Tuesday, November 6, 2007

AMS Roundup Pt. 1

Phew! Now that was a long weekend. And mine was shorter than most--due to scheduling exigencies, I didn't get to Quebec until Friday afternoon, and for the first time in my academic life, I wished that a conference was longer. Too many papers missed, too many friends I barely saw (sorry M3!), not enough schmoozing with distinguished elders. Matters were not helped by my travel schedule: it began Thursday evening, when Mary and I drove to NYC to pick up a friend after her recital, and then drove five hours north through horrible traffic, touching down at my aunt's house in Vermont at about 3:30 am. We were up at 8 to drive the rest of the way, and believe you me, I was a bit worse for the wear for the rest of the weekend.


Good Papers
  • Carol Oja's look at Leonard Bernstein's revisions to Wonderful Town to de-gay and de-communize things just as Jerome Robbins was testifying before HUAC. I need to get myself back to the Library of Congress.
  • Melissa de Graaf's look at a lost opera by Paul Bowles, about a slave revolt. Melissa gets such great stuff out of the Composer's Forum transcripts--this being a New Deal program that presented new music in public concerts where audience members could ask the composers questions afterwards. The results were transcribed, and you get an amazingly unmediated peak at what people like Bowles were thinking.
  • The whole "Analyzing Jazz" panel on Saturday morning. I unfortunately missed the first paper, but the three I saw were great. I have very ambivalent feelings about jazz scholarship, usually. 90% of it studies music that is in my period--the late forties and early fifties--but is music that I don't particularly care about, aesthetically speaking. And vice versa. I don't think I have ever seen jazz scholarship on bop acknowledge actual popular music of the period, which is to say the people I have a diss chapter about: Patti Page, Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, etc. By 1950, when jazz scholars are all so het up about Miles Davis, about one in ten American homes had a copy of Patti Page singing "The Tennessee Waltz." And while that statistic probably skews a bit white, it does so less than you'd think. This all said, everyone this panel talked about music I'm just not that into in ways that made me wish I were. Brigid Cohen's Wolpe paper gets a particular shoutout.
  • Finally, there was a really great session on Friday night lead by the Cold War Study Group. It was at perhaps the single worst time for a panel--8-11pm on a Friday night--but it was really great. So great that I'm going to devote a single post to it, in particular Tamara Levitz's fabulous call to arms, and the tension between "the Cold War" and "McCarthyism." Stay tuned.

Undoubtedly Good Papers I Wish I Had Seen
  • I missed every single paper by my colleagues at UCLA, and one by my undergraduate advisor. Sorry about that. I'm a horrible person.
  • There are a bunch of grad students my age who are doing work on American experimental music, work that is interesting, rather than boring. Three of them gave papers at this AMS--Ben Piekut, Ryan Dohoney, and Kelsey Cowger--and I missed them all. I've seem these papers elsewhere, though, and they are all very exciting.
  • Phil and Ryan's festival of the musicological internets.

Since this blog is not anonymous, there were No Bad Papers at this AMS.

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