UCSD is hosting the 2016 Intercultural Music Conference on February 26–28. I just got word that I will be presenting a paper. So, if you are really bored, you can come hear it ... though you would have to be REALLY bored to want to, as my presentation is likely to be pretty boring (for most) as well. Here is the abstract:
“Sweet Trinidad:” Imitation and Representation in Van Dyke Parks’ Discover America
Some six years after completing his first album, Van Dyke Parks released Discover America, a collection of cover songs. More specifically, Discover America consists almost entirely of songs originating from Trinidad and Tobago. And, the majority of the songs’ lyrics revolve around descriptions of the United States and American culture, through the eyes of Trinidadian songwriters from the 1920s, thirties, and forties. Thus, Discover America is an American musician’s interpretation of various Trinidadian musicians’ representations of the United States. As such, Discover America is an exploration of cross-cultural pollination in both topical and stylistic terms. Parks’ arrangements show a sensitivity to Calypso’s intricacies, though they are rarely simple re-orchestrations of Calypso tunes.
This paper examines Parks’ imitations of Trinidadian music alongside the lyrics’ representations of American culture. Van Dyke Parks’ arrangements seem to be an attempt at representing the original artists’ ideas about America juxtaposed against his own interpretations of Trinidadian culture. Though Parks is clearly a fan of Calypso, his orchestrational choices reveal underlying assumptions about the style and region. This paper investigates the ways Parks portrays Trinidadian music (and, thereby, Trinidadian culture). Additionally, special attention is paid to the ways Parks reacts to the original songs’ descriptions of American history and culture. In short, this discussion is an exploration of intercultural (mis)understanding and representation as presented in Discover America.
You can get more info the conference itself by visiting their website.
Even if you won’t come to the conference, you really should listen to Discover America. Like most things Van Dyke Paks, it is great.