Monday, March 4, 2013

IASPM 2013 (International Association for the Study of Popular Music)

On the weekend I went to the IASPM Conference in Austin, Texas. This is my second time to attend IASPM, and like at IASPM in San Diego (2009), I presented on K-Pop.

Honestly I had a great experience in Austin, but the conference was a little bit of a let-down. People were nice, but many of the papers felt quite trivial. I wanted to shake a couple of the presenters and say "is this the best use of your big brain?" The best example was another panelist from my panel. She presented on how Hugh Hefner curated rock and jazz in Playboy and on his TV show Playboy After Dark (in the 60s and early  70s). If the presenter had made an argument that showed how Hef had actually changed the course of the music business, or contributed to the popularization of something, I might have felt like her paper had more relevance, but in fact she described how Hef missed the boat. He tried to prove that he was part of the counter-culture but not a hippie and he tried to promote the Jazz he loved, but ultimately he was unsuccessful at doing more than marketing Vanilla smut. (*If you don't understand the usage of Vanilla, you need to read Savage Love). So a very smart person spent a lot of time to research something that is really just a historical footnote or piece of trivia.There is no reason why studies of popular music cannot be a way to approach topics of real importance.

The best paper I saw was about Asian Americans negotiating transnational identities in the digital age. I also saw a fascinating paper that addressed the use of the Beatles to promote "serious" music. Of course I immediately thought of Sukmyeong Gayageum Ensemble.
Just to be clear, I am NOT a fan of this group or what they're doing. I think it's a gimmick. If you want people to like Korean instruments, or traditional music, playing Beatles is NOT the way to do it. Or maybe it is. If you disagree, let me know in your comments.

I had several good conversations and met some people I hope to stay in touch with, and I managed to make one connection that I am really excited about-- I actually met someone else who works on ICH (intangible cultural heritage) and has even lived in Korea. I was the only Koreanist at the conference, although there was an entire panel on Asian-America, none of the presenters were looking at Korean-Americans. Overall, however, I may need to skip IASPM in the future, because if I am going to go to a performance conference at least at the Society for Ethnomusicology conference there are a lot of people who are talking about substantial topics through performance. Or maybe I just picked the wrong papers to attend.

And yes, my presentation went well.

I enjoyed Austin and I was very happy to get to stay with my friends April Rose and her husband Reed, and see my Lopez friend Sheri. Taking a run in 80+ degree heat was so marvelous!!!

Funky clouds on the drive from the airport to April Rose's house:

Spring time, yay!!!

Is that a sticker-tagger?






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