2010 Pop Conference Call for Proposals

The Pop Machine: Music and Technology

Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame


Seattle, April 15-18, 2010


            Popular music might be narrated as a story of sounds and the machines that make them. From the talking drum and parlor room piano to the Gibson Les Paul, from the Edison phonograph to Roland 808 beatbox and Antares Autotune software, how have pop’s contraptions reflected, inflected, and mediated musical history? What changes when we start with the technology that makes the ineffable material, and its shaping of modes of production and consumption? As we close out a decade of momentous change at all levels of popular music, this is a salient moment for rethinking the continual dialogue in pop between the new and the traditional. Note: this call is not aimed only at gearheads. What counts as human is produced in and through the use of technologies. We need to hear the voices that wrap flesh around the wiring.


Topics can cover any era or style of music and may include, but are not limited to:


--Hardware:  the effect of equipment on how we make, record, disseminate, and fetishize music.


--Business: economies of scale(s), the demand for profit in changing technological contexts.


--Identity: how youth culture, Afromodernism, and transgender/transsexual personas, manufactured divas and real fem-bots, among other pop categories, deploy technology.


--Technology in the 2000s: iPods, computer game music, music and war, digital technology exhuming analog artifacts.


--Aesthetics: “perfect sound forever” to pixelation and lossy file formats; Computer Love erotics; power chords from amplified blues to Guitar Hero.


--“The street finds its own use for things”: working class, global, racial, and other subaltern appropriations of technology, from sound systems to rock camps for girls.


--Bodies as technologies: the “natural” as a response to changing artifices; the voice as a modifiable tool.


--Music writing and the technological formations it rests upon.


--Anxieties and doubts: folk revivalists, roots rockers, and other tech-refuseniks.


The Pop Conference at EMP|SFM, now in its ninth year, joins academics, critics, performers, and dedicated fans in a rare common discussion. The conference is sponsored by the American Music Partnership of Seattle (Experience Music Project, the University of Washington School of Music, and KEXP 90.3 FM), through a grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

This year’s program committee members are: writer and filmmaker Raquel Cepeda, Jasen Emmons (EMP/SFM), musician Sean Nelson, Tavia Nyong’o (NYU), Lauren Onkey (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum), Ann Powers (Los Angeles Times), Jody Rosen (Slate), Barry Shank (Ohio State), Tyina Steptoe (University of Washington), and Tim Taylor (UCLA).


Please send proposals of 250 words, with 50 word bio, to organizer Eric Weisbard (University of Alabama) at Eric.Weisbard@gmail.com. Deadline for proposals is Tuesday, December 15. Panel proposals, for either three presenters (90 minutes) or four (105 minutes), should include overview language and 200 word individual proposals, plus panelist bios. We welcome unorthodox proposals and proposals aimed explicitly at a general interest audience. For more information, go to http://www.empsfm.org/education/