SCHEDULE (OCTOBER 14)
1. Welcome and Introduction (1:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. EDT)
2. Keynote (1:15 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. EDT)
Co-hosted with the Department of History at Queen’s University
Chair: Eric Fillion (Department of History, Queen’s University)
“Festival and Freedom? Exploring Liberation and Utopia in Popular Music and Jazz Festivals”
– George McKay | University of East Anglia | UK
Drawing on a range of popular music festival practices, from the countercultural free festival movement to commercial pop events and urban jazz festivals, this talk explores the claims and limits of utopian practice and liberatory potential across festival history. If it constructs these claims in order to challenge them, is the speaker also betraying his residual desire for a particular idea of festival? If caught between nostalgia and urgency, can we at least confirm festival’s cultural richness and social potential?
3. Histories and Futures (2:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. EDT)
Chair: Greg Marquis (Department of History and Politics, University of New Brunswick)
“Music, Counterculture, and Hybridization: Latin American Music Festivals in the 1960s and 1970s”
– Anaïs Fléchet | Université Paris-Saclay | France
Popular music festivals have played a major role in the creation of a transnational musical mass culture during the 1960s and 1970s. Devoted to jazz, song, or rock, they attracted large audiences, received intense media coverage and promoted cultural transfers across regions. Focusing on Latin American music festivals, my paper adopts a cultural and social history approach to music to pursue three objectives: analyze the success of the festival form, assess the political stakes that underpin these international encounters, and understand the role of these events in the dynamics of contemporary cultural globalization.
“Festival Economies: Negotiating Between Art and Commerce from Newport to Coachella”
– Steve Waksman | Smith College | USA
This presentation will examine three moments of expansion and transformation in the history of U.S. music festivals: the Newport Jazz Festival in the 1950s, Woodstock and the emergence of the rock festival in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the festival revival that was signaled by the emergence of the Coachella festival in 1999 and has carried into the 21st century. Each of these moments was shaped by an overarching tension between the commercial imperatives of festival production and values that might alternately be characterized as philanthropic, aesthetic, or liberatory. Focusing on the efforts of festival producers and promoters – George Wein with Newport; the aggregation of Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts, and Joel Rosenman with Woodstock; and Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen with Coachella – I will examine how the work that music festivals do has been changed by the evolving economy of festival production, which began as a more independent, entrepreneurially-driven activity and has in recent decades become aligned with the growth of multinational corporations dedicated to live music.
“East Germany’s Red Woodstock: Popular Music between the ‘Carnivalesque’ and the Everyday”
– Katharine White | J & M Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies | USA
In 1973, East Germany hosted the 10th World Festival of Youth and Students, later referred to as the “Red Woodstock,” in East Berlin and beyond. The festival convened 25,000 international participants alongside hundreds of thousands of East German young people and guests for nine days of socialist festivities. Looking back at the events, participants and scholars would cast the festival as a break from the everyday realities of state socialism. By contrast, this presentation conceptualizes the Red Woodstock as a key moment of youth engagement that reflected shifting societal norms already underway in East Germany. This is especially apparent if we examine the rock concerts, folk music, and solidarity performances that took place at the festival. In highlighting “the work that music festivals do,” this presentation underscores how the festival organizers capitalized on East German and international youths’ long-held, shared interests and desires when it came to popular music.
4. On Archives and Digital History (4:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. EDT)
Chair: Chris Greencorn (Department of History, Queen’s University)
“Mance Lipscomb’s Silhouette: Region, Race, Expertise, and Digitization at the Berkeley Folk Music Festival Project”
– Michael Kramer | State University of New York-Brockport | USA
The Berkeley Folk Music Festival took place at least once a year between 1958 and 1970 on the campus of the University of California in Berkeley. The archive of the festival, now fully digitized, presents a rich trove of over 30,000 artifacts—with a particularly evocative collection of over 10,000 photographs. These allow us to consider the stakes of the 1960s folk music revival—its cultural history, social dynamics, political implications, relevance to the broader study of musical festivity, and status as digitized material—from the understudied perspective of the West Coast folk music revival in the United States.
Starting with a dramatic image of the Texas songster and bluesman Mance Lipscomb at the Hearst Greek Theater on the UC campus in 1963, this presentation probes the ways in which the Berkeley Festival sought to reconfigure ideas of expertise and wisdom in the United States. By moving previously marginalized people to center stage at a preeminent public university campus, the Berkeley Festival challenged ideas of who and what deserved recognition in the Jet Age context of California during the height of both the Cold War and the African American civil rights movement. Yet this move was not without its problems. The Berkeley Festival asserted that figures such as Mance Lipscomb had as much to offer as any prestigious UC faculty member; but so too, at times silhouettes could overshadow people such as Lipscomb themselves. They could create temporary, festive agoras of expanded, inclusive participation, but they could not achieve permanent institutional or social transformation.
This talk asks if digital history tactics of inquiry help us to see—and hear—these historical processes more vividly. Which is to say, when all we have is the archival silhouette of an immersive but ephemeral sonic and sensory event, how do we recover and study its legacies and meanings most effectively and evocatively? From Mance Lipscomb’s silhouette to ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger’s hearing aid to Georgia Sea Island Singer Bessie Jones’ silver brocade to Sam Hinton’s nose flutes to Jesse Fuller’s fodella to Jerry Garcia’s gaze, we shall consider some ways we might grapple digitally with musical festivity way out West at the Berkeley Folk Music Festival.
To register: whatmusicfestivalsdo.eventbrite.com.