Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The "Festivals" panel on April 11th was one of the most cohesive panels that I saw, with presentations that played off of each other beautifully. First up was Regina Arnold (who you may remember from her Gina Arnold rock critic days), now a Stanford grad student working on her dissertation about rock crowds and power, from which we heard a tidbit, "Rock Crowds and Power: The Early Years." She focused her paper on a May 1969 festival at San Jose State called the Aquarian Family Festival (aka Aquarium Be-In or Aquarium Fair) and both the difficulty is researching such a festival from that era and the tensions related to it (free vs. paid festivals, licensing issues, crowd behavior, etc.). Posters from the event feature bands that never played and attendees looking back on it often misremember details as well. Some things that did happen were Jimi Hendrix being flown in on a Lear Jet, lawsuits, and Hells Angels being hired as security.
Next up, John Street from University of East Anglia presented "Performing Politics: From Rock Against Racism to Live 8." In discussing the history of Rock against Racism (founded in 1976) and Live 8 (2005), he looks at the role of musicians and music at these festivals. In some respects, organizers like Bob Geldof were up-front about hiring musicians who would draw the largest audiences in order to expose the causes to the greatest number of people.
Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman from SUNY-Binghamton gave her paper, "'Lollapalooza Every Day, Every Year': Music, Multiculturalism, and Whiteness in the 1990s," which seemed to evoke nostalgia from many of the GenXers in the audience (myself included) who had attended early Lollapalooza shows. She talked about the marketing of multiculturalism at early Lollapaloozas and argued that the lineups didn't live up to the multi-culti buzz and press hype. The audience was largely white and middle class and acts became increasingly less diverse from year to year. Yet, despite this, she claims the "dominant memory of Lollapalooza" is "multicultural." This was interesting for me to hear, as my memory of those early shows was more that the festival was attempting to present bands from a variety of genres that aren't typically on the same bill (metal, alternative rock, rap, and indie). To me, some of the most interesting bands were on the "second stage," where the lineup was definitely more diverse and at least featured some female artists.
Finally, Laurel Westrup discussed the UK Glastonbury Festival in her paper "When Subcultures Collide: The New Travellers at Glastonbury 1978-2005." She talked about the tensions between the a hippie subculture called the New Age Travellers and the festival organizers and mainstream concert-goers. She described the New Age Travellers (aka Crusties) as a diverse subculture that began in the 1960s with hippie sensibilities that now embraces elements of punk and rave culture. In 1992 a New Travellers band The Levellers played the main stage of the festival after concert organizers banned the "travellers" from the festival. This incident highlighted several tensions, including subcultural assertions that they were selling out, yet also a strange twist in that they were playing a festival that banned people from the scene that they came from.
Previous EMP Pop Conference posts:
EMP Pop Conference Highlights Part One
Strippers, Retro Divas, and Yoko Ono - EMP Conference Highlights Part Two
Music and the War in Iraq - EMP Conference Highlights Part Three
Sublime Frequencies' Experimental World Music - EMP Conference Highlights Part Four
Politicians Don't Know Pop Music - EMP Conference Highlights Part Five
Although I saw flaws in their research and its applicability to current campaigns, I was most interested in their assertion that people interested in entering politics tend to know very little about popular music and those who do are embarrassed by that. They used this finding to explain, in part, why so many random and inappropriate songs are often chosen as campaign theme songs.
Now, I always assume that political campaigns are overly researched and that people must be hired to pick music and theme songs. They suggest that it's much more random than this. I suppose that makes sense when you think about Ronald Reagan using "Born in the U.S.A.," George W. Bush using "I Won't Back Down," and McCain selecting "Little Pink Houses."
Barthel and Arnold decided to test the musical knowledge of future politicos in order to get an understanding of how these types of selections are being made. They surveyed public policy students, arguing that these students would be future political leaders and decision-makers. Their findings were horrifying, at least to the audience of music geeks at the EMP Pop Conference! They said that none of the students surveyed could name the lead singer of Blondie and only 58% knew all 4 Beatles. Nobody knew any of the current campaign songs. Additionally, the students had little interest in the question, "If you could pick a song for your own campaign, what would it be?"
The presenters asked if campaign songs would be "more effective if politicians had a greater understanding of pop music" and argued that "our study shows that those in power are really bad at using music to get their message across." Most disheartening to me was their point that, "politicians think music is fundamentally unimportant to politics."
Do you think music is important to politics? An audience member mentioned all the buzz around You Tube user-generated videos (especially with Obama) and that the new campaign songs may actually come from the people, rather than the political machine.
Previous EMP Pop Conference posts:
EMP Pop Conference Highlights Part One
Strippers, Retro Divas, and Yoko Ono - EMP Conference Highlights Part Two
Music and the War in Iraq - EMP Conference Highlights Part Three
Sublime Frequencies' Experimental World Music - EMP Conference Highlights Part Four
In "Experiments with World Music, Vol. 2: The Sublime Frequencies of Cultural Difference," David Novak of Columbia University discussed how the Sublime Frequencies label is presenting a new, more experimental take on world music with its many volumes of found recordings from places like Sumatra, Bali, Burma, Syria, and Vietnam (to name few), which include clips of radio broadcasts, music from cassette tapes purchased at flea markets, and other oddities. Their latest (and 43rd!) release is Bollywood Steel Guitar.
According to the abstract for the presentation:
"...Sublime Frequencies represents world music in a mode that is strikingly experimental, both in its noisy rawness and its obscurantist approach to the documentation of local music and cultural origins...In this paper, I consider debates around Sublime Frequencies appropriation of source materials drawn from regional media, and discuss how listeners experiment with familiar-but-foreign popular musical forms in the curation of distant media sources. I describe how recordings otherwise considered world music are reclassified among underground music fans..."
Novak discussed how Sublime Frequencies represents a second wave of world music which is more underground that what we traditionally think of as "world music." He used the term "ethnographic surrealism" to describe how their take on world is different from, say, Alan Lomax and Smithsonian Folkways' releases.
Novak didn't really discuss this, but I think that this surreal, experimental take on music from around the world may even make it more palatable to college radio DJs. As an example of this, at my station many DJs are scared off by world music, but are eagerly diving in to Sublime Frequencies releases, perhaps for their camp value (especially the 60s/70s/western-inspired rock and pop pieces), randomness (sound collages and radio transmissions), the hipster associations of the label (one of the founders is Sun City Girl Alan Bishop), and the hidden gems on every release.
One point made by Novak was that a characteristic of the Sublime Frequencies releases is that the origin of the music is not well documented and the real musicians are generally not given credit. Artists and biographies are downplayed and he links some of this to the punk and DIY spirit embodied by the label owners.
Toward the end of the presentation we learned that Alan Bishop was in the audience, making for, I'm sure, a very nerve-wracking presentation for Novak! Bishop alluded to the many misconceptions out there in the media about his projects, but acknowledged that he hasn't really worked to correct those misconceptions either...thus adding to the obscurity of the material being discussed.
If you missed my other summaries from the EMP Pop Conference, you can read them here:
EMP Pop Conference Highlights Part One
Strippers, Retro Divas, and Yoko Ono - EMP Conference Highlights Part Two
Music and the War in Iraq - EMP Conference Highlights Part Three
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
"The crowd at WRFL's FreeKY Fest on Saturday was as eclectic as the music the station broadcasts every day - some were children; others had grey hair and wrinkles. Some came dressed in tie-dyed shirts; others wore Polos and khakis. Some were pierced and tattooed; others had hair as colorful as the decorations hung around the concert venue.
'We had all the different shades of Lexington here,' said Chuck Clenney, WRFL's general manager. 'Everyone from the kids to the Indian community to the people who love crazy loud music came out. That's just what WRFL is about, offering something for everyone and bringing people together.'..."
WRFL is hoping to do some major transmitter upgrades to increase their coverage area, so they are doing serious fundraising right now, no doubt a big reason for this awesome week of music. One of their many slogans is: "Revolutions Don't Happen Between Commercial Breaks!"
Wouldn't it be great if every college station could put together a week like this for their local community? Has your favorite college radio station every undertaken something like this?
Monday, April 28, 2008
WERS-FM, Emerson College (Boston, MA) on XMU's Student Exchange
April 27, 2008
Radiohead - 15 Step - In Rainbows
Bell X1 - Rocky Took A Lover - Flock
Spoon - Don't You Evah - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Jose Gonzalez - Crosses - WERS Presents Music for the Independent Mind
The Heavy - Set Me Free - Great Vengeance and Furious Fire
Vampire Weekend - A-Punk - Vampire Weekend
Coconut Records - Nighttiming - Nighttiming
She & Him - I Was Made For You - Volume One
Phoenix - Long Distance Call - It's Never Been Like That
Josh Ritter - Mind's Eye - The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
Sia - The Girl You Lost To Cocaine - Some People Have Real Problems
Angus and Julia Stone - Paper Aeroplane - Chocolates & Cigarettes [EP]
The Epochs - Love Complete - The Epochs
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks - Gardenia - Real Emotional Trash
Jack Penate - Got My Favorite - Matinee
Death Cab for Cutie - I Will Possess Your Heart - Narrow Stairs
Nicole Atkins - Maybe Tonight - Neptune City
Jason Collett - Out of Time - Here's To Being Here
A.C. Newman - The Town Halo - The Slow Wonder
Pinback - Good To Sea - Autumn of the Seraphs
DeVotchKa - The Clockwise Witness - A Mad & Faithful Telling
Destroyer - Dark Leaves Form A Thread - Trouble In Dreams
Band of Horses - No One's Gonna Love You - Cease To Begin
Tunng - Bullets - Good Arrows
Fujiya & Miyagi - Uh - Live At WERS 2007
Ingrid Michaelson - Die Alone - Girls & Boys
Matt Costa - Mr. Pitiful - Unfamiliar Faces
Cat Power - New York, New York - Jukebox
This coming Sunday, May 4th, Colorado State's station KCSU-FM will be on the Student Exchange from 1-3pm Pacific Time. I'm going to try to publish playlists from this program every week and would love to hear what you think about the music selections from these stations.
"Music compilations are more popular than ever, in part because of the ease of getting the songs you want to the people you care about. On your own or with sites such as Muxtape.com, you can click a mouse 20 or 30 times and create and share your audio files with whomever you want. But as the process gets easier, the gesture becomes emptier as well."
It's a great point about the amount of labor and care that was required to craft a cassette mix tape in real time using old school audio equipment, like turntables and cassette decks (and even radios!). Peter Hartlaub writes:
"The biggest advantage of making a mix cassette tape was that it almost always forced the creator to hear each song. Using your computer to create mix CDs without listening to the music is like grabbing five random items at the grocery store...
There's a merit to picking a bunch of your favorite songs for a friend to listen to, but if you really want to impress or seduce, those songs need to tell a story. And the best way to do that has always been a mix tape."
To see a bunch of personal mix-tape tales, see this accompanying SF Chronicle article and to contribute your own story, visit their hilarious parenting blog The Poop.
Do you have any interesting tales from the mix tape era? Is the nostalgia justified, or can mp3 mixes be just as personal?
Friday, April 25, 2008
Remember a few weeks back XMU was seeking out stations to be on the air in the coming months? Did any of you contact them about this? I'd love to see more station diversity on their airwaves, so I'd encourage college radio stations that haven't been on yet to contact XMU about claiming a spot on an upcoming Sunday afternoon.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
"A student-run radio station on this campus...could be a source of the daily news that isn't covered by the DS, the latest happenings on campus, and a break from the repetitive grind that is commercial radio. It could be a brand new horizon, because college radio just may well be the best way of finding new music on the planet. A student-run radio station can more accurately follow the pulse of life at UND than most other media. It could be faster than Facebook..."
Quite the call the arms. I wonder if anyone will step up and start the process?
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
"In the beginning, 25 years ago, the station played a format without a name. Calling itself 'the new rock on the block' and 'rock the boat radio,' WFNX-FM (101.7) aired rock music, but not the familiar sound of market giants like WBCN-FM (104.1). Broadcasting lesser known artists, more imports, and the more out-there sounds of punk and new wave, the little Lynn-based station was a pioneer, broadcasting what would become known as the new rock, modern rock, or alternative format...
What is known is that when WFNX went on air in March or April of 1983, it wasn't the first new or modern rock station. WLIR, later WDRE, in Long Island, N.Y., had started broadcasting a similar mix at least a few months earlier. But the Lynn station was in the vanguard, one of the few commercial stations in the country that was learning from punk-driven college radio and airing music that didn't fit in older formats."
A new wave/"rock of the '80s" station in the San Francisco Bay Area from the same period (1983-1985) called the KQAK- The Quake (you can read former DJ Big Rick Stuart's recollections here and read more history on the Bay Area Radio Museum website) was actually my gateway to college radio. When it went off the air in 1985 I turned to local college stations KFJC, KZSU, KSCU, and KSJS in order to hear similar music. I've been a college radio loyalist ever since.
Monday, April 21, 2008
"Mira is one of five Sandy Ridge Elementary fifth-graders who manage and produce Ram Radio. Officials say it's the only student-run radio station in Union County schools. The kids get together daily to write and record shows, which air twice a day for 30 minutes before and after school. Some 350 families who drive kids to school can tune in as they line up in front of campus. The show, broadcast over 103.3 FM at a low frequency, can be heard 500 feet away. It doesn't air during class time. Ram Radio is part of principal Tom Childers' push 'to implement 21st-century technology skills' in elementary grades."
This is great that they actually see radio as a "21st-century technology skill" as even some colleges do not. Sandy Ridge Elementary has archived some shows on their website if you're interested in hearing these young DJs.
"Multiday music festivals, once known mainly as draws for college kids willing to endure blazing sun and porta-potty lines in order to see their favorite alternative-rock groups, have become major profit centers for the music industry. In recent years, they have emerged as an essential platform for A-list acts, sprouted high-end amenities from luxury cabanas to BlackBerry-charging stations and brought in bigger audiences and higher revenues each season."
The article mentions big festivals like Coachella (April 25-27 in Indio, CA), Bonnaroo (June 12-15 in Tennessee), Lollapalooza (August 1-3 in Chicago), Outside Lands (August 22-24 in San Francisco), and the Pemberton Festival (July 25-27 in British Columbia). They also point out that the more indie Pitchfork Music Festival will happen in Chicago (July 18-20) two weeks before the massive Lollapalooza.
Not mentioned in the article were smaller indie-oriented festivals, such as Terrastock (Terrastock 7 happens in Louisville, Kentucky June 19-22), Ladyfest (here's an article about last week's Ladyfest Baltimore), indie festivals from the past like Olympia, Washington's International Pop Underground Convention in 1991, Yo Yo a Go Go, and non-summer festivals like Noise Pop.
How about you? Are you planning to hit any of these festivals this summer or have a favorite festival from the past?
Thursday, April 17, 2008
P.S. See this related story Indie Stores are Alive and Spinning in The State Hornet.
According to the article in the Badger Herald:
"...the assortment of genres played on WSUM is endless. [Y Mae] Sussman, a UW junior...hosts 'Scandalous!' a weekly show aired Fridays 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. 'My show features] mostly Scandinavian pop, electronic, folk and rock,' Sussman said...Another distinctive program on WSUM is 'Mario Bandstand,' hosted by Trevor Masse Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. In his show, the UW junior features video game music, offering yet another unique repertoire."
Like many college stations, WSUM seems to be relatively unknown on campus according to the article:
"Despite WSUM’s involvement in Madison and the extensive array of musical genres and talk shows, many students pay little attention to — or aren’t even aware of — the radio station’s existence on the UW campus. Yet, WSUM still manages to attract a multitude of students at any experience level and area of study who have an interest in becoming a DJ...
Furthermore, involvement in WSUM’s broadcast is not limited to students who anticipate a future in broadcasting. 'Ninety-five percent of the people who come to work at WSUM, or any other college radio station, are not going to work in radio as a profession,' [WSUM General Manager Dave] Black said."
Indeed. How many of you college radio DJs (and former DJs) plan to go into commercial radio? For me, professional radio was NEVER a goal since I enjoy the freedom and creativity of college and community radio.
"Chattanooga State President Jim Catanzaro said a religious organization that planned to buy the FCC license for the college radio station, WAWL, backed out on the deal, but another religious group has signed up for the $1.5 million deal. 'That group is currently going through the due diligence on the transaction,' Dr. Catanzaro said. He said a broker is handling the deal, and he had no part in either transaction. After the due diligence is completed, the sale application will go to the Federal Communications Authority for its approval or rejection, he said...
Dr. Catanzaro defended the decision to sell the station, saying that radio 'is moving to the web and to satellite radio. The technology is changing so rapidly.'
He said the college has a mass communication program involving both radio and TV and it would have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars moving to a digital system. He said, 'We have to be on the cutting edge and that is digital.'
On WAWL listenership, he said, 'They will probably lose some listeners, but others will hear them who couldn't. It will be 24-7 worldwide.'"
It's depressing and fascinating that this decision is justified because the university believes that terrestrial radio is no longer cutting-edge or relevant to the future. Here's an opinion piece from today's Chattanoogan protesting the station sale and recounting a bit about station history (it used to be known as WCSO).
According to WAWL's website:
"The WAWL’s exciting and magnetic on-air segments span the spectrum from the Latino Hits and Reggae to Native American, New Age, Jazz, Metal, Punk, Local and hip-hop. The Chattanooga market is a 'stepping stone' for many celebrated musicians, making the WAWL's focus on local talent a very popular launching pad for new talent in the area."
The station website does not discuss the sale, but there are some student rumblings in this article about a protest last month, which states:
"Students at Chattanooga State come together to protest the sale of the college's radio station. WAWL-FM, or '91 Rock, The Wall' as it is known, will soon going off the air on FM radio. Administrators say the sale allows them to update equipment and bring the college's mass communications program into the future. But the students are not taking the sale lying down. Trey McKinney, along with many others, want to let Chattanooga State administrators know that the college's radio station doesn't deserve to go off the air. 'We are a student run radio station,' he says. 'The only one in the area. It's just that I don't agree with his reasonings for why he's doing this and all the other good things that are coming from it.' The 'he' McKinney is referring to is Doctor James Catanzaro, the President of Chattanooga State."
How would you feel and what would you do if your university sold off your FCC license?
For more on this story:
Courter: Clearing the Air Regarding WAWL's Sale (Chattanooga Times Free Press, 3/28/08)
Chattanooga State Students Protest the End of WAWL Radio (WDEF.com, 3/27/08)
Questions on the Sale of Chattanooga State Radio Station (The Chattanoogan, 3/27/08)
Remembering the Start of WAWL (The Chattanoogan, 3/27/08)
"Some volunteers manning the brooms come from the ranks of volunteers at KRCL 90.9 who have—or soon will—lose their on-air DJ spots to a format change scheduled to take place May 5 at the community radio station. Others, like [Troy] Mumm, one-time KRCL music director, staffed KRCL in an earlier era. Their big idea is a big experiment. Scads of radio stations now stream on the Internet. But instead of music-on-demand streaming, Utah Free Media will attempt a live broadcast hosted by volunteers. That is, freeform radio, like KRCL. Or, as some Utah Free Media volunteers say, like KRCL before the eminent format switch."
The Salt Lake City Tribune also ran an article about Utah Free Media, stating:
"[One of the founders of Utah Free Media Michael] Place insists they're not starting UFM as a slap at KRCL, which angered many volunteers and listeners in January when it announced plans to replace 18 volunteer on-air hosts with three paid deejays...[co-founder Troy] Mumm and Place say UFM hopes to eventually air talk shows and public-affairs programming. For starters, though, the station will broadcast music - a broad mix of rock, blues, folk, world beat and other genres - punctuated by community announcements."
Additionally, KRCL gets a shout-out in this post on Living in Stereo about the merits of community radio in general. Roy Kasten writes:
"As a teen I had discovered something called 'community radio' in the form of KRCL, a volunteer-based music and talk station that broadcasted (and still broadcasts) along the Wasatch Front from the far left end of the FM dial. I think I first heard Bob Marley, the Grateful Dead, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams and John Coltrane on that station. It was a part of my secret teenage life, something no one else would understand, a place and space of solace and discovery."
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Military Recruitment Music
Jonathan Pieslak gave his paper "For Duty, Honor, and Country: The Recruiting Music of the U.S. Military and the Islamic State of Iraq," in which he discussed U.S. military advertising that portrays military service as "patriotic and honorable" and utilizes solemn "honorable duty" music that's generally classical. He briefly mentioned that the U.S. military also has advertising that emphasizes "action, adventure and excitement," which uses faster-paced metal music by artists like Godsmack. In contrast, he also showed chilling recruitment videos by the Islamic State of Iraq that included images of suicide bombings and a soundtrack of poetic recitations (Nasheeds), which are religious calls to duty (vs. music, which is outlawed by this fundamentalist group).
Soldiers' Music Listening in Iraq
Lisa Gilman's paper "American Soldiers' iPods: Layers of Identity and Situated Listening in Iraq," highlighted the results of the author's interviews with soldiers who had returned from Iraq. She mentioned that soldiers' listening habits were far more diverse than the media might suggest and said that the men and women she interviewed reported listening to Frank Sinatra, Wu Tang Clan, Creed, old punk, country, Jay Z, Norah Jones, Dave Matthews, and even anti-war songs.
What was most interesting about this paper was hearing the contexts in which people used music. One woman said that she listened to a single country song over and over again in order to drown out noises of the war while she slept at night. Another person listened to old punk while exercising in order to vent frustrations. Others reported that they couldn't handle listening to aggressive music (like AC/DC's "Back in Black") while in Iraq because of the violent associations. Others talked about listening to and talking about music during their downtime as a way to bond with others with similar interests.
Lisa also talked about how gender, class, race, and military ranking related to music choices and control over what music was played in work environments. For example, in work places, the highest ranking person controlled the music selections (for example, the surgeon in the medical unit). At the end of the paper she mentioned that the funeral staple "Taps," was incredibly distressing to one soldier because of its association with death. Audience members at the presentation added that "Taps" these days is even sadder since it is often played on a speaker hidden within a bugle (digital bugle) as there is a shortage of real bugle players.
Sounds of War
The final presentation on this panel was J. Martin Daughtry's "Noise, Narrative, Trauma: The Significance of the Sonic in Conflict-Era Baghdad," a fascinating paper that talked about the uncontrollable sounds of war (guns, engines, tanks, explosions) rather than music. He talked about the way that soldiers learn to listen in order to survive in that environment, such as being able to discern whether bullets are near or far, U.S. or enemy. He outlined three types of sounds: 1) masking sounds (wind, engine noise, traffic, etc.), 2) communication (radio chatter, conversations), and 3) weapons (gunfire, mortars, etc.).
In acknowledging that his paper wasn't so much about music as about sound, he queried, "Where does the meaning of music reside?" He argued that soldiers "listen through fear...," which provided some context for the music discussions mentioned by Lisa in her presentation.
Summary, plus Rebel Music in Iran
While listening to the entire panel I wondered a bit about the role of music in Iraq in general since there are certainly groups that are opposed to music (see below for an example from Iran) in that culture. I also would like to know more about radio in Iraq. Do soldiers listen to local radio? What's on local radio in Iraq? Is there any music? Is there western music? Are there underground military radio broadcasts? Sort of in this context, there was a fascinating article in today's SF Chronicle about outlawed underground rap music in Iran. According to the article:
"In Iran, all music - except that with religious lyrics - was outlawed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the political and spiritual leader of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which toppled the Shah of Iran. The cleric said music was 'intoxicating,' and he promised to end the 'invasion' of Western culture under the shah and promote Islamic values. But as years passed, radio and television stations began playing classical Persian music - mostly with religious themes.
[Rap artist] Felakat, who has a considerable following in a nation where 70 percent of the population is under 30, is part of an underground scene where songs are recorded in clandestine studios, burned onto CDs and distributed via a flourishing black market to stores selling religious music and vetted videos. If caught by authorities, stores can be closed, and their owners imprisoned and fined."
If you have insights about music and radio in Iraq, I'd love to hear them.
Up next, a review of the "Festivals" panel and a paper about music and politics at EMP.
Slate.com music critic Jody Rosen presented his paper "Girl Gone Wild: Eva Tanguay's Madcap Feminism," which was probably my favorite paper of the entire conference since it brought to my attention a very interesting musician from the turn of the last century who was entirely unknown to me. Jody noted that even though Eva Tanguay was a huge vaudeville star (attracting more than 15,000 fans to one of her solo shows), publicity seeker (she was the first popular singer with publicists on her payroll and staged publicity events), and dramatic presence (she wore of dress made of 4000 pennies, assaulted someone with a hat pin, and had high profile feuds); she is still all but forgotten today, barely mentioned in music biographies. At least after this presentation a few more people became aware of this artist, myself included.
One of my all-time favorite music writers, Ann Powers (seated in the center of the photo above), chief pop critic for the L.A. Times also brought a feminist slant to the conference, presenting her work "In Love with a Strippa: Sex and Power in the So-Called Post-Feminist Age," in which she outlined the origin of exotic dancers (look to the Algerian Village's "Little Egypt" performers at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair) and discussed their presence in music videos of today. She talked about the "good-time girl" strippers in '80s videos by Motley Crue and David Lee Roth and contrasted those images with the sadder "tarnished fantasy" portrayed in hip hop's take on stripper culture as exemplified by Juvenile in the video "Rodeo", in which strippers are shown not as fantasies, but as peers in the same underground economy as the musicians/protagonists in the video.
Kara Attrep gave a great paper "She Yoko-ed the Band," which outlined the demonization of female musicians, like Yoko Ono, Courtney Love, Clara Schumann, and Mary Parks, who have been criticized for allegedly leading to the downfall and death of their more famous male partners. Most interesting to me was hearing more of the back story on Yoko Ono and her successful career prior to meeting John Lennon. She was an early member of Fluxus, staged her own Carnegie Hall performance to a packed hall, and was very much seen as an up and coming artist in the 1960s. She claims to have not known John Lennon's music, definitely not an awe-struck groupie-type.
I also heard about lady blues performers in Maria V. Johnson's (she missed the conference, so her paper was read by the moderator) "Who's Gonna Be the Vessel? Blues Women Performing Alternative Community." She gave shout-outs to the work of former sex worker/musician Candye Kane, Delta diva Denise LaSalle, and Nedra Johnson (who asks her audience to "envision God as a fierce gay man or a granola dyke").
In upcoming posts I'll talk about some of the papers related to war, the military, elections, festivals, and indie/punk culture.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I counted 19 radio stations, including a number that are focused on obscure, independent music including alternative and indie (EDGE), underground (DEEP), Mandarin pop (M POP), Cantonese pop (C POP), Korean Pop (K POP) and Japanese pop (J POP). I'm not sure how they program these stations, but it struck me as very enlightened for Virgin to include an underground station, which featured music from a variety of genres including free jazz, experimental electronics, rock, pop, Asian pop, and classical. It sounded like a really great college radio station that I would listen to. The one downside is that they don't include track listings for the radio stations, so definitely a bummer for music junkies like me. I didn't hear any DJs when I tuned it, so I'm not sure if the stations are music-only or if they have DJs back announcing tracks at some point.
In addition to the radio stations, you can listen to thousands of mp3s and create playlists including the likes of Kraftwerk, !!!, Nina Simone, Sun Ra, Arvo Part, Magnetic Fields, Johnny Cash and Paris Hilton (sooo bad!). According to their website you can even take a playlist with you off the plane, but I didn't try out that feature.
Virgin was so cool that I'm actually looking forward to booking another flight soon, something I never thought I'd say in these days of heightened security and lessened customer service.
I spent the weekend in Seattle, where I was excited to finally attend the annual EMP Pop Conference at Experience Music Project. This year's theme was "Shake, Rattle: Music, Conflict and Change" and is described this way on the conference website: "How does music resist, negate, struggle? Can pop intensify vital confrontations, as well as transform and conceal them? What happens when people are angry and silly love songs aren't enough?"
The place was jammed with a who's who of music journalists and academics, including Greil Marcus (shared an elevator with him!), Robert and Georgia Christgau, Ann Powers (LA Times chief pop critic), Oliver Wang, J.D. Considine (anyone else remember him from that geeky cool VH1 music critics' round table discussion show Four on the Floor?), Charles Aaron (music editor of Spin), and Gina (now going by Regina) Arnold to name a few.
When the conference began in 2002, it set out to be a different sort of music conference, one where academics, journalists and musicians could all present their perspectives about pop music, since typically conferences are very segmented as either academic or non-academic in focus. Certainly folks from all of these categories were in attendance, but for the most part the presentations that I saw had a decidedly academic bent, which to me isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's just worth noting. During much of the conference there were 4 simultaneous sessions, so it was impossible to see everything that I wanted to. Additionally, some presenters canceled or were thwarted by the big American Airlines flight cancellations last week...so in some cases I saw papers being read by someone other than the author.
In terms of the focus of Spinning Indie, I didn't see any presentations specifically about college radio (or radio in general) and only saw a few that dealt with indie or underground music, including great papers on the anarchist publisher/label AK Press, underground world music label Sublime Frequencies, a presentation on female indie blues artists, and an excellent panel on festivals (including Lollapalooza's failure at multi-culturalism and subcultural clashes at Glastonbury in the UK). I learned about some artists who I'd never heard of before and also got an interesting glimpse into the role of music in elections, the military, and war.
Since there was so much to absorb, I'm going to break my posts down into several smaller posts highlighting my favorite panels and presentations. Stay tuned!
"KCSC broadcasts 50 shows a week from the cozy building on Fifth and Ivy streets, which dedicates half of its space to 20,000 CDs and records. The other half is flooded with indie band posters and radio equipment. The station's small but colorful space showcases art and expression oozes out of every corner...Specialty shows range from playing indie-rock favorites to underground hip-hop to talk shows. The station's overview on its Web site, KCSCradio.com, states clearly, 'We don't play Britney Spears.'"
Coming up this Sunday (1-3pm Pacific, 4-6pm Eastern time) on XMU Student Exchange is college station KSLU (St. Louis University). According to their website:
"KSLU will have another show on XM Radio Channel 43's (XMU), Student Exchange Program, and DirecTV Channel 831 Sunday Apr. 20th from 3-5pm! Listen to Alison Arida as she bumps new indie rock from KSLU's fantabulous collection!"
Alison posted a blurb on her blog about the show here.
I'm hoping to get playlists from these shows soon.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
"Each year as CMJ Music Marathon takes over New York City, it welcomes college radio representatives with College Day, a full day of programming dedicated to college radio that features performances, refreshments, awards and panels discussing issues unique to college radio. This year's College Day will take place Thursday, October 23. The time-tested tradition has successfully gathered together many radio stations over the years. However, for the first time ever, CMJ Music Marathon will open Tuesday, October 21, with CMJ's College Radio Mixer. This special event will bring together college and non-commercial stations from across the map for a unique opportunity to meet with and befriend peers in a relaxed, pressure-free environment before diving head first into the most educational and entertaining week in music.
CMJ Music Marathon student badges are available now through April 30 at special 'Spring Break' prices. Individual student badges are available for just $135 while purchasing group badges of 10 or more leaves badges at only $120 each.
Visit www.cmj.com/marathon for more information."
It's so very tempting!
"According to Christopher Stasheff, an associate professor of communication who teaches the radio station operations class, Eastern learned recently that the station’s previous name, KZIA, was already taken by a radio station in Iowa, thus prompting the search for a new name.
Operating under a radio station with no name and even without an official studio this semester, however, doesn’t mean students are not already getting a full dose of hands-on, on-air experience behind the microphone. Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., listeners can tune in to live programming, ranging from classic 1970s, 80s and 90s rock, to hip-hop, sports and an independent music program with Jacob Wiklund... Unfortunately, the ENMU radio station can only be picked up right now on the ENMU campus, including the Roswell and Ruidoso campuses."
Station history is very sketchy, but an article in the Eastern New Mexico University paper The Chase last month stated:
"KZIA has existed for 12 years and was initially wired to the dormitories but is now on the ENMU Web site, broadening its target audience to dormitories, offices, and any other place that campus network runs, such as the Cannon air force base. Programs include disc jockey shows, sports and news briefs and Chinese Hour."
I'd love to learn more about the state of the station over the past 12 years and why they no longer have an official studio. By the way, the campus also has a public radio-affiliated FM station KENW 89.5 FM.
"There is a school of thought that considers it bad form to kick someone when they’re down. However, I prefer a quick shot to the ribs as a way to rouse the fallen back to life. Consider this my metaphorical kick to CHRW. With the exception of live sports coverage, I don’t know anyone who listens to 94.9 on the London FM dial. The product 94.9 FM CHRW provides reaches no one despite having the potential to reach anyone with a radio or a computer, anywhere in London.
Because there is a fee of about $13 attached to every student’s University Students’ Council fees, I’ve spent $65 over my university career on something I’ve gotten absolutely nothing out of. Yes, I could have listened had I chosen to, but the only thing worse than wasting money is wasting money and time."
I've seen this student fees argument before and it always irritates me because I think of college media (newspaper, radio, TV, etc.) as being a given, something that should be supported, whether or not I'm a particular fan of the output or not. Just because radio is less popular than, say, football, doesn't mean that it shouldn't receive student support and funding.
By the way, every time I post about the student fee issue at another Canadian station I get comments from station detractors who keep reiterating a point about that particular station's failings and that's why they don't support funding it. I still have real issues with this. I think that if a particular station has problems that the administration and students should work with them to improve rather than eliminating funding as a punishment. At least in the U.S., I fear that once a station loses funding it may lose its license, its on-air signal, etc. and it's very difficult to get all that back in such a crowded/expensive radio market.
Additionally, the author simply calls the station irrelevant and says that he doesn't know anyone who listens to it. However, he doesn't offer any specific critiques of the station or make suggestions for its improvement. Perhaps the station could improve, but from this editorial I have no sense of where it's faltering.
One interesting thing to consider is that most college stations struggle with gaining listeners and often are unknown and not listened to much on campus. They may receive some university or student funding, but often have to conduct fundraisers with actual listeners in order to come up with the cash needed to survive.
What do you think, as a student would you support fees for campus media even if you aren't a fan? And, what's the best way to get a sub-standard station to change?
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
I'm glad to hear that students voted to maintain the fees that providing funding for the station (see my pre-vote post on KAMP here)! The station first starting broadcasting in 1989 and airs on AM and also is piped in on campus, airs on the campus TV station and over the Internet. The article continues:
It's great to see another station continuing to thrive and obtaining campus support.
WECB got on my radar when I spotted an article in the Emerson College newspaper about its forays into broadcasting in the college's campus center. I was intrigued to read that in addition to the well-known WERS-FM, Emerson College also had a second, lower profile radio station on campus and wanted to learn more.
WECB is a campus-only station, broadcasting via the Internet and on the closed-circuit TV station at Emerson College in the heart of Boston. The station began in 1947 and was formerly an AM carrier current station that aired commercials. WECB is currently a freeform station and is housed in the basement of a building in a relatively new space shared by WERS-FM, which is also non-commercial, but functions more like a professional commercial station.
I met with the General Manager of WECB, Jeff Penfield, who has also worked at WERS (and still has a show there) and got an overview of how the two stations differ. He told me that WECB serves the Emerson College community and is more oriented toward DJs who view radio as a hobby vs. a career. Shows at WECB are 2 hours long and have very few rules besides DJs not being able to use 6 bad words (vs. a much longer list at WERS). Programming is eclectic, from the GM's Led Zeppelin-themed show to comedy, British pop, hip hop, sports, electronica, and a show focusing on a different U.S. state every week. Since they don't have an FCC license, WECB has the freedom to play and say pretty much what they want. This aspect of WECB was discussed in a controversial article in the campus paper, which the GM told me mischaracterized the station's rules.
In contrast, WERS is a tightly formatted station that is run like a professional, commercial station even though it's technically a non-commercial college station. My impression is that DJs there have very little freedom in terms of selecting music for their shows since they use music software, playing tracks from a computer as one would on a commercial station. With its 3 to 5 hour AAA format (adult album alternative) daytime shows, WERS works much like a training ground for professional DJs. When I visited they were doing a special local music week, with lots of in-studio guests and performances. WERS's studios faced Tremont Street in Boston and their station is piped out of speakers outside the building, so that passersby hear the station (at least this was the case when I walked by mid-day on a Friday). It's apparently a competitive place and it isn't as easy to get a show on WERS as it is on WECB.
WECB is a very different place, where DJs have complete freedom to program their own shows. Their digs are less spacious, with a small, but nicely outfitted on-air studio. Equipment included a mixing board, computer, spiffy microphones, CD players, and one turntable tucked away on a counter (I had to look closely for it, as it was hidden behind the on-air DJ's laptop when I stopped by). Jeff told me that DJs there mostly play music that they've brought from home, using CDs, iPods, and laptops. Their Music Director adds music to their small library and it's mostly music that gets sent to the station for free. Their entire record library was in the studio, including a digital music library, which amazed me. They don't really have space for bands to play, but they are able to host acoustic performances in the on-air studio.
If you'd like to learn more about the history of WECB, there's an extensive reunion page, from their 60th anniversary celebration in 2007. The website also includes some history from the 1980s, outlining a time when the station nearly disappeared. There's also a link to a piece written about WECB in 2004. There's also a 2002 story from campus newspaper The Berkeley Beacon about WECB's return to the airwaves.
Thanks so much to WECB for allowing me to visit! Hopefully in the weeks to come I will be able to report back on other station visits.
Friday, April 4, 2008
"According to data provided to Billboard from ...those searching for artist information are selecting the Wikipedia entry link over artists' MySpace pages by a factor of more than 2-to-1. The Wikipedia entries are also more popular than artists' Web sites. 'The interest that people had to go to MySpace to find out more about their favorite band is waning in favor of going to Wikipedia,' Yahoo head of programming and label relations John Lenac says. 'In the last six months, it's surpassed it.' Yet when compared with the number of artist profiles on MySpace, Wikipedia entries are noticeably fewer. MySpace claims 3 million artist profiles. Wikipedia does not have an exact count of artist entries, but estimates that it's in the 'tens of thousands,' according to Wikipedia Foundation head of communications Jay Walsh."
Clearly there's an opportunity here for radio stations and musicians to beef up their Wikipedia entries, if that truly becomes the "go-to" location for artist information. As far as I'm concerned, anything that makes it easier for stations to capture and chronicle their history is a great thing.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
As you can see from my list below, a number of stations have become favorites of XMU and have been on the show multiple times. If you want to add a little more station diversity to the show they are inviting you to contact them for consideration this summer. Just have your Program Director email email@example.com as soon as possible to get the details and plan an air-date.
Here's who is coming up in the next few weeks:
April 6, 2008: WWVU 91.7 FM (West Virginia University, WV)
April 13, 2008: KCSC (Internet-only, Chico State, CA)
April 20, 2008: KSLU (cable and online, St. Louis University, MO)
April 27, 2008: WERS 88.9 FM (Emerson College, Boston, MA)
May 4, 2008: KCSU 90.5 FM (Colorado State, CO)
And here is the complete list of stations who've been on Student Exchange:
2008 (Weekly Show)
3/30/08: KALX 90.7 FM (UC Berkeley, CA)
3/23/08: WREK 91.1 FM (Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA)
3/16/08: WXCU (Internet-only, Capital University, OH)
3/9/08: Re-aired WERS (Emerson College)
3/2/08: UTD (Internet-only, University of Texas, Dallas)
2/24/08: KCSC (Internet-only, Chico State, CA)
2/17/08: WMUH 91.7 FM (Muhlenberg College, Allentown, )
2/10/08: KSSU 1580 AM (Sacramento State, CA)
2/3/08: KSLU (cable and online, St. Louis University, MO)
1/27/08: KSPC 88.7 FM (Pomona College, CA)
1/20/08: WERS 88.9 FM (Emerson College, Boston, MA)
1/13/08: KCSU 90.5 FM (Colorado State University, CO)
1/6/08: Re-aired WRAS (Georgia State, GA)
2007 (began as monthly show, became weekly in the fall)
4/2007: WERS 88.9 FM (Emerson College, Boston, MA)
5/2007: KALX 90.7 FM (UC Berkeley, CA)
6/2007: WOBC 91.5 FM (Oberlin College, OH)
7/2007: WERS 88.9 FM (Emerson College, Boston, MA)
8/2007: KALX 90.7 FM (UC Berkeley, CA)
9/2007: WREK 91.1 FM (Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA)
10/21/07: WERS 88.9 FM (Emerson College, Boston, MA)
11/4/07: WVAU (Internet and campus-only, American University, D.C.)
11/11/07: WOBC 91.5 FM (Oberlin College, OH)
11/18/07: WRAS 88.5 FM (Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA)
11/25/07: KPSU 98.3 FM (campus-only FM and AM, Portland State, OR)
12/2/07: KCSU 90.5 FM (Colorado State University, CO)
12/9/07: KRUA 88.1 FM (University of Alaska, Anchorage)
12/16/07: WONY 90.9 FM (SUNY College, Oneonta, NY)
12/23/07: KALX 90.7 FM (UC Berkeley, CA)
12/30/07: WPTS 92.1 FM (University of Pittsburgh, PA)
"It's official -- there could be radio silence soon unless the people who run the University of Waterloo's campus-community radio station find a way to replace 90 per cent of their budget. This week, the university's board of governors rubber-stamped the cancellation of funding to CKMS-FM. The real decision was made in February, when only 12.8 per cent of eligible student voters cast a ballot in a student referendum. Of those, more than two-thirds voted to stop paying a $5.50-a-term refundable fee to support the station. The board of governors normally affirms student decisions, said vice-chair Ian McPhee. The non-profit radio station has enough money to continue its operations until September, said station manager Heather Majaury. The station will do everything it can to keep running."
According to the article the station is still fighting this decision and the loss of the station could hurt the local indie music scene:
"Longtime CKMS radio host Coral Andrews-Leslie said if the station goes off the air, it will hurt the local and independent music scene. The station has a recording studio where local bands can get music professionally but affordably produced, and onto the air. The 30-year-old station still has a licence for the next seven years.
See my related posts:
Update on Canadian Station CKMS's Budget Woes (3-14-2008)
Students Vote To End Fees in Support of College Radio Station CKMS (2-20-2008)
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
In the meantime, here's the scoop on last week's station and their playlist. KALX 90.7 FM from University of California, Berkeley has been featured on the show 4 times, including last Sunday's show.
Playlist for KALX on XMU "Student Exchange" 3/30/2008
Vampire Weekend - M79 - Vampire Weekend
Lee Moses - What You Don't Want To Be - Time And Place
She & Him - This Is Not A Test - Volume One
Funkees - Akula Owu Onyeara - Nigeria Special: 1970-76
The Dodos - Jodi - Visiter
Dengue Fever - Monsoon of Perfume - Venus On Earth
Why? - Song of the Sad Assassin - Alopecia
Jonny Greenwood - Future Markets - There Will Be Blood
Lupe Fiasco - Gold Watch - The Cool
The Mae-Shi - I Get (Almost) Everything I Want - HLLLYH
The Magnetic Fields - California Girls - Distortion
Earl Brown - Get Together - Jamaica Funk
Arnie Love & The Lovettes - Breakout - Don't Stop: Recording Tap
Holy Fuck - Frenchy's - Holy Fuck
Mahjongg - Problems - Kontpab
Cat Power - Metal Heart - Jukebox
The Raveonettes - Dead Sound - Lust, Lust, Lust
Atlas Sound - Recent Bedroom - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
Alemayehu Eshete - Ambassel (Fast) - Ethiopiques 22
Hot Chip - Shake A Fist - Made In The Dark
There's a fascinating journal article by Dickie Wallace called "Reinventing the Wheel vs. Grinding the Same Old Axe: An Ethnographic View of the Students and Community Members at a Massachusetts College Radio Station" in the March 2008 issue of WPCC (which is focused on community radio).
The article discussed University of Massachusetts, Amherst's college/community radio station WMUA 91.1 FM and the struggles that exist there between older, long-time station staff from the community and younger, ever-changing undergraduate DJs. It's a great article that points out that although the station is controlled by students, long-time community member shows and a block programming structure actually work to make it very difficult for new, undergraduate DJs to get on the air. Tensions are highlighted by a few things, including:
"...many undergraduate students are taken aback by the structure and how hard it can be to establish oneself...they are turned off by the competition with so many older people, Community members, for coveted show times...In turn, many Community members have spent years with the station...Many have built up a following...When WMUA does it on-air fund drive, these regulars bring in the lion's share of support from their listeners..."
The author also makes a valid point about community members providing continuity at the station, something that I personally think is vital for a station's survival. He writes:
"[Community members]...serve as an institutional memory that would otherwise be cyclical as new classes of students come to college every autumn, stay for four or five years and move on."
On the flip side, long-time staff can make a station seem conservative and unchanging:
"Community members, however, can become territorial about their time slots and roles at WMUA, especially in reaction to new waves of eighteen year-olds, who are all too ready to revolutionize the station..."
I'd be curious to hear about how other college stations deal with this tension between students and community.
Thanks to Uncarbonated for turning me on to the community radio issue of this journal.