2015 PAMLA Conference Forum: “Blur and Focus; Musicality in Film and Poetry"

This year’s PAMLA Conference Forum, to be held on Saturday, November 7, in the Hilton Portland’s Parlors room (on the Ballroom Level), from 5:20-7 pm, will feature, together on stage for the first time, two of the Pacific region’s most influential intellectual and creative figures, Fred Moten and David James. The Forum, entitled “Blur and Focus; Musicality in Film and Poetry,” will range from classic film musicals to Woodstock, and from Stokely Carmichael to contemporary opera. This event, open to all, is sure to be one of the intellectual highlights of the conference.

Our first Forum speaker, David E. James, is a Professor in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. He has also taught at Korea University, Shanghai University of Science and Technology, the Beijing Film Academy, National Taiwan University, and Viet Nam National University, Hanoi. Among his many books is the classic study Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (Princeton University Press, 1989), as well as many other books and edited volumes, including Power Misses: Essays Across (Un)Popular Culture (London: Verso Books, 1996) and The Most Typical Avant-Garde: History and Geography of Minor Cinemas in Los Angeles (University of California Press, 2006). David E. James has also edited To Free the Cinema: Jonas Mekas and the New York Underground (Princeton University Press, 1992), The Hidden Foundation: Cinema and the Question of Class (Minnesota University Press, 1996), Im Kwon-Taek: The Making Of a Korean National Cinema (Wayne State University Press, 2002), The Sons and Daughters of Los: Culture and Community in LA (Temple University Press, 2003), Stan Brakhage: Filmmaker (Temple University Press, 2006), and Optic Antics: The Cinema of Ken Jacobs (Oxford University Press, 2011). He has served on the editorial boards of Cinema Journal, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, Now Time, and Art Week, and has also published two books of poetry. His films have screened at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles Filmforum and Canyon Cinema in San Francisco.

Professor James’s talk, “Dual Focus in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Film,” will explore how although the rock 'n' roll film coincided with the decline of the classic film musical, certain of the earlier genre’s structures and motifs recurred in it. This presentation will focus on the reconstruction of the musical’s “dual focus” narrative as a romance, not between a leading boy and girl, but between musicians and audiences, culminating in the creation of a utopian commonality. This narrative structure also informs innovations in editing and other sound/ image relations that reach their high-point in the Santana, ”Soul Sacrifice” section in Woodstock.

Our second Forum speaker, Fred Moten, is Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside. His The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions) was a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry. He is the author of the field-changing study, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press), as well as Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works), B. Jenkins (Duke University Press), The Little Edges (Wesleyan University Press) and co-author, with Stefano Harney, of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia). His current projects include a collection of essays, consent not to be a single being (forthcoming from Duke University Press), and a collection of poems, The Service Porch (forthcoming from Letter Machine Editions). In 2009 Moten was Critic-in-Residence at In Transit 09: Resistance of the Object, The Performing Arts Festival at the House of World Cultures, Berlin, and he was also recognized as one of ten “New American Poets” by the Poetry Society of America. In 2011 Fred Moten was a Visiting Scholar and Artist-in-Residence at Pratt Institute; in 2012, he was Whitney J. Oates Fellow in the Humanities Council and the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University and a member of the writing faculty of the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Bard College; and in 2013 he was a Guest Faculty Member in the Summer Writers Program at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa Institute. He was also a member of the Critical Theory Institute at the University of California, Irvine from 2002 to 2004 and a member of the Board of Directors for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York from 2001 to 2002.

Professor Moten’s talk, “The Blur and Breathe Books,” explores how in a recent work entitled Librettos, artist Charles Gaines superimposes excerpts from the score of Manuel de Falla’s opera La Vida Breve over the text of a famous speech delivered by Stokeley Carmichael in 1967. Moten will explore how the blur this superimposition produces and enforces instantiates new musical composition, given in choreographic performance—a kind of improvisation manifest in movement-activated visual and aural attention that occurs under what one might call temporal distress.

The organizer and moderator of our Forum is Professor John M. Ganim, Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside and presently First Vice-President of PAMLA. Ganim has served as President of the New Chaucer Society and has been a Guggenheim Fellow. His most recent books are Medievalism and Orientalism and Cosmopolitanism and the Middle Ages. His earlier books, Style and Consciousness in Middle English Narrative and Chaucerian Theatricality, have just been reprinted in the Princeton University Press Legacy Library series. He has written extensively on medieval traces in contemporary architecture and film.