Illadelphia Halflife

Submitted by Andy on Sun, 11/15/2009 - 18:42

I knew better than to even pretend that I was going to liveblog the AMS conference. You end up talking to people until 1 or 2 and there are papers you want to see at nine in the morning, a couple days of that and all you want when you get back to the hotel is quick and merciful sleep.

That said, I rather dig Center City Philadelphia's style. I never spent any time in Boston's Financial District, but that's the closest equivalent I can imagine. Alas I did little to no sightseeing, mainly because it was spitty awful rain most of the weekend. [1. The only daylight I saw while in Center City was as I walked to the train station on my way to the airport. Turns out it's never sunny in Philadelphia.] But I did make it to the Reading Street Market for my obligatory cheesesteak. No Cheez Whiz, which I hear is the authentic touch, but a compatriot from Iowa was lambasted for incorrectly ordering (attempting to forego lettuce and tomato). Mounting the effort to take down the damn thing, however, was something on the level of invading a small country.

This was a more intensive conference for me than Nashville. I was staying four blocks from the hotel rather than a half hour drive and saw only 20th century or general methodology papers. Yeah. On the other hand, my experience seemed truncated. Even though I essentially took Saturday off last year to play a concert with Angela, I had to miss both the Thursday and Sunday panels due to the timing of my flights. THIS INCLUDED A PAPER ON JULIUS EASTMAN. #$#^$@^(√Á†√Ôıˆ®!!!  On a calmer note, I imagine this is why I didn't see as many out-of-topic papers.

The papers I did see ran the gamut. I saw a scattering of postmodern approaches, a surprisingly intriguing paper on Mitch Miller, and a sensational if poorly executed one on Sibelius. I spent more time with the "marginalized" groups this year. The panel on race and ethnicity was great even if it did get to be variations on a theme and I only caught one of the papers on ecomusicology, which seems exciting because it as the ring of a buzzword but I'm still not exactly sure what it is. Both of these panels were in the smallest room and both panels made sure to bring that up.

I missed the first half of McCleary v. Del Tredici at dinner (where I saw an unofficial Union jersey, which is heartening), but it was still kicking when I got there. The mere fact of AMS acknowledging a real living composers as continuing to work is pretty astonishing in and of itself, much less discussing gender and body issues. Apparently it's also hard to have a song cycle about gay sex performed. This is a shift from the Boston Conservatory where there is a reticence to perform songs not about gay sex.

Perhaps the most miniaturizing aspect about the conference was the reception culture, which is something I was going to swear I would do better at this year. I did do a little better, but there weren't as many of them in the stead of a gigantic gala/über-party. I realize it was a cost-saving maneuver, but everyone I talked to was rather dissatisfied with the spectacle. At individual receptions you can be reasonably certain that at least a third of people there will be affiliated with that particular institution. [2. This does not apply to the University of Texas, where their free champagne drops this figure to 5-10%. Assuming it hasn't been drank by crashers three hours prior.] Instead going over by a labeled constellation of tables could practically guarantee that no one would be representing this particular school. They're all at different tables trying to find people from those schools. Total mess. It did, however, provide the fantastical irony of a room largely comprised of university faculty being totally unable to pay attention to someone who was talking.

The graduate student experience at conference like this seems to be an exponential one. I met more people this year than I did in Nashville, but not a drastic increase. I certainly hope I'll meet more new people in Indianapolis and so on. So to Jeremiah, Danielle, Brenton, Alex, the girl at Case Western going out with "Dufay", the woman at the train station whose name I didn't catch, it was a pleasure to meet you. And to Carissa, Jen, Galen, and Leah it was nice to catch another drink. We should all do it again sometime.