Pop Conference 2024:
Legacy! Legacy! Music, Collections and Archives
March 7-9, 2024
at USC Thornton School of Music,
Los Angeles, California
Pop Conference is the premiere music writing and pop music studies conference. Held every spring, the conference features the world's leading scholars, journalists, writers, musicians, as they come together for a long weekend to present papers, roundtables, discussions, and performances about popular music.
The Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California is happy to host this year’s Pop Conference. Many events, with the exception of a few remote ones, are scheduled to be held on or near USC’s Los Angeles University Park campus.
Please note the event will be held this year in March, a departure from previous years; and this year’s gathering is scheduled to comprise three days of panels. There will be no official Sunday events.
About This Year's Theme:
Musical legacies are trails, what is left behind, or what survives. Legacies are sometimes built on, or around, archives, collections, sources and ephemera—some stamped as “official” in universities and museums, some filling in basements, stashed away in drawers, and in dusty backrooms of community radio stations. Who are the curators and custodians of musical legacies? Who’s mopping up the mess? Some legacies are, meanwhile, passed down orally through stories, and others through participatory music practices and performance repertoires that often turn the official story towards other vistas. What relations to land and to each other do these legacies trace? Legacies are sounded in multiple languages and formats (what about remastering?), and they are constantly in process of becoming. And what is the role of independent record store owners in legacy building? Southern California alone is home to dozens of record shops. Legacies are not just present in the music itself; rather, they are constantly in formation, on the brink of arrival, carrying us into the future; the fuel for intense and contentious musical debates among critics and fans. Some are conversations with broad reach and others more intimate. Some voices are amplified, and others short- circuited. What does it mean to leave behind a legacy? When does a legacy become a burden? What musical sounds, genres, formats, mediums, traditions, songs, and artists are remembered and celebrated—and which ones fade to black? How do 21st century platform ecosystems and streaming services change the way we think about musical archives, collections and legacies? When is it no longer useful to mark musical anniversaries? Music lovers all collect at some level — selectively and modestly for some, extravagantly and incessantly for others. And those collections leave a legacy, either for offspring or for a welcoming archive. No matter how consequential the collection, they all represent memory and the passing down of aural DNA. As Geoffrey O’Brien put it in Sonata for Jukebox: Pop Music, Memory, and the Imagined Life: "In the same way that pieces of their possible lives are depicted in old photographs and postcards ... the rhythm and lyrics of their lives are incised on vinyl, waiting to be revived in the imagination of their descendants." There are numerous examples of how archives and collections connect to popular music practices. For starters, think of Zora Neale Hurston and Alan Lomax whose practices of documenting produced many legacies and counter-legacies. Jamila Woods’ acclaimed 2019 album Legacy! Legacy! —the source of this year’s Pop Conference title—pays tribute to the artists who created the building blocks for her sound and opened the field for her musical self to emerge. In “Zora,” she sings “None of us are free but some of us are brave.” In Woods’ voicing, a rich archive of sounds emerges from past acts of musical bravery; these sounds move across time and space to defy genre and vitalize those dancing toward freedom. Musicians like Sudan Archives, meanwhile, point us towards the centrality of collections in their very name. And in Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.’ and THE CARTERS’ “Apeshit,” these artists invoke the site of the museum to wrangle with the power of colonial archives and create new records of value and worth. In “Put Your Records On,” Corrine Bailey Rae beckons to “tell me your favorite song” — share the most personal part of yourself from your collection. While in Prince’s “Musicology,” he warns, “Don’t you touch my stereo / These is my records!” — you can listen to his collection, but don’t even think about handling the sacred vinyl. Documentaries like Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World provide a rousing archive of Indigenous influence in the making of pop music hidden in plain sight and sound. Living legacy sites like New Orleans are defiant but touristed. Girl in a Coma’s “Clumsy Sky” video claims the local bar as a potent site of re-sounding Chicana punk within Tejano conjunto legacies. Break it All: The History of Rock in Latin America/Rompan Todo opens our ears to influences from abroad. Nobuko Miyamoto’s memoir, her “long song” of reflection, draws upon Japanese American detention camps, Hollywood film, and community convening to document the musical building of solidarity across communities usually kept apart. And one of hip-hop’s most influential collectives in the early ‘90s, DITC [Diggin’ In The Crates,] forefronted its artists’ (Fat Joe, Lord Finesse, Showbiz & AG, etc.) archival obsession for vinyl records. From that crate-digging and sampling to analog nostalgia and dead media dreams, what’s old is new. In the archives of memories and ofrenda practices, there is no fate worse than to be forgotten. So it’s time to party in the archives (in whatever form they take)!
Here is just a partial list of broad ideas that Pop Conference presentations might help address. Your submissions don’t need to explicitly answer these questions nor do they need to be as sweeping in scope. We see them as guiding concepts: ● Relation between tribute, convivencia, legacy ● Legacy of longing ● Decolonial Archiving ● Collective archiving / Sound Relations: Native Ways of Doing Music ● Legacies of participatory music practice ● Archives of emancipation ● Crate digging ● Convivencia/The convivial ● Building for the future and the present ● Heritage and veteran acts ● Legacy and world making ● Old and new technologies and formats ● Record, cassette, and CD collecting ● Ephemeral evidence and sonic residue ● Social media ephemera ● Hardcopy ephemera - flyers, posters, tickets ● Concert T-shirt collections and murals ● Fugitive legacies ● Lost legacies ● Vinyl enthusiasm ● Vinyl record covers ● Liner notes ● Musical legacies of particular artists, places, geographies ● Zines ● Concert DVDs/Netflix concert specials ● Quotation, reiteration, and singing with the archive ● Repatriation ● Memoirs, autobiographies, and autoethnography ● Museums and music or sound ● Philanthropic support for archival creation, housing/ storage, and maintenance ● Crowd-sourced archives ● Post-custodial and non-custodial archives ● Memory work ● Oral histories ● Archival silences and gaps ● Primary source accessibility and hidden collections ● Feminista music archiving ● Ethics, copyright, and intellectual property ● Inequity and unconscious bias ● Labor of collectors, archives creators, documentarians, and archivists ● Material culture ● Interpolation, sampling, remixes, covers, and the citational practices involved ● Rock camps nurturing future legacies ● T-shirt walls as embodied and living archives Traditional papers, panels and roundtables are still welcome and we want to embrace fresh conceptions and experimentations in presentation styles and formats. As such, we encourage your submissions to not only consider what you’re presenting on but also how you’re presenting. This is an opportune time to rethink how we engage with another to share ideas and tell stories. All special requests that require access non-traditional equipment, technology or access to special venues will be subject to additional review by the Programming Committee; please attach a budget if you are proposing a special project, paper and roundtable presentation that requires additional funding from the PopConference. In all cases, self-funded special projects will be given priority. ● Participatory music workshops ● Participatory writing workshops ● VJing ● Video work ● Sound work ● Fashion films ● Sonic-spatial tours of the city ● Conversations with pioneers of musical gathering and documenting ● Archive tours ● VR site visits (especially for more remote and even international locations) ● Live modular performances and other live movement performance practices.
Proposals are due November 15, 2023 (please note the date change!!!) This year’s gathering is scheduled to comprise three days of panels instead of our more recent four-day schedule. This means there are fewer presentation spots than in previous years. Submissions by newcomers are encouraged. Upload RTF or Word files (no PDFs) so that the conferenceorganizer Michelle Habell-Pallán and the program committee can access proposals. Submission link: https://forms.gle/tmyJoxURjPJ3gqek9 Proposal submissions are limited to one per person (participation on a roundtable does not count towards that limit). Individual proposals should be no more than 300 words, with a 75-word bio. For multiple-person proposals, include a one-paragraph overview and individual statements of up to 300 words, with a 75-word bio for each participant. For roundtables, outline the subject in up to 500 words, and include a 75-word bio and email contact for each participant. For all proposals, please describe how you plan on presenting, in regard to style/format. Questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. 2024 Pop Conference Programming Committee: Michelle Habell-Pallán, program chair, madison moore associate program chair, and Jason King USC conference producer and keynote curator, Oliver Wang local conference associate producer. Committee members: Eddy Francisco Alvarez Jr., Jessica Bisset Perea, Bettina Judd, Oscar Garza, Amy Linden, madison moore, Sonnet Retman, Justin Sayles, Audrey Silvestre, R.J. Smith, Melissa Webber, Cristina Verán, and Deborah Wong.