The Casual Geographer Presents: “Intersection Songs”

For those of you who were not connected to me during my time at CSU-Long Beach, my friends Bret Hartt, Abel Santana, and I co-founded a podcast and weekly radio show called “The Casual Geographer.” We produced over thirty episodes, most of which were posted at our original blogspot site here (the audio links no longer work, but the descriptions and graphics are still there, and if I may say so, delightful). Each episode tackled a different subject and explained how geography enveloped said subject. It lasted most of the two years I spent in Long Beach, and we had a lot of fun.

This week, in a seminar on tourism geography, my colleagues and I discussed a wonderful article by Duncan Light on the commodification and consumption of place names. I found it interesting, as a musically-inclined geographer, how he used examples such as AC/DC (seriously, why is there no lightning bolt key?) Street in Melbourne as ways in which cities and regions place and focus what John Urry legendarily called “the tourist gaze.” In particular, Light (2014, 145*) wrote:

…It is the marker – the signage – that is important in affirming and validating the visit. As such the place-name signage (the most commonplace and banal of objects) becomes the principal focus of tourist interest and the setting for a range of activities and performances.

Unsurprisingly, my mind immediately leaped to the corner of Fountain and Fairfax, where I drove by upon moving to the Los Angeles area, motivated by The Afghan Whigs’ dramatic 1993 song of that title**.  My mind then immediately jumped to Episode 3 of The Casual Geographer, where we discussed whatever background information we could find on a handful of songs named after street intersections. These included “53rd and 3rd” (NYC) by the Ramones, “Fountain and Fairfax” (Los Angeles) by the Afghan Whigs, “Queen and John” (Toronto) by Good Riddance, “9th and Hennepin” (Minneapolis) by Tom Waits, and “13th and Euclid” (DC) by the Dismemberment Plan. Thanks to Russ Rankin for his gracious email reply telling us the story of “Queen and John” (which I read during the episode), as well as Travis Morrison for his brief explanation of what happened at a gas station near 13th and Euclid (as well as giving me the go-ahead to use “The Face of the Earth” as a theme song for the show).

I’ll gradually work on wrenching more of these recordings from my archives. For now, have a listen to this episode and I hope you enjoy it. This was an early episode, and the production quality improved from here, I promise.

LINER NOTES

* Light, D. (2014). Tourism and toponymy: commodifying and consuming place names. Tourism Geographies, 16(1), 141-156.

** If you’re at all familiar with the Afghan Whigs or the greater spate of work by Greg Dulli, using the word “dramatic” to describe any of their songs could seem pretty redundant, I realize.

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Live from Athens, GA (#SEDAAG2014)

Hey, everybody. I’m taking a few minutes away from the proceedings at SEDAAG (that’s the SouthEastern Division of the Association of American Geographers for anyone keeping track) to give a quick update. If you’re at the conference or happen to be in the neighborhood of the UGA campus, I’ll be presenting my preliminary research at a session I’ll also be chairing at 8:20 am. It will be held in the Georgia Conference Center room TU. My presentation will be entitled “Frank Hatch and Memorialization of Pre-war Boston through Song.” It’s pretty straightforward, explaining how music is used to drive romantic narratives of a city’s “olden days” landscape.

The conference has been great so far; it has been my first SEDAAG conference, so it’s neat to see how the regional conferences operate in light of AAG. Prior to this, I had presented at both CGS (California) and APCG (Pacific Coast), but I had no real frame of reference back then. I’ve had the chance to watch great research presentations about everything from GISc students pushing for the creation of bike lanes in central Georgia to “The Walking Dead” to the governmental intervention of domestic work of African-American women in the South in the 1920s and on and on.

The only disappointing part of the trip so far (other than the most brutal near-freezing rain we drove through all of yesterday to get here) has been that I’ve been hanging out at Wuxtry Records for over an hour and Peter Buck hasn’t asked me to start a band! You lied to me, Athens mythology!

On a serious note, if you ARE in Athens, do stop by the Special Collections Library on campus in case you’ve ever wanted to see the closest thing to an R.E.M./Pylon/B-52’s/Oh-OK museum you’ll find. They have Bill Berry’s “Chronic Town”-era drum kit, and a really fancy clear bass that Mike Mills used to play, not to mention all sorts of ephemera from the time before they were one of the biggest bands in the world.

That’s all for now. I hope everyone is having an excellent November. The end of the semester (and arrival of more frequent/substantive updates) is nigh.

Shane Rhyne stops by GEO 101 to talk Mountain Music

Special thanks to Shane Rhyne, a good friend of Sonic Geography, for stopping by my World Regional Geography class today to talk about the geography of Tennessee music. It covered the early germination of “mountain music” with African, English, and Scots/Irish traditions and their legendary mingling in Knoxville’s Market Square. A lot of people had no idea Knoxville once even had a “Little Ireland” or a “Little Harlem.”

Shane Rhyne doing a guest lecture in my GEO 101 class, October 23, 2014.

Shane Rhyne doing a guest lecture in my GEO 101 class, October 23, 2014.

Anybody interested in learning more about Shane’s background in as a local music and culture historian for Eastern Tennessee can feel free to contact him at shanerhyne[at]gmail[dot]com. You can also read about the 2002 Japanese documentary he appeared in here on this site, and you can also take a look at an interview I did with him way back… last year. Those of you who are local instructors in any geography course that has any material connected to Appalachia, don’t hesitate to invite him to come by and talk to your class; you won’t regret it.

My Week on the Ergs! on OneWeekOneBand.com

You could say I’m a little insane… and you probably will.

– The Ergs! “Books About Miles Davis”

I LOVE YOU MORE THAN I CAN SAY, PROBABLY MORE THAN YOU'D EVER WANT TO HEAR ANYWAY... BUT YOU PROBABLY GET THAT AN AWFUL LOT...

The Ergs! Final Show, 11/15/08 (Marc Gaertner Photo)

A quick note to say that if any of you are interested in my music writing, I’m contributing a week of entries on The Ergs!, a seminal pop-punk trio from middle New Jersey that conquered a tiny slice of the world between 2000 and 2008, to the site One Week, One Band this week. I chose to write about them because, simply, they were a great band (possibly era-defining) and their accomplishments deserve more attention. Mikey, Joey, and Jeffy Erg represented that ideal (hard-working, down-to-earth) type of band that simply were not built for mainstream popularity. Geographically, their strongest following grew and remains on the East Coast. They had fans all over the country and world, but were The Ergs! one of the last touring bands with such a geographically-isolated fanatical following? Only history will tell, but there’s something to be said for that.

I’m updating OneWeekOneBand over the course of this week with insights into the pop-culture references in their songs, politics buried in their lyrics, the musical evolution that alternately delighted and confused their fans, and various pieces of photo and video evidence of their legacy (like that picture above). I hope you take a look and enjoy it.

In other news, I just got my first email about the SEEDAG Meeting this fall. IT BEGINS!

 

Knoxville in a Japanese Documentary, 2002 (Videos)

I don’t even know.

A few months ago, I published an interview with my friend Shane Rhyne about his myriad experiences with Knoxville music. One of the sticking points was his appearance on a Japanese documentary on the diffusion of Irish music in 2002. The full interview is available here, but here is that excerpt:

Actually, you’ve mentioned to me before that you made an appearance on some public television program in Japan about American Country Music? Do tell.

That was a fun and bizarre experience. In 2001, a Japanese television producer asked if I would agree to be a part of a documentary being filmed about the history of rock’n’roll. The documentary would be hosted by a Japanese rock star who was traveling across the world to explore the various influences. He was coming to Knoxville to look at the Appalachian influence and they had heard/read another interview with me talking about Knoxville’s melting pot influence downtown of Irish music, Jewish culture, African-American music and rural music traditions.

I agreed to do the interview but had little idea what to expect. I arrived at the Airport Hilton on the afternoon of the interview to learn that that rock star was named Daemon Kogure, who performed in a Kabuki-style makeup. He would be interviewing me while in his makeup and we would be driving around downtown Knoxville in a rented RV talking about country music. It was the one of the more surreal experiences in my life as we walked around the Old City and discussed Irish music on camera.

Well, far be it from Shane to disappoint, he rummaged for his old VHS, which I’ve converted for your viewing pleasure. Here, on my brand new Vimeo site, is that long-awaited clip of Shane meeting and speaking with Daemon Kogure.

One of the purest forms of discourse analysis is to consider that quintessential “outsider perspective” on a place. There could be fewer better case studies in that perspective than Japanese rock star turned media personality Kogure. Eastern Tennessee’s longtime residents have a wide variety of opinions on their local/regional cultural heritage, but seeing this is a loud wake-up call in understanding how Southern Appalachia is perceived by international music fans, especially non-Western ones. I really wish I spoke Japanese, but I’ve had some assistance thus far, and I can post more details on what Kogure is saying sometime soon hopefully.

It’s a lot of fun seeing what the Old City looked like in 2002, which is surprisingly not a whole lot different than it does today. According to Rhyne, Market Square (the current lynchpin of downtown Knox) was near-silent at the time, so Old City carried a much heavier load of the city’s nightlife. I feel like people in the Old City would react similarly to seeing somebody dressed like Daemon today, though. I imagine these interactions were staged, but still an interesting slice of local culture through foreign eyes.

This documentary’s treatment of race within the context of American history is also fascinating. The Japanese are one of the most homogenous nationalities on Earth, and the Americans are possibly the least, so that dichotomy right there explains why such a pragmatic, less-nuanced view on race relations is not as much of a surprise here. Where the “blues” as a concept has come to be almost completely co-opted by old white men (see King 2006 for further reading on this), here Daemon presents it as a mere curiosity for an audience with few African-origin members, widely disconnected from the ideas of modern slavery. That being said, 我が心のアイルランド [Ireland, deep in my heart] does present a fair share of blackface footage from the pre-War era, most of which has been scrubbed clean from mainstream American media. When certain subjects become taboo in one culture, sometimes that culture must rely on another for any type of understanding.

LINER NOTES

King, S. A. (2006). Memory, mythmaking, and museums: Constructive authenticity and the primitive blues subject. Southern Communication Journal,71(3), 235-250.

Returning to Florida Next Week

I'm not actually staying in this hotel. But I may need to go check it out.

I’m not actually staying in this hotel.  I may need to go check it out, though.

It’s hard to believe that the AAG Conference is almost already here. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and making new ones over a backdrop of near-constant happy hours and pontificating.

I’m working on posting some background here about the research I will be presenting in Tampa next week. In case I’m not able to (and you’re in the Tampa Bay area), here’s where you can see me. Copied directly from the AAG Program.

2569
Geographies of Media 3: Music Geography (Sponsored by Cultural Geography Specialty Group, Communication Geography Specialty Group)
Room: Meeting Room 2, Marriott, Second Floor (Paper Session)
ORGANIZER(S): John Finn, Christopher Newport University; Joseph Palis, North Carolina State University
CHAIR(S): Tyler Sonnichsen, University of Tennessee

2:40 Tyler Sonnichsen*, University of Tennessee,
‘The Boston I Knew is Lying on the Ground’: Reinterpreting Boston Landscapes Through Song.
3:00 Rex Rowley*, Illinois State University,
Evoking Las Vegas Place Particularity and Typicality through Popular Music.
3:20 Ola Johansson*, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown,
Lost in Translation? The Role of Place in Swedish and American Music Media.
3:40 Deborah J. Thompson, Ph.D.*, Berea College,
Performing Gender in Eastern Kentucky’s Old Time Music Community. .

Bow Down to Gainesville (Part 2)

Another weekend, another conference. It is almost springtime, after all.

I’ll be making my first of at least two trips to Florida this semester to present at my first Ethnomusicology conference, the annual meeting of the Southeastern and Caribbean Chapter of the Society of Ethnomusicology happening this weekend in Gainesville, Florida! Hopefully things have cooled off since the Associated Press threw the #1 ranking at their Basketball team yesterday.

More information about the conference is at the official website here. I’ll post the draft schedule here, with me and some of my Tennessee colleagues highlighted. I have to admit: “flutelore” sounds pretty badass.

Here’s lookin’ at you, Gainesville. See you all soon.


Friday, February 28

Session 1 (8:30 am  – 10:00 am)
Historical Perspectives on Women and Music
Kathryn Etheridge (Florida State University), “The Modern Girl Composes Herself: Japanese Modernist Yoshida Takako”
Sarah Kahre (Florida State University), “The Gravest of Female Voices: Women and the Alto in Sacred Harp”
Megan MacDonald (Florida State University), “‘Heaven is Nearer Since Mother is There’: Gendered Spaces in Southern Gospel Songbooks of the Great Depression”

Session 2 (10:30 am – 12:30 pm)
Drop on Down in Florida: Musical Models For a New Generation
Peggy Bulger (American Folklife Center, Ret.), “Dropping Back Down: From the Field to the Archive to the iPod”
Dwight DeVane, (Florida Folklife Program, Ret.), “The Drop on Down in Florida Reissue: Opportunity, Conceptual Framework and Digital Access”
James Cunningham (Florida Atlantic University), “A Grass-Roots Applied Ethnomusicology of in the Glades”
Gregory Hansen (Arkansas State University), “Fiddlelore and Vernacular Theory within Presentations of Public Folklore”

Session 3 (2:00 – 3:30 pm) 
Multicultural Musical Mediations in the United States
Sarah Renata Strothers (Florida State University), “Looking Like the Enemy: Negotiating Risk in Japanese-American Musical Performance”
Elizabeth Clendinning (Emory University), “Symbiotic Sounds: University-Community Interdependence in World Music Ensemble Instruction”
Matt DelCiampo (Florida State University), “‘Real Beauty Turns’: Beauty and Gender Perceptions in Mixed Media”

Session 4 (2:00 pm – 3:30 pm) CONCURRENT SESSIONS (continued)
Identities and Spiritualities In South and Southeast Asia

(idioteq.com)

Tyler Sonnichsen (University of Tennessee), “Can’t Breakaway: Indonesian Punk and Xenocentrism”
Nina Menezes (University of Florida), “Voices of Sheila: Re-signification in Bollywood Filmic and Non-filmic Contexts”
Gavin Douglas (University of North Carolina, Greensboro), “The Sounds of Buddhism in Myanmar: Dhamma Instruments and the Cultivation of Divine States of Consciousness”

Book signing (3:30 – 4:15 pm)
World Flutelore: Folktales, Myths, and Other Stories of Magical Flute Power
Dale A. Olsen (Professor Emeritus, Florida State University)

Keynote Address (4:30 – 5:15 pm)
FOCUS ON FLORIDA: DOCUMENTING AND PRESENTING MUSICAL TRADITIONS OF THE SUNSHINE STATE
Robert Stone (Independent Folklorist)

See the website for the Saturday schedule.