Checking in Again with the Farragut Hotel

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A little over a year ago, I joined Knox Heritage so I could attend an open house of the under-extreme-renovation-at-the-time Farragut Hotel building in downtown Knoxville. I hadn’t been able to track down any of the hotel’s official records from 1938 and 1940, the two occasions I have evidence to believe that Ben Irving stayed there. The work that the contractors and development company had been doing, even at that point, was pretty astounding.

A few Fridays back, many of us had the rare opportunity to do another walk-through. It was impressive how much progress had been made. One of my favorite points that owner Rick Dover mentioned was that, although they were building a full kitchen for a morning breakfast buffet, the new Farragut would not have an in-house restaurant. There are too many great restaurants within walking distance, and they were encouraging guests to actually get to know the city around the hotel – a sentiment I can get behind. Here are some photos from the visit.

 

The building’s official re-opening as the Hyatt Place at the Historic Farragut Hotel is slated to be weeks away, which means that workers are scrambling to get all the holes filled and everything else in working order as I type this. The Knoxville News-Sentinel interviewed the new General Manager (who moved his family from Austin to come and run the show) and gave a pretty good bullet-point history of the building on their site here.

Ben Irving Visits Historic Westwood Tomorrow (9/15) at Noon

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I’ll be bringing my presentation about the life and somewhat-unintentional legacy of Ben Irving (and our collective digital heritage) to Knox Heritage tomorrow for their ‘Lost & Found Luncheon’ series. This will be my first time presenting about Irving in Knoxville since I presented a (heavily truncated) version of the talk at Pecha Kucha last November, and my first time presenting the full version since Western MA last Thanksgiving. I’m very excited to bring this to Historic Westwood.

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More info on the event is available at their website, which I’ll paste below. You can also RSVP to the Facebook event, which I found just now.

Lunch is available on a first-come, first-served basis at 11:30 a.m. The talk will begin promptly at noon. Please RSVP to Hollie Cook at hcook@knoxheritage.org or at 865-523-8008. FREE. ALL ARE WELCOME.

Catching Up with the Farragut Hotel

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I took this when I walked by the site on Wednesday afternoon, mostly because of the shiny new “Coming Fall 2017” Hyatt banner.

I can’t remember how much I’ve covered the Farragut Hotel and its intersection with the Ben Irving Postcard Project, but from what I can tell, he stayed there at least once in 1935 and then possibly again in 1940. That’s really all I could ascertain from the notes and the dates on the cards.

Regarding the development’s news, the Knoxville News Sentinel published this article last year about the official development plans, which stated their plan was to reopen during the summer of 2017. So, knowing the pace of development in Knoxville, I looked forward to being able to see their finished product in late 2019.

I was fortunate to be able to visit the project as it currently sits when Knox Heritage had a special event there last Fall. I took several pictures while wandering around the construction site and I never did anything with them in October, so I figured I would post some highlights here. Forgive any unintentional trespassing I may have done.

Knox Heritage has been teasing a follow-up event where their members will get a free preview of the hotel when it’s ready to officially reopen this fall. I’ll do my best to recreate these photos, but I can’t make any promises with the ones of gigantic death-hazard holes. I imagine they’ll patch those up.

Recommended Reading on Music Streaming and Data Mining (Robert Prey)

‘Musica Analytica: The Datafication of Listening’
by Robert Prey

If you know me, you probably find it as no surprise that Knoxville has made me prouder in the last 72 hours than it has in the three years I’ve lived here. I would expect some form of solidarity in uncertain times, but I never imagined it would be quite like this. Not to minimize the efforts of the millions who marched around the country and world today, but I know you didn’t come to this site to read my thoughts on those issues (not directly, anyway… plus, if you are anywhere near a device capable of accessing the internet, you’re probably fairly caught up by this point). I just wanted to include that preface to acknowledge the gravity of the times before changing tracks to sharing a great recent chapter on… [ready?] streaming music.

On one of many great tracks from his latest album, Jeff Rosenstock (ex-Bomb the Music Industry!) sings

Born as a data mine for targeted marketing,
and no one will listen up
until you become a hashtag or a meme
but hate’s not a fad that dies with its virality.
They want you to be a ghost
when they rob you of your hope,
but you’ve got power when they’re not expecting anything.

Rosenstock is (finally) well-known (enough) for his iconoclastic approach to making, marketing and selling music, so him singing about frustration over the squandered potential of social media is nothing surprising. But that first line is particularly biting, especially since few people in the developed world exist outside of that matrix, and the ones who were too old to embrace social media have been dying out. Tell me the idea of being a “data mine” from birth doesn’t make you shiver at least a little bit. But, here we are.

Anyway, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and others have undergone heady analysis from social scientists and independent marketing firms. This chapter by Richard Prey in the new book Networked Music Cultures (link up above, citation down below) presents a new window into the data mining that’s become inextricable from streaming music listening. I’m not too familiar with Prey’s work, but he begins the chapter with an anecdote about Theodor Adorno, whose name you cannot have a single philosophical discussion about music, film, or television without mentioning at some point.

He goes onto pick apart how Spotify and Pandora manicure their profiles on users, which includes both individual listeners and businesses. So many shops, doctors’ offices, and eateries have actually dumped commercial radio in favor of Spotify and Pandora that it’s strange that Clearchannel and other corporate interests that have ruined consolidated radio haven’t mounted a more visible campaign against them (then again, I could be overlooking something).

If I had more time to flesh out my thoughts, I would provide a more comprehensive list of everything I dislike about streaming music. Aside from their tacit devaluing of music, their abject disregard for audio quality, and an even more insidious brainwashing of consumers into guilt-tripping other consumers for actually spending money on music (that sociological “Apple effect” is the worst one for me, honestly), Prey’s chapter provides a great overview of how Spotify, Pandora, and similar services integrate something as enjoyable as listening to (and discovering, on occasion) music into the data mining superstructure. How prescient Adorno’s rantings about “the culture industry” were. Enjoy the chapter and feel free to pass it along when someone looks at you funny and asks you why you don’t use Spotify.

Also, I’m aware of the irony of me posting this on various formats of social media in order to decry it, so don’t bother pointing that out.

Prey, R. (2016). Musica Analytica: The Datafication of Listening.In Nowak, R., & Whelan, A. (Eds.) Networked Music Cultures (pp. 31-48).Palgrave Macmillan UK.

 

Pecha Kucha Night, Knoxville. November 17th.

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I’m excited to announce that I’ll be presenting at the next Pecha Kucha night in Knoxville, Volume 21. The event will be held on Thursday, November 17th (doors at 6:30, 7pm start) at the Mill & Mine (227 W. Depot Ave) for the first time after holding many volumes at the Relix Variety and Bijou Theaters. Incidentally, the new venue’s founder, Ashley Capps, will be another one of the presenters, along with the Cattywampus Puppet Council (who I am crossing my fingers the producers don’t make me follow).

My subject will be retracing the depression-era journey of my great-grandfather, Irving Hurwitz (pictured here, standing with the violin, at the premiere of WTIC radio in Hartford in 1925). That’s all I’m giving away here, for now.

Pecha Kucha comes from Japanese slang which means chit-chat. It consists of nine presenters, getting 20 slides apiece and 20 seconds per slide to present their ideas. These events have spread to about 900 cities around the world; often times they have a slide show of crowds at PK nights around the globe running during intermission, which I love.

See you there!

GEOG 320 Visit to the East TN History Center ‘Come to Make Records’

My Cultural Geography class paid a visit to the Come to Make Records Exhibit at the East Tennessee History Center this Tuesday as part of our unit on musical geography. Photographic evidence below. We got there a few minutes late because we relied on the Vol Trolley (now the Orange Line) for transport from campus and had to navigate around more than one construction pit downtown, but otherwise the excursion was a complete success and the students enjoyed it. Special thanks to Eric Dawson of the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS) for giving us a great tour, talking about how important the site and situation of Knoxville were in the St. James Hotel recording sessions of 1929 and 1930.

The exhibit runs through the end of October (last day on Sunday, October 30th), so you still have one week to go and see it if you haven’t yet. Admission is only $5 for non-members, and free on Sundays.

Help Map a Historically Black Cemetery in East Knoxville

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Attention people interested in GIS and small-scale mapping!

My good friend Maegan Dennison from the UT-Knoxville Anthropology Department is heading up a new service project that will spearhead field mapping, GIS, and web mapping for the Odd Fellows Cemetery in East Knoxville. The field work would take place in the Spring before the vegetation starts growing back so likely January – March 2017. I’ll be passing this announcement on to my students in GEOG 320, but I wanted to get the word out here in case anybody may be interested in learning more about, and contributing to, this historically black cemetery.

If you’re interested and/or looking for more information, you can email Maegan at mdenniso [at] vols [dot] utk [dot] edu.

GEO 320: Core Concepts in Cultural Geography (Fall 2016)

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I’m excited to announce here that I’ll be teaching Geography 320, our department’s core upper-level cultural geography course, this coming fall. This class has no prerequisite, though general proficiency in global geography (GEO 101, for example) is recommended. I’d be happy to have students from other disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, and ethnomusicology, especially those who haven’t been able to take a geography course yet while at UT-Knoxville.

Cultural Geography, like culture itself, is incredibly fluid. But with this course, I’m aiming to focus on how the relationship between people and place is interpreted through media, popular culture, religion, and public memory. By the end of this course, students should be able to understand and describe the effects of nature of culture, and vice versa.

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East TN music historian Shane Rhyne delivering a guest lecture in my GEO 101 class, October 23, 2014.

Similar to how I connected with the East Tennessee History Center’s “Made in Tennessee” exhibit in my GEO 101 curriculum last year, I’d like to continue that collaboration with their new “Come to Make Records” exhibit. This is one of a handful of interactive projects I’m looking forward to pursuing with this course, in addition to some great guest speakers and elements that students will be pleasantly surprised to find in a geography course. I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach it while working on my dissertation.

The syllabus will be a work in progress over the summer, but if you’d like a preview of a some material I look forward to incorporating, check out (1) Duncan Light’s entertaining and informative 2014 piece on place names and (2) this article about Steven Lee Beeber’s research on punk rock’s manifestation of Jewish New York. Hopefully you enjoy this tip of the iceberg; if not, there is plenty more well outside of both those subjects. If you’re a UTK undergraduate student and interested in attending the course, don’t hesitate to write me and ask any questions at SonicGeography[at]gmail[dot]com.

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GeoSym2016: A Look Back

I’m excited to report here that my first foray into academic conference production was a success! The 2nd biennial University of Tennessee Geography Research Symposium (or GeoSym2016, thanks to colleague Alisa Hass for the truncated and easily hashtaggable nickname) took place earlier this month on February 5th and 6th at the University of Tennessee. We are currently working on putting updates and links to all of these on our official departmental page, but I figured I would use my personal site to dig into the event a bit more.

In many ways, this event built on our debut Symposium in 2014. The committee, headed by me and my good friend/colleague Savannah Collins, chose to hold the Symposium a bit earlier in 2016 than they did in 2014, for a couple of reasons. We wanted to make sure that it happened early enough in the semester to avoid any of the stresses that build up toward spring break. We also wanted to make sure to give our participants a good breather in between this and AAG (which will be held earlier than usual this year, the final week in March, in San Francisco), all while providing a window during which to edit and improve their paper talks where needed beforehand.

One of GeoSym’s greatest strengths, as a small conference, is to provide a platform for more embryonic and ambitious research, where researchers can share their ideas in a lower-pressure environment, not subject to perceived pillorying from a room full (depending upon your time slot) of high-pressure academics at one of the biggest conferences in the world. While we were walking to dinner on Friday evening, our keynote guest Dydia DeLyser told me how remarkable and refreshing it was to see so much early-stage research coming from so many early-career researchers, who often wait until completely sewing their projects up before daring to bring it to a paper session. I told her how happy that made me to hear.

Speaking of Dr. DeLyser, she was everything I had spent the past year or two hyping her up to be. From the moment she landed in Knoxville, she was engaging, excited for all of our work, and of course encouraging. Her keynote talk was every bit as groundbreaking (materialities are already beginning to gain steam as a concept in cultural geography) as we had hoped, and the well-attended keynote audience on Saturday afternoon certainly thought so. We made a video of Dydia’s talk, as well as the closing ceremony (of sorts; we were pretty informal about it), now up on the UTK Geography Youtube page for anyone who either missed it or just wants to relive the moment, shaky audio and all.

We were also fortunate to have Matt Cook (our committee’s webmaster) and Dr. Liem Tran, both photography enthusiasts, on hand to capture the proceedings. Their full collaborative photoset is here, but I’ve pulled a few of the highlights to paste below here.

Conferences this Spring: GeoSym2016 (2/5-6), SEMSEC (3/4-6), and AAG (3/27-4/2)

An update to let you all know where and when you can find me and my research this Spring Semester.

GeoSym_flyer11x17.jpgGEOSYM 2016
The University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN
February 5 – 6, 2016

This is not only a chance to see me present some of my research on France, but also visit my first conference as an event coordinator. My good friend and colleague Savannah Collins and I are currently in the home stretch of pulling the final schedule together for the papers, panels, and workshops. It’s been a challenging and already rewarding process, and we’re excited to welcome over 50 scholars, including our keynote Dr. Dydia DeLyser, to the symposium. I had wanted Dr. DeLyser to feature at this event ever since I became the chair of the 2016 event over two years ago now. Her talks on the geographic history of neon light restoration at AAG 2013 and 2014 were as entertaining as they were fascinating. For this conference, she will be presenting on the Geographies of Materiality, focusing on the restoration of three Indian Motocycles [sic]. Our schedule and other details are posted at our Facebook event here, and will shortly be added to the official page on our department’s site here.


 

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SEMSEC
Society for Ethnomusicology, Southeast and Caribbean Annual Meeting
Southern Academy of the Performing Arts
San Fernando, Trinidad
March 4-6, 2016

This sounds horrible, I know. Not that I post a whole lot anyway, but I’ll try to minimize the amount of beach photos on social media so you don’t all get jealous and start plotting my demise. No matter where the conference is held, I’m glad to be able to make my return to SEMSEC with my French DC/punk research in between eating my weight in doubles and sneaking in some scuba diving. Also, if anyone knows where to find the good dusty Calypso records, I’m all about that, too.


 

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AAG
Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting
San Francisco, CA
March 27 – April 2, 2016

I’m excited to see a lot of the usual suspects this time around, even some of the less-than-usual suspects, making the trek across the globe to one of the our coolest and most expensive cities. I’ll be presenting my paper at 6pm on Wednesday, April 30th. I’ll also be performing in the Second Annual GeoSlam! Event. More info on all this as it draws closer.

I’ve got some planning and budgeting to do.