by carl wilson

Freaks in the Forkways:
EMP Pop Con, Part 4

joanna.jpg

I moderated a panel at the Pop Con called "Forks in the Folkways," unfortunately at the same time as the exciting "Rethinking Hip-Hop Roots" panel with Oliver Wang on boogaloo, Jeff Chang on the Latin sources of the breakbeat, Garnette Cadogan (whose acquaintance I was delighted to make over the weekend, a very quick, warm, learned and funny guy) on the Jamaican side of the story (which, as he mentioned to me, is a little more obvious to people in Toronto than it is to most Americans) and Joe Schloss on the Puerto Rican uprock antecedent to breakdancing. But I was proud of our panel, which included some of the best shit I heard all weekend. My friend Carl Zimring, an environmental historian who also happens to be a huge music geek, gave fascinating paper on Woody Guthrie's love of dams and other attitudes that separate (and historicize) his politics from what contemporary left-wingers (including Billy Bragg and Wilco) might assume he thought.

Meghan Drury Askins, who comes from the same small countercultural California town as Joanna Newsom, put her old schoolmate's music in the context of Nevada City history and psychogeography - for example the local river, which she points out appears in Newsom's songs as a place of respite and recharge; not to mention the fact that the outline of the county is deliberately drawn in the shape of a pistol pointing at a neighbouring county, in hommage to old historical resentments, which points up the place's ornery side. Scott Seward showed off his habitual blend of wit, knowledge and beautiful language in his paper on the folkie bent of much current extreme metal (not flinching from the way that folkie bent crosses over with Euro-metal's pagan-Aryan drift toward Nazism, but pointing out that worrying too much about the politics of guitar-obsessed dweebs who seldom leave their basements may be misplaced).

And the amazing Erik Davis, as always, managed to make topics hippies think about seem a million percent more intriguing. This time he brought his engaged scepticism to bear on "Freak Folk and the Analog Ethic," pointing out that unlike most analog fetishists who fixate on vinyl records, folks like Newsom and MVⅇ and, to some degree, Steve Albini, among others, look to analog as a practice, and by physically intertwining themselves with the inconveniences and slowness of analog methods, they take an impulse that appears like mere nostalgia and turn it into a lived reality. I can't do justice to the complexities of his talk (digital/analog as particle/wave, for example) because I didn't want to take notes up on the dias, but it was exactly the sort of thing that our imaginary crossdisciplinary Believer-styled music mag ought to publish; it sparked some great chat in the q-&-a period.

(To be continued...)

In Depth | Posted by zoilus on Sunday, April 29 at 2:27 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (0)

 

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Zoilus by Carl Wilson