This year's EMP Pop Conference goes regional, with sites around the country including New Orleans.

Photo of a sign on Highway 61.

For more than a decade, the EMP Pop Conference has been a gathering place for critics, writers, scholars, and others who take music seriously to contemplate its place in our world and its role in our lives. In the past, the conference has been located in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City; this spring, it will take place at a number of sites around the country, one of them being New Orleans.

I've presented papers at three previous Pop Conferences and am pleased to be part of the regional organizing committee for this year's event, which will take place April 18-21, 2013 at Tulane University. Here's the call for papers: 

Due South: Roots, Songlines, Musical Geographies

2013 EMP Pop Regional Conference at Tulane University 

April 18-21, 2013

New Orleans, LA

Jointly sponsored by Experience Music Project and 

 The New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University

"The South" has a hold on the cultural imagination as tangled as its musical geography: it represents tradition even as its musical pasts are repurposed for tourism and new genres emerge from cross-pollinations. John Hiatt sings to an imaginary rider, "so when you're feelin' down and out / Come on, baby, drive South," as if the entire region is a balm for modernity. Where is this romanticized South? It depends on who's asking and who's driving. Are they headed to the Upper, Mid-, Deep or Gulf South, to Appalachia or the Delta? Are musics still aligned with geography or specific sites? Along Southern roads lie the elusive roots of many American genres and a host of sonic signatures: Nashville and Memphis, Macon and Athens and the A-T-L, Lafayette and New Orleans, Muscle Shoals and North Mississippi. Yet "the South" still signifies as roots Americana to some outsiders or backwards and bigoted to some others. We'll do the South by driving straight into its tensions: tradition vs. modernity, faith vs. transgression, racial nostalgia vs. new immigrant populations, authenticity vs. performance. 

Join us at the bottom of the South in New Orleans for discussions on the following themes:


-modernity vs. tradition 

-Hip hop, bounce and rap: Dirty South aesthetics of country and city

-DJ culture

-Studio sounds and record labels

-Noise ordinances and city streets

-blues highways

-Southern dance floors

-cultural creolization

-Americana roots music

-country musics

-Selling the South: Nashville, country, and the business of Southern music

-jazz and blues as world musics

-jazz and blues diasporas





-Cajun music

-regionalism vs. nationalism

-Appalachia and its roots

-African/Cuban/Caribbean roots

-New Orleans and brass band funk
-Memphis and rock'n'roll

More information on the Pop Conference.

The EMP Pop Conference, launched in 2002, joins academics, critics, performers, and dedicated fans in a rare common discussion. This year, there are five regional conferences meeting on the same weekend as repercussions of a decade's worth of musical exchange. The Southern Regional is jointly sponsored by the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University and by the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame. This year’s program committee members are: Joel Dinerstein (Tulane), Alison Fensterstock (New Orleans Times-Picayune), Melissa Weber (WWOZ-FM, Tulane, "DJ Soul Sister"), T.R. Johnson (Tulane, WWOZ-FM), Gwen Thompkins (WWNO-FM, New Orleans), Ben Sandmel (author, Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans), Holly Hobbs (Tulane), Karen Celestan (Music Rising @ Tulane), Nick Spitzer (American Routes, Tulane), Matt Sakakeeny (Tulane, Los Po-Boy-Citos), David Kunian (WWOZ-FM), Alex Rawls ( 

Please send abstracts of individual papers, with 50-word bios, to Joel Dinerstein ( or Karen Celestan ( or Deadline for proposals is February 13, 2013. Panel proposals (90 minutes) or special types of panels (roundtable, performance) should include overview, individual papers or presentations, and bios. We welcome unorthodox proposals aimed explicitly at a general interest audience. Registration is free for presenters and the public. For more information, go to the EMP website.