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Paper Session
Nov 20, 2021 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM(America/Chicago)
20211120T1100 20211120T1150 America/Chicago Ethnography, Nostalgia, and Popular Music AMS 2021 ams@amsmusicology.org
Cool, Kitsch, and the Saxophone
Individual Paper 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 17:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 17:50:00 UTC

Musical instruments act as significant, expressive cultural artefacts and intermediaries of socially assigned characteristics in music. In contemporary American popular music, the saxophone functions to enhance social characteristics through its historical and symbolic associations to qualities with which it has been endowed by the artists that play it, in the context of their performances, and in combination with the shifting identities that it has acquired over time as a musical object with a noteworthy visual and aural presence in commercial popular culture. Employing analytical frameworks from both critical organology and media studies, this paper examines the saxophone's association with the concepts of cool and kitsch in Katy Perry's 'Last Friday Night' (T.G.I.F.)' (2011). In this track and its accompanying music video, the saxophone simultaneously embodies the related but divergent qualities in two ways: through Kenny G's comedic turn acting as the saxophonist 'Uncle Kenny' in the video, and through Lenny Pickett's nostalgic yet contemporary playing style heard at the apex of the recording of the song. The salient musical characteristic of 'Last Friday Night' is the saxophone solo, reminiscent in style to instrumental solos heard in pop songs of the 1980s but modernized for the 2010s with the addition of striking digital effects. The video for the song features many supplemental references to past decades that reinforce its general nostalgic nature as well as the dualities of cool and kitsch. Support for the claim that the saxophone functions as one of the principal elements of each of these characteristics in the song and video is explored through an examination of the historical background and context for Katy Perry and 'Last Friday Night', followed by a discussion of how cool and kitsch, along with its signalling of nostalgia and sentimentality, operate in this context. The paper continues with a survey of the track's critical reception and production, followed by a narrative and musical analysis of the song and video. The paper culminates with a close reading of Lenny Pickett's saxophone playing emerging from interview data carried out for the project.

Presenters Adrianne Honnold
Lewis University
Musicking the Right Way: Performing Ethics and/as Aesthetics at Christian Music Festivals
Individual Paper 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 17:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 17:50:00 UTC

At Cornerstone Festival in Illinois (1984–2012), organizers booked Christian musicians who performed styles peripheral to the pop music prized by the Christian record labels that dominated the Nashville-centered "contemporary Christian music" industry. As Cornerstone's former organizer, John Herrin, explained to me, "Maybe they were a little too evangelical in who they were and what they stood for to make it in the general [secular music industry], but a little too wild to really play a part of the fairly conservative Christian music scene at the time." Christian artists who played EDM, emo, goth, hardcore, heavy metal, hip hop, metalcore, new wave, punk, and other peripheral styles came to rely on Cornerstone as a primary site of career-sustaining performance; attendees relied on Cornerstone as a primary site of musical discovery. Cornerstone performed its organizers' ethics into being, witnessed in its do-it-yourself scrappiness, its (at times) overwhelming sonic chaos, its sanctioned attendee-operated "generator stages," and its willingness to engage difficult theological questions (as Herrin told me, the festival provided an "opportunity to bring 'thinking Christianity' to the table"). From one perspective, this reflects a tautological relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy grounded in theology; another perspective reveals the co-constitutiveness of ethics and aesthetics grounded in practice. To recast Jeffers Engelhardt's "right singing" (2015, 11), at Cornerstone, if the performing was right, then the ethics expressed in that performing were right, and if the ethics were right, then the musical practices grounded in those ethics were right. In this paper, I draw on theories of music and ethics rooted in Christian musicking (Rommen 2007, Engelhardt 2015, Myrick 2021, Myrick and Porter 2021) and return to my ethnographic fieldwork during Cornerstone's final few years to generate a theoretical framework that situates these practices not within a shared faith but rather within a shared ethical framework irrespective of religious belief. Cornerstone's dusty farmland outside Bushnell, Illinois-only a few hours' drive from Chicago-was a place where a musicking community's ethics and aesthetics were so tightly intertwined that they became indistinguishable from each other: they were musicking the right way.

Presenters
AM
Andrew Mall
Northeastern University
Sugar and Tea and Rum and Revival: TikTok and the Continual Discovery of Sea Chanteys
Individual Paper 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM (America/Chicago) 2021/11/20 17:00:00 UTC - 2021/11/20 17:50:00 UTC

During December 2020 and January 2021, a new trend swept TikTok, the viral video platform of the current moment: sea chanteys. Specifically, the New Zealand song "Wellerman" went viral-first, with young people singing or dancing to the Longest Johns' recording of the song, and second, as TikTokers began creating their own versions, using the platform to record harmonies over base melody tracks which circulated widely. Several of these videos reached into the millions of views and experienced second rounds of viral spread on Twitter and YouTube. Many journalistic accounts explained the phenomenon vis-à-vis the COVID lockdown experience. This paper expands the frame of analysis, examining the "#ShantyTok" phenomenon as an expression of a deeper recurring trend: the continual rediscovery of sea chanteys as a novel yet alluring musical genre. Drawing on ethnographic and performance experience in the chantey revival scene, historical research, and media analysis, I show how this viral trend is simply the most recent of many public "discoveries" of sea chanteys-tracing back through viral YouTube videos, video games, Reddit threads, and pre-internet chantey revivals over the past century (Bone 1932, Broadwood 1928, Carr 2007, Colcord 1924, Schreffler 2018, Smith 1888, Whall 1913). In comparing the current trend to prior revivals, this paper isolates and explains the musical and social elements that distinguish #ShantyTok and fuel its popularity-ranging from chord progression to vocal timbre, social isolation to generational downward mobility. The paper proposes a framework for understanding chanteys' current virality through theories of postindustrial nostalgia, masculinity, and twenty-first-century economic precarity. The argument also clarifies how digital media have changed the aesthetic and social dynamics of folk music revival: allowing new forms of digital collaboration, creating chantey communities beyond the insular folk revival mainstays, and expanding chantey discourse into a deeper examination of the genre's African American roots.

Presenters
JM
Joseph Maurer
University Of Chicago
Northeastern University
Lewis University
University of Chicago
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