So far, one of my favorite parts of the academic lifestyle is the occasional ritual known as the Academic Conference. After having a great time presenting at graduate student conferences nearly two years ago (one of which I recounted at this very blog), I resolved to get back in the game this spring. After getting settled at UCLA, I sent out four applications, hoping that one or maybe two might take interest in my work.
Much to my surprise, all four conferences invited me to present a paper! So it’s a busy springtime full of travel, which started two weekends ago at the International Society for Improvised Music conference at William Paterson University, near my old haunts in New Jersey. Next weekend, I’m heading north to Eugene, Oregon to present at the West Coast Conference of Music Theory and Analysis. Later in March, I’ll be back in the New York City area to present at the EMP Pop Conference. I cap it all off with a trip to Vancouver, BC for the Analytical Approaches to World Music conference in May.
After coming back from the ISIM conference, I must admit — the bar has been set very high.
Although the conference is small, ISIM introduced me to a whole bunch of brilliant, thoughtful scholars and musicians who are thinking about improvisation in and out of the academy. Led by flugelhorn player and University of Michigan professor Ed Sarath, the weekend was jam-packed with fascinating music, provocative papers and fruitful conversations. I spent much of the weekend hanging with fellow trombonist Jeff Albert, who gave a paper on his “Instigation Quartets” — check them out and learn more at his research website. I also showed Jeff around Newark a bit, where we stopped by WBGO and the Institute of Jazz Studies. It’s always refreshing to soak up the vibe of those places — two institutions that I certainly miss out here in LA.
The highlight of ISIM, though, came on Saturday night when vocalist Pyeng Threadgill (pictured above) took the stage as a part of the evening concert. What a sound! She wasn’t the only great performer to take the stage — Ellen Burr and Steven Nachmanovich had performed a compelling improvised duet earlier in the day, and the group Static Announcements impressed as well. But Threadgill brought it all together with a beautiful voice, compelling artistic vision and inspired collaborators in drummer Evan Pazner and guitarist John Shannon. I had to leave on Sunday morning, so I didn’t catch the last day of presentations, but Threadgill’s performance, followed by the University of Michigan Creative Arts Orchestra, served as an excellent way to end the show.
Having had such a blast at ISIM, I’m really looking forward to the rest of this year’s conference season. Again, those upcoming dates:
Friday, March 2 at the West Coast Conference of Music Theory and Analysis in Eugene, Oregon
Sudnay, March 25 at the EMP Pop Conference Presented by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music in New York, NY
(For those of you reading in the NYC area: the EMP Pop Conference is free and open to the public! And I will be in very good company, speaking on a panel with David Adler, Nate Chinen, and Phil Freeman.)
Friday, May 11 at the Analytical Approaches to World Music Conference in Vancouver, BC
I hope to see some of you, my dear readers, at one of these talks! I have certainly worked hard to put them together, and look forward to sharing them again soon.