The EMP Pop Conference just finished up in L.A. this past weekend. For those unfamiliar (and really, my readers should be familiar), over its 10 years, the Pop Conference has become the most interesting and important annual convalcade of scholars, journalists, musicians and related folk. This was the first year it was not held in Seattle (next year, it will rotate to NYU) and as I’ve done in a few previous years, I wanted to provide a short write-up of the proceedings and more importantly, what I learned along the way.
Before I begin, I should point out that after almost a year, EMP has put most (but not all) of its 2010 talks on iTunes. That’s pretty cool though I wish the entire previous 9 years were represented (forthcoming?). If you’re looking for some good talks to peep out, I’d recommend:
Charles Hughes on the impact of rural electrification on music in the 1950s. He makes a great case for FDR inadvertently helping to jump start country and rock n’ roll through New Deal policies.
Gayle Wald on the early 1970s Black culture/arts/politics show on NY public TV, SOUL. Amazing show and producer.
Holly George-Warren on Arthur Alexander, FAME Studios and the racial politics of early ’60s Alabama. I missed this one personally the first time but everyone told me she killed.
“‘California Lullaby’: Sheet Music and the Musical Marketing of Southern California.” Josh Kun and his research assistants have dug through the history of sheet music in Los Angeles (there will be an upcoming exhibit at the Los Angeles Public Library that promises to be incredible). In particular, Josh looks at the role that sheet music played in selling Los Angeles to tourists and settlers, which I found really profound since I’ve been thinking a lot about the the intersection between L.A., consumerism and what Dave Grazian calls “landscapes of cultural consumption”. L.A. has always lead at this (hello CityWalk!). This history runs deep and as Josh (among others have argued), L.A. wasn’t simply sold to consumers, the city was sold as a commodity itself.
“The Ephemeral Forums of South East Los Angeles.” Jorge Leal was focused on live music in South East Los Angeles (Huntington Park, South Gate, holler) and how the lack of formal performance venues has lead musicians to get creative with where they play, including people’s backyards, in liquor stores, anywhere/everywhere…what he calls “ephemeral forums.” Very thoughtful paper on how youthful, creative energy will find an outlet regardless of the official local infrastructure.
“Glitter.” Daphne Brooks traces the concept of glitter (both figurative and literal) in Black performance over the last 100 years. This really works as an audio/visual paper so a sound recording alone won’t quite capture it but as usual, Daphne goes in deep.
“The Big Payback Live: How Hip-Hop Conquered Pop Radio.” Dan Charnas, backed with KDAY’s legendary Greg Mack, Emmis exec Rick Cummings, the Baka Boyz and gang prevention counselor Manny Velazquez put on a kick ass roundtable about the evolution of L.A.’s Power 106 from dance-centric station to the first radio station to boast “Where Hip Hop Lives.” A big highlight. Charnas showed some old, mid-90s TV ads from Power that were hilarious (but alas, not on youtube).
The Pop Conference is moving to NYU next year – hope some of you NYC locals may consider attending or even presenting.