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Thursday, April 26 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Joni Mitchell

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  1. Paul Anderson "I’ve Looked at Clouds”: Joni Mitchell’s Collapsed Pastoral and Affect Theory"
  2. Brian Lloyd  "Love and Innovation: Joni Mitchell, Folk Music, and the 1960s"
  3. Nicolette Rohr “A Lonely Road”: Personal Politics and Listening to Joni Mitchell"
Moderator: John Rockwell

Rock stars bear a heavy burden in a culture obsessed with celebrity, and Joni Mitchell is no exception.  Listeners have long approached her music with great and often wild expectations that they will find insights into big important things – the meaning of life, the joys and heartbreak of love, the challenges of being a free-spirited woman battling heroically against artistic conventions, and a whole musical scene, steeped in patriarchal presumption.  Like Dylan, Mitchell has delighted in frustrating such expectations, and done so as an artist who honors only one obligation – staying true to the callings of her imagination.  Feminists have experienced particular disappointment, as Mitchell has steadfastly refused to take seriously any claim that she might be speaking in her music as a woman or for women generally.  In this panel, we propose to enter this thicket at the moment that Mitchell was first besieged by generational, gendered, and mass media expectations.  She found her voice as a musician while working the folk music scene and found an audience as a singer-songwriter in touch with countercultural ambitions and sensibilities.  Paul Anderson proposes to illuminate her relationship to the counterculture by dissecting her “collapsed pastoral” – a phrase he uses to capture the ambivalence she felt about the “back to the garden” ideal at the heart of the hippie ethic.  Mitchell both celebrated and mistrusted this ideal, and Anderson finds this ambivalence “at the levels of lyrics, melody, harmony, and arrangement.”  Nicolette Rohr also detects strains in Mitchell’s relationship with the nation (Woodstock) for which she had composed the official anthem.  Rohr explores the contradictions embedded in the “hippie chick” mystique by documenting the varied ways that Mitchell’s female fans participated in it.  Brian Lloyd will undertake close readings of several songs on Mitchell’s first album, hoping along the way to gain some insight into what made Mitchell so distinctive, from the beginning, as a songwriter.  He will be asking in particular if Mitchell is deploying anything that, following Susan McClary, we might want to call “gendered techniques” in her efforts to adapt the conventions of folk music to her artistic purposes.

Speakers
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Paul Anderson

Paul Anderson is associate professor of American Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is author of Deep River: Music and Memory in Harlem Renaissance Thought (Duke University Press, 2001) and has published essays in Critical Inquiry, American Literary History, Criticism... Read More →
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Brian Lloyd

Brian Lloyd earned his Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1991.  For two decades he worked and published in the field of U.S. intellectual history, but is now engaged in a study of the interplay between political aspirations and formal innovations in 19... Read More →
avatar for John Rockwell

John Rockwell

John Rockwell was raised in San Francisco and earned a Ph.D. in cultural history from the University of California at Berkeley. Moving to New York in 1972, he served at the New York Times as a classical music critic, reporter and editor; chief rock critic; European cultural corre... Read More →
avatar for Nicolette Rohr

Nicolette Rohr

Nicolette Rohr is a PhD candidate in History at the University of California, Riverside. Her work explores women and popular music fandom in the 1960s and has been published in the Journal of Popular Music Studies. She holds an MA in Public History and co-curated an exhibition of... Read More →


Thursday April 26, 2018 2:00pm - 3:30pm
JBL Theater MoPOP, 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109

Attendees (16)