Sustain: Genealogies of American Music and Modernism

When and Where

Wednesday, March 22, 2023 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Campbell Conference Facility
1 Devonshire Place


A two-part symposium on the genealogies of American music and modernism with a live performance by Florence Dore (& band). 

Part 1: Soulsville: Post-Fordist City Space and the Sound of "Urban Crisis" with Eric Lott

Eric Lott will take up the wacka-wacka rhythm guitar sound that emerged around 1970 and to a significant degree animated the decade's soul, funk, and disco music, from Isaac Hayes's "Theme from Shaft" (1971) to Love Unlimited Orchestra's "Love's Theme" (1973) to Bobby Womack's "Across 110th Street" (1973) to "Be Thankful for What you Got" by everyone from William DeVaughn (its writer) to Curtis Mayfield (1972-74) to Carl Douglas's "Kung Fu Fighting" (1974) to Mandrill and Michael Masser's "Ali Bombaye" (from the 1977 film The Greatest). Less a song than a sort of sudden sonic infrastructure or DNA strand that came and then went along with the emergent world it announced, the alternately choked and flaring wah-wah guitar, key musical signifier of early- to late-70s inner-city street-level grittiness and keynote of numberless TV cop show soundscapes, organized a vision of a new urban scene that it articulated better than any contemporaneous social scientist. It captured a mood, a demeanor, a disposition, and a perception before and as these latter came to be articulated in the mouths of city denizens, players, and activists. How might it be that a non-representational instrumental figure with a complex music genealogy, which Lott will try to pinpoint, could come immediately to convey certain social facts and facts of urban feeling in the years of high "urban crisis" rhetoric? 

Part 2: "The Daemon Lover," Bob Dylan, and the New Critics: Vernacular Music and the High Literacy with Florence Dore

*Note: This presentation will include a musical performance by Florence Dore.

In This talk will be part of a traveling public humanities program that aims to address the crisis in what defines a "public" by bringing discussions about these topics into public settings. The Ink in the Grooves Live, or Ink Live, consists of events that combine discussions with one of the most engaging and accessible cultural forms: live music. Professor Dore will be joined by the eminent guitarist Mark Spencer. Mr. Spencer has accompanied a wide range of artists, including Chrisssy Hynde of the Pretenders and Laura Cantrell. He is a current member of the influential Americana band Son Volt.