This year’s joint EMP Museum Pop Conference, presented by New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and International Association for the Study of Popular Music-US branch features roughly 300 academics, journalists, and musicians. The conference will be hosted at New York University’s Kimmel Center.
Topics range from Korean, Egyptian, and Latin American pop to panels on Berlin, Detroit, New Orleans, and Los Angeles, with another half-dozen sessions on New York City music from ragtime to hip-hop to “Warhol’s New York.” Presenters will pay particular attention to what urban environments have meant for race, gender, and sexuality. Jazz, rock, indie, country, metal, electronic dance music, roots, disco, and Broadway music are but some of the sounds that will be the subject of entire panels. And there are surprises galore, from a look at James Brown’s Augusta by his new biographer RJ Smith to senior citizen choirs and ‘tween pop. Six or seven simultaneous panels, from 9am to 6pm Friday through Sunday, following a Thursday night keynote, guarantee one of the largest and most diverse gatherings of popular music intellectuals ever assembled. The conference also marks the publication of the latest anthology of Pop Conference writing, Pop When the World Falls Apart: Music in the Shadow of Doubt (Duke University Press)
Musicians will be prominently featured, from keynote speakers Esperanza Spalding, the winner of last year’s Grammy for Best New Artist, Beninoise singer-songwriter icon Angélique Kidjo, and acclaimed singer-songwriter-producer Santigold and critically-praised MC Heems of hip-hop group Das Racist, to a closing keynote from Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of The Roots. Other artists featured include Wu-Tang Clan rapper GZA, and pioneer Kool DJ Red Alert, folk legend Peter Stampfel, jazz genius Vijay Iyer, celebrated vocalist Jose James, punk pathbreaker Alice Bag, a Spanish language production of composer Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives, experimentalists DJ/rupture and Ben Neill, and young guitar slingers from the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls.