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Wednesday, September 16, 2:00pm - 3:00pm (Panel)

Montages of Mourning

  • Death is a Star: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Punk’s Alleged Demise, Stefano Morello (The Graduate Center, CUNY) & Michelle Cruz Gonzales (Las Positas College, musician)
  • The Ghost Of You: Young Fans, Mourning and Dead Bands, Hannah Ewens (VICE UK)
  • Washed Cycles: Hip-Hop After Youth, Nate Patrin (writer)
  • The CD-R Era: Reading The Secret Language Of Physical Media’s Dying Days, Daoud Tyler-Ameen (NPR)

 

Presentation Descriptions

 

Death is a Star: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Punk’s Alleged Demise, Stefano Morello (The Graduate Center, CUNY) & Michelle Cruz Gonzales (Las Positas College, musician)

Despite the manifold accounts of its alleged death, for four decades, punk’s sonic interruptions have generated spaces for young (and) marginalized individuals to exert agency and build communities of resistance. Narratives of its inevitable decease-by-assimilation are often perpetuated by subcultural participants or critics – Greil Marcus, Michael Azerrad, and Gina Arnold among them – unable (or unwilling) to identify the productive potential of punk’s next onsets.

While punk’s symbolic death is key to its mythology, those narratives overlook that the genre’s liability to undo itself is key to the process of creation through destruction central to punk world-making praxis. Paradigm-shifting moments in the history of this subculture reveal that its critical tendency to self annihilation is but an inevitable renewal of the tactics and targets of its rebellion. Indeed, decades apart from both the Pistols’ demise and “the year punk broke,” its ethos, sound, and style have been, and still are, catalysts for meaningful modes of oppositional being. In other words, youth never stopped playing (and playing with) their own versions of punk.

We turn to the inception of the Gilman Street Project in Berkeley, the feminist prefigurative politics of Spitboy, and the intersectional defiance of Downtown Boys to look at and listen to punk as an inherently unstable system. Drawing from Michelle Cruz Gonzales’ experience as a participant in the East Bay punk rock commons of the 1980s and ‘90s and Stefano Morello’s theorization of the same scene, this intergenerational dialogue and performance aims to demonstrate that what have been recognized as punk’s many dissolutions, are but processes of renewal-through-refusal of inherited and already exhausted sounds and understandings of modes of being with and against.

 

The Ghost Of You: Young Fans, Mourning and Dead Bands, Hannah Ewens (VICE UK)

Public and journalistic ideas of youthful music fandom are predominantly shaped by fan bases of active artists. But increasingly given our age of information and online-basis for fandom, tweens and teens become fans of disbanded pop and rock groups. What happens when original fans have moved on, leaving new gen fans to obsess over a band that is essentially “dead”? Inactive, silent, gone.

It’s said that people come together in joy and in misery – the latter is evident here. In retroactively becoming a fan of an inactive artist, the youth disconnect with contemporary youth culture and remain in a state of mourning. Teens use social media to count the days since the band “died”, celebrate morbid anniversaries and revisit past texts that will never update. They swear they “will die without seeing them live” and are ”born in the wrong decade”. The religious connotations of fandom are heightened in this phenomenon – newer fans wish for a “great return” and deal in ideas of worship and salvation. Despite looking backwards, they bring innovative language and social media use to something not young at all.

How and why are today's youth reviving the dead or dying fandoms of days past? Examining my own extensive fan interviews and online research into fan discourse, this paper will explore the mysterious value of this seemingly miserable existence for fans. Furthermore, what happens to a fanbase when all that praying provides? In the golden age of musical reunions, a return is never far away. In particular, I will examine how fans of My Chemical Romance have engaged with their recently announced reunion, and how this resulted in a clash between new gen and original fans who returned to the fanbase. Will they comfortably unite over differences to celebrate a band coming back to life?

 

Washed Cycles: Hip-Hop After Youth, Nate Patrin (writer)

In 1991, A Tribe Called Quest's 'The Low End Theory' opened with Q-Tip's verse about music's cyclical nature: "You could find the abstract listening to hip-hop/My pops used to say it reminded him of bebop." When hip-hop's staying power was still very much in question, positioning a youth-driven movement inside a continuum that echoed across generations was vital. Twenty years later, with hip-hop as an internationally dominant artform, rapper Open Mike Eagle observed in his title track to 'Rappers Will Die of Natural Causes' that "They say the game is for young guys/For the hungry, unshaved and the unsigned," while rap's original icons are aging into pain-filled obsolescence. While notable veterans still work in contemporary hip-hop -- Q-Tip helmed production for the latest record by Danny Brown, who'd previously released an album titled 'Old' when he was all of 32 -- many more are cast to the side by the kind of rapid-turnover youth-popularity waves that never did as much damage to the reputations and prospects of jazz, rock and soul greats from previous generations.

That leads to an irony worth reconciling: the great artists of hip-hop's first decades built a sonic world out of an ability to reconfigure the styles and ideas of the past -- classic jazz and funk breaks, old comedy routines, encyclopedic referential language -- but are themselves given diminishing opportunities to support their own place in the continuation of this world. While artists like E-40, Snoop Dogg, and Jay-Z still have star status in middle age, niches like theirs are scarce -- especially when the music industry and media push hip-hop primarily as a youth movement. This situation has led people to ask whether there's life after hip-hop -- but more importantly, is there still such a thing as being hip-hop for life?

 

The CD-R Era: Reading The Secret Language Of Physical Media’s Dying Days, Daoud Tyler-Ameen (NPR)

Recordable CDs weren’t new when their use spiked in the early 2000s, and they’re still easy to find — but at the turn of the millennium these ugly, fragile plastic slabs held electrifying new possibilities for music sharing and discovery. The home-burned CD was worlds more efficient than the cassette mixtape, less risky than scamming Columbia House, compatible with the wild frontier of file sharing. No one took to CD-Rs like that era’s young adults: Newly loosed into the world beyond high school, bursting with curiosity about the art and culture flooding our eyes and ears but lacking the money and access to experience it by traditional means, we found our answer at Staples.

Unlike streaming platforms, CD-Rs retained some of the intimacy of what had come before. Making a mix CD still took time, still demanded personal touches — discs hand-lettered in Sharpie, ad-hoc liner notes printed and cut to size. And if you were beginning to make your own music in these years, you suddenly had a modest pressing plant on hand. GarageBand and Audacity had opened up home recording, but it would be a few years before Bandcamp and its cousins did the same for distribution; having something to hand out at open mics or sell after your coffee shop set helped demystify the whole enterprise.

My paper will explore the uniqueness of the CD-R era — roughly 2002, when CD burning drives became standard in personal computers, to the stateside debut of Spotify in 2011. With the help of multimedia from my own CD-R collection and citations from the work of Jonathan Sterne (MP3), Jaron Lanier (You Are Not a Gadget) and others, I’ll unpack how an unglamorous product helped shape how music was shared, made and valued in the dying days of physical media.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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