Yesterday proved a day of validation for me as a professional music blogger. We attended the Experience Music Project (emp) Pop Conference at the NYU Kimmel Center on 60 Washington Square South. I am an emp museum member(since 2009) who has eyeballed the Pop Conference sessions held in Seattle, WA with distance envy. We were enthralled that the Pop Conference had come east. It turned out to be a shrewd move as this year’s theme was “Sounds of the City”. The event being next to Washington Square Park and set against the Greenwich Village skyline added the symbolic note for this four-day event.
I got the feeling I was about to go into a deep hang of music journalism and community. I had no idea how profound that sentiment would become until later in the day. I walked away from this conference with a lot of knowledge, many more musical influences than I began the day with and a greater insight into music’s direction in the next decade.
1) Roundtable: Where is the City?, Where is the Scene?
Panelists: Consisted of several music authors, musician Paula Carino from Brooklyn, Will Hermes, whose book, (Love Goes to Building on Fire my son had given me as a Christmas present) and Mark Richardson, Editor-In-Chief, Pitchfork, the definitive music webzine of indie rock.
The gist of this session dealt with trying to define the scene in terms of music communities. The real-time dilemma of digital music evolving on the Web poses existing music distribution models such as the record store, releasing a CD versus a digital download recording, and hard copy music publishing substantive issues. I heard the phrase mentioned several times, “Music is the biggest city in the world.”
I have tried several times to write a blog post about why Brooklyn is the music capital of the world, only to abandon the idea after attempting to research this phenomenon. Paula Carino epitomized why this is so indicative of Brooklyn. She stated Brooklyn is organic. Many musicians have come there to be discovered in the Williamsburg scene. However that ship has sailed and the Williamsburg scene is analagous to the mass exodus of people who moved to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco to experience the hippie scene and flower power. Many did not realize the scene had peaked and was moving on by the time they arrived there. I also learned that Pitchfork had moved its editorial offices from Chicago to Brooklyn to be closer to the epicenter of the indie scene.
Highlights: Paula Carino surprised me with a copy of her CD, Open On Sunday on me, I listened to it today and I really like what I heard. Look for a review of her CD this week on this blog ;). I got to say hello to Will Hermes after the panel discussion and asked him if he would sign my copy of Love Goes to Building on Fire. He graciously did so. I was pleasantly surprised to learn he had read my blog post about his book.
2) Sound of the City, a tribute to the genius of Charlie Gillett
One of my principal objectives of the Pop Conference was to catch the session with Robert Christgau. I have been reading Christgau’s music reviews since 1969 in the Village Voice. He has long been an inspiration to me as a music writer. His paper, “The Original Sound of the City, How Charlie Gillett Named This Conference”, was an energetic rambling of tight construction. Robert Christgau proved once more why he is the dean of rock critics as he crystallized Gillett’s role for the theme of the Pop Conference and his influence on many in their mutual love of music. I was enchanted with Christgau’s punctuating style that kept me fascinated, smiling and educated throughout. I love Christgau’s stream of consciousness. He never fails to stir up my sentiment as well as give me new music inputs to research and listen to with active interest.
Dave Laing from England was next on the agenda. He read his paper, “Charlie Gillett, Sound Citizen of London”. Dave solidified Charlie’s role as a disk jockey on the Honky Tonk program on the BBC. It was insightful to get the British point of view about Charlie Gillette. Dave Laing is an eloquent writer who uses words like idiosyncratic path, antipathy, and contrasting/dissonant music scenes as distinct verse. His presentation was a breath of fresh air which exuded through his writing.
Charlie McGovern was the third speaker and his presentation used audio clips to accent his writings. His paper, “Up to the Streets of Harlem: Black Vocal Groups and Postwar Urban Life” dealt with post war, post modern cities. He took us through urban modernity. He discussed how Clay Cole share cropped the black artist. He played music clips that underscored his paper and produced a skillful, multimedia effect.
3) Jazz Alleys
The jazz panel presentation and discussion were the most thought-provoking event of the day. The quartet of jazz music journalists represent some of the finest jazz music writing featured in the country today. They created the hang for us yesterday.
The first presenter David Adler has written some great jazz music pieces that I have enjoyed. His presentation was enthusiastic and pinpointed the music of Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra. I was struck by how David juxtaposed the 1920 and 30;s sounds of the hot house stomp with how the Ghost Train Orchestra is building on that foundation of sound for the future. David contrasted the sounds of John Nesbitt, Charlie Johnson, and Tiny Parham with Brian Carpenter’s updated interpretations. Carpenter’s band is true to the sound and sentiment of the original purveyors of hot house yet take it to its next logical dimension. David Adler served as conductor and arranger as his hand punctuated the air as the sounds played. He was very elucidating. I must get this recording for my collection.
Nate Chinen followed David Adler’s presentation with a talk about jazz artist discrination that took place reagrding New York club cabaret cards were in issue and enforced. I am very inspired by Nate Chinen’s writing. I aspire to write as well as he does one day What I admire most about how Nate Chinen writes is that he takes a central idea, as he did with his presentation, the cabaret card, focuses his energies on making that a catalyst to further explain and define the next layers of the epicenter. He positioned the cabaret card in a revolving radius fashion as he built out his rationale from there. Nate was quick to point out that there were socio-political hurdles, discriminatory practices taking place against seminal jazz artists such as Billie Holiday and Thelonious Monk who found creative outlets to overcome such censorship tactics.
Nate Chinen was also my major reason for attending this conference as I had read his past Jazz Times [the]Gig column about his Seattle 2011 Pop Conference experience. I had made a note after reading his column that I would attend the next Pop Conference I could.
Alex W. Rodriguez introduced us to the hang. His paper was entitled, “Deconstructing the Hang: Urban Spaces as Cross-Cultural Contexts for Jazz Improvisation.” You can read a preview of that provocative paper here. Alex really got me actively thinking in the area I am focusing more and more upon, music and technology, about how to create a collaborative space, a social network hang. I think I will make a first level attempt with Google Hangout until Apple introduces to its next level of social collaboration with its Mountain Lion cloud solution this fall
The last presentation was an invigorating piece by Phil Freeman, “From the Corner to Carnegie Hall and Beyond: The Urbanization of Miles Davis, 1972-1991“ that will appear tomorrow on his blog, http://burningambulance.com/. Phil Freeman drew interesting parallels to Miles Davis’s On the Corner and the Sounds of the City. He also raised lots of insight as it relates to Miles Davis’s later years. In order to do Phil Freeman’s talk justice I defer to his publishing on his blog tomorrow the paper he read and commented upon yesterday. If you are into Miles Davis, social activism and the culture of change you won’t want to miss it.
New Inputs: Wayne Escoffery, Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra, Adam Holzman,
- 2012 EMP Pop Conference presented by NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music (musicofourheart.me)