IASPM-US and Pop Conference

Sounds of the City
IASPM-US Annual Conference
Jointly held with 2012 EMP Pop Conference presented by NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music
New York City, March 22-25, 2012

Charlie Gillett’s pioneering The Sound of the City declared, with its title, that the electrified roots music of Elvis and Little Richard was an urban synthesis: “In rock and roll, the strident, repetitive sounds of city life were, in effect, reproduced as melody and rhythm.” But the metropolitan modernities of popular music take many different forms: Nuyorican salsa, Ralph Ellison “living with jazz” in his apartment building, San Francisco open-air psychedelia, double dutch and breakdancing, Amadou & Mariam’s “fast food Dakar,” and beyond. So for this year’s joint International Association for the Study of Popular Music-US branch gathering and EMP Museum Pop Conference, presented by New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, we copyedit Gillett slightly and ask that presenters explore sounds of the city—the reverberations of people gathered en masse. Following are some suggested but not required subthemes. All styles and eras of pop music are welcome.

Cultural Collisions. New York exemplifies urban notions of music made modern: disparate people tossed together in a structural blender. This takes multiple forms: immigrants and musical migrations; African Americans and others leaving rural areas for urban spots; taste formations of urbanity and cosmopolitanism; subcultures; Tin Pan Alley(s); large scale amusements. What are the micro-sites of city music, from artisan guitar pedal makers to crate diggers to after-hours Koreatown karaoke bars? Do Shibuya-kei, kwaito, or baile funk suggest evolving paradigms?

The Global Metropolis. Can sentimental myths of the city as melting pot be critiqued? Do power relationships differentiate uptown and downtown grooves? Is hip-hop’s reliance on the urban different from Gillett’s rock and rollers? LA sprawl a rejoinder to NYC density? How do smaller hubs (Austin, Philadelphia, Manchester, Frankfurt, Osaka, Accra) remix global flows? What cuts hipsters off from a multicultural dynamic in places like Williamsburg? Does the glamor of the female or feminized pop star reflect the agenda of global capitalism? Has globalization rendered urban exchanges subsidiary?

Urban Listening. Does urban space alter the ways we register recordings and live performance? Are there larger effects to listening amid the daily hustle and bustle? Can the insights of sound studies inform pop analyses to show how city listening changes music making and fandom What allows cities to acquire signature sounds? What listening creates identity within shared space, from the family around the radio to girl screamers at the Hollywood Bowl or a boombox in motion? Is our unexamined belief that certain sonic patterns are urban as much imaginary as material?

Ladies on the Town: Cities have always been sites of female empowerment and risk taking, where the village daughter becomes a Bollywood star or a budding feminist forms an all-girl band. If this has stimulated fears of “women adrift,” free of small-town norms, from Dreiser’s Sister Carrie to the girls who “need blinders” in Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” it has also incited celebrations: Beyonce’s single ladies, “up in the club, doin’ my own little thing.” How, within music, has the city made women, and how have women made the city?

Sex and the City: From Detroit and Chicago in the 1970s-1980s to Berlin in the 1990-2000s, great cities have often developed signature dance music sounds around which urban queer (and often minority) cultures have gathered. Does the city still gather races, genders, and sexual orientations as “one nation under a groove”? Can country linedancing, as popularized by Urban Cowboy, be positioned alongside such legacies?

The “Sounds of the City” conference will offer a cultural collision of the best kind. Its program brings together two longstanding institutions. IASPM-US publishes The Journal of Popular Music Studies and anchors American popular music scholarship. EMP’s annual Pop Conference, launched in Seattle in 2002, joins academics, journalists, performers, and dedicated fans in an all too rare common discussion. Now, IASPM-US and the Pop Conference unite. And thanks to NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, they do so in the city called home by most of the music press, a group we hope to see amply represented.

This year’s program committee includes Daphne Brooks (Princeton), Anthony Kwame Harrison (Virginia Tech), Hua Hsu (Vassar), Patricia Costa Kim (EMP), Jason King (NYU Clive Davis Institute), Karl Hagstrom Miller (University of Texas), Evie Nagy (Rolling Stone), Tavia Nyong’o(NYU), Caroline Polk O’Meara (University of Texas), Ann Powers (NPR Music), and Greg Tate (Village Voice, Burnt Sugar, and Coon Bidness).

Please send proposals to organizer Eric Weisbard (University of Alabama) at Eric.Weisbard@gmail.com. The deadline for proposals is Tuesday, November 15. Individual proposals should be 250 words with a 50 word bio. Panel proposals should specify 90 minutes with three presenters, or 120 minutes with four presenters. They should also include a 125 word overview, 250 words for individual proposals, and a 50 word bio, or a 250 word overview with multiple 50 word bios for roundtable discussions.

We welcome unorthodox proposals and those that target a general interest audience. Registration is FREE for presenters and the public. For more information on past Pop Conferences, go to http://www.empmuseum.org/popconference.