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Apr 11 2023

The Late Style of Academic Disciplines

Milken Family Foundation

How does a discipline like musicology age? What habits of mind over time calcify into dogma and which tools begin to rust from un-use? How many forking paths can a discipline take before it runs out of fuel? What if there simply is nothing left to say and ultimately no one willing to listen? Is it possible for a discipline to someday end? What can be done to prepare for such an ending?

Participants in this symposium will orbit such questions as they explore "late style" approaches within humanities disciplines. Such attention to disciplinary late style offers a barometer for where and how a way of thinking matures, ages, and ultimately declines. Musicology grants a powerful perspective on these issues as it teeters on the edge of significant disciplinary rupture and institutional precarity—a canary in the coal mine, so to sing. This symposium begins to articulate a message outward bound to the humanities disciplines in our close company, a signal across the bow for those who will listen. Participants will wonder aloud about how some of these endings might invigorate a more just and passionate network of questions than the ones currently occupying our attention. This is a hopeful project. Endings are a gift.

This half-day symposium begins with a seminar discussion orbiting readings on late style by Arthur C. Danto, Bret Easton Ellis, and Edward Said, and concludes with a panel presentation of a new book project by Jamie Currie, Joanna Demers, and Jake Johnson, moderated by Tiffany Naiman.

Please click here for links to the readings.

Presenter bios

Jamie Currie is a multi-arts practitioner,  writer, and Associate Professor in the Department of Music at the University at Buffalo. Academically, his work has primarily been in critical musicology, taking place at the points of intersection between history, philosophy, and politics. As such, he has made interventions into a number of debates, including eco-criticism, identity politics, global capitalism, queer theory, and psychoanalysis. His art practice has led to work at IRCAM (Pompidou Center Paris), Radio France, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center (Buffalo), and Roulette (Brooklyn, New York).

Joanna Demers is Professor of Musicology in the USC Thornton School of Music, where she teaches classes on twentieth- and twenty-first-century popular and experimental music. She has published scholarly books and articles on music’s intersections with aesthetics, intellectual property law, ethics, and apocalypse.

Jake Johnson is an Associate Professor of Musicology at Oklahoma City University’s Wanda L. Bass School of Music. A consummate musician, Jake folds his expertise as collaborative pianist, conductor, and musical director into his research on music-making in America. He is the author of Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America (2019) and Lying in the Middle: Musical Theater and Belief at the Heart of America (2021) and editor of the forthcoming volume The Possibility Machine: Music and Myth in Las Vegas (2023).

Tiffany Naiman is the Director of Music Industry Programs and an Assistant Teaching Professor at UCLA's Herb Alpert School of Music, as well as a lecturer in the Musicology department.  She is a scholar of popular music, temporality, gender, and disability studies. She currently serves as co-chair of the LGBTQ Study Group of the American Musicological Society. Tiffany has developed specialization as a David Bowie scholar and her work is published broadly. Tiffany is also a DJ and electronic musician performing under the moniker NeonGray; the experimental film and music Senior Programmer for Outfest Los Angeles; manager of musical artists Cusses; creator of a multiplicity of club nights and one-off musical events in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Philadelphia; and an award-winning documentary film producer. Tiffany serves on the boards of FEMME HOUSE, The 100 Percenters, and Theatre Exile.

This program is made possible by the Joyce S. and Robert U. Nelson Fund. Robert Uriel Nelson was a revered musicologist and music professor at UCLA, who, together with his wife, established a generous endowment for the university to make programs like this possible.