AMS/SMT 2016: The One with the Sound Bleed

Mansplaining in Erlkönig, To Pimp a Butterfly, AMS After Dark, and more. Quick summaries of each of the papers I went to (warning: mostly early music and pop) and a Twitter roundup.
Megan L. Lavengood

Now that I’m back from (lovely!!) Vancouver, I’ll reflect on my #amsmt16 experience this year.

Here are the papers I saw, with a quick summary of each and maybe a few personal notes.

  • Thursday
    • Martha Sullivan, “The Siren Topos, Male Anxiety, and Female Agency”—Defined a siren topic: large leap upward, virtuosity being two big parts. Definitely entertained by this paper, especially the parts about male anxiety around the female voice. Hadn’t thought about those topics before.
    • Johanna Frymoyer, “Octatonic and Ombra: The Russian Supernatural as a Musical Topic”—connected the ombra topic with the octatonic scale as a way of evoking the supernatural in a particularly Russian way.

    • John Covach, “A View from Guitar Land: Shifting Positional Listening in Complex Textures”—first paper in the Positional Listening session, defined positional listening as deliberately tuning out other instruments and focusing on any one.
    • Kevin Holm-Hudson, “Stratified Keyboard Harmony in the Music of Todd Rundgren”—talked about conceptions of keyboard harmony as stratified into left and right hands. This resonated with me as a keyboard player. I hardly ever think of chords like E11 as such; instead I think of them as an E in the left hand with a D chord in the right hand.
    • Brad Osborn, “Metric Levels from Behind the Kit (and Elsewhere)”—discussed the impact of different kinds of click tracks on the performance of a Radiohead riff.
    • Greg McCandless, “Attentional Cost and Positional Analysis: A Bassist’s Perspective”—an intense runthrough of a phenomenological gestalt approach to performance and listening. I think basically when a part gets too difficult, the player must necessarily tune out the other parts… I would need to sit down with this paper and read it to get a better grip on it. Defined a complexity scale for bass playing to help evaluate the phenomenology of a bassist’s perspective.
  • Friday
    • Andrew Flory, “‘She Needs Me’: Marvin Gaye, Crooning, and Vocal Agency at Motown”—as one commenter described, this paper was a “public service,” because Flory introduced all of us to several previously-unreleased master tapes of some Gaye demos. The best kind of show-and-tell, like musicological archaeology.
    • Mark Burford, “Mahalia Jackson’s Class Politics of Voice”—a sophisticated analysis of identity creation by Mahalia Jackson, also with a lot of great recordings.
    • Allison McCracken, “The Vocal Politics of NBC’s ‘The Voice’: Exposing Cultural Essentialism, Affirming Social Hierarchy”—revealed how “The Voice” both promotes singers who are Othered but ultimately reinforces white male hegemony.
    • Maureen Mahon, “Not Like a Girl: Tina Turner’s Vocal Sound and Rock and Roll Success”—an account of how Tina Turner’s rock voice set her apart and how it impacted her journey as a musician.
    • Edward Klorman, “Koch and Momigny: Theorists of Agency in Mozart’s Quartets?”—the title says it all—Koch and Momigny suggest how a quartet might be understood as a conversation. But the star of this talk was Klorman playing us a recording he had made of Momigny’s arrangement of that D minor Mozart quartet for voice and string quartet. Listen here.
    • Peter Schubert and Julie Cumming, “‘Maintaining a Point’: Repeated Motives over an Equal-Note Cantus Firmus from Josquin to Monteverdi”—My first early music paper at a dedicated early music session! Elucidated a passage that I did always find confusing in the Lusitano fugato treatise, about repeating a passage and then having a fast scale. Nice demonstrations of improvisation too.
    • Megan Kaes Long, “Tonality’s Missing Link: Text Setting and Metrical Regularity in Italianate Partsong at the Turn of the Seventeenth Century”—connected poetry to metrical settings and suggested that partsong may have given rise to modern conceptions of meter? I think?
    • Paula Harper, “Beyoncé : How Viral Techniques Circulated a Visual Album”—documented the social/cultural/economic implications of distributing an album through viral marketing.
  • Saturday
    • Keynote: Scott Burnham, “Music and Words”—widely recognized as one of the greatest keynotes in recent memory. Discussed ways of writing about music as well as the setting of words to music.
    • Pop Music Interest Group panel on To Pimp a Butterfly by Jim Bungert, Noriko Manabe, John Mattessich, Mitch Ohriner , Robin Attas—great to see a session devoted to rap, even if we had to make it up. Bungert gave a rundown of rap analysis with “King Kunta,” Manabe talked about the use of “Momma” as a protest song, Mattessich discussed the idea of generative/derivative flow and related this to “For Free?”, Ohriner talked about issues of quantizing in rap analysis, and Attas suggested ways of teaching the album in core theory classes.

And now, a Twitter roundup!

Pacific time was hard for us.

God bless @amsafterdark.

Soundbleedgate (are we calling it that yet?):

(sorry, I guess it’s Loudgate.)

Actual thought-provoking tweets:

(will need to get a copy of that paper…)

Great SMT, as usual. I think I went to more papers than ever (despite not really going to any on Saturday… shhhhh). There wasn’t as much work on timbre this year as in previous years, but still—being around all that productivity, seeing people’s new books, all of it is so inspiring to get back to work! As always, I left feeling energized, optimistic, and excited for the future.