So AMS was fun. For me. I don’t know about you. But as usual I got to see old friends, only this time it seemed as if there were more of them, which means I saw fewer papers than I have in the past. I liked the ones I saw (one develops a certain skill in reading abstracts for promising papers), but there wasn’t an awful lot of stuff in my line. Some of the jazz and pop people who came to my paper told me they saw almost nothing else all weekend — there just wasn’t a lot of American vernacular culture on offer. Not saying this was done on purpose (who knows what the submissions looked like), it just is what it is. Every year seems to have a distinct lean towards (or away from) some area or other.
Two other things:
1. There did, though, seem to be something of a subliminal theme running throughout some of the papers — a wish to turn attention away from the monumental works of music history and towards the fragmentary, the faded, the ephemeral, the half-remembered, the forgotten. In short, there was a definite vibe of recovering unimportant pasts, or perhaps (better) recovering things, perhaps ephemeral in themselves, that pull great ineffable trains of history in their wake. This is the historical mood of Benjamin’s Arcades project files (which I have been reading). Carolyn Abbate’s paper on “Je Suis Titania” from Mignon was one such paper. and my own offering, dealing as it did in the faded traces of Beat socialization in the Holmes acetates, was another. No-one plans these things; they’re just sort of in the air.
2. Another theme running throughout this conference was my beard. I’ve been letting it grow, and people are talking
. At the IU party I ended up having a conversation with two eminent senior scholars about whether I more resembled Rutherford B. Hayes
or James Garfield
Karl Marx and Brahms were also mentioned. Why am I doing this? There are many possible reasons
, but I’m going with this one:
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