The Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center at UNLV is pleased to announce its 2020 lecture series. From February through April, six scholars will visit Las Vegas to discuss the history and future of pop, rock, punk, jazz, blues, and contemporary Christian music.
In the early 1980s, the music executive, composer/arranger, and writer/historian Arnold Shaw founded UNLV’s Popular Music Center. Shaw believed that Las Vegas rested its fame—and indeed its very existence—upon two main pillars: gaming and popular entertainment. He envisioned the Popular Music Center as a foundation that would stand alongside the UNLV Center for Gaming Research as uniquely opportune sites for study, archival work, and exchange in the cultural milieu of our city.
It is in this spirit that we now invite an exciting mixture of junior and senior scholars from diverse disciplines (English, Philosophy, Musicology, and Religious Studies) to share their expertise with the university and the Las Vegas public about the varied traditions of popular music making throughout history. These scholars will raise questions about the definition of popular music, the methods for understanding popular music and culture, and the political ramifications of this activity.
All of these events are free and open to the public.
ELIZABETH LINDAU (California State University, Long Beach) – February 24, 2020
“Boring Things”: Drone and Repetition in Andy Warhol’s The Velvet Underground
[Punk and arthouse culture]
Since its rediscovery in 1990, Andy Warhol’s film The Velvet Underground (1966) has utterly disappointed journalists, scholars, and fans of the band it features. That’s probably because it is boring. Even within the context of Warhol’s notoriously tedious cinematic oeuvre, critics concur that this document of an aimless hour-long jam session is almost unwatchable. But boredom was a deliberately cultivated state within the Velvets’ avant-garde artistic milieu, where extremes of repetition or stasis were thought to become fascinating if one only endured them for long enough. In a similar way, my presentation argues for The Velvet Underground’s potential to be interesting, even captivating. The Velvets’ combination of repetition and drone—itself nested within a combination of the supposed opposites of avant-gardism and rock ‘n’ roll—develops an equally paradoxical aesthetic of boredom.