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Wednesday, September 23, 11:45am - 12:15pm (Live Discussion of Asynchronous Presentations)

Archives of Youth 

  • Stolen Youth: Orphan Songs and Abolition, Emily Gale (University College Cork)
  • Teenage Agency and Creative Power in World War II-Era Frank Sinatra Fan Clubs, Katie Beisel Hollenbach (U of Washington)
  • Reclaiming Venus: The Many Lives of Alvenia Bridges, Maya Smith (U of Washington)        
  • The Politics of Coming of Age: Nostalgia for Innocence in Youth Music, Rebecca Rinsema (Northern Arizona U) 
  • Mixtape 101, Olivia Jean Hernández (Yakima Valley College)
  •  Even in His Youth: Kurt Cobain's pre-Nirvana Journey to Pop Music Hell Via His Montage of Heck Mixtape, Michael Matewauk (writer)
  • The Middle: Memory and Arrested Development in Early-2000s Emo, Katie Moulton (writer)


Presentation Descriptions


Stolen Youth: Orphan Songs and Abolition, Emily Gale (University College Cork)

In 1847 Atwill of New York published “The Lament of the Blind Orphan Girl.” Composed by William Bradbury, the song is written for voice and piano in a lilting 3/8 meter. Mary, the song’s protagonist, sings of “the silvery moon” and “bright chain of stars” over diatonic harmonies. A dramatic shift to the minor mode supports the climax: “Oh, when shall I see them? I’m blind, oh, I’m blind.” Mary explains that she and her brother have also lost their parents. On the sheet music a wreath of flowers encircles an image of a young woman kneeled beneath a tree, alone at a grave. The title page notes: “As sung with distinguished applause by Abby Hutchinson.”

Orphan songs pervade nineteenth-century pop repertory. Scholars have analyzed Latvian, Hmong, Danish, and German orphan songs, but US orphan songs have generated little more than passing references. Other examples include: “The Orphan Nosegay Girl” with words by Mrs. Susanna Rowson from 1805; “The Colored Orphan Boy” composed by C. D. Abbott, sung by S. C. Campbell of the Campbell Minstrels from 1852; and “The Orphan Ballad Singers Ballad” by Henry Russell from 1866. Orphans were not just a topic; in the latter half of the nineteenth century, actual parentless youth featured in bands like the Hebrew Orphan Asylum Band of New York City.

This paper connects the stolen childhoods in orphan songs to those of enslaved youth. If children were aware of slavery and the movement to abolish it as historian Wilma King has shown, what did it mean for Abby Hutchinson, who started performing abolitionist songs with her brothers at age 12, to sing as the sentimental stock character of the orphan? Songs like the one above may have been a way that young abolitionists empathized with enslaved youths robbed of their youths.


Teenage Agency and Creative Power in World War II-Era Frank Sinatra Fan Clubs, Katie Beisel Hollenbach (U of Washington)

During World War II, American media created and fueled stereotypes that portrayed the typical teenage female Frank Sinatra fan as hysterical, immature, distracted, and obsessed. Aside from this press coverage, war-era propaganda and priorities generally pushed these girls towards the background of American society. What contemporaneous critics and current scholars have generally not acknowledged, however, was how Sinatra fandom provided American teenage girls with a multitude of benefits and tools to help navigate their stressful and often confusing wartime lives. In Sinatra fan clubs specifically, these benefits included having a safe space to discuss the political and social climate with people of the same ages and interests, opportunities for career preparation, a way to express their creativity and explore their sexuality, and a chance to interact with an international fan community in the midst of worldwide conflict. Driving this examination are Sinatra fan club newsletters and correspondences authored by these teenage girls from the archives of the Hoboken Historical Museum, the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library at Emory University, and the Margaret Herrick Library.

In dialogue with the work of scholars in fan, gender, and popular music studies such as Barbara Jane Brickman, Marilyn E. Hegarty, and Allison McCracken, this study will demonstrate how consulting texts produced by teenage girls as opposed to primarily professional criticism leads to insight into how the creative objects produced by this fan community served them as war-era Americans. These particular writings reveal how teenage girls used fandom in not only creative, but also productive and professional ways, and how they responded to specific aspects of Frank Sinatra’s voice, performance style, and appearance.


Reclaiming Venus: The Many Lives of Alvenia Bridges, Maya Smith (U of Washington)  

76-year-old Alvenia Bridges is someone who could be described as forever young. While she contends with typical signs of aging such as osteoporosis and arthritis, her daily meditative walks, diet of primarily salmon and avocados, and invigorating friendships contribute to her youthful demeanor. However, a healthy lifestyle can only account for so much. Her captivating storytelling is what truly keeps her young. When she recounts her ability to move throughout the world in the heyday of her youth and when she describes how music allowed her to escape a violent beginning and discover her true purpose for existing, she transports both herself and her listener to another place and time. In doing so, age loses all meaning. In this talk, I will share part of Alvenia’s story based on our ethnographic memoir about her life.

Through her personal journey Alvenia has crossed paths with a wide variety of people in the entertainment industry, from long-term working relationships with the Rolling Stones and Roberta Flack to momentary yet extraordinary encounters with Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and Tina Turner. However, the value of Alvenia’s story goes beyond the unique perspective she affords us through her thoughtful, introspective, and poignant glimpses into the lives of people who have captured the world’s imagination. Born in 1944, she also provides insight into what it took to go from growing up as a black girl in mid-century segregated Kansas where one of her most formative experiences was integrating the all-white public school in her district to becoming a behind-the-scenes juggernaut of 1980s Rock N’ Roll. In particular, her story interrogates questions of race and gender in traditionally white male spaces. This talk thus demonstrates how a memoir about experiences in one’s youthful past can shed insight on how we understand the present as well as help rectify the systemic silencing of black women’s voices in musical history.

The Politics of Coming of Age: Nostalgia for Innocence in Youth Music, Rebecca Rinsema (Northern Arizona U) 

Popular music that nostalgically recalls childhood and innocence resonates with generation Z. In 21 Pilots’ video for their chart-topping song ‘Stressed Out,’ twenty-somethings ride oversized tricycles, wish for their mothers’ lullabies, and long for candles scented with their childhoods. The phenomenon traverses popular music genres. Chance the Rapper regrets ‘burn holes in his memories’ while missing his mother’s ‘cocoa butter kisses’ and releasing mixtape ‘Coloring Book.’ At EDM festivals bright colors, kiddie costumes, and candy, alongside other substances, encourage Zers to party like adult children. EDM’s repetitious structures and over-obvious tensions and releases (bass drops) recall children’s songs, sonically reinforcing the nostalgia.

In this paper, I explore how these phenomena counter themes of independence that have shaped youth music since rock’s birth, circa 1950. I explore constructions of childhood generally: while adults have long constructed childhood and innocence via music and literature, late adolescent constructions of childhood and innocence are under-explored. Public discourse on childhood is particularly revealing. In the ‘80s discourse on childhood concerned loss of innocence from media violence, contributing to heightened, ‘helicopter parent’ surveillance of children during the ‘90s. Recent discourse highlights an opposing concern: millennials stay children too long and become financially responsible too slowly. Politically and technologically, young millennials and Zers have come of age in uncertain post-9/11 times, littered with real-time media reports of gun violence, terror attacks, and economic instability that have primed them to seek nostalgia for simpler times. Mike Brake theorizes that youth culture arises out of societal problems. Following Brake’s theory, one might argue that despite helicopter parenting, instability in formative years has led adolescents to feel they lacked innocence in their childhood. As such, this music allows them to imagine and mourn a childhood innocence they only wish to have experienced.


Mixtape 101, Olivia Jean Hernández (Yakima Valley College)

This presentation will explore the mixtape as a narrative genre for composition students within the curriculum for an English 101 composition course at a community college. This course followed a student-led curriculum based around music, reading, and writing. In the first assignment for this composition course, students were asked to craft “mixtapes”—be they material, digital, or textual—of songs intended to introduce themselves to the instructor and their classmates. Students were asked to consider the rhetorical significance of the mixtape as a genre and consider the various audiences and purposes of the mixtapes they had made in their own experience. Through the process of creating their mixtape for class, students were required to read, analyze, and write about the song, including relevant details about the artist, the lyrics, the music itself, and visual elements of music videos. In this assignment, the familiar genre of the mixtape, or playlist, became a narrative genre in which students made visible the act of telling stories and making meaning through their own selected sequences of songs. The mixtape assignment was a means by which students were able to direct their own learning and draft their own curriculum in a culturally responsive classroom space. From the mixtape and on, this course depended on the musical selections of the students themselves as they navigated learning for their peers and selected, analyzed, and wrote about songs and artists that opened doors to historical, cultural, and social conversations of their own desire. This presentation will include examples of student mixtapes and an overview of a multimodal composition curriculum that is student-led and student-selected through their own narrative discoveries in mixtape-making.


Even in His Youth: Kurt Cobain's pre-Nirvana Journey to Pop Music Hell Via His Montage of Heck Mixtape, Michael Matewauk (writer)

"Sound collage." "Sonic chaos." "An unlikely pastiche." These are some of the ways Kurt Cobain's 1987 Montage of Heck mixtape has been described. Presented as a random experiment by various media outlets, the collection of audio clips Kurt curated as a young adult living in Aberdeen has been overlooked and, unfortunately, undervalued.

I will offer a new interpretation behind one of rock 'n' roll's most misunderstood artifacts in a re-listening party/slideshow that finally gives Montage of Heck its due. Breaking down the tape section by section, the mix reveals itself to be something more than the sum of its parts -- an actual well planned and executed work of art. Context between audio clips will be examined and connected to show how the 36-minute tape builds upon itself and functions as both narrative and soundtrack...depicting Kurt's fall from grace and descent into the underworld.

Pulling on the thread of pop songs, tv show clips, cartoon sound effects, and home recordings included on the tape, one main theme emerges. I will explore how, whether through song title, lyric, or particular band (Donny and Marie, George Michael, The Bay City Rollers), Montage of Heck paints a portrait of an artist/musician as a young man trapped in Hell. Kurt has created an audio version of a Hieronymus Bosch painting that is both exhilarating and dramatic, yet still blazes with the future rock icon's killer sense of humor. Poignant and hilarious, its brilliance mostly unrecognized, Montage of Heck is deserving of another listen.

Twenty-five years after Kurt's death it's still heartbreaking as hell.

A short slideshow/Powerpoint will feature photos from a Day of the Dead altar that was created in the fall of 2019 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's passing and honor his mixtape.


The Middle: Memory and Arrested Development in Early-2000s Emo, Katie Moulton (writer)

As a millennial, I forged my identity and my community in the early 2000s through the music and culture of pop-punk and third-wave emo. This moment and genre was even more defined by youth than music of the past for several reasons: 1) Burgeoning social media and more household Internet meant teenagers could discover and access new bands. 2) Success through indie labels leveraging the internet and Warped Tour meant bands were often younger and rougher-sounding. 3) The lack of industry/radio barriers/investment also meant the bubble of success could burst more quickly, the music crystallized in the youthful moment in which it was made. 4) Lyrics and sound were deliberately immature as well, insisting on nasal whiny vocals, sugar-rush tempos, simple guitars—as well as a sensitive heteronormativity that bordered on misogyny.

I plan to explore these aspects of emo pop-punk and its cultural environment, as well as the questions of how this particularly youthful genre affected its fans' sense of identity, memory-making and nostalgia. I plan to focus on Jimmy Eat World's 2001 breakthrough single, "The Middle," because the band is simultaneously an exception to the "youthfulness" outlined above yet created an image/text/vessel for the youth of that moment. Additionally, I will explore this through the lens of a personal story: One of my best friends, with whom I bonded as a teen through this music, was struck and paralyzed by a car when we were 22. As he recovered, he retained all his memories of his lifelong friends - and the music we loved - but is no longer able to form new memories. As an essayist who combines memoir and music criticism, I believe this narrative - the "why" we care to analyze and critique - only deepens and illuminates our conclusions.