TGTF Guide to SXSW 2018: this year’s conference programming in the Music Culture & Stories track

By on Friday, 23rd February 2018 at 11:00 am
 

Music is such an important part of the fabric of our lives, and the effects of the stories that music makers tell through their art often go far beyond their original inspiration and intent. In the Music Culture & Stories track of the 2018 SXSW Conference, there’s plenty for the music fan to sink her/her teeth into on the influence of song and in the many directions music can take us our minds and hearts.

Documenting Music and Musicians
Though we may not be actively thinking about it on a regular basis, those who document music, musicians and the legacy of their art and how they have done this documentation have affected the way we consume and ultimately remember the music that has moved us. In an early afternoon session on Tuesday 13 March entitled ‘LONDON ROCK: The Unseen Archive’, Alec Byrne will discuss his decade-long career as a London rock photographer. Attendees will enjoy a slideshow of his rare images of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and many other artists. These images have been stuck in an archive for almost 40 years, only resurfacing recently as part of Byrne’s book. Photographers have been some of the few in the industry who have crossed and allowed into the emotional inner sanctums of musicians, so Byrne will have some unique stories to share.

On the afternoon of Wednesday 14 March, panel session ‘Preservation & Appreciation of Album Art Today’ will discuss the effect of the size limitation of album covers in digital streaming platforms. With such a small graphic size available, how we can continue the artistic appreciation of the art form that was once so important enjoyed during the original heyday of vinyl in the ‘50s and ‘60s? Albums like The Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ and the banana of ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ are remembered almost as much for their cover art as they are for the music they contain.

Music, Our Minds and Our Emotions
How music makes us feel is an important key to what we like and remember and what resonates with us emotionally. In ‘Ballads: A History of Emotions in Popular Culture’ on the afternoon of Saturday 17 March, University of British Columbia’s David Metzer will discuss his book The Ballad in American Popular Music: From Elvis to Beyoncé. Metzer believes when a ballad is written and released to the public and what is going on in the world at the time can influence how that song is experienced by the listener. Taking things on a more philosophical level, Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou of Zent Records in ‘The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters’ will provide his personal views on how artists through their songcraft “have a unique role to play as our nation comes to terms with these dark days.” (date TBA).

Two members of London rock band The Fish Police (header photo from their Facebook) have autism, and their conditions have informed the way they write music and unapologetically. Alongside staff from internationally acclaimed creative organization Heart n Soul, they will offer their unique perspective on making art in their own unique musical universe in the session ’Exploring Music Through the Lens of Neurodiversity’ early Wednesday afternoon (14 March). On a slightly different tack, local radio station KUTX will be taping their podcast This Song at SXSW 2018 on Thursday afternoon (15 March). Podcast host Elizabeth McQueen will be interviewing hip-hop artist and writer Dessa, who will describe a life-changing song and how it influenced her new album ‘Chime’. [NB: This taping will be held at the Wisteria Room at the Fairmont Hotel on 101 Red River Street and not at the Austin Convention Center.]

Iconic Venues
Some music clubs live on in memory, even long after they physically no longer exist. In
‘From CBGB to the World: A Downtown Diaspora’ on Friday 16 March, Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, Modern Recording artist Chris Stamey, Talking Heads members Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth, and visual artist Julia Gorton will recall what made the New York City dive bar special and why it’s remembered even today.

Despite the widely reported assault on music venues across Britain by property developers, we thankfully still have venues in North America who have stood the test of time. Session ‘The Horseshoe: the Roots of Canadian Rock n’ Roll’ will explore how this venerated institution in Toronto has survived for decades and been the starting point of a career for many Canadian rock acts who then went on to stardom beyond the Great White North. Closer to home and heart for Texans, ‘The Broken Spoke: Austin’s Legendary Honky-Tonk’ and its over 5 decades of support for live country music will be discussed on the morning of Tuesday 13 March by none other than its long-time and only proprietor James White.

Musical Legacies
In terms of American musical heroes, who casts a bigger shadow than Elvis? In a featured session on Wednesday afternoon (14 March), there will be an exciting conversation about the upcoming three-hour, two-film HBO presentation on Elvis Presley that will premiere in April and includes “a comprehensive creative journey from his childhood through the final 1976 Jungle Room recording sessions”. The panel will include Presley’s widow Priscilla, legendary Memphis music writer and producer David Porter, director Thom Zimny and producer Jon Landau. Arguably Elvis’ counterpart in rap Tupac Shakur will be fondly remembered in ‘Still Thuggin: Tupac Relevance Over 20 Years Later’ on the afternoon of Friday 16 March.

In more recent, fast-paced times, there’s been the question of whether musical stars made through appearances on reality tv shows will live on or will they be quickly forgotten. In ‘Now What? Life After Reality TV Singing Shows’ on Saturday afternoon (17 March), Cas Haley (2007’s America’s Got Talent), Blake Lewis (6th season of American Idol) and NAKIA (1st season of The Voice) will share their experiences before, during and after appearing on millions of tv screen around America.

As with all of the SXSW 2018 events we cover here at TGTF, music conference programming is subject to change. We suggest you consult the official SXSW 2018 schedule for the latest additions and editions.

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