Author Archive | calhouns

U2 Conference 2018 Feedback Survey

We’re still collecting feedback from our 2018 delegates. If you’d like to share your thoughts and help us plan for an even better one next time, we have a very short survey here.

Also, if you have photos and/or videos of anything from the conference you’re willing to share, we’d love to add them to our Flickr albumPlease contact Conference Director Scott Calhoun if you’d like to submit your photos and/or videos.

U2 Conference 2018 Media Info Page

Contact: Conference Director Dr. Scott Calhoun

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The U2 Conference 2018 will meet from 13-15 June, 2018, in Belfast at Queen’s University in partnerships with The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice, Queen’s, the National Museums of Northern Ireland, and Fitzroy Presbyterian Church.

Keynote speakers are Catherine Owens and Stuart Bailie, with presentations from special speakers  Shaughn McGrath, Steve Averill, Andy Rowen, Steve Stockman, Beth Nabi, John Brewer, Fiona MacGowan, and the band December.

Scholars, academics and critics coming from seven nations will deliver over 24 individual presentations, arranged into eight panels, happening over two and a half days.

Sessions are designed to appeal to academic and general audiences on the theme U2: POPVision. As the conference theme, U2: POPVision invites investigating, articulating and critiquing the guiding visions specific to U2’s Pop era of 1997-98 for their efficacy then and now, as well as welcoming an examination of popular music’s power to cast visions that shape its own narrative and construct and complicate larger cultural conversations, in which U2’s visions have long been engaged.

As Belfast marks in 2018 the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement – a major step as a peaceful agreement to seek non-violent resolutions to many conflicts in Northern Ireland, and an agreement which U2 publicly supported – the conference theme U2: POPVision further communicates the interest in studying how U2’s artistic visions help or hinder peace building, resolving personal and societal conflicts, and envisioning a more just, equitable and joyful world. An important theme of the conference is thus the wider relationship between music, art and peace building.

Keynote Speakers

Special Guests

U2 Conference 2018 Logos and Info Graphics

 

 

 

 

Paper Summaries @ U2 Conference 2018

We are looking forward to hearing 24 presentations grouped into eight sessions spread over two and a half days at the U2 Conference 2018. Listed below are the panel titles and individual presentation titles, with brief summaries of the presentations supplied by each speaker. The full program is posted on our program page. All sessions are open to all conference registrants.

14 JUNE 2018, THURSDAY
8:45 – 10:00 am: Panel Sessions 1A & 1B
Queen’s University

Panel Session 1A: “Don’t You Wonder Sometimes?” Sound and PopVision
Session Chair: Angela Pancella

Pop’s Music Videos
Dr. Jonathan Hodgers
Popular Music Lecturer
Trinity College
Dublin, Ireland

This presentation explores how Pop’s music videos reflect the album’s themes. These promotional vidoes provide an outlet for the songs’ paradoxes and contradictions. They enhance tracks such as “Discotheque” and offer intriguing meditations on tracks such as “Please,” but also settle for comparatively straightforward interpretations such as for “Staring at the Sun.” The discussion also compares Pop’s videos with their antecedents. On occasion, Pop’s promotionals revisit styles found in earlier U2 videos and update them to reflect the band’s aesthetic circa 1997.  The Pop video series showcases a curious mix of conservative and progressive modes, and as such provides an apt reflection of the album.

“And What You Leave Behind You Don’t Miss Anyway”: U2’s Pop and the Pop Art Aesthetic
Dr. Kimberly Mack
Assistant Professor of African American Literature
Department of English Language and Literature, The University of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio, USA

Repetition and revision is a notable feature of Pop Art, with Andy Warhol’s repeated Campbell’s Soup cans and images of Marilyn Monroe serving as striking examples. In Pop Art, sometimes the recurring images are not identical, but instead reflect relatively minor differences in color or size. U2 revised and re-recorded “Last Night on Earth” three times: the original album version, the single, and the “First Night in Hell” mix, a dance remix that bears no resemblance to the other two versions. While the differences between the repetitive visual images in Pop Art are usually minor, the third iteration of “Last Night on Earth” reflects a major change in style and form. Using musical excerpts from all three of the band’s interpretations of “Last Night on Earth,” my presentation will argue that U2 takes an expansive approach to Pop Art repetition, connecting Pop to Pop Art through structure, form, and postmodern play.

“Lookin’ for a sound that’s gonna drown out the world”: Resolving Musical Emotional Ambiguity in U2’s POPVision
Dr. Diane M. Rasmussen Pennington
Lecturer in Information Science
Lead, Information Engagement Research Area, Strathclyde iSchool Research Group (SiSRG)
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, Scotland

Semantic ambiguity complicates finding desired information. Additionally, the same music elicits different emotions in different people, which makes it difficult to find music online that meets our emotional desires. I operationalise this as “musical emotional ambiguity.” U2’s musical emotional ambiguity is especially complex, as any fan can attest. In this presentation, I will disambiguate the emotion of U2’s PopVision using multimodal analysis of music, lyrics, videos, and live concerts from Achtung Baby, Zooropa, and Pop, 1990s world events, interviews, reviews, paraphernalia, and fandom discussions. Can we agree on how PopVision and its artefacts make us feel?

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Panel Session 1B: “Take This Tangle of a Conversation, Turn It into Your Own Prayer”
Session Chair: Helena Torres Montes García

A Table in the Presence of My Enemies: Pop as “Songs of Descent”
Dr. Richard S. Briggs
Lecturer in Old Testament and Director of Biblical Studies
Cranmer Hall, St. John’s College
Durham University, England

I explore Pop as a series of “poems” that consider the world “in the presence of (my) enemies,” as Psalm 23 puts it. But who are Pop’s enemies? I suggest the album lacks focus on this crucial question, and blurs the line between focusing on God’s enemies (classically: sin, death and the devil), and focusing on how evil is manifest in human life and relationships instead. The album ends up descending into darkness with no clear path available for a corresponding ascent. This sits uneasily with U2’s classic approach, hence the various ambiguities and awkwardness of the PopMart concerts.

The Urban Landscape of U2
Revd Mark Meynell
Independent writer and Cultural Critic
London, UK

Dublin, New York, Belfast, Berlin, London, Paris … and Miami. U2 invariably depicts gritty urban landscapes. If we escape city limits, it’s usually to a desert expanse. It’s hard to picture U2 anywhere other than bathed in neon on the mean streets or even urban warzones (like Dublin in the 70s or Sarajevo in 90s). In U2’s pleading for “God to send his angels,” while “hangin’ round this neighbourhood … THE HIGH STREET never looked so low.” When not actually “Staring at the Sun,” “intransigence is all around … military is still in town.” The surprise is not simply that U2 thrive here, but that they meet God here. These cities bring theophanies. Could this be one reason for U2’s extraordinary spiritual influence? They not only articulate many people’s urban experience, they introduce them to God in it.

U2’s Pop:  A Maturation and Crisis of Faith
Dr. Brian E. Porter
Professor of Management
Department of Economics and Business
Hope College
Holland, Michigan, USA

The songs on Pop address faith and its complications, expressing that neither faith nor God are simple, but instead highly nuanced ideas.  Doubt, questions, uncertainty, and struggles are consistent themes throughout Pop. A sophisticated awareness of God necessitates grappling.  Progression and growth of faith continue on future U2 releases up to their most recent Songs of Experience (influenced by Bono’s near-extinction event).  This presentation will focus on the songs of Pop demonstrating both the crisis and maturation of faith and discuss that the two are complementary. A context of where U2 (and Bono) were at previously and where they have progressed since, with faith, will be presented.

10:45 am – 12:00 pm: Panel Sessions 2A & 2B
Queen’s University

Panel Session 2A: “Got the Swing, Got the Sway, Got My Straw in Lemonade”
Session Chair: Chris Endrinal

Counterpoint and Expression in the Music of U2
Dr. Timothy Koozin
Professor and Division Chair of Music Theory
Moores School of Music, University of Houston
Houston, Texas, USA

This presentation examines counterpoint in the music of U2 from the perspective of embodied musical gesture, showing how vocal and instrumental gestures are combined freely – without strict contrapuntal alignment – to form a unique gestural approach that engages with lyrics to project U2’s distinctive sound. A focus on guitar and vocal gestures in U2’s music shows how material projecting different and even conflicting gestural implications provides a framework for creativity that the band has consistently leveraged through their various changes in style as a means to expressively mediate between the romantic inner world of the artist and an oppressive societal world.

“Already Gone”: How U2’s Use of the Harmonic Series in “Gone” Expresses in Musical Language the Searching, Restless Cross-Pressures of Postmodern Culture
Kevin Ott
Independent Scholar
Shafter, California, USA

Philosopher Charles Taylor describes the secular age as a middle space that produces tremendous cross-pressures between transcendence and immanence. On one side the longing for transcendence tugs at us while the day-to-day wants of immanence pull hard from the other side. U2’s “Gone” uses the colossal structure of the harmonic series to capture this experience. The massive physicality of the music, its rumbling lows and screaming whammy pedal highs, bears down on Bono’s restless melody with insupportable weight. He’s trying to find a way through the canyon of cross-pressures, and we’re following hard after him.

“Electric Blues Death Rattle”: Wisdom Literature and Ecclesiastical Visions in U2’s Pop
Dr. Dan Pinkston
Professor of Music Theory and Composition
Simpson University
Redding, California, USA

“All is Vanity.” So begins the book of Ecclesiastes.  This ancient wisdom echoes through the ages, influencing a myriad of philosophers and theologians … even the biggest rock’n’roll band in the world.  U2’s albums in the mid-1990s showed a departure from the optimism of their 80s output. Pop, the last of these albums, is examined in this paper as a form of wisdom literature, functioning in a manner that is analogous to the Biblical books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms.  Songs from this album will be explored in the ways they express dissatisfaction, doubts, and anger.

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Panel Session 2B: “And You Know There’s Something More”: The Art and Soul of Pop
Session Chair:  David Whitt

A “Bogus Brand”: The Popular and UnPOPular Iconography of U2 Fan Tattoos
Beth Nabi
Associate Professor of Graphic Design and Digital Media
University of North Florida
Jacksonville, Florida, USA

Pop is one of U2’s most visually stunning endeavors, from album art and videos to tour stages and screen graphics, and hosts some of Bono’s most profound and spiritual songs. Yet the album is unpopular in the context of U2 fan tattoos. Fan tattoos merge counterculture and commercialization in the same Pop Art spirit invoked on Pop, as the band played in the tangles of art and commerce, artifice and sincerity, commercial brand and personal identity. Analyzing data from more than 500 fan tattoos, this presentation explores the allure of the most popular symbols and Pop’s noticeable absence from them.

Conversing with the Willfully Polarised: A Multimodal Analysis of “Please”
Dr. Christopher Wales
Associate Professor
Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, NLA University College
Kristiansand, Norway

Pop’s penultimate song, “Please,” is bounded by the complexities of a fragile peace process, compounded by a broken ceasefire, heightened tension and increasingly sharpened rhetoric of polarisation. Willful polarisation. “Please” will be examined and explored through multimodal discourse analysis of various recorded and live versions of the track. Noting its direct and stinging focus, and “one-sided” conversational form, I will explore issues of identity and the temporal, while also focusing more closely on the frames of place and space (Marzierska, 2017). Consideration will also made of how the song once again resonates in the current climate of willful polarisation.

U2’s Concerts as Contemporary Spectacle: Hyper-reality vs. Authenticity
Dr. Michael Williams
Senior Lecturer and Course Leader
University of Brighton
Brighton, UK

U2 appear to intentionally exploit the spectacle to connect with and engage their global audiences. This suggests hyper-reality is an important part of the spectacle of U2’s shows, in terms of the band and their producer’s use of images to create an experience that escapes reality. Despite this, for some fans, the hyper-reality of U2’s shows detracts from the authenticity of the band’s performance and therefore their enjoyment of the shows. This paper examines the tension between the U2’s desire to create an authentic spectacle, ‘free of irony’, and the mediated ‘hyper-real’ experience that is necessitated by the scale of their shows (Jones, 2012).

15 JUNE 2018, FRIDAY

8:45 – 10:00 am: Panel Sessions 3A & 3B
Queen’s University

Panel 3A: “Wanting to Be the Song That You Hear in Your Head”
Session Chair: Jan Vierhout

Pop and the Prequels: A Case for the Necessity of These Pariahs
Dr. Christopher Endrinal
Assistant Professor of Music
Bower School of Music and the Arts, Florida Gulf Coast University
Fort Myers, Florida, USA

While superficially disparate, U2’s Pop album and the Star Wars “prequel” trilogy (Episode I: The Phantom Menace; Episode II: Attack of the Clones; Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) share a dubious distinction: Many critics and fans consider each the nadir of its respective franchise. This presentation explores these works and their reception, and argues that they were actually necessary for each franchise’s continued cultural relevance, critical acclaim, and financial success.

A Reinterpretation of U2’s Discography: Pop as a Transition Album
Dr. Helena Torres Montes García
Professor
Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
Mexico City, Mexico

This presentation proposes the division of U2’s discography into eras. As such, Pop would be the pinnacle of an era, and the album that eased the transition into U2’s next incarnation. Pop, as an album, has been criticized, but this presentation aims to prove that this was the album that foreshadowed the U2 of the 2000s.

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Panel 3B: Pop and the Preachers: “Is There An Order In All Of This Disorder?”
Session Chair: Tim Neufeld

Psalms of Experience: Prayers and Protests From The Boot Of Your Car
Micheal Felker
Lead Pastor
Lakeside Church of Christ
Mansfield, Texas, USA

In the Hebrew Bible there is a collection of promptings, poems, and prayers known as the Psalms of Lament that are designated by their focus on helping bring hope in the life of an individual, of a nation, or a particular group caught in the midst of trials and tribulations. U2 has always used their music to both speak truth to the powers of injustice and sing grace to pain. Pop is their master opus in this endeavor. On this album, U2 appropriates the words and images of Lament to give voice to grief and bring life to despair. Join us for a discussion of Lament, U2’s use of lament in the era of Pop, and where lament can lead us once we get up off our knees.

The Endings of Pop: Benediction, Lullaby or Lament?
Rev. Dr. Steve Taylor
Principal
Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, Knox College
Dunedin, New Zealand

U2 are performance artists. They shuffle songs, insert visuals and craft snippets in the name of peace. This helps us understand “Wake Up Dead Man,” the song ending Pop. The album begins with “Discoteque” – everybody having a good time – yet ends with a song in which a profane lyric speaks of divine absence. Live, during the PopMart tour, “Wake Up Dead Man,” is performed as an ending. Is this a benediction, an invoking of divine sending? Yet midway through the later Elevation tour, “Wake Up Dead Man” is played mid-show, between “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “One.” Is this a lament? How might such performances contrast with the lullaby-like “MLK,” another album-ending song for a dead man? This talk includes #U2lyricbingo

Escape from the “Playboy Mansion”: U2, Me Too, and Masculinity
Andrew William Smith
Instructor of English and Religious Studies
Tennessee Tech University
Cookeville, Tennessee, USA

Is there a masculinity after toxic masculinity? Borrowing perspectives from feminism, men’s studies, and theology, this paper will look primarily at lyrics and images of U2 in the Pop era to reclaim and recover a tentative gender theory for U2 fans and scholars in the wake of the #MeToo movement and moment. Come look, come learn, and come listen to what Bono’s eschatological coda to “Playboy Mansion” has to say about the divine promise of a time without shame and sorrow, through and beyond the shameful status of gender relations in 2018.

10:45 am – 12:00 pm: Panel Sessions 4A & 4B
Queen’s University

Panel 4A: “Returning the Call to Home”
Session Chair: Chris Wales

Mother and Muse: The Voice of Iris
Dr. Stephen Newman
Lecturer, Department of Irish
Mary Immaculate College
Limerick, Ireland

At the heart of U2’s foundation myth is the death of Iris: “This was where a certain life-force gathered pace in me, when a certain defiance began” (Bono, Songs of Experience). This paper will explore the expression of grief in U2’s music and to what extent it relates to traditional connections between music, death and the grieving process, especially in an Irish context. She is the absent mother of “I Will Follow” and “Tomorrow,” the muse-like figure of “Lemon.” In “MOFO,” the singer, astray in a crazy Popscape, calls for her guidance. In “Iris,” memory recaptures her, a reunion of sorts, her voice emerges, still present in “Lights of Home,” Bono’s reflection on a near-death experience.

U2 and Nostalgia: Running to Stand Still or the Start of a Beautiful Day?
Madison Vardeman
Independent Scholar
Keller, Texas, USA

Within the realm of communication studies, the topic of nostalgia is often viewed in a negative light. This is due to its tendency to glorify a troubled past which allows for the potential to recreate similar issues in the future. In this presentation, I will analyze U2’s Joshua Tree Tour 2017 concert in Dallas, TX to prove that a nostalgic framework can be used in a way that does not solely glorify the past. I argue that this can be accomplished by applying the principles of Affect Theory and Aristotle’s emotional appeals to place focus on the emotional reactions that nostalgia elicits rather than focusing on the memories of the past events that are associated with the original Joshua Tree album and tour.

U2 in the Classroom: The Teacher Perspective
Dr. Dave Whitt
Professor of Communication Studies
Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

Since 2015, I have taught a course on U2 titled Songs of Ascent: The Music and Meaning of U2. I will discuss how the course has evolved over the past several years in terms of content, assignments and discussions, as well as the challenges and success stories teaching a class on U2.

U2 in the Classroom: The Student Perspective
Georgia Straka
Psychology Major and Communication Studies Minor
Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

As a former student in Songs of Ascent: The Music and Meaning of U2, I will share my thoughts about the course, what I learned, and how this experience will prepare me for being a teaching assistant in the class this fall.

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Panel 4B: “Listen As Hope and Peace Try to Rhyme”
Session Chair: Naomi Dinnen

Escape from the “Playboy Mansion”: U2, Me Too, and Masculinity
Andrew William Smith
Instructor of English and Religious Studies
Tennessee Tech University
Cookeville, Tennessee, USA

Is there a masculinity after toxic masculinity? Borrowing perspectives from feminism, men’s studies, and theology, this paper will look primarily at lyrics and images of U2 in the Pop era to reclaim and recover a tentative gender theory for U2 fans and scholars in the wake of the #MeToo movement and moment. Come look, come learn, and come listen to what Bono’s eschatological coda to “Playboy Mansion” has to say about the divine promise of a time without shame and sorrow, through and beyond the shameful status of gender relations in 2018.

“The Less You Know, The More You Believe”: The Dilemma of Pop Activism in the Case of Aung San Suu Kyi
Dr. Tim Neufeld
Professor, Biblical and Religious Studies
Fresno Pacific University
Fresno, California, USA

U2’s interest in social activism during the 1990s prepared them for an enthusiastic reception of the Suu Kyi story on a scale that was unique to rock ’n’ roll culture. The band became more than advocates; U2’s members passionately entered the narrative, moving beyond the one-off strategies of earlier decades, inspiring legions of fans to do the same. However, the experience has, of late, revealed blind spots in Western activism, celebrity advocacy, and fan-based social movements. Suu Kyi’s fall from celebrated humanitarian to international despot is sobering. The band’s failed relationship with her reminds us that philanthropists can miss important signals in their attempts to be benevolent.

1:30 – 2:30 pm: “Like Faith Needs a Doubt”: An Interactive Exploration of Theist/Non-Theist Dialogue, led by  Angela Pancella, Independent Scholar, Norwood, Ohio, USA
Fitzroy Presbyterian Church
Session Chair: Micheal Felker

An increasing number of people have a non-theistic worldview. As the culture becomes more diverse, there is a need for models of engagement where differing perspectives are treated with respect. U2 have demonstrated a talent for maintaining dialogue across a theist/non-theist divide. Participants in this gathering will respond to U2 songs that say “I don’t believe,” “I could never believe” and “Don’t believe what you hear.” We will explore how terms like “believe” can be used for vastly different experiences, and how this ambiguity keeps the possibilities of interpretation open for listeners with diverse worldviews.

“The God I Believe In Isn’t Short Of Cash, Mister”: Bono’s Timeless Exposé

Edge and Bono performing on the Joshua Tree tour at the St. Paul Civic Center in 1987. Photo credit: Joey McLeister, StarTribune/Minnesota Historical Society

Last week, the New York Times Magazine reported its major exposé How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online, which has several observations and explanations that overlap with Adam Laats’ new, insightful study Fundamentalist U: Keeping the Faith in American Higher Education (Oxford UP, 2018). As good as the NYT’s reporting was, Laats still picked up on What They Missed About Liberty Online.

Last month, I was invited to write about U2’s critique of fundamentalism and the religious appeal U2 has for many fans — specifically evangelical American Christians — by the blog Righting America at the Creation Museum.  Bloomsbury had just published U2 and The Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher, a contributed collection of essays I had edited, and the idea was to elaborate on Randall J. Stephens’ statement in an interview he gave to the RACM blog that “[i]n some ways Bono is a kind of patron saint” for a new generation of evangelicals who have turned from “red-meat conservative issues” toward wanting to be more culturally and socially aware Christians. Stephens’ had recently published The Devil’s Music: How Christians Inspired, Condemned, and Embraced Rock ‘N’ Roll (Harvard UP, 2018) and his Part One and Part Two interviews are wonderful.

Rather than summarizing my RACM posts here, I’ll point you to read “U2 and the Limits of Fundamentalism” Part One and Part Two, in which I mentioned Bono’s commentary on the Rev. Jerry Falwell Sr. when performing U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” on the Joshua Tree tour in 1987. All this to say, when it comes to exposing flock-fleecing fundamentalists, even though Bono said it over 30-years ago I think he’s still said it best:

I can’t tell the difference between ABC NewsHillstreet Blues and a preacher on the Old-Time Gospel Hour stealing money from the sick and the old. Well, the God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister.

— Scott Calhoun

                                                      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shaughn McGrath and Steve Averill: “Pop in the Age of Experience,” at the U2 Conference 2018

Shaughn McGrath and Steve Averill: Pop in the Age of Experience

Shaughn McGrath

Right out of college, Shaughn McGrath joined a young design studio in Dublin called Works Associates run by Steve Averill. The studio worked with many young Irish bands and artists, such as Clannad, Something Happens, A House, and U2. Later clients were PJ Harvey, Depeche Mode, Dave Gahan, Martin Gore, and Art of Noise. The name above the doors changed to ABA, Four5One and then AMP Visual, which McGrath formed in 2010. AMP is a multi-specialised creative design studio, developing integrated creative solutions for international brands in the corporate and entertainment sectors. It specializes in corporate identity and brand development, music and merchandising design, both for large brands and re-branding roll-outs for boutique and bespoke design projects.

McGrath has designed for U2 continuously since Achtung Baby in 1990, developing a close working relationship involving creating comprehensive promotional campaigns and advertising, books, special packaging, and tour merchandising, not to mention working on all of U2’s albums and singles since 1990. For U2, the design process begins with the music and as the music is refined during the recording, the graphics also change. The final design comes together after the band and the creative team discuss all aspects of the project. He appreciates the unusual longevity he has had career-wise in working with U2 as a client for nearly 30 years.

Pop was the first time McGrath took on a complete U2 campaign. Pop allowed for a wide creative scope with references to the graphic Pop Art world in general with its layouts, colour palettes and iconography, which McGrath had fun expanding upon for U2. Because of the breadth of the entire campaign, from album packaging, the tour merchandising and the subsequent promotion and advertising, it was a year and half of constant work. Creatively, Pop took a long time to figure out, both for the band and consequently for McGrath. It gave him the opportunity to explore numerous different creative processes, learn all-new aspects of graphic design, and produce some nice work along the way.

“I approach my work for U2 with enthusiasm and conviction. Each project should be seen as an opportunity to push boundaries and create distinctive and engaging work. I’m driven by a sense of responsibility to the band and the fans, and to the environments where the work is ultimately seen and hopefully enjoyed,” McGrath says.

McGrath has also served as a judge on several design awards panels and lectures internationally on his work and the design industry.

Steve Averill

As a teenager two things were of primary interest to Stephen Averill: music and graphics; and from early on he sought ways to combine the two. The first real opportunity to bring them together came when he founded The Radiators From Space and designed their first single cover which was instrumental in getting the band a record deal. This, in turn, led to an approach from a young bass player named Adam Clayton seeking advice for his band, then know as The Hype. An early Averill suggestion was to change that name. His suggestion was U2. The band won a competition under that name and so stuck with it. The rest of their history since then is fairly well-known!

Averill began his career in the creative industry as a advertising art director. He eventually became the creative director of an upcoming agency before setting up a dedicated design consultancy that specialized in entertainment and music industry projects. During the 1980s and ’90s, they worked with most of the best Irish-based acts, including The Script, The Dubliners, The Hothouse Flowers, Aslan, Cactus World News, Clannad and more recently with Luka Bloom and Finbar Furey.

Some international clients with whom the has worked have included Elvis Costello (when he was an Irish resident), Depeche Mode, The Mavericks and Dierks Bentley and renowned photographers including Anton Corbijn, Jill Furmanovsky, Brian Griffen as well as Irish based photographers Amelia Stein and Conor Horgan. There have also been a host of UK and Irish bands and solo artists since that time.

In recent times since retiring from AMP Visual, Averill has continued using his graphic design skills to work with a specialist not-for-profit project called Bí URBAN a retail/teaching/workspace in Stonybatter in the heart of Dublin, where he recently had an exhibition of six limited edition prints of photographs he took during the shoot for the Joshua Tree album in 1986. This was titled Death Valley 86.

Averill, under his stage name of Steve Rapid, continues to perform with his Radiators from Space colleagues as Trouble Pilgrims. The band recently released their debut CD Dark Shadows and Rust. He continues to perform with that band and to work with upcoming musicians as a consultant and designer.

Beth Nabi, The U2 Tattoo Project and Associate Professor of Graphic Design and Digital Media, at the U2 Conference 2018

Beth Nabi

Plenary Presentation Title: Ink, Icons, Identity: U2 As Written On Skin

Panel Talk Title: A Bogus Brand: The Popular and UnPOPular Iconography of U2 Fan Tattoos

Beth Nabi is an associate professor of graphic design and digital media at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Florida and her master’s degree in graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design. As a graphic design educator, she specializes in publication design, graphic design history and design for social good. A 26-year fan of U2, Nabi studies the bands’s visual identities, marketing and branding, and has presented her research on these topics at several academic conferences. Her research on U2’s visual history led her to create the U2 Tattoo Project in 2015, an ongoing international study and curation of U2 fan tattoos. She has traveled to 10 countries and documented more than 300 fans in person, with another 300 online submissions from U2 fans all over the world. In August 2016, the U2 Tattoo Project’s first exhibit, “Ink, Icons, Identity: Exploring U2’s Brand Through Fan Tattoos,” opened at the UNF Gallery of Art in Jacksonville. It showcased bodily markings in the context of related U2 artifacts; presented the compelling personal stories behind the tattooed logos, symbols and lyrics; and explored the dynamic relationship between fan and band as U2’s visual identity passes into the hands and onto the bodies of fans. As part of a celebration for the band’s 40th anniversary, the Project exhibited at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in September 2016, presenting a chronological narrative of the band’s four decades through fan tattoos.

Excerpts From “Introduction: U2’s Sacrament of Sound,” Scott Calhoun

Excerpts From:

“Introduction: U2’s Sacrament of Sound,” Scott Calhoun, pp. 1-8.

U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher. Ed. Scott Calhoun
© (Bloomsbury, 2018)

More information here on the book and a Table of Contents.

  • When listening to U2 fans talk about being U2 fans and what their fandom means to them, when I hear them express their reasons, their expectations and their experiences with U2’s music, what I hear from all fans, no matter their disagreements, is that the music moves them. I hear responses which, upon inspection, are foremost about experiencing music as music and the line running through all the individualistic statements of appreciation for U2’s music is much less about lyrics, or guitar solos or Bono’s performances, than it is about the total quality of encountering music.
  • U2’s music subdues us. We are overcome. We are cleansed, healed and empowered. We are lifted up and persuaded to do what we could not do before. We become what we could not have become otherwise apart from the music–we feel we are certain about this. We come to and receive U2’s music for its ability to connect the ordinary to the extraordinary. Some songs are better for a scourging, others cleanse, heal, and fortify one for what’s next. U2 has more songs that do all of the above—such as “One,” “With or Without You,” and “Moment of Surrender”—than perhaps all the other rock bands, which helps explain how U2 became U2 and why this book exists.
  • Bono’s long been a fan of the English hymn “Amazing Grace,” by Issac Newton, and after once telling Steve Turner he thought it was the greatest contribution to music the English have made, Turner was prompted to research and then write the biography of the song Amazing Grace: The Story of America’s Most Beloved Song. It seems Bono can’t get over the opening lines of the first verse especially: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” He’s often revealed his affection and gratitude for grace and its sound in interviews and song lyrics since, but for a short film called A Grand Madness (1997) he said “Amazing Grace” would be his pick for the last song he’d want to play for U2’s last concert ever. Why? “It’s a sound. How sweet the sound. I’ve never been able to figure that one out.”
  • In 2010, while convalescing from back surgery but anticipating U2’s appearance at the famed Glastonbury Festival, Bono told Rolling Stone’s David Fricke that “music is a sacrament for us.” In that interview, Bono explained U2’s new song, “Glastonbury,” was informed by the Christian legends surrounding the flowering white rose of Glastonbury, England, and that for Bono, a pilgrimage to Glastonbury was a more compelling reason to keep U2’s upcoming gig than the typical fun a music festival afforded.
  • In 2014, Bono elaborated on his continuing affirmation of the sacredness of music by implying it is worth a price and therefore Apple had to pay U2 for Songs of Innocence before Apple gave the album away for free: “I don’t believe in free music. Music is a sacrament.”
  • U2 fans with deep attachments to the music tend to respect it as a sacrament too, often ritualizing their listening and concert going experiences, and finding they receive a kind of blessing befitting a pilgrimage. … I find ample evidence for concluding U2 has intended for quite some time, perhaps from its first live performances in the late 1970s, to be more Bach than Bacchus, composing for a pattern and glory found in a higher realm, wanting to draw listeners into a grandeur no wine, dance or earthly sensuality can achieve. As sound, U2’s songs are transformative, as are the vibrations from Orpheus’ plucked lyre, pulsing through us, enchanting even the stones and the stoniest of hearts. We enact our feelings of loss and love with more courage because of this music, and we find that unseen powers seem more inclined in our direction. In return, devoted fans give U2 a high and holy place in their lives, a place typically reserved for an oracle or priest.
  • In thinking of U2’s music sacramentally, or as a pulse listeners seek as a means to an end that body alone cannot achieve, we wish to emphasize in this book the variability U2 offers its listeners who come for this pulse. The dial, whether turned down or turned up, emits good vibrations for its fans, who willingly place their seeking spirits to lesser or greater degrees in the way of the sound.
  • This book is not an attempt to reconcile the individual band member’s beliefs where they differ, nor is it especially interested in ascertaining their individual beliefs. … Reading across all of the chapters, one might detect there are disagreements between contributors as to what is the more important spiritual quotient in U2’s art and how one should best receive U2’s art.
  • How one receives art versus how one uses art is itself a fascinating and revealing study of human behavior, which I suspect is similar to the abiding interest the anthropologist has in religion. But the art U2 creates is intentional in its aim at the things of the spirit, and U2 attempts to voice the human experience in all its moods as it lives in bodily space and time. Bono sings laments and yearnings as willingly as he sings resolve, peace, and joy, and the band plays complementary tunings, chords, structures and tempos with equal integrity and artistry. U2’s “goal” for the soul “is elevation,” welcoming all who wish to journey to a higher place, but U2 will not rush the course or take short cuts along the way.
  • This interest of the fan approaching U2 in a way similar to how a seeker comes to a sacred text and then, perhaps, attends gatherings organized for inculcating the values and practices developed from that text with a desire to accomplish something the seeker feels unable to accomplish on her own is ­what we in this book examine as the religious impulse in U2 fans. U2 functions for these fans in a way that perhaps is best described as a totem, in the sense of Emile Durkheim’s conclusion of how an object or person functions in totemic religions, provoking an energy that loops back through it inflated and amplified by its followers.
  • This book, in contrast to the previous studies on U2 and religion, furthers the field of U2 studies by suggesting reasons based on more than theological analyses of lyrics for why the religious impulse in fans is so satisfyingly met by U2. Additionally, and uniquely in relation to previous studies, this book also examines why a broader group of religiously inclined fans are interested in U2. Two sections of chapters examine matters of sound and space, respectively, while two other sections explore the affective domains in fans who receive U2 and identify with religious elements found in its songs and performances.
  • The impulse for something structured and replicable that can elevate body and spirit is an impulse familiar enough to the human condition to not need much proof of its existence, yet understanding the impulse invites a host of disciplinary approaches. U2 has done very well at meeting its fans along the current of this impulse with its sacrament of music. And in doing so, it has become a myth itself for narrating this common but inscrutable truth: that music moves us, most mysteriously so.

Professor Fiona Magowan, Queen’s University, at the U2 Conference 2018

Fiona Magowan

Lecture title: Can Music End Conflict? Ethnomusicology and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Politics of Persuasion and Peacebuilding

Fiona Magowan is Professor of Anthropology and a Fellow of the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University, Belfast. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and was a former Chair of the Anthropological Association of Ireland, Chair of the Music and Gender Study Group of the International Council of Traditional Music and Vice President of the Australian Anthropological Society. She is a member of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s Ethnomusicology Committee and has conducted fieldwork on the performing arts, sense, emotion and ritual in north east Arnhem Land, Queensland, South Australia, as well as in Brazil and Mozambique. She is author or editor of seven books and PI of the PACCS funded project, Sounding Conflict: From Resistance to Reconciliation (2017-2021) and the GCRF funded project, Dance, Art and Drama in Conflict Transformation in Mozambique (2018).

Professor John Brewer, Queen’s University, at the U2 Conference 2018

John Brewer

Lecture title: 1998 as a Cultural Moment in Belfast

John Brewer is Professor of Post Conflict Studies in the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. He was awarded an Honorary DSocSci from Brunel University and is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow in the Academy of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He has held visiting appointments at Yale University, St. John’s College, Oxford, Corpus Christi College Cambridge, and the Australia National University. He has been President of the British Sociological Association. He is Honorary Professor Extraordinary at Stellenbosch University and is a member of the United Nations Roster of Global Experts. He is the author or co-author of sixteen books and editor or co-editor of a further six.

U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher – A New Collection of U2 Studies Available Now

U2 and the Religious Impulse: Take Me Higher, is an edited collection of thirteen new essays from an international group of scholars studying U2 and its fandom, with a foreword by W. David O. Taylor and an introduction by Scott Calhoun.

Edited by Scott Calhoun
Studies in Religion and Popular Culture, Bloomsbury Press, 2018

U2 and the Religious Impulse examines indications in U2’s music and performances that the band work at conscious and subconscious levels as artists who focus on matters of the spirit, religious traditions, and a life guided by both belief and doubt.

U2 is known for a career of stirring songs, landmark performances and for its interest in connecting with fans to reach a higher power to accomplish greater purposes. Its success as a rock band is unparalleled in the history of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest acts. In addition to all the thrills one would expect from entertainers at this level, U2 surprises many listeners who examine its lyrics and concert themes by having a depth of interest in matters of human existence more typically found in literature, philosophy and theology.

The multi-disciplinary perspectives presented here account for the durability of U2’s art and offer informed explanations as to why many fans of popular music who seek a connection with a higher power find U2 to be a kindred spirit. This study will be of interest to scholars and students of religious studies and musicology, interested in religion and popular music, as well as religion and popular culture more broadly.

Available as a hardback and e-book from Bloomsbury and Amazon.

“U2 and the Religious Impulse provides a wide ranging, deep and thoughtful investigation of the relationships between popular music, religion and spirituality. Exploring areas such as music, lyrics, staging and cultures, the writers examine how fans navigate flows of meaning created by and beyond the band, offering considerable insight into the functions of the sacred within popular culture.” –  Rupert Till, Professor of Music, University of Huddersfield, UK

“This truly excellent collection of lively, provocative essays shows that digging into and reflecting on U2’s work is well worth the effort. Without constraining the band’s output and impact by interpreting their music in any simple, narrowly religious way, these multi-disciplinary investigations reveal U2’s importance for spirituality, theology, politics and ethics. The book provides compelling evidence of the profound significance of popular culture.” –  Clive Marsh, Head of the Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Leicester, UK

“The relationship of U2 and several western religions has been a topic of debate/discussion since the band’s debut album Boy, in 1980. Subsequent releases found the group consistently addressing spiritual and religious themes in an attempt to reconcile faith and ever increasing popular music stardom. Here Calhoun takes on the varied and diverse religious elements in the music of the long-lived, world-renown band. As the band, itself, culls religious influence from a host of sources, so U2 and the Religious Impulse expertly addresses these myriad sacred cues in a measured and thought-provoking volume.” –  David Moskowitz, Professor of Music History, University of South Dakota, USA

Table of Contents:

List of Figures

Contributors

Acknowledgments

Foreword by W. David O. Taylor

Introduction: U2’s Sacrament of Sound (Scott Calhoun, Cedarville University, USA)

Part One: “Meet Me In The Sound”
1. “Edge, Ring Those Bells”: The Guitar and Its Spiritual Soundscapes in Early U2 (Henrik Marstal, Danish Institute of Popular Music/Rhythmic Music Conservatory, Denmark)

2. “Looking to Fill That God-Shaped Hole”: The Evolution of U2’s Spiritually Evocative Musical Gestures (Christopher Endrinal, Florida Gulf Coast University Bower School of Music and the Arts, USA)

3. Divine Moves: Pneumatology as Passionate Participation in U2’s “Mysterious Ways” (Steve Taylor, Flinders University, Australia)

Part Two: “Lift Me Out of These Blues”
4. “Hold On To Love”: U2’s Bespoke Exorcism of the 1960s (Nicola Allen, The University of Wolverhampton, UK and Gerald Carlin, The University of Wolverhampton, UK)

5. Sarajevo and the PopMart Lemon: The Fractured Form and Function of U2’s Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Richard S. Briggs, University of Durham, UK)

6. “You Carried the Cross of My Shame”: From Crippling Stigma to Infectious Joy in the Songs of U2 (Mark Meynell, Langham Partnership, UK)

Part Three: “Escape Yourself, And Gravity”
7. The Technological Reach for the Sublime on U2’s 360° Tour (Kimi Kärki, University of Turku, Finland)

8. The “Moment of Surrender”: Medieval Mysticism in the Music of U2 (Brenda Gardenour Walter, Saint Louis College of Pharmacy, USA)

9. “In God’s Country”: Spatial Sacredness in U2 (Michael R. MacLeod, St. Mary’s University, Canada and Timothy Harvie, St. Mary’s University, Canada)

Part Four: “You Give Me Something I Can Feel”
10. “You Don’t See Me But You Will”: Jewish Thought and U2 (Naomi Dinnen, Independent Scholar, Australia)

11. “Like Faith Needs a Doubt”: U2 and the Theist / Non-Theist Dialogue (Angela Pancella, Independent Scholar, USA)

12. Finding What They’re Looking For: Evangelical Teen Fans and Their Desire for U2 to be a Christian Band (Neil R. Coulter, Center for Excellence in World Arts, USA)

13. U2 and the Art of Being Human (Mark Peters, Trinity Christian College, USA)

References

Index

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