Marcus, and Linda Catlin Smith; it was rapturous. So, thanks to the organizers, especially John Lely, for the camaraderie at the pub afterward.

    (picture stolen from the CTFMSG Twitter page)

    The conference, put together by an independent study group called the Critical Theory for Musicology Study Group and supported by the Royal Music Association, was held at University of London’s Senate House and organized around the theme of "Musicology after Postmodernism." Over the course of the day, papers from rather different methodological and critical positions along the continental philosophy spectrum were well represented by graduate students and early career PhDs. I’m happy to report that my paper was well received, though I wish there had been more time for formal discussion. Particularly as there was a lot in my presentation (as in all the presentations, really) that, I thought, at least, merited further discussion. Perhaps the high point of the day was, though, the keynote given by the fantastically erudite and witty Professor James Currie from SUNY Buffalo entitled “On the Uses and Abuses of Musicology For Life” [HELLO relevant Nietzsche reference]. As much as his remarks were a characteristically snarky calling out of musicology’s self-important position (and sometimes people) in the academy, it was a call for young musicologists to recognize the state of emergency in the academy surrounding critical considerations of cultural products (and the humanities in general). Furthermore, a call to recognize the positive work any critical thinking does for an informed body politic, as well as the personal pleasure to be had in struggling with difficult prose and the thought patterns it may engender. Currie’s remarks struck me as self-reflexive, funny, but important. What with recent moves toward political conservatism growing in the UK as well as the US, the training of a more critical body politic—one more aware of its ideological inscription—is timely and necessary.

    I left the conference feeling excited to move forward in my work; which is precisely what a good conference should foment, no? Here’s hoping Britain can productively move though the gaff of this Brexit mess and that the London I might visit next is in a better state even that the one I’ve just met. 

  • Wadada Leo Smith & Vijay Iyer @ Occidental College

    [amazing picture (and introduction) by Ganavya Doraiswamy] 

    I was so happy to meet the brilliant Wadada Leo Smith this last Friday evening! In Los Angeles to support his recent ECM release with Vijay Iyer, A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (2016), the duo played to a nearly capacity crowd at Occidental College’s Thorne Hall.

    Smith and Iyer (trumpet and piano/Fender Rhodes respectively) played a full set without stops, accompanied by an atmospheric third voice (a recorded track) that filled out a greater sonic landscape while informing the structure of the performance. The set was a varied, moving, sensitively textured work (Wadada’s sweat reminding us that it is indeed work) that, though exploring many seeming atonal sonic worlds, brought listeners to a tonal, reassuring finale. It was a beautiful performance and a receptive audience who responded with a standing ovation. 

    Wadada even signed my copy of Divine Love (ECM 1978). Such an inspiring night!

  • The "Tear It Down" aggregate calendar is in beta!

    I'm partnering with the good people at Tear It Down LA|OC to work on an aggregate creative music calendar for Los Angeles. We'd noted that there's no one place to go for creative music shows in LA like Chicago's Now Is: A Chicago Music Calendar, or Berlin's echtzeitmusik. The Tear It Down calendar is our effort in filling the void. Now you can find in one place a list events at many (more than 30 and growing) under-represented creative music scene venues in one place rather than checking 30 different web pages. It's far from perfect and it's undoubtedly missing lots of relevant listings - but it's a start! Check it out and be sure to email the moderators if you've got a venue, space, listing, etc., you'd like to see added. Woot!

  • Dr. Travis A. Jackson @ UCLA

    It was a pleasure to catch Travis A. Jackson’s presentation at UCLA's ethnomusicology department today, entitled “Jazz, Jazz Studies, Ethnomusicology: Moribundity and Other Changing Sames.” Jackson interrogated suggestions of jazz’s mortality that have been announced in the last fifty years from fusion, free jazz, economic turns, etc., and showed that the practice we call jazz is very much alive in spite of rumors otherwise. He noted an important move in “The New Jazz Studies” away from the “Great Man” histories of jazz so common in earlier jazz writing, and a move toward a nuanced scholarly discourse focusing on issues of cultural construction, gender, race, social theory, etc., reminiscent of the birth of the "New Musicology" in the 1980s. He cautioned, though, that this change of methodological approach can lead toward obfuscation of the music itself by a profusion of literary jargon. Rather than get caught up in this, he reminded scholars to be humble and keep what musicians sometimes call “big ears” regarding the music, the people and communities that produce it, in unraveling, situating, and telling their concomitant stories. Jackson is doing smart, nuanced, and inspiring work.

    If you haven’t already checked it out, take a look at his recent book, Blowin’ the Blues Away: Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene (2012). It’s a great consideration of the complicated social, economic, and physical structures that support any creative scene. To that end, it’s been helping me consider how I might construct the big research project I’m working on.

    photo credit: Petra Richterova