Popular Culture Conference, April 1-4 2015

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My colleague Angela Washington and I presented at this year’s Popular Culture Association (PCA) Conference in New Orleans. This presentation was more aligned to my first love– art librarianship and not to metal music, though I did attend a metal panel at this conference.

Sailor Moon manga - MMA Dark Kingdom-2We presented our paper entitled, “The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets Graphic: Building a Collection for the Library” under the Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Popular Research panel. We decided to present on how we started the graphic novel collection at the Met’s Nolan Library when I was working there back in 2010. It was right before we hired the current Public Services Librarian who is now conducting the teen and children’s programming. We were first up on our panel and got to meet and see wonderful presentations from the head bibliographer at Tulane and librarians from  both San Diego State University and Florida International University. Overall, our presentation went very well and Angela did a great job at explaining the Watson and Nolan’s collection policy and its unique nuances involved with selecting, purchasing, processing and programming at the libraries.

Below was our panel line-up:

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets Graphic: Building a Collection for the Library The libraries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art are home to over 900,000 books and periodicals… Angela Washington

Joan Jocson-Singh

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Paper
Poodle with a mohawk: Collecting cat and dog comics in an academic rare books department In New Orleans, with its wealth of distinctive popular culture associations, it may not surprise… Joshua Lupkin Tulane University, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library Paper
NSFW: Sexually Explicit Comics in Academic Libraries Sexually explicit topics have been safely explored in the academic bubble for decades. However,… Anna Culbertson San Diego State University Paper
Doujinshi and Libraries Doujinshi are Japanese publications, usually created by amateurs and fans, though occasionally… George Pearson Florida International University Paper

Of course, I was most excited to attend the Music (metal) panel because of the papers presented (see below). A highlight for me was hearing Victoria Willis’s presentation on The Dialetic of T(werk): Hegel, Marx, and Womanist Agency in Mastodon’s “The Motherload” Video, because of her theoretical framework and it’s relation to feminism.

Title Body Presenter Affiliation Presentation type
Sunn O))) – A Camp Dimension? In a video posted to YouTube, the drone metal band Sunn O))) can be seen performing an… Albert Diaz UCLA Paper
“Rime of a Metal Mariner” “Rime of a Metal Mariner” looks at Iron Maiden’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as an adaptation… Justin J. Roberts University of Kentucky Paper
The Dialetic of T(werk): Hegel, Marx, and Womanist Agency in Mastodon’s “The Motherload” Video In this paper, I examine the role of twerking in Mastodon’s recent video for “The Motherload.”… Victoria Willis Georgia State University Paper
Hype, Visual Personae, and “Real” Music: The Example of Lana del Rey Before Lana del Rey’s first album, ‘Born to Die,’ hit the stores, she was an internet sensation… Mark Allister St. Olaf College Paper

And the panel on Music (Gender) was too great to pass up:

Title Body Presenter Affiliation Presentation type
Bring It On Home: Gender and Sexuality in Led Zeppelin Sasha T. Strelitz: “Bring It On Home: Gender and Sexuality in Led Zeppelin”

Many…

Sasha Strelitz University of Central Florida Paper
“Bootylicious” with “Love on Top”: Female Empowerment and Performing Sexual Agency at the 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show In the middle of an exclusively masculine contest of muscle and strategy between the Baltimore… Claire Anderson University of Washington Paper
“Papa, you ain’t got no mama now”: Analyzing Female Agency in Race Record Ads When it comes to analyzing and understanding blues music, many researchers have turned to the… Catherine Gooch University of Kentucky Paper
“What a Great Song…Except for the Lyrics!: Examining Rape Culture in Popular Music”

In this paper, I explore the cultural and social landscape that popularizes music that…

Melinda Mills Castleton State College Paper

I’ve been telling folks for years that the Popular Culture Association is the most interesting academic conferences I’ve been to. Because it deals with popular culture, it really spans disciplines and is one of the more affordable conferences to attend if you’re not a member. You can present as an independent scholar which is also nice. I had a great time meeting other academics and really enjoyed learning about the varied research that’s going on all of the states.

Next year’s conference will be in Seattle – so I’m really looking forward to that.

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A Need for a Metal Music & Special Collection’s Library in NYC

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I’ve decided to add the task of starting a Metal Music Library to my list of life goals. As a side effect of all the research I’ve done, nothing feels more professionally fulfilling to me than merging my two loves at the moment – metal and librarianship. Living in New York, it just seems so senseless to me that there isn’t already a physical manifestation of some sort of metal library and collection here. I guess I’m finding it hard to stomach because New York’s history is rich with metal culture and ephemera. We are the birthplace of some of metal’s most notable bands like Anthrax, Dio, Kiss, Life of Agony, Manowar, Nuclear Assault, Tombs, Type O-, etc., Not to mention more extreme metal bands like Brutal Truth, Cannibal Corpse, Demolition Hammer, Immolation, Internal Bleeding, Malignancy. Mortician, Suffocation and on and on. Some of these have spearheaded entire sub-genres of metal.

When I worked at the Met, the Costume Institute Department had a number of music-related exhibitions like, Punk: Chaos to Culture, AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion, and Rock Style. I can easily see these kinds of exhibitions displaying the material culture of heavy metal, perhaps record collections, even the fashion, which believe it or not, there is. Just take a look at how the latest Kardarshian brood is co-opting our style.

Kendall-Jenner-loves-Slayer

Or just celebrities in general:

And I’m not posting these images to make metal-heads angry; on the contrary, it’s says a lot about mainstream culture appropriating and encouraging a heavy metal style, even if its a misinterpretation. Is heavy metal music becoming more acceptable, and if so, why? How are perceptions changing and what is the historical importance? Preserving aspects of “our” popular culture and subcultures are important for a variety of reasons.

Take a look at fellow WordPress blogger and musician/scholar Jason Netherton’s book, “Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground” in which he collects an oral history of death metal music from the musicians and people involved in the early scene. Additionally, he’s been scanning and making available early death metal zines from the 1980’s and on, in his blog Send Back My Stamps! – talk about preservation and accessibility!

As I research and work alongside my metal academic comrades, I see further evidence of the need for preserving metal music and it’s material culture. My colleague and fellow librarian, Brian Hickam, maintains a wonderful online bibliography for the International Society of Metal Music Studies (ISMMS) with categories for searching via books, articles, chapters, etc. It’s been very helpful in my own studies.

There are other institutions such as The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library & Archives, which, of course, collect under rock-and-roll, but also includes a variety of subgenres, metal being one of them.

Over in the UK, there is The Home of Metal, a project started as collaboration project with the Black Country Arts Partnership, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Art Gallery to celebrate and preserve the birthplace of heavy metal in the West Midlands.

Gary Shafer, the man behind Heavy Metal Museum, is also catering to heavy metal preservation and offering a platform for sharing and selling metal memorabilia. And if I couldn’t push the case for Metal Music studies and libraries being important, this article from the Wall Street Journal does the job for me.

In my own home library, here’s what I’ve been collecting and hoping to preserve for my daughter…(it’s very much a growing collection)

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Conferencing the Extreme Metal Way…

Just a quick update on my recent academic excursions. My thesis was accepted for presentation at two conferences and I presented on them in the last two weeks. I talked about my on-going research on Women in NY’s Extreme Metal Music Scene.

*Banner from MACI website

*Banner from MACI website

The first presentation was at the North East Popular Culture Association conference (NEPCA) in Providence where I was happy to sit on the panel titled “Music and Dance in Popular Culture”, with Professor Jeff Cain from Sacred Heart University as the moderator. I was joined by students Bethany Fagan-Good from SUNY Brockport who presented her paper on “Erick Hawkins Aesthetic: Finding the Dancer” and Matthew Scully from Tufts who presented on “Chester Himes and Frantz Fanon on Blues: Toward a New Humanism”. Each paper was interesting and I was glad to get my feet wet, so to speak, with conference presenting. As an aside, if you’ve read my blog before, I’m pretty enchanted by Fanon’s work, so much so, that I wrote a paper about his inspiration on Fela Kuti and Afrobeat and the correlation with how both Afrobeat and Norwegian Black Metal arose out of the same political and religious oppression. Just sayin’.

In any case, it’s been sometime since I’ve presented or talked in front of an audience. My tenure at Columbia University began in 2012 and because of my new role in Acquisitions, I’ve haven’t had the luxury of teaching classes like I did when I worked at the Met. There’s actually a lot of cross departmental work I miss from my old days there, including providing reference, teaching classes, and cataloging (believe or not!). My current position is more about management, finance, and making sure items are getting ordered and received in a timely matter!

Me at MACI conference

Me at MACI conference

The second conference I presented at was the Metal and Cultural Impact conference (MACI) which took place at the University of Dayton in Ohio. This by far, was one of my most enlightening and engaging conference experiences. I met so many metal music scholars whose work was not only inspiring but fascinating, not to mention I was getting to meet scholars whose work I reference in my own thesis. The topics presented were captivating.

Some highlights included the presentations from the scholars below:

Kevin Ebert – “But that doest help me on Guitar!–Unraveling the Myth of the Self-taught Metal Guitarist
Dr. Imke von Heldon – “The Pagan Reunion Awaits: The Construction of Cultural Identity in Norwegian Metal Music
Dr. Ross Hagen – “Pay no Attention to the Man Behind the … Ritualism and Depersonalization in Underground Extreme Metal Music”
Dr. Carl Sederholm – “Answering Cthulhu’s Call: Exploring Lovercraftian Cosmicism in Extreme Metal
Dr. Jasmine H. Shadrack – “Femme-Liminale: Corporeal Performativity in Death Metal
Megan McCarty – “Aesthetics of the Brutal: The Voice, Listening Practices and Affect in Extreme
Alex Skolnick – “Louder Education with Alex Skolnick

The conference started on Thursday (11/6) and unfortunately I was unable to see the presentations on Thursday as my flight was rescheduled. This was upsetting because with my new obsession with all things gender-related, I missed out on keynote speaker Amber Clifford-Napoleone’s presentation on “Queer Metal Matters: Metal, Sexuality, and the Future“. Fortunately, I did get to speak with her the next day, which helped to alleviate my guilt of missing her keynote address as well as school me on some interesting aspects of queer theory.

Also of great note was getting to see the provocatively creative exhibition by librarian and metal scholar, Brian Hickam. I was happy to meet both Brian and his colleague Elizabeth as they’re both Librarians! Really..I’m sure you can feel my excitement. Brian curated the exhibition titled, “Masked Performance: Facepaint, Head Coverings, and Masks in 21st Century Popular Culture”. He spoke about his experience with metal as both an avid fan and scholar and how he inevitably drew parallels with the use of masks in culture and in heavy metal music.

I also made some new friends, especially Laina Dawes, who also presented on the Women and Metal panel. I’ve mentioned her before on this blog when I brought up reading her book, “What are you Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal“.  She discussed the rampant violence towards women and women of color in the extreme metal scene through her presentation entitled, “The Music or the Message? How to Love Music that Doesn’t Love You Back“.

All in all, we even got some help from two metal scholars when our rental car wouldn’t start! Thanks Jamie and Kevin!

Hopefully, the future of metal music studies will see an increase of scholars bringing relevant issues to light within both the metal community and mainstream society. Attending this conference helped to validate my ever evolving interest with metal music, gender, and anthropology. So to my fellow metal colleagues–Keep up the great work!

Finally–A video taping of me presenting at MACI. My husband taped it with his cell phone and we uploaded it to Youtube with hopes of disseminating my research. It’s not the best sound recording quality but it helped me reflect on honing my presenting skills.
Thanks & Enjoy!

Part 1 of 3

Part 2 of 3

Part 3 of 3

About Me: Depth & Transgression

JoanI realized, the “About Me” section in this blog is a bit wanting and I thought that even though I’ve been relaying all the sordid details of my research, I haven’t really let my audience know about me (although one can argue that you’d get a feeling about who I am if you’ve been reading my posts!)

But anyway, here’s some details about me and where I’ve been going both academically and professionally. First off, this blog was started back in 2011 as a way for me to get my bearings with writing in academia as well as a way to force me to just, well, WRITE!

I’ve always been a fan of all types of music, especially 80’s New Wave, Classic Punk, and, as you can tell–Extreme Metal. By Extreme metal, I am mostly talking about Death, Doom, Sludge and some Grind.

My first life was spent as an Art lover and student. I went to SUNY Albany for my Bachelors in Studio Art (Drawing) and Art History (Medieval Art and Architecture). Having experienced first hand working in a Visual Arts Library, I thought to myself, wouldn’t becoming an Art Librarian be cool???And I wouldn’t have to be a starving artist to boot! So about a year after I graduated college, I went to Pratt for my Library degree in Library/Information Science with a Certificate in Archives (which is gathering dust by the way).

In the midst of my Pratt life, I ended up, very luckily, working at The Thomas J. Watson Library in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I worked there for about 6 years as an Art Librarian, enjoying the highs and lows that accompany art reference, cataloging and inter-library loaning! This was a great way to merge my love of art with reading and organization.

However, somewhere down the line, I ended up thinking about getting a second masters degree. I remember talking to some mid-level librarians who told me that in order to work in a college library, having a second masters for specialization was helpful. So that’s what I did. I decided to go to Hunter’s CUNY program in Anthropology with the beginning intention to write about Anthropology and the Pacific. Having found out that most schools in the NY didn’t really have faculty focused in that area-unless you’re going for the PHD, I was outta luck. So I started thinking about what else was fascinating about humans and culture.  And then I had an enlightening conversation with my husband. He brought up Karyn Crisis from Crisis and her influence as seminal person in the death metal scene in early 90’s NYC metal. It got us to thinking about women in Heavy Metal Music. And it most certainly led me to researching what, if any, academic literature was written in Anthropology about women and their experience in these often “hyper-masculine” and “misogynistically” described musical genres. We talked about Dawn Crosby from Fear of God/Detente, as well as women who were musicians  not vocally fronting in bands, like Jo Bench. I wondered what led them to participate in this sub-culture of extreme metal and I wondered if they felt marginalized or empowered by the scene.

Side cutFor me, around 2007, my reasons on listening to Death Metal became apparent. For one, my ears had slowly become trained to actually listening to the genre as form as oppose to just hearing loud noise. And two, no other music for me could correlate to the passing event that I had just overcome, that of my mother’s death. Down-tuned guitars, heavy bass-lines, and blast beats all lent itself nicely to both the angst and grieving I was undergoing. Finding women as vocalists and musicians in the scene served as a way to connect. This became very poetic for me and it’s what I believe happens to people when they connect to a particular style of music. It was a transgressive experience.

But where has this left me? It’s left me at a point where I am still learning from many of the women I have surveyed and interviewed during my research. I am finding, that like me, they are empowered by the music and their acceptance. Although bad experiences exist in any sub-culture, emerging patterns of tolerance have also been relayed to me. I am finding that in NYC, diversity and gender are ever the forefront in cultural concerns. What that may mean for women in the EMM scene can have a variety of meanings. For one, if feminism, especially that of the third wave feminism can be applied to EMM, then the make-up I am seeing, which is fairly diverse when compared to EMM scenes outside of NY, aligns itself well with the third wave.. There is a predominantly Hispanic population of women involved in the the local EMM scene and it does indeed encompass, “many colors, ethnicities, nationalities, religions and cultural backgrounds”.

In the near future, my professional plans are to finish up this thesis and disseminate it. After that, I plan on going back to my first love of art and perhaps dabbling in creating music. All of this research has cemented to me that there isn’t many female artists lyrically writing about what it is to be a women, if they even get to write the songs!

For example, what would it be like to hear something like Cannibal Corpse’s “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” from the point of view of the victim? Or maybe lyrics that relay the pain, terror, and joy when birthing a child? How about lyrics about being a female serial killer or the pain felt when having a miscarriage, etc? These are all reasonably within the motifs of Death Metal but align themselves with a feminist agenda. It’s something I have yet to hear with maybe Brooklyn’s Castrator being an exception.

Monday Musings

Lately, my blog posts haven’t been totally of the academic nature; I’ve realized I’m becoming more and more entrenched in the daily activities of a mom and a working mom at that.

But today, I’ll speak to a balance of both things academia and motherhood.

This Monday morning was done in it’s usual fashion, a quick and then slow progression of doing things on automatic and then having time on the train to contemplate all the things I needed to do or did. I remember sitting on the train not too long ago, praising myself for actually being able to make it to work on time today! I hate being late, but somehow it’s become routine ever since having a baby.

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Engaging in the field of Library Politics

I’m a frequent visitor of LisJobs since it pertains to my chosen career industry and I’ve become a fan of their section titled, “Career Q & A with The Library People”; it’s where they answer questions from librarians, librarians to be, and curious bookworms.

Today, I read about a question that was very similar to what I’ve recently been through in the my previous post of  “When Work isn’t Working“. Here’s the Library People’s answer to my same dilemma.

I especially liked the part that read:

“In my experience, it has always been my immediate boss who lobbied for me and procured my raises and promotions, which makes sense because he knew my work better than the director. Since your boss is supportive of you, I would try to engage her help as much as possible. Her words and opinion will mean a lot to her superiors and she should be involved in your discussion with them, if possible. If you do not have much contact with the head of the library, she may not be aware of everything that you have accomplished while working there or of your desire to move into a professional position. However, she cannot be surprised, considering you recently completed your MLS. In fact, I am a little surprised that your employers did not approach you after you finished the degree to discuss your future in the library. This could be a sign that you have a losing battle on your hands.”

Again, like in my previous post, it’s sad that our profession doesn’t seem to advocate for its degree holders as strongly as they should. It makes being taken seriously as organization and industry difficult. I know that both public and college libraries have more of a pull than special libraries and I’m not sure if that’s because special libraries have yet to adopt the same standards as those types of institutions. Unfortunately until the special art library field catches on, I’ll be navigating the seas on my own.