I have the privilege of presenting at three conferences in March. The opportunity to share my work with others offers a nice way to punctuate the intense insular nature of dissertation writing.
At NECSEM (Northeast Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology), I got to hear some really great papers from undergrads, grad students, and recent Ph.D.s, and I also presented my own work: “Fluent Transmission: Lip Syncing, Popular Music Reaction Videos, and the Performance of Music Consumption on YouTube.” I imagine the paper will split into two projects–a chapter in my dissertation on lip syncing and a standalone article on popular music reaction videos. But I enjoyed putting the two together to showcase their resonances as amateur performance practices. At NECSEM, the highlight was truly the President’s Roundtable, which featured Damascus Kafumbe (Middlebury College), Payam Yousefi (Harvard University), Margaret Rowley (Boston University), Sarah Politz (Williams College), James Rosenberg (Tufts University), and Elise Brown (Wellesley College). Everyone had really interesting things to say, and topics ranged from sonic privacy to the ethics of overstated ethnography to healing performance.
At ARC (Arts, Religion, Culture), the focus was on “theopoetics,” as well as sub-themes revolving around embodiment, listening, religion, and spirituality more broadly. The conference was organized as a sort of non-conference, encouraging speakers to speak rather than read about topics, fostering dialogue rather than monologues, and emphasizing poetic/performative access to truth rather than argumentative/theoretical. The whole weekend began with an incredible performance from the Sanctuaries, a mixed media band from Washington D.C. I am certainly new to theopoetics, but I appreciated the inclusive atmosphere created by participants. I joined the conference at the urging of my dad, who brought me along to present on a panel with him about embodied listening (as it turns out, air guitar has strange connections to theology). I found the conference to embody a lot of values championed (but maybe harder to realize) at some larger national conferences. The conference centered people of color and women, encouraged vulnerability and honesty, and fostered difficult conversations in productive ways. Some of the most powerful papers that I heard grappled with theology, tensions between the sacred and profane, blackness, and white supremacy, all of which brought a lot of liberation theology to bear on contemporary social justice issues. It’s also interesting to hear non-music scholars analyze music from a theological perspective, which brings forth productive similarities and critical differences as well. The conference also had a great little sheet for framing discussions, which will be really useful in future classes that I teach.
I will report on the third conference when I return from Seoul!