Carolina Chocolate Drops

SEM Conference Notes, Day 1

These notes are more like a jumble of spotty annotations for my own consumption, so let me apologize if they don’t make sense to you. They aren’t really meant to, and certainly aren’t meant to be abstract info or formal content overviews. Much of it includes buzzwords and new phrases that I liked, or paraphrases of material. If I ever use it, I want to know where I “found” the word/phrase so I can cite it properly.  I don’t trust being able to find my little black notebook if/when I need it.

Auditory Regimes in the Field of the Sensible: Charting the Politics of Sound in Wartime Iraq (J. Martin Doughtry, NYU)

Notes: Active listening, “belliphonic” (war: ancient Greek), spectrum of sounds produced in armed combat, “resonant vibrational invasion” (sound of a bullet), link between the sound of the bullet and the destruction that accompanies it, fighters vs. bystanders,  active listening of bullet/weapon sounds (weapons becoming ambient sounds), sound training & the “military auditory regime”,  “auditory regime”, “scopic regime”,  learned listening, “militarized auditory regime”,  sounds that help desensitize soldiers to gunfire (it becomes inaudible background noise), “mediated military listening” and military grade protection, soldiers as only occasional viewers  but constant auditors of the war (open window story: open to avoid shattering via bomb wave), “informationally rich sounds of combat” (soldiers learn to listen to this), Arabic perceived as unintelligible speech, sonic regimes – auditory regimes, “sounds that serve as an index of violence”, bombs thrown at music stores & weddings with the goal of removing western music from the sonic regime of local Baghdad (thus criminalizing the act of listening), violence and music resonates.

Becoming an Arts Coordinator: Lessons Learned from Incorporating Ethnomusicological Training in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms (Abimbola Cole, UCLA)

Notes: televised apprenticeship programs (and how this changed the shape of academic internships/apprenticeships) , these shows create “postmodern pseudo-celebrity blips”, author discusses her various apprenticeships/internships (1. Botswana: Youth Health Organization, Y.O.H.O., 2. Apollo Theatre Foundation, Harlem: folk arts coordinator), folk arts education: the new generation of ethnomusicologists must be skilled in interdisciplinary disciplines, questions posed about the Philadelphia Ethnomusicology Project,

From Ivory Towers to Hanging Gardens: Educating for Applied Ethnomusicology (Ricardo T. Trimillos, U. of Hawaii at Manoa)

(Notes on Handout)

Research, Co-Creation, and Love in Local Arts Advocacy (Brian Schrag, SIL and GIAL)

Notes: SIL, GIAL, prepping people as arts consultants, creating co-creative relationships, 3 parts to creating arts consultants: ethnographic research/expressive form analysis/application & community goals & needs, SIL ethnomusicology & arts group, “What does an arts consultant do” video (fantastic), UNESCO conference (Nairobi), ‘arts consultant’ as a valid non-university job title for ethnomusicologists, faith-based, SIL embraces others’ spiritualities “up to a point”  – until it goes beyond the ethics of J.C… hmm.

“So Old It’s Almost New”: The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Ideologies of Tradition, and What It Means to Play “Old-Time” Music (Thomas Richardson, UCSB)

Notes: Traditional music is “cool”, Drops history, Black Banjo Reunion (event), Fatted Calf String Band, instrumentation: quills/autoharp/banjo/bones/guitar…beatbox, traditional artists borrowing other people’s music, Brad Lottwich (figure in Old-Time) is a fan of what the Drops are doing, Tommy Jarrell, Uncle Earl, Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Chocolate Drops shift from a dance band to a concert band, “so old it’s almost new” racial bifurcation, leaking of genres, “Drops live in a multi-hyphenated genre list”

“Recapturing the Banjo”: The Black Banjo Revival and the Specter of Romantic Nationalism (Stephan Pennington, Tufts)

Notes: urban-ness=black-ness, the equation of blackness with urban life wasn’t always the case, black banjo revival=black ruralness (romantic nationalism), great image of white Appalachia, mythical Appalachia & banjo, Lomax quote, “Affrolachia” (not the author),  Black banjo Then & Now Gathering, views of white flight, discussing anything from an African-American perspective as racist?, Otis Taylor, Don Vappie (NOLA), “When did black become white?”: at what point did the banjo get assigned to the U.S.  as it originated in Africa?, “Ran so Hard the Sun Went Down” (Otis Taylor) – about a man being chased by the KKK.

Slavi Trifonov, the Commodification of Music, and Capitalist Logic in Post-State-Socialist Bulgaria (Plamena Kourtova, FSU)

**Plam did an excellent job with this presentation. Commodification, popular culture, nationalism, Marxism.

The Ecology of Music Scholarship: Ethnomusicology as an Intervention in Buddhist Studies (Jeffery Cupchik, Eastman)

Notes: “Buddhism is a performing art”, Chod ritual, Machik Labdron, monk’s job at a casket company (good job for the reminder of impermanence) , “Good” chod/gcod tradition, “dramaturgical ritual” (i.e. Catholic mass), most work has been done on monastic chant/ritual, chod ritual done at a cemetery at night, both lay & ordained people do it, there are no gender limitations (i.e. they let women do it), drum (damaru), bell (drilbu), thighbone trumpet (rkang gling), ritual conjures up visualization of the vultures gobbling up the bones/flesh before reincarnation (return to earth), one person is expected to play all of the instruments (as a solo ritual), “chod melodies are the wisdom of Buddha in actuality”, ritual mapping: see where correspondances lay, “sonic iconography”: in China, the lotus sutra as carved into the wall of a cave and thus the environment becomes the ritual.  MACHIK.ORG.

Men at Work: Re-presenting Hawai’ian Masculinities through Song, Dance, and Fashion (Kati Szego, Memorial University, Canada)

Notes: uniforms and masculinity, dinner jackets on police officer choristers giving them a “Bogart” look so they looked white collar, clothing as class identity, William Blaisdell (HFD): fire chief when Hawaii became a state, hula as a feminine tradition: creating a masculine hula with the fire department (masculine = straight hands & fists, songs that reinforce masculinity, less hip action), “it changed the kind of man a policeman/fireman could be”, soft vs. hard power (Nye),  creation of a homosocial solidarity through Hawaiian male singing groups (they were not successful as hegemonizers) , American colonizers called hulu “sissy”: fearful of an aggressive fire dept, American xenophobic anxieties.

I love a (Pride) Parade: Queer Community-Building, Temporary Spaces and Politicized Kitsch among LGBT Marching Bands (Rachel Devitt, UW: Seattle)

Notes: Using music to create queer/pride spaces & their sonic strategies, “scrappy protests to extravagant parades sparkling with drag queens and politicians” (paraphrased quote),  concept of music (parades) in gay ghettos, allows queers to take up both physical and political space, queer pride parades choosing repertoire to help facilitate dance/mvmt & crowd interaction, Youtube: Lakeside Pride (2008) “We Are Family”, Janisssary bands, bands that stop to “pay homage” at anti-gay sites and protesters to play “Jesus Loves You”, LGBA discussion,  why is there a push to create gay versions of things? (i.e. gay churches, bands): to say to heterosexuals “we’re just like you”, gay band at Obama inauguration: the band played a Sousa march in uncomfortable outfits while the group behind them were straight-girl dancers that looked like drag queens & the H.S. group behind that was playing “somewhere over the rainbow” – which group was the gayest?, Pride=1 day to let out the “freaks/queers”,  queer interpretations & recolonizations (i.e. gay anthems appropriated from mainstream).

Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) 55th Annual Meeting: Sound Ecologies

I’m off to the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) conference tomorrow in Los Angeles and very excited about what this week will bring.

There are several panels and papers I’m looking forward to, including Amimbola Cole’s “Lessons Learned from Incorporating Ethnomusicological Training in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms”, Thomas Richardson’s “So Old It’s Almost New: The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Ideologies of Tradition, and What It Means to Play Old-Time Music”, Jeffrey Cupchiks’ paper on ethnomusicology and Buddhist studies, papers on queer and gender studies, on the Tongan Brass Band community, and an entire panel devoted to musical ethnographies of New Orleans chaired by Matt Sakakeeny (Tulane).

Before I even get there I have a few small first-impression criticisms based on what I’ve been told by others who’ve attended the conference. I’ve never been to a conference before where you had to pay extra (on top of the registration fee) to see musical performances in the evenings, although I hear that within musicology that’s commonplace. This makes no sense to me. Likewise, I’ve been told that it is convention for every speaker to have their paper in hand and read word-for-word what’s on their paper instead of presenting it. This doesn’t exactly make for an engaging audience experience. Why is this convention?

Regardless of these, I am excited to attend.  Hopefully I’ll be posting updates from it and sharing anything exciting that I learn. I have a good chunk of time to hang out in L.A., also – though I still have no plans on that end.

Is it sad that I’m looking forward to two nine-hour flights to help me get caught up on course readings?

Dirt-Floor-Dance Electricity

Thanks to the extraordinarily-talented Marie Marshall (author/poet) for the introduction to a great band.

“Rolling Stone Magazine described the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ style as “dirt-floor-dance electricity”. If you ask the band, that is what matters most. Yes, banjos and black string musicians first got here on slave ships, but now this is everyone’s music. It’s OK to mix it up and go where the spirit moves.”

Check. Them. Out. Today.

If you’re interested in banjo music, check out this great resource:

Banjo Sightings Database