First day of the conference today, and like the diligent, but broke, musicologists we are, a group of us left Buffalo at 5:45 this morning so that we could make it to Philly in time for the first session. The conversation in the car ride down was a wonderful experience. Especially for someone who: (a) is new to a department; (B) never tires of erudite, intelligent, sophisticated, highbrow, scholarly, analytic (“pretentious, bombastic, and overly analytic) conversations; ( c) probably spends way too much time in the library (books are good for reading, not so much for conversation)* I’m sure most musicologists, or academics in general, can relate to how nice it feels to have a long conversation with people that share the same passion as you, as a release from long hours with a nose in a book.
I was able to sit through two papers**, one of which was interesting (“From the Lower East Side to Catfish Row: “Strawberries!” as a cultural mediation in Porgy and Bess and Street Scene.” - Bruce D. McClung). There is certainly a link between these two scenes, and McClung raises interesting questions about the dramatic setting of the scenes, as well as the two scenes’ intertextual references. However, I did not quite follow him all the way to the final connection he makes of the “strawberry” reference: [from the abstract] “In both operas, strawberries symbolize sexual transgression and recall Aschenbach’s purchase of the fruit from a street vendor during his pursuit of Tadzio in Death of Venice, Iago’s comparison of Desdemona’s alleged loss of virginity to her white handkerchief ‘spotted with strawberries’ in Othello, and the legend of Venus weeping over the body of Adonis with her heart-shaped tears falling to earth to create voluptuous fruit itself.” A lot of the “question” and answer session were suggestions of more songs or artworks with strawberry references. Now I may be wrong, but I find it pretty unconvincing that either Gershwin, Weill, or any of their audience would have even made any of these connections. That is all I really have the mental energy to write about right now, but I would like to emphasize that I really did enjoy this paper, and found it to be a very well done presentation.
I apologize for the fragmentation and general sloppy writing of this post, I am quite tired right now (I know, excuses, excuses..). I just wanted to get a post up on the first day, and also get some of my thoughts down.
Expect more tomorrow.
* Going back and reading this last sentence, it comes off as really sad. I swear, I love the work I am doing in the library, and at no time this semester have I questioned why I am sitting in a library all day. This is probably still considered “sad,” but more in a losery way, which I’m ok with.
** I want to blog about my experience at the conference, but I have already decided, out of respect for our colleagues, that I will not name or comment on any papers that I felt were not very good.