Hey, kids, what time is it?
It's time for EMP!EMP's Pop Conference: A lot of talk about music
By Patrick MacDonald
Seattle Times music critic
2008 Pop Conference: "Shake, Rattle: Music, Conflict and Change"
Thursday-April 13, Experience Music Project, Seattle Center; free (preregistration recommended: 206-770-2745 or e-mail to PopConference Registration@empsfm.org).
If writing about music is like dancing about architecture, as the old saw goes, then talking about music, at an academic level, can really be a stretch.
At Experience Music Project's annual Pop Conference, now in its seventh year, the presentations can go from fascinating and enlightening to pretentious and boring, as well as several levels in between. Sometimes you get the feeling that those who yammer endlessly about music don't really like it, don't seem to get pleasure or insight from it, but rather yearn to examine it, pull it apart, try to understand what others find in the musical experience.
Other times, you encounter a writer or scholar full of enthusiasm and ideas, one who makes listening to music richer because you understand and appreciate it better.
And the best thing about EMP's Pop Conference is that it's free. You can browse among the many offerings — some 40 sessions and panels, with more than 160 presenters reading their papers — and take 'em or leave 'em, never feeling that time or money has been wasted (and there's always the museum to explore for the general admission fee).
As with many contemporary academic pursuits, gender, politics and ethnicity are big at this year's conference. The theme is "Shake, Rattle: Music, Conflict and Change." That takes in a lot of territory. Several panels are connected to one of the museum's current exhibits, "American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music." Hip-hop is, of course, well-represented, including a performance by Blue Scholars. Several panels deal with music in time of war.
Last year's conference resulted in the book "Listen Again: A Momentary History of Pop Music," published by Duke University Press. One fascinating aspect of the conference is that you learn how many scholars are out there in academia seriously studying pop music. (At the conference, I often hear Mick Jagger in my head, singing "It's only rock 'n' roll ... ").
For the latest information about the conference schedule, visit EMP online: www.empsfm.org/education.
Patrick MacDonald: 206-464-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company