We went to the annual conference of the Australia-New Zealand chapter of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM ANZ). The conference ran from 24-26 November and was hosted by Monash University. Two papers represented our project:
"Music for moderns": Merv Acheson and early Sydney swing culture
Peter Doyle (Macquarie University)
Tenor saxophonist Mervyn Acheson came to prominence during the war years, when he and a handful of like-minded musicians introduced the newer style of small band, hard-driving swing to Sydney audiences, at dances, restaurants, jam sessions, harbour cruises and military social events. Although such finer distinctions might not be readily apparent tot he 21st century observer, in fact Acheson and co's music represented a dramatic departure from then extant modes, and inferred a new set of attitudes and expectations, and a new gestural and stylistic 'economy' -- the beginnings of Australian-inflected 'hep'.
Acheson was also a professional journalist, columnist (as well as gunman and sly-grogger, who once served time for attempted murder). His place in the Sydney entertainment-nightlife world might be seen as a 'participant observer', in many senses -- his playing was much admired, and commented upon, while he himself kept up a high output of reviews, news, commentary, provocations and such via his writings in the music press. Indeed, he in part was able to establish his own musical-artistic-discursive context. Late in his life her wrote a seriealised magazine memoir, in which he enlarged on his wartime and post-war musical and quasi-criminal exploits.
In this paper I would like to use the case of Acheson to suggest that in the Australian 'small pond' context, roles which in say the UK and USA would generally be separate -- artist, promoter, cultural gatekeeper/critic, biographer, mythographer etc -- are not infrequently carried out by a single, active agent, as in Acheson's case, I will also offer some (very preliminary) comments on how this affects Australian popular music historiography.
Popular music and cultural memory
Andy Bennett and Alison Huber (Griffith University)
During the last thirty years, popular music has become the subject of intensifying acts of collective remembering, playing an important part in what Andreas Huyssen has called the 'memory boom' at the turn of the twenty-first century (Huyssen 1995). The production of an ever-increasing number of television documentaries, the curation of blockbuster museum exhibitions and halls fo fame, the re-release of 'classic albums' for a nostalgic audience, and reunion tours featuring popular artists from yesteryear are just some of the institutional endeavours that place popular music at the heart of public memory discourse. Such versions of popular music heritage are generated at an industry level, and circulate as some of the 'official' renderings of popular music history. These stories about the past necessarily interact with audience members' personal recollections of events, artists and songs. In turn, these personal memories form a key way that individuals imagine, understand and perform their own identities, and make sense of their own personal histories. This paper argues for the importance of trying to understand these competing but connected discourses of the public and the private, the official and the unofficial, as articulations of cultural memory, and introduces the methodology of a new project investigating popular music and memory in Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, Israel and the USA.