AMS 2009 – Recap
I should have known better than to believe that I would have had time/energy to provide daily updates on the conference while in the midst of all that was AMS Philadelphia 200.* In fact, three days after returning home, I’ve still got a pretty good conference hangover. So, for what it is worth, here are some highlights from my weekend at the conference of all conferences.
After filing my Day #1 Post, I made my way to “The Musical Aesthetics of Race and Ethnicity” panel sponsored by the Committee on Cultural Diversity (CCD). It was standing room only, but well worth it. Senior and junior scholars alike discussed a range of topics (which really deserve their own post) including, the ways race and ethnicity influence their own research and how the AMS has contributed to/hindered such considerations. I finally got to a seat halfway through Sindhu Revuluri’s remarks, which urged greater attendance to holes in the archive, those voices that remain silent in our work as a result of past imbalances. A constant concern of the CCD over the course of its 15-year existence has been the absence of diverse voices in AMS. While this has improved (some say more than others), the problem faced now is an embrace of that scholarship. Though few practical solutions were offered by the panel, the session revealed consideration of race and ethnicity as an intellectually stimulating one.
The rest of Friday was spent meeting with friends and colleagues, old and new. I echo Phil’s observation that it may be a sign of “getting older” that I don’t make it to more papers, I just didn’t think I’d hit this point only 8 years after my first meeting. I called it an early night (perhaps my first ever at AMS) in preparation for a long Saturday.
I was in and out of meetings (first one at 7:30am) and coffees most of the day. I did, however, manage to make it to three papers: Albin Zak explored “Mitch the Goose Man” Miller’s contributions to the development of modern record production and problematized the fine line between gimmick and innovation.** John Howland connected Jay-Z to the shifting aesthetics and “browed” (low, middle, and high) conceptions of Symphonic Jazz through “six degrees of separation” and the most acrobatic handout I’ve ever seen. [Update: Phil Ford over at "Dial M" has posted a copy of said handout.] Stephen Thursby, who took his masters (an odd phrase, that one) at the University of Washington the same year as I, gave a source-rich presentation on stage designer and Secession artist Alfred Roller, whose sketches for a 1903 production of Tristan und Isolde contain intriguing musical notation.
Saturday night was, of course, the epic “Joint Alumni Reception and Gala AMS 75th Birthday Party.” Given the economic struggles of many academic programs as of late, a group party certainly presented a financially viable alternative to the traditional individual receptions. However, I found it next to impossible to find anyone. With the usual format, you knew you could generally find people at the party of their current program or alma mater. No such luck in a ballroom filled with 1000+. Apologies to many of the people I agreed to “meet up with at the party.” If anyone still needs a drink coupon, let me know.
The highlight of Sunday was finally getting out of the hotel and seeing some of Philly. Further apologies to the owners of those papers that I should have attended, but didn’t. Thanks to a local friend, I got out to a great brunch and enjoyed the warm weather and fresh air of Rittenhouse Square. This same friend also happens to work for the Philadelphia Orchestra, so I got a personal tour of the dazzling Kimmell Center for the Performing Arts. Then it was off to the train station to catch Amtrak back to Boston.
All-in-all the meeting was a great success. Thank you to Bob Judd and the countless organizers (from program committee to tote bag stuffers) for all your work!
I’d say “see you next year in Indianapolis,” but the opportunity to stay connected in between conferences is one of the larger goals of this blog. Please let Drew and I know if you’d like to submit a post. We’re always happy to have outside contributions!
* Biggest typo of the conference award: The Tote Bags
** Best audio of the conference award: Frankie Laine’s “Cry of the Wild Goose”