So I'm back from the annual American Musicological Society meeting. As usual I feel like I lived about 3 weeks in 4 days, so where to begin? Maybe with a song.
Speaking of the "American Recorded Repertories," my friend John Howland held down the last paper on that panel, doing an expanded version of the "six degrees of separation from Jay-Z" paper he did for the "Middlebrow Cultures" panel we did in Glasgow this summer along with Andrew Flory. Best conference handout ever:
All that's missing is the RAND corporation and the Bavarian Illuminati. After the paper I commented that while this chart looks like a graphic representation of a narrative of stylistic transmission (Arthur Lange begat Ray Heindorf, who begat Nelson Riddle, etc.), it's actually also a way of looking at how we listen to pop music as well. Even if you don't know who all those guys are, or that there's a long tradition of writing jazz/pop arrangements that capitalize on the juxtaposition of funky, lowdown, street American vernacular and high art style, if you jump in at any point of the network -- say you hear Jay-Z and the Hustler Symphony Orchestra -- it will conjure the rest of the the network into memory. I've written that this is how film image works, and MIchael Long has published a study (Beautiful Monsters: Imagining the Classic in Musical Media) of how this mechanism creates a network of associations that constitute "the classical" in the popular imagination. Which reminds me -- guess who won the Kinkeldey award this year? Michael Long is who. I take this as a good sign. Long's book is a really risk-taking, unusual book, a product of an intensely individual intelligence (and an intensely intelligent intelligence), and it's great to see it rewarded by the AMS. By the way, I just reviewed it for the Journal for the Society of American Music. (Here's a pdf.)*
So let's see, what else. The Saturday night party: please god never again. I know why they AMS wanted to have everyone in one big room instead of spread out throughout the whole hotel (economies of scale, plus it's arguable less exclusionary), but it just wasn't any fun. The food and drink didn't amount to much -- when it's all a bunch of separately catered events there's a lot of variety in what's being served -- and as Ryan at Amusicology notes, you couldn't find anyone. Even if you did, it was too loud to hear anything anyone might say. But I was exhausted by the time it came around anyway, so maybe I'm not being fair. I left after a couple of minutes and went to bed.
More to say, but I'll get to it later, maybe. Lots of good papers this year.
*Phil Ford, review of Michael Long, Beautiful Monsters: Imagining the Classic in Musical Media, Journal of the Society for American Music 3, no. 4 (2009), 502-07. Copyright Cambridge Journals.