Kelly Best Reflects on Spaces of Violence, Sites of Resistance

Kelly Best, a PhD candidate at Memorial University offers her reflections on the 2010 meeting of the IASPM Canada chapter at the University of Regina’s Interactive Media and Performance Labs.

From June 3rd to June 6th, scholars, artists, b-boys, and b-girls converged on the campus of the University of Regina (et environs) to share in the 2010 joint meeting of IASPM-Canada and the Canadian Society for Traditional Music (CSTM). Expertly organized and executed by Charity Marsh (CRC) and her hardworking crew of dedicated assistants from the Interactive Media (IMP) Labs at the University of Regina, the conference provided ample opportunity to discuss issues of music, meaning, and violence, to hear many performances, and to participate in hip-hop workshops. We also had opportunity to celebrate with Beverley Diamond at the official launch of her festschrift. While all of the activities and presentations I attended were enriching experiences, a few themes and events stood out.

Frequently discussed were the tensions between musical meaning, violence, artistic intention, and social impact. Thom Blake and his colleague from University of York, UK made this clear in their presentation on the ambivalent intentions of Terre Thaemlitz, a UK-based, experimental sonic artist who makes contradictory claims on the efficacy and intention of his musical exploration of the politics of transgendered bodies.

Incredibly gracious on both sides and as close to an intellectual battle as I have ever witnessed, was Martin Daughtry’s response to a portion of Susan Fast and Kip Pegley’s co-presentation on Judith Butler’s analysis and theorization of a group performance of a Latino-American reinterpretation of The Star Spangled Banner – an event that, according to Daughtry, did not occur. His critique raised important questions about the representation of “fact/truth” by postmodernists, like Butler, who theorize about music and violence.

Ellen Waterman’s paper on her research with assistive musical technology showed importance of improvisational play in the lives of the differently-abled and the subtle violence afflicted on them by making the assumption all creative expression be part of corrective “therapies.”

Keynote speaker Jocelyne Guilbault’s insightful presentation on Soca music in Trinidad gave compelling examples of how music can both resist and reinforce violence within diverse communities.

I also had the opportunity to participate in the expertly facilitated DJ workshop held in the Interactive Media and Performance Labs.  The only facility of its kind in North America, the lab was filled with sets of industry-standard turntables, laptops, mixers, and headphones.  DJ Hippo showed us how to drop a beat.

Drop a beat we did (or tried to do, in my case).  But skip a beat they did not. The Saturday night party held in Charity Marsh’s beautiful backyard was the brilliant grand finale to three evenings worth of deeply moving performances (including a surprise appearance by Regina’s finest). And did I mention the food? Like the delectables we delegates daily enjoyed, this conference was fresh, local, and ample. And all was implemented with unprecedented grace and generosity. The 2010 IASPM-Canada/CSTM meeting in Regina has been the highlight of my year. I offer sincere thanks to all those involved.

Kelly Best

PhD (Cand.)

Memorial University