Archive | Speaking Event / Presentation

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.

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.

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.

Andy Rowen & Steve Stockman @ The U2 Conference 2018

We are honored to have Andy Rowen and Steve Stockman appear at the U2 Conference 2018 for a special In Conversation session titled “If You Twist and Turn Away: The Power of Songs to Change a Life.”

The Rowen family has a long history of friendship with the Paul “Bono” Hewson family, as many U2 fans know. Bono wrote “Bad” for The Unforgettable Fire (1984) in tribute to Andy and later explained in U2 By U2 (2006):

‘Bad’ is just a huge promise of a song. A friend of mine, about as close as you can get, squandered his intelligence and his gifts to heroin. Dublin in the late Seventies and early Eighties was a capital for smack. The Shah of Iran had been deposed, and people smuggled their money out of that country in white gold and pearls, by which I mean heroin. It was cheaper than weed, it was cheaper than smoking spliff, and a lot of sweet teenage kids, who just liked to smoke a little bit of ganja, were offered this cheap high, something beyond their imagination … I tried to describe that with the song, ‘Bad,’ what it was to feel that rush, to feel that elation, and then go on to the nod, awful sleep that comes with that drug …

Andy was on Bono’s mind again for a second song later in life as he wrote “Raised By Wolves” for Songs Of Innocence (2014). In the album’s liner notes, Bono said:

Ireland in the ‘70s was a tough place. On any other Friday at 5.30 pm in 1974 I would have been on Talbot Street in a record shop. On May 17th I rode my bike to school that day and dodged one of the bloodiest moments in a history that divided an island. 3 car bombs coordinated to detonate at the same time destroyed Dublin’s city centre. My old friend Andy Rowen (Guck Pants Delaney we used to call him) was locked in his father’s van as his dad ran to help save the victims scattered like refuse across the streets. The scene never left him, he turned to one of the world’s great pain killers to deal with it, we wrote about him in our song, ‘Bad.’ Andy says, ‘Heroin is a great pain killer until it kills you.’ He survived. A hero to me.

Rev. Steve Stockman, also good friends with the Rowen family, has long been involved in peace and reconciliation efforts in Northern Ireland. He is minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church in Belfast, a co-founder of the 4 Corners Festival and a regular contributor to BBC radio. He is a blogger, poet, and peace activist, and wrote Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2.

Andy and Steve will present a conversation between friends on the role music has played – and can continue to play – in helping all of us in very personal and very communal conflicts “let it go,
and so to find a way.”

Catherine Owens: U2Con 2018 Keynote Speaker

 

Credit: Johnny Savage

CATHERINE OWENS

“Vision Into Visibility: How PopMart’s LED Technology Changed the Story”

Catherine Owens is an Irish artist living and working in New York City. Her work is largely installation based, originating from ideas that evolve through drawings, painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, sound and virtual reality.

Owens has exhibited works at Feldman Gallery, New York, Morris Healy Gallery, New York, Yokohama Museum of Art, Japan, the Kerlin Gallery and the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin Ireland.

As well as her own solo art practice Owens is known for her collaborative work with U2. As creative director of screen imagery for animation, film and video, she created visual content for five U2 world tours from 1992 – 2010, from ZooTV to U2360°.

She directed and was a producer on the first digital 3D film (U23D) made for Imax theatrical release in 2008. Shot in South America, its creation spearheaded a series of major technological breakthroughs in 3D filmmaking. The New York Times hailed it as “The first IMAX movie that deserves to be called a work of art.”

Using the technical and production knowledge gained while collaborating on large scale global projects over the last 20 years, Owens has incorporated this information into her current work, creating a series of LED based light works that seamlessly bring technology and mark making together.

In November 2017 she will exhibit a series of new LED light based Triptych painting and a 360° soundscape at Kustera Projects in Red Hook Brooklyn.

Other collaborative projects include directing visual content and animation for the San Francisco based group Kronos Quartet and for the Chinese Pipa player Wu Man, whose Carnegie Hall debut featured an intricate 20-minute animation composed of watercolor paintings.

Owens has attended four Lincoln Center Director’s Labs in New York as a guest artist and was a keynote speaker at SIGGRAPH in 2008, where she spoke about working in 3D under the title; Giving Technology Emotion: From the Artist’s Mind to U23D.

In April 2010 she traveled to India to make a 3D documentary about Kumbh Mela, the largest spiritual gathering in the world that takes place once every 12 years.

And in 2012 she shot her third 3D film project, a documentary on the Irish Dancer Colin Dunne – It was broadcast on the BSkyB 3D and the Sky Arts network in November 2012. The Theatrical version was launched at the Jameson Dublin Film Festival in February 2013.

In 2014 she launched “Field Prints” a set of prints representing impressions of the vistas found close to her studio in the Blackwater Valley, Co. Waterford, Ireland.

Owens has spoken widely about the interaction of Art and Technology, recently delivering speeches at the ‘VR On The Lot’ conference at Paramount Pictures, Los Angeles, ‘The Art Of VR” Sotheby’s, New York and INSPIREFEST, Dublin Ireland.

Stuart Bailie: U2Con 2018 Keynote Speaker

 

Credit: Carrie Davenport

STUART BAILIE

“Holy Wars And Northern Stars: U2 and Conflict In Ireland”

Stuart Bailie is a music writer and broadcaster based in Belfast. He has been a music industry professional for 30 years, writing for NME, Mojo, Uncut, Q,  The Times, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, Classic Rock, Music Week, Belfast Telegraph and Hot Press.

He has written U2 cover stories for NME, The Sunday Times Culture and Alternative Ulster and has covered the band for many more publications. He wrote the sleeve notes to the U2 Go Home: Live from Slane Castle DVD and was Associate Producer of a BBC Radio 2 documentary on U2 in 2001.

In his feature on U2 for NME in 1992, while discussing with Bono the contradictions implicit in rock ‘n’ roll, he mentioned to Bono that William Blake’s poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” tries to reconcile similar contradictions. He then heard Bono reply, “I know. I’ve just written a song for our next record called ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience,’ after reading Blake,” making Bailie quite possibly the first person outside of U2 to know – in 1992 – that U2 was planning to release music inspired by Blake’s poems Songs of Innocence and Experience. (Thanks to Dirk Rüpke at u2tour.de for bringing this to our attention.)

Bailie lived in London for 11 years and was Assistant Editor of NME from 1993-1996. He also wrote sleeve notes for Clannad, Nanci Griffith, Steve Earle and The Waterboys. He wrote the authorized story of Thin Lizzy, The Ballad Of The Thin Man, in 1997. He was the writer and narrator of Still In Love With You: The Gary Moore Story (BBC TV, 2011). He was the author, originator and narrator of So Hard To Beat, a two-part documentary on the story of music from Northern Ireland. (BBC TV, 2007), and a scriptwriter for BBC Radio 2 documentaries on U2, Glen Campbell, Thin Lizzy and Elvis Costello.

Bailie wrote the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s essay on popular music, A Troubles Archive Essay and is currently writing a book about music and conflict in Northern Ireland, to be released in 2018. He blogs at www.digwithit.com.

 

 

“U2 and The Beatles” Session at the PCA/ACA National Conference 2016

If you’ll be at the PCA/ACA national conference in Seattle March 22-25, 2016, you might want to catch “’Taking on the Shape of Someone Else’s Pain’: U2 and Irish Postmemory” by Jason Cash of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, on Tuesday, March 22, 1:15 p.m.2:45 p.m. 

From the description page:

Two songs on U2’s 2014 album Songs of Innocence, “Raised by Wolves” and “The Troubles,” return directly and indirectly to the band’s signficant engagement with Irish politics and violence. These songs explore the complex experience of historical trauma both as an observer and as a people steeped in a storytelling culture that celebrates and condemns militaristic nationalism, often at the same time. Using Marianne Hirsch’s concept of postmemory, a term she has used to describe the transmission of memories from survivors of the Holocaust to their children, this paper will argue that U2’s challenge and rejection of this process in popular media ensures that postmemory will continue. This paradox sheds light on the difficulty and the importance of reassessing inherited narratives continuously, a project with particular resonance for a band as self-aware as U2 and for a nation whose identity is as defined by storytelling as Ireland.

Cash’s presentation is the only one on U2, while there are three more on The Beatles. The full panel presentations are listed here.

Engaging with Bono’s “Little book” at Fandom and Religion Conference, Leicester, UK, July 28-30, 2015

Bono described what he was thinking when he pressed “go” to publish his Little book of a big year, but what was he actually doing? More extensively and intimately engaging with fans than he had done for a long time, the little book makes interesting reading across many issues. I will be exploring issues of meaning making in a paper presentation at the Fandom and Religion Conference, University of Leicester, UK. In particular, I will briefly approach Bono’s presentation of himself, his beliefs and understanding of fandom, whilst linking his Little book to other discourses. In my analysis, I will apply the concepts of Sensemaking and Sensegiving. For those interested, I have included the longer abstract below.

I’m delighted to be presenting in the same session as Dr. Scott Calhoun, whose presentation is titled “Ecce Bono: Celebrity Status After 33.” – really looking forward to hearing that!

Abstract

“F is for Fans… J is for Jesus: Making sense of Bono’s big year”

Dr. Chris Wales

“It’s January 1, 8 p.m. I nearly didn’t press go on this, and I am clearly delirious in places. It’s very personal, but I feel in not a corny way that U2 has a very intimate relationship with our audience … so I’m going for it.”

“Little book of a big year: Bono’s A to Z of 2014”, U2.com, 2015

No strangers to fandom and anti-fandom, in 2014 Bono placed U2 once again in what he likes to describe as “right in the centre of a contradiction” with the “controversial” U2/Apple album release that intended to reach instantly a wider audience. A few months later, as 2015 began, he published a “little book” on U2´s official website, seemingly one of his most intimately direct, although asymmetric, communications with fans. I will review and analyse this personal ‘treatise’ and the events leading up to and around it, showing the way it directly and indirectly addresses issues relating to unity, fandom, activism and religious tolerance, whilst explaining the relevance of music and message, aimed at deepening understanding of the U2 mind-set. Bono’s communication is analysed as an act of sensemaking (Weick, 1995) and sensegiving (Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991), theoretical constructs thought pertinent to understanding the band´s internal and external meaning making. The paper explores how alongside the increasing growth and diversity of their fan-base, U2 has engaged with the varying interpretations and expectations placed upon them, especially concerning issues of belief. The search for ultimate validation is linked to musical authenticity (Pattie, 1999), rather than promotion of celebrity, aligned to the band’s self-claimed constant and driving desire to produce authentic and relevant music, built on deep, intimate audience engagement, while embracing controversial issues such as faith and conviction. Further analysis considers how this ‘intimate’ form of communication might be understood as “authentic” or “performed” (Marwick and Boyd 2011; Bennett 2012).

The U2 Conference logo and site design by Beth Nabi.