Publications (and Presentations)
This is essentially the same list of publications that you would find in my Curriculum Vitae, except that here I have included links to materials that are available free on the web and I have added some brief, summative commentary to help contextualize the writings. I have always wished that other authors could accompany their work with a comment of the genre: “While writing this, I was trying to work out a concept of [x], and I was really interested in themes such as [y, z].”
I'm also pondering adding a selection of significant and interesting posts from my blog, even though it is not in a scholarly register. If you would like to see me curate my own blog in that fashion, send me some words of encouragement.
- 2013. “Editor's Introduction: Doing Nightlife and EDMC Fieldwork,” in “Doing Nightlife and EDMC Fieldwork,” Special Issue. Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 5 (1):3-17.
- This initially came about as an off-the-cuff series on my blog, when I was thinking about the ways that ethnographic fieldwork in nightlife scenes was different from more conventional fieldwork. There are lots of practical, ethical, social, legal, and even corporeal issues about doing this kind of research that requires careful thought. Since EDM studies is still an emergent field, we don't yet have a body of “best practices” or guidelines that larger fields like anthropology or sociology have. This was my attempt to highlight some of these issues and describe how I've addressed them in my own work. The series went over so well, it got picked up by the IASPM-US blog, which then initiated discussion about a possible special edition of a journal on the topic, which turned into this special issue of Dancecult.
2013. “Crowd Solidarity on the Dancefloor in Paris and Berlin” in Musical Performance and the Changing City: Postindustrial Contexts in Europe and the United States, edited by Carsten Wergin and Fabian Holt, 227-255. (London: Routledge).
- This emerges out of Chapter 3 of my dissertation, where I try to describe how a sense of belonging and togetherness might be possible in scenes where people do not know each other well and have only glancing, ephemeral contact (e.g., in a crowd on a dancefloor). I end up taking the concept of solidarity and substituting the underlying metaphor with “liquid,” which allows me to describe a mode of group cohesion that is not reliably “solid” and yet nonetheless present in some shifting, vaguely-assembled way. NOTE: a conference version of this paper was awarded the Lise Waxer Student Paper Prize (PMS-SEM) in 2011.
2012. “Intense Encounters: Young Men and Trans-Women in Music Videos.” IASPM-US Blog (International Association for the Study of Popular Music, US Chapter) Feb 20–22. 3 parts. Part II; Part III.
- While representations of drag and trans-gender people is not all that rare anymore in popular music videos—which is not to say that they're all positive representations—I was struck by a series of videos that portrayed erotically-charged encounters between seemingly-straight men and trans-women. This was a 3-part contribution to the IASPM-Blog's series, “Pop Talk,” where I took a closer look at the following music videos: “Pass This On” by The Knife (2003); “Sing Me Spanish Techno” by The New Pornographers (2005), and Kai Stänicke’s /Tin [A] Din’s “Cold Star” (2010). All three are interesting because they feature intense encounters suffused with latent eros and violence, but they each resolve this tension differently. Most notably, the role of the straight female in these encounters is ambivalent at best.
2011. “Pathological Crowds: Affect and Danger in Responses to the Love Parade Disaster at Duisburg.” Special issue on Germany’s Love Parade, Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture 2 (1).
- This was part of a collection of relatively-short pieces in response to the disaster at the Love Parade in Duisburg (August 2010). My contribution tracked the disturbing way in which crowds were quickly blamed—sometimes subtly, sometimes blatantly—for the death and injuries that followed, which displaced blame from the decisions of the organizers and the actions of the security personnel/police. In particular, I noted how some responses to the disaster employed images of dangerous, volatile, mindless, wild crowds that resonate back to the 19th-century crowd psychology of Gabriel Tarde and Gustave Le Bon.
2010. In The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press): “Benitez, John ‘Jellybean’ ”, “Sanchez, Roger”
- These are just brief dictionary entries, but I was happy to see that Electronic Dance Music artists are being added to reference sources such as this—especially artists of color.
2005. “On and On: Repetition as Process and Pleasure in Electronic Dance Music.” Music Theory Online 11 (4).
- I wrote the first version of this as I was transitioning from my MA program at U of Toronto to the PhD program at U of Chicago, and its transformation from conference paper (AMS/SMT 2004) to published paper traces this transition. My inspiration for this paper was what I felt to be unquestioned denigration of repetition in music—not only on aesthetic grounds but ethical and philosophical grounds. This article goes about excavating these discourses and criticizes their underlying assumptions, then tries to offer less pathologizing account of musical repetition through a series of analytic case studies: Richie Hawtin / Plastikman's "ethnik" (musik, NovaMute, 1994), Tony Rohr's "Baile Conmigo" (Tora! Tora! Tora!, 2002 / 2004), and Marc Leclair / Akufen's "Deck the House" (My Way, Force Inc. Music Works, 2002).
- 2014. “An alternate history of sexuality in club culture.” Resident Advisor, January 28, http://www.residentadvisor.net/.
- This feature article was originally inspired by an academic essay (still in the works) as well as some historical research I had been doing for the introduction to my book manuscript (also forthcoming). But having the support of Resident Advisor gave me access to artists who would normally never give me the time of day, which resulted in me getting lots of rich material that took this article in a very different direction. Highlights include a revisionist history of the post-disco/pre-techno years in Detroit (thanks to Carleton Gholz of the Detroit Sound Conservancy!), Lerato Khati's perspective on queer Johannesburg, and some great critical interventions by genderqueer producer/activist/educator, Terre Thaemlitz (see the unabridged interview on my blog).
2013. “GEMA and the Threat to German Nightlife.” Resident Advisor, April 24, http://www.residentadvisor.net/.
- The first in-depth English-language coverage of the GEMA controversy in Germany. GEMA is the Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte (Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights), Germany's performing rights management organization similar to ASCAP or BMI (US) SOCANN (Canada) or PRS for Music (UK). In early 2012, they announced a new set of legally-binding tariffs (the so-called Tarifreform), which seemed poised to drastically raise the cost of organizing music events—especially for nightclubs. The backlash from the EDM community in Germany also brought to light complaints from within the GEMA organization, as smaller independent artists found themselves signing over the rights to their music to GEMA, but finding they had little say in how the collected fees were shared. This article also looks somewhat tactically at how both sides of this debate handled the PR game throughout the year.
2012. “As The World Turns: Time In Electronic Dance Music.” Little White Earbuds.
- As a scholar working on a popular music scene, I'm committed to also contributing to the musical communities in which I work. One of the ways that I do this is with my blog (see, for example, the series where I summarize my thesis in plain English, chapter by chapter), but I also do this by writing for the popular press—particularly magazines/websites dedicated to EDM. After a great experience writing a piece for Resident Advisor (see below), I pitched a story to Little White Earbuds on the rather unusual ways in which listening to Electronic Dance Music shapes our perception of time. The whole story came from a moment last winter, when I decided not to go out with friends because I was only really interested in one DJ that night, who was going to play “only” 4 hours of music. I then thought about what it means for practices of music-listening (and assessments of musical value!) in EDM that 4 hours of amazing music would be considered too little time to be worth the effort.
2012. “Doing Nightlife Research.” IASPM-US Blog (International Association for the Study of Popular Music, US Chapter) Feb 1–3. 3 parts. Part II; Part III.
- This initially came about as an off-the-cuff series on my blog, when I was thinking about the ways that ethnographic fieldwork in nightlife scenes was different from more conventional fieldwork. There are lots of practical, ethical, social, legal, and even corporeal issues about doing this kind of research that requires careful thought. Since EDM studies is still an emergent field, we don't yet have a body of “best practices” or guidelines that larger fields like anthropology or sociology have. This was my attempt to highlight some of these issues and describe how I've addressed them in my own work. The series went over so well, it got picked up by the IASPM-US blog and initiated discussion about a possible special edition of a journal on the topic.
2010. “Showdown in Spreepark: Minimoo, Bar 25, and the Story Behind Luna Land (Berlin).” Resident Advisor, November 26.
- Back in the summer of 2010—on my last weekend in Berlin—I attended a big rave-style summer festival called “Luna Land,” which took place in an old abandoned DDR-era amusement park and lasted the better part of two days. It was pretty fun and the location was amazing, but even more interesting was the story behind the park, behind the NYC-based promoter, and behind the vipers’ nest of local scene-politics that they opened up by choosing this location for their party. I wrote briefly about it on my own blog, but eventually I pitched it as a full-fledged feature story on Resident Advisor. Based on the comments, I think that it went over pretty well.
Notable Blog Posts
- 2014. “Terre Thaemlitz on Queer Nightlife: The Unabridged Interview.” LMGMBlog, February 4, http://lmgmblog.wordpress.com/.
- While conducting interviews as part of my research for the Resident Advisor article, “An alternate history of sexuality in club culture” (see above), I ended up having a fantastic interview with Terre Thaemlitz a.k.a. DJ Sprinkles. I sent an email with a slew of questions and the comment, “Just pick a few questions that interest you and answer those only.” Instead, she answered all of them in great detail, despite being a very busy musician/writer/producer. It seemed a shame to only include one or two sentences from this in my RA piece, so I asked for permission to publish the whole unabridged thing on my blog.
2013. “La Mission: Life in a Hedonist-Doomsday-Cult-Art-Collective.” LMGMBlog, April 23, http://lmgmblog.wordpress.com/.
- So, I've been part of the La Mission artists' collective since 2011, when it was founded with Pablo Roman-Alcalá (a.k.a. Beaner), and Mandie O'Connell. The idea was to produce politically-engaged booty-shakin' art along three channels: 1) record releases, 2) a 'zine bundled with the records, and 3) performance art that plays on these themes. We've since gone on to do more, but this blog post from early 2013 provides a useful round-up of our first year of activities. Images and videos and Soundcloud links included!
2012. “Feeling Alien in Germany: Bureaucracy and the Thresholds of Belonging.” LMGMBlog, December 12, http://lmgmblog.wordpress.com/.
- In the Fall of 2012, there was a brief period when my first post-doc had run out and I hadn't yet found my second one. I decided to go for a freelancer visa as a writer, which had been a successful strategy for many of my friends and colleagues in Berlin with similar backgrounds. What ensued was a Kafkaesque farce that served as a bracing reminder of how destabilizing it can feel to be in migratory limbo.
2012. “Techno and Teargas: My Very First First of May in Berlin.” LMGMBlog, May 4, http://lmgmblog.wordpress.com/.
- The Mayday “festivities” in Berlin have been rather famous, especially since the migrant/punk/alternative neighborhood of Kreuzberg was set aflame in 1989. Since then, every year May 1st has been the occasion for local AntiFa (anti-fascist) and AntiKa (anti-capitalist) militant groups to face off against the city's police. At the same time, the city (and especially Kreuzberg's mayoral office) has been trying to turn Mayday into a family-friendly “Straßenfest” (street festival), in an attempt to prevent the violent clashes. Here's a rather detailed account of my experiences during that day, including photos.
2008. “Of Affect and Apologies.” LuisInParis, October 29, http://luisinparis.blogspot.com/.
- It all started with a near-miss while cycling to work in Paris. This is an example of writing that sits somewhere between formal and informal registers. It was first intended to be a brief report and reflection on a striking thing that had happened that day, but as I wrote it it turned into something of a thought-piece.
2006. “Little Moments of Passion.” LuisInParis, September 28, http://luisinparis.blogspot.com/.
- This is a blog post from my first year of fieldwork in Paris. After a relatively uneventful day, my trip home was peppered with little moments of intensity, conflict, and desire. I felt like this was a good example of how everyday life isn't necessarily tranquil or predictable, but rather buzzing with the potential for disruption and surprise.
- 2007. Unplayed Melodies: Javanese Gamelan and the Genesis of Music Theory by Marc Perlman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). Music Theory Spectrum 29.2: 247–253.
- A relatively long, essay-type review of Marc Perlman's book on how various experts of Javanese gamelan orchestras have theorized what guides the collective improvisation that is the hallmark of this traditional indonesian court music genre. I take some issue with how he deploys the cognitivist theory that he brings in as well as with the cognitive load associated with his decision to translate as few specialist indonesian terms as possible; on the other hand, I do love his compressed and yet unconfusing summary of gamelan practice and dominant balungan theory, as well as his deeply-researched history of the development of the various theories of musical organization in this context. Also, I loved his use of a trio of consultants as his major base of research, which avoids the homogenizing and essentializing effects of trying to engage in an ethnography of an entire population / category, while also avoiding the synecdoche of mistaking one consultant's idiosyncracies for an entire culture or society (i.e., focusing on just one person as the "typical" Javanese musician).
- 2011. “Bouncers and Multiculturalism: Unintegrated Difference and the Political Stakes of Nightlife in Berlin and Paris.” Paper read at the meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Montréal, Canada, November 16.
- This paper comes out of the final chapter of my dissertation (aside from the conclusion), which serves as a pivot-point between my dissertation work and my post-doctoral research project. I look at the dramas and debates about “selection” (i.e., door policies) at nightclubs in Paris and Berlin through the lens of multiculturalism. In particular, I look at the history of multiculturalism in the cultural politics of Germany and France and trace the ways in which these positions and controversies resonate in the much smaller and more informal world of bouncers and nightclubs. By the end of the paper, I propose the concept of “embedded diversity,” which describes the ways in which apparently-diverse social spaces are nonetheless embedded in layers of exclusion that actually help make these scenes of utopian, “multicultural” belonging possible.
2010. “Smooth Experience, Rough Experience.” Paper read at the joint meeting of the EthNoise!, Theater and Performance Studies, and Gender and Sexualities Workshops of the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, February 8.
- This was a working draft of one of my dissertation chapters, looking at how narratives (and narrativized desires) of “a night out” often involve a dualism between “smooth,” safe sociability and "rough," risky escapades. It also develops a concept of “coming undone” and aims to explore how the dialectic of "smooth" and "rough" experience manages the risks and promises of a night out: something less radical or shattering than jouissance, but still more than ordinary stasis.
2008. “You, Me and Vocoder Makes Three: Distortion and Digital Intimacy.” Paper read at the Meeting of the US chapter of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM- US), Iowa City, Iowa, April 24-27.
- I liked this paper quite a bit, although my memories of the actual delivery were marred by the fact that I had just come down with Bell's Palsy a few days before. I spent the whole conference hopped up on powerful anti-inflammatory steroids while half my face hung paralyzed. In any case, I try to argue in this paper that—in some cases and for some listeners—the various forms of distortion applied to the digital voice in various styles of electronic dance / post-digital / “glitch” music actually create a sense of intimacy, closeness, and nostalgic address rather than distance, alienness, or alienation.
2006. “Intimacy at the Sonic Surface.” Paper read at the EthNoise! Workshop of the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, November 15.
- This was a workshop paper that allowed me to work through some concepts that I had been preparing for my thesis proposal. In particular, make several attempts to read something as nebulous and inarticulate as “intimacy” in sound. I deliberately avoided analyzing lyrics or reading liner notes; the point was to imagine what intimacy sounds like, independent of words, pictures, and gestures.
2006. “Vazaleen, Affect and Utopia: Sliding Public Spheres into Private Places.” Paper read at the Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), Honolulu, Hawaii, November 16-19.
- I'll admit, the titular choice was deliberately titillating. If you're going to write about a queer punk night called Vazaleen, you can't not be a bit filthy. The paper tried to describe a particular monthly queer punk night in Toronto that lasted through the early 2000s, paying attention to its position in a shifting queer urban geography. I use Richard Dyer's “Entertainment and Utopia” essay to argue that Vazaleen—both as an event and as a place—presents the feeling of queerness and in-betweenness rather than its structure or functioning.
2005. “The soft pink meaning(s): multiple readings and the Soft Pink Truth.” Paper read at the Meeting of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-Intl), Rome, Italy, July 25-30.
- A much-abridged, oral version of my MA thesis. In essence, this was an attempt to look at one thing (“Everybody's Soft,” the first track off of “Do You Party?” by The Soft Pink Truth a.k.a. Drew Daniels a.k.a. one half of Matmos) from as many angles as possible. Ambivalence, queerness, camp, and ambiguity are all keywords, but it's hard to summarize it beyond that.
2004. “On and On: Repetition as Process and Pleasure in Electronic Dance Music.” Paper read at the Joint Meeting of the Society for Music Theory (SMT) and the American Musicological Society (AMS), Seattle, Washington, November 13.
- The oral version of what would be eventually published under the same title in Music Theory Online in 2005 (see above). The notion of Funktionslust (function-pleasure) isn't present in this earlier version.
2004. “Dancing with the Wrong Crowd: Identity and Genre Politics among Electronic Dance Musics.” Paper read at the Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), Tucson, Arizona, November 5.
- This paper started with me getting into a flame-war on a techno-related listserv when a comment about the absence queer folks in the “Detroit techno” scene in Toronto garnered a dismissive response that played on sexuality, musical taste, drug (ab)use, and spaces of proper belonging in one brief phrase. The paper spends some time analyzing the nuances of this phrase and then extends to some broader comments on how sexuality and gender have been linked to music scenes and their genres and sub-genres, and how this allows for discussions about taste and style to also be about gender, sexuality, class, and many other things. Strangely enough, I don't think I ever cite Bourdieu.
2003. “Future Music: Discourses of Modernism, Futurism and Intellectualism in Techno.” Paper read at the Music Graduate Students' Association Conference, at University of Toronto, Canada, April 12.
- My very first publicly-read paper. This title pretty much says it all: there are discourses of modernism, futurism, and intellectualism active in techno music scenes. I analyze a few monographs that had been writtten at the time about dance music scenes and focus in particular on recordings from the Detroit “first wave” and “second wave” techno scenes.