The EMP Pop Conference just concluded in Seattle, where I presented a paper, “The First Rule of Hurricanes” – notes on post-Katrina songs. The conference is an odd union of academics, journalists and critics, and perhaps the most reassuring thing about was that the best presentations had at their heart the desire to share some cool, obscure thing the panelists found. In that respect, everybody showed the fan at their cores, which is something sometimes lost in the process of professionally writing or thinking about music.
Three ethnomusicologists talking about music in the Iraq War all had cool stuff up their sleeves – Jonathan Pieslak had Iraqi recruiting videos to help him talk about the role of music in recruiting, Lisa Gilman had recordings soldiers talking about the roles music played for them in Iraq, and Martin Daughtry scored with soldiers’ written transcriptions of the soundscape around them. The poet in me particularly loved “dadadadadada dadadada dadadada.” The papers’ points didn’t always speak to me – Gilman found soldiers’ iPods have a lot of variety on them, including a lot of metal and hip-hop – like so many people their age – but the voices were magnetic.
Wendy Fornarow had a healthy pamphlet’s worth of musician jokes, and Daphne Carr brought a crushingly loud piece of noise the put an exclamation mark on the end of her discussion of volume and noise. Holly George-Warren had a hilarious radio snippet of a Gene Autry radio broadcast where he explains World War II in terms of a range dispute, then meets Uncle Sam, and Greil Marcus surprised everybody when he played a recording of the Roots’ recasting Dylan’s “Masters of War” by singing it first to the National Anthem, then to Hendrix’s “Machine Gun.” If these papers weren’t written around these finds, the finds certainly animated them.
I brought Katrina songs, and WWOZ’s Joel Dinerstein brought photos of the first second line after Katrina. Toronto’s Carl Wilson found a ghastly, racist rewrite of “The Battle of New Orleans” for part of his talk on disaster songs, and YouTube videos were you-biquitous.
I’ll have more to say about some of this – and I suspect this post will be modified in the next few days as I find their finds and link to them. Right now its time to digest it more.