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On Wednesday night, I finally made it back to my favorite LA jazz club, blue whale. Pianist Tigran Hamasyan was playing a solo show, and I knew that it was going to be something that I’d regret missing. So I carpooled with two friends, Alyssa Mathias and Kristin Gierman, to check it out—and we sure weren’t disappointed! Rather than write a straight-ahead review, though, I thought I’d try something different: an improvised concert review. So after the set, I fired up my audio recorder in the car, we asked each other questions about the set, and I transcribed the result. Check it out after the jump, lightly edited, minus our typically Angeleno debate over which freeways to take home: Read the rest of this entry »
With another year of graduate coursework well underway now, I figure it’s time to take a minute to reflect here at the blog on the various writing, musicking, and writing-about-musicking activities swirling through my calendar these days.
The title of this post refers to former UCLA musicologist Charles Seeger’s apt description of musicology: that scholars of music are “in a linguocentric predicament,” that is, that we are stuck talking about music when the music expresses so much all by itself. I’ve done a lot of talking about music recently, which has been a lot of fun and has also reminded me of the stark limitations to the word’s capacity to convey musical meaning. Read the rest of this entry »
Wow, that was a crazy month! And another begins, as I return to campus for spring quarter here at UCLA. This quarter system is a real trip . . . between the 10-week courses and the lack of seasons here in Los Angeles, there is a very different academic ebb and flow than the one became accustomed to on the East Coast.
But enough complaining — I am eager to take on some new courses and extremely grateful and humbled to have had the opportunity to present at last week’s EMP Pop Conference. Despite the fact that our panel was programmed at the same time as a gathering of powerhouse music writers (Greil Marcus and Ann Powers, anyone?) we had a solid turnout, including a number of my friends and former classmates at Rutgers. David Adler, Nate Chinen, and Phil Freeman all gave fantastic, engaging papers, and we had time for a lively Q & A session afterwards. Thanks also to the Music of our Heart for a nice blog recap.
I’d add a small quibble, though, to the characterization of the conference as a “Deep Hang.” I would call it wide, perhaps — the sheer size and buzz of the conference was invigorating, but the depth was uneven at best. There was plenty of deep thinking going on in some places, though: a fantastic roundtable conversation moderated by Greg Tate featuring Vijay Iyer, Jose James, Mazz Swift, and Butch Morris was one highlight. Morris held court for much of the session, defending the word jazz from its recent slough of detractors, and all four shared heavy insights into the role that cities have played in shaping their unique musical visions: “nodes in the network,” as Iyer eloquently called them. Guthrie Ramsay’s panel “Cities, Hegemonic Sound, and Blackness” was another deep and real take on issues of representation in African American music culture, and the closing keynote speech by ?uestlove was highly entertaining for its charming geekiness.
Best of all, though, was the simple act of reacquainting myself (just a little bit) with the city that I left behind last year. Attending the opening reception at Le Poisson Rouge, I caught a whiff of nostalgia for my first concert in the City, hearing Claudia Acuna, Jason Moran, William Parker, and others at the 2009 Winter JazzFest. And I had the pleasure of reconnecting with my three closest friends from Rutgers — Sean Lorre, Paul Brady, and Jared Negley — while catching the Gerald Clayton Trio’s impeccable set at the Jazz Standard. This confirmed the theory that I presented in my paper on Saturday: that “the hang” plays an important role in shaping music communities, and that jazz musicians are especially astute when it comes to making hangs happen.
As I return to my nose-in-the-books life here in Los Angeles, then, I’m exceedingly grateful to have stocked back up on the New York vibe, and hope that the spirit of the hang continues to help me along for another ten-week dive into the depths of academia.
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.
One of the inevitable rites of passage for graduate school in the humanities comes in that fateful seminar grappling with the intellectual legacy of what is vaguely termed Social Theory. That is exactly what I’m up to this quarter at UCLA, in a seminar aptly titled “Integrating Theory With Ethnography,” taught by the esteemed music scholar Timothy D. Taylor. In this class, we read a whole bunch of this Social Theory stuff and then figure out on our own how to integrate it into our own ethnographic work with music.
After having spent the last year or so “in the trenches” of the jazz business, this Social Theory is having all sorts of interesting and strange resonances with my experiences there. This week, it struck me especially hard as I read Max Weber’s famous book, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. As I see it, Weber’s insights have particular relevance for the current challenges facing the jazz community. Read the rest of this entry »
Well, it’s been three months since I’ve found the time to get back to the blog. But now that I just wrapped up my first quarter of coursework at UCLA, it seems like a good time to poke my head out from the mountains of reading and say hello to all my friends on the internet. If Andrew can do it in the middle of a book project, and Rachel can find the time between coursework, a radio internship, and the unrequited love of jazz nerds, then who am I to complain?
As the photo shows, winter in Los Angeles can be tough, but so far I’m managing to survive. This city is a strange and different urban animal, but I do feel extremely blessed to be here, even when I have been overwhelmingly busy and unable to enjoy an afternoon in the Santa Monica sand. Read the rest of this entry »