This past weekend was my first encounter with the fascinating and enticing (not words all would use) world of the American Muiscological Society at the 2011 conference in San Francisco. We stayed at Jessica's uncle Tom's house in the Noe Valley/Castro St. area. That in itself is a riveting adventure as Tom and his wife He have a knack for providing excellent cuisine, hilarious conversation about the neighborhood cats, as well as owning a piano, clarinet, alto sax, a wood tongue drum, and an erhu.
The conference was held in the Regency Hyatt hotel at the Embarcadero waterfront. My academic advisor and friend Jane Ellsworth met me there on Friday to give me the lay of the land and a handle on the blizzard of interesting things to experience. I first listened to a paper given by verteren medievalist Calvin Bower entitled Notker and Neumes which explored various ways of imagining the monk Notker's world concerning mnemonic devices and the accuracy of notation, etc. Quite fascinating and I loved his German pronunciation of the word seqventia. After that I dashed to another talk upstairs by Peter Schmelz called Cycles of Kitsch: Valentin Silvestrov's Conflicted Soundscapes. A fascinating look at the shock of tonality in the second half of the twentieth century and the artistic act of naming, especially of designating something as "kitsch" intentionally to cast all things in a kitsch-y light. After a short walk through the Exhibits I caught PhD candidate Andrea F. Bohlman's paper on Reviving the Popular: Sacred Song and the Polish Opposition. It sheds new light on the political/national/religious importance of the "New School" of Polish composers in the wake of Communism. And that's just the Friday morning session! After lunch (at a classy establishment called "Pizza Orgasmica") I caught Adalyat Issiyeva's Connected by the 'Ties of Blood': Russian Music Theory and the Quest for the Asian/Aryan Identity, Jeremy Llewellyn's Paradigms of Secular Monophony from the Middle Ages: Worker's Songs (to whom I posed a question during microphone question time!), and Julianne Lindberg's Satie's Looking Glass World: Pedagogy, Play, and the Future of France. Along the way I ran into Gray Brothers from Westmont days and had a chat. In the evening I hit a reception for the Graduate Education Committee where we got to meet, greet, and snack with many representatives from different schools. It was a wonderful experience and has changed the way I look at my future.
I am very grateful to Jane for telling my that at an AMS conference one must go just until one's brain can't take it any more. Saturday was much more light. I caught Mark Ferraguto's Beethoven à la moujik: Russianness and Learned Style in the 'Razumovsky' String Quartets (and witness the storm of Richard Taruskin on the offensive at question time) and talked to a representative from Goldsmith's University of London about their extensive Russian piano music collection in the Exhibits. I met up with Jane as well as Rebecca Marchand after taking the picture for their Haydn Society gathering.
All in all it was a wonderful trip. I should have dispensed more business cards Jessica made for me. I'm obviously interested in Russian and eastern European studies as well as medieval issues, though all of the papers could have drawn me in if I'd had the time and energy. Most of all my conversations with professors about "what I'm interested in" and with Jane over piazza and later Baja fast food gave me a whole new understanding of the options and demands that lay ahead. So very excited!