UCLA Center for Musical Humanities
10 February 2018
“PhDS Pertaining to Punk, “ & beyond …
Mixing the Academy and lived PUNK culture is a concept like a giant punk rocket filled bulging with repertories of sight and sound. A giant punk rocket to the future that explodes into the sky like a fucking loud scream to a new world of fireballs and resistance…. women indulgently included!
I did not know that this two-day event was the first of its kind at UCLA. Yet I naturally follow Joe Strummer’s advice, which is to move naively into things. I think of this as letting the essence or spirit of an event unfold as it may. This is how I fell into punk rock. The right place at the right time. It was synchronicity and all that unconscious revealing by focus and experience. For me, as others, it was the first note of a song. The guitar riff or bass depth and drums ripping through my spine. It made me wake up!
I wanted to attend the full event but didn’t because of my bad back and family responsibilities. I attended the full event on Saturday. I made as many of the sessions as I was able to. Each session inspired me to see from a different perspective. Some of the panelists are very academic. Their blending punk with thesis was a challenging reality for most of them. Also, the need to archive punk, in general, was something that challenged all of them. I have questioned this one myself. I was hoping that by being here that some of my questions might be answered. Their arguments are satisfactory. Over time, I will consider all of them.
Session 2B” Punk Epistemologies, 9:30 to 10:30 AM was my first session to focus my mind on. I listened actively to Sarah Gelbard speak about punk as being “neutralized,” or “ask a punk,” and “ask a punk academia.” She is a PhD candidate. She defines herself as a punk planner and architect. A punkarchitect! She said the Academy, conformity to institutions or university, does reject her feminist and or punk attitude. The title of her presentation, “Ask a punk: from informality to anti-formality and anti-authority and when to say fuck.” I felt an irritatingly shy stirring in her that filled the room. I have not felt that feeling for some time. Her integrity and honesty moved me. She mentioned storytelling may be a type of approach to her chosen field of study.
Robert Haworth was next, and his theme was on” radical learning spaces.” As an educator and practicing anarchist he shared some biographical stories about his punk rock experience. A theme that ran throughout his talk seemed to focus on building character. How society and educational (Academy) focuses a type of expendable economic character that forms our children. He mentioned a good book to study by Emma Goldman, “The Child and its Enemies.”
Session 5B: Punk Political Economies presented three panelists. What came forth here is that “We should consider continuing to support the cracks.” I enjoyed Kathryn Heffner speaking about women fanzine publishers of science fiction writing. Briefly I can say that I learned about the history of fanzines. She talked about the community formed by fanzines and how they communicated. It is about women and resistance. My heart about jumped out of my chest. She defined so many elements of what a fanzine is all about. It is about community, friends, and a subject. The punk scene is about friends and the continuity of friendships over time. I did not hear much about this at this conference! Kathryn did tell a short story about a sister zinester who misspelled a word and made a whole movement out of it. I about jumped up and screamed hallelujah. The point being that with fanzines the information is current and was often printed up quickly to spread like a good wildfire of communication. I knew this to be true. Her talk gave meaning to my community. We need to keep writing and self-publishing.
The final Session 21B. Decay, Ruins, Dystopias was very enjoyable and academic. S. Mark Gubb: “God So Loves Decay,” is an unusual perspective on achieving punk material. He is a PhD candidate. Simply put he had a friend read lyrics as punk poetry, UK Decay, in front of beautiful architecture in London (England… there abouts?). This is presented as performance art. My insight into what he said is that the archiving of punk repertories can inspire others to be creative. Taking archived material and recycling its essence to a new generation to use creatively.
Michelle Gonzales presentation made a strong comparison between George Orwell and Joe Strummer. Her brief history of punk, music and films as influencing a generation of punks is a bit superficial to me. Yet her argument was sound and interesting. I noticed how she compared their lives and their lifelong intentions. As she suggested, I am going to google the best of Utopian literature and do some reading. An honest look at what can move someone! A book and or a song.
Overall, I did not include everything from this punk academy conference. Yet in general I had a great time. My impression is that archiving punk is a very sound perspective and a reality for some such as Slash Magazine and MaximumRocknroll.
I am not sure If I am ready yet to turn over my stuff. As a friend Kat Talley-Jones, said “Take it out of the dusty garage” or something like that. Time will tell.
In moonlight Danced through the night Dancing in the white light Freedom from conditioned trance So stand so grand in decadence And the white light Danced through your stomach Pulls tight Tight pulls the chords of your empty heart In decadence The dance of decadence Defiant stance – a new decade Of decadence Realise your personal destiny Fighting the fat and prosperous Brood of mediocrity Once safe in its prosperity Now burns In decadence The dance of decadence The cry of truth – a state of mind – Call it youth Take up your part in the play Decapitate the day White eyed – hatchets high – luddite like In decadence Decadancing – you can be your own king You can be your own king In the dance of decadence Deca-deca-deca-decadance