The breakout sessions are now at capacity and you will need a badge to enter them. The rooms and moderators for breakout sessions will be announced, but they will be maximum 5 minutes walking from the Humphrey building.
Monday, April 16, 2018
Opening event of the symposium Carlson Family Stage, Northrop U of M East Bank
4.00 p.m. Check-in opens
5.00 p.m. Opening keynote by Jeff Chang
"Keep the children free": Prince on the frontline of post-civil rights America
A child of desegregation, Prince came of age in an era that passed from civil rights optimism to culture war fear. But as he shuttled between discipline and excess, individuality and community, desire and release, Black and white, he came to articulate a new “dream we all dream of,” a way of understanding the nation and the world. How did he come to be one of the exemplary voices in the history of Black freedom culture? Here is Prince's liberation imagination from “Partyup” to Black Lives Matter.
Followed by a discussion with Daphne Brooks
6.30 p.m. Ends
TUESDAy, April 17, 2018
Humphrey School of Public Affairs and neighboring buildings U of M West Bank
8.30-9.00 a.m. Starfish and coffee Atrium, Humphrey building
9.00-9.15 a.m. Welcome and introduction Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey building
with Zaheer Ali, Andrea Jenkins, Steve McClellan, Rashad Shabazz, Charles “Chazz” Smith, Andrea Swensson, and Kristen Zschomler
Tuesday 11.30 a.m.-12.45 p.m. Parallel sessions
Community session 1, “Minnesota Not-So-Nice” Cowles, Humphrey
with Zaheer Ali, Teresa Gowan, Kirsten Delegard, Nekima Levy-Pounds, and Rashad Shabazz
Paper session 1a Place I Anderson 210
C. Liegh McInnis, “Minnesota as a microcosm of America: Prince as a thumbnail of double consciousness”
Minnesota is place where its ideal shines more brightly than its reality. In this it is as typical as most American places.Considered the heart of liberalism, Minnesota continues to struggle with its projected persona of being a multicultural haven and the reality that its economic realities make it as much a place of racial conflict as any other place in the United States. In the introduction to The Negro in Minnesota Carl T. Rowan asserts that Minnesota is a place full of contradictions when it comes to the race problem, and it is this contradiction that makes it all the more American. What makes the story of the Negro in Minneapolis so compelling is the same aspect that makes the story of the Negro in America compelling. With such small numbers in both cases, African Americans have been able to have a major, circular impact on white culture as it has had on their own culture. Prince’s work is connected to the legacy of African Americans who sought to integrate and assimilate into America, often losing more than it gained. Yet, the relative ease of assimilation in Minnesota allows the state to boast of its liberal atmosphere where African Americans could feel free to explore the totalities of themselves, allowing for a greater amalgamation of black and white cultures. This has created in a large number of Afro-Minnesotans a greater acceptance of the dominant culture’s values and perspectives because they feel more accepted by the larger, white society.Even in the most horrid aspects of race in America, Minnesota has found a way to appear as being ahead of the country in race matters. As such, Minnesota is a microcosm of America, making Prince a thumbnail of the struggle of American Americans to be both black and American simultaneously. Understanding this history allows African Americans to understand Prince not as an anomaly but as a very normal example of black culture and black genius, which can serve as both critique and inspiration for future generations of what it means to be an African American and to understand the destructive and constructive methods/approaches to obtaining first-class citizenship as African people.
In her recent book Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound, music critic Andrea Swensson expertly unpacks the racial barriers that have defined and delimited Black music in the Twin Cities since the Civil Rights era. When Prince finally crossed these barriers in the early 1980s, she argues, he did so by creating his own mythology, reimagining Minneapolis “into a world where he and his multicultural group of friends could achieve liberation” (Swensson 2017). With this paper, I propose to dig deeper into the specifics of this mythology: analyzing the texts of Prince’s self-created Minneapolis, from his 1980 single “Uptown” to the colorful, multiracial, and highly fictionalized First Avenue crowd depicted in his motion picture debut Purple Rain (1984). Through these texts - including, perhaps most of all, the meta-text of his own ascendance to crossover pop stardom - Prince invented a vision of Minneapolis that is arguably more “real” to many listeners than the city itself. Prince’s Minneapolis - most famously embodied by Paisley Park, a recording complex, home, and now museum that exists at once in the very real suburb of Chanhassen and, seemingly, beyond the confines of physical space - presents a fascinating example of what post-structuralist philosopher Michel Foucault called the heterotopia: “a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.” Yet it also demonstrates the limits of such imagined spaces in a society determined by material conditions: much like “post-raciality,” an uncritical acceptance of Prince’s “Uptown” myth can result in the erasure of ongoing and serious inequalities.
Arlene Oak, “Backstage at the spectacle: situating Prince in (Purple Rain’s) everyday life”
French theorist Guy Debord’s influential and contested text, The Society of the Spectacle (1967), positions the mass media and its products – such as film and popular music – as modes through which the general populace, as audience, is kept distracted, passive, and alienated. Following this reading, the film Purple Rain could be placed within the concept of “recuperation”, wherein potentially radical cultural products (e.g. Prince and his music) become neutralized, commodified, and absorbed by capitalism – in this case through the cultural product of the film itself. Diverging from this interpretation, this paper explores how Purple Rain can be seen instead as engaged with the contrasting phenomenon of détournement, wherein “images and language disrupt the flow of the spectacle” (Debord) in ways that potentially act to humanize the product. Through focusing on some of Purple Rain’s specificities of Minneapolis-centred urban settings and nearby rural locations, as well as forms of material culture (e.g. architecture, home-based items, dress), this paper explores how, in Purple Rain, the materiality of mundane, everyday life is juxtaposed with extraordinary musical performance. In the film these contrasting visual (and aural) frames locate Prince in relation to his wider contexts in ways that elide a simplistic reading of either the film or Prince himself. By drawing upon theorized reflections on everyday life (e.g. de Certeau, Goffman, Lefebvre), this paper attends to Purple Rain’s portrayal of the “backstage” mundane in relation to the “frontstage” spectacular. Through considering how the quotidian features of Prince’s everyday life in Minneapolis are portrayed alongside the remarkable aspects of his artistic expression, we can see how Purple Rain situates “style as a non-discursive mode of resistance” (Suner) in ways that show both of Prince’s material contexts as significantly and associatively authentic, humanistic, and potentially transformative.
Maciej Smółka, “How Minneapolis became a sound: an analysis through the examples of Minneapolis, Palm Desert, and Seattle”
American popular music has a rich tradition of connecting local cultural identities with certain styles of music. Some of the most important examples of such occurrences include New Orleans jazz, Chicago blues, and Detroit techno. However, there are also interesting cases of locally influenced musical subgenres, with an even more significant bond between the music and the place – the sound of a city. The Minneapolis sound with its characteristic mixture of funk, synth-pop, and new wave is one of the most prominent examples of such distinctive local scenes. However, as unique as the Minneapolis sound seems to be, it is not the only sound on the American musical landscape. Other famous cases which were in large part responsible for the development of American popular music include the San Francisco sound, Nashville sound, Philadelphia sound, and Seattle sound. Each one of them represents huge differences with their music styles, local contexts, and cultural environments, but they all have one thing in common – they are cities’ sounds. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the Minneapolis sound as part of a larger phenomenon of distinctive local music scenes in the United States. By researching the selected examples, the study concentrates on the cultural aspects of the artistic, social, and geographical environment which influenced the musical achievements associated with a certain region. Apart from the Minneapolis sound, this paper discusses the Palm Desert sound and Seattle sound. By showing how particular scenes developed their signature sounds, this research highlights the variety of causes of such subgenres’ emergence – from the role of artistic figures as mentors and the highly influential natural environment to cultural and socio-economic factors, though always presenting the idea of place as an integrating platform for artistic movements.
Paper session 1b Musicologies I Anderson 270
James Gordon Williams, “She’s always in my hair: what Prince learned about color and sound from Joni Mitchell”
Prince remarked that he learned how to use color and sound in his music from listening to Joni Mitchell. Yet for many enthusiasts, the musical and cultural connection between Prince and Mitchell remains unclear. Prince’s admiration for Mitchell spanned from the beginning of his career to the end of his life as an elder statesman of kaleidoscopic funk. Indeed, Hejira (1976) was one of the last albums he purchased from Minneapolis-based music store Electric Fetus days before he passed away. What did Prince absorb from Mitchell’s music that was instructive to his musical approach throughout his storied career? Mitchell learned about color and sound from black creative improvisers and composers, notably Miles Davis who she names as a musical hero. Criticizing bands “with negro affectations” in songs like “Boho Dance” (1975), Mitchell sought access to the radical black aesthetic as a way of reshaping her sound, even claiming that a white drummer couldn’t play her music because she wrote musical bar lengths with an African mind. This paper inquires how the migration of Afro-diasporic color and sound concepts travel through the spacetimes of Prince and Mitchell as both artists’ work is in conversation with the genealogy of black music. While I identify musical similarities where they occur, I do not focus on finding specific musical parallels between Prince and Mitchell on the level of sonic gestures such as lyrical flourishes, harmonic movements, and melodic construction. I am not invested in constructing a linear reenactment of musical influence between the work of Prince and Mitchell. Rather this paper is interested in uncovering how the black radical imagination connects the music of Prince and Mitchell, both of whom were colorists and whose goal was to capture the spectrum of human colors.
Andrew Scott, “‘While his guitar gently wept’: locating meaning in a Prince performance”
On March 15, 2004 at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel, the late musician and polymath Prince unexpectedly took the stage for that year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards show with an all-star band that included Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne, Steve Ferrone, and Dhani Harrison for a performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” a tribute to George Harrison, the then recently passed former Beatle who was being honoured for his solo contributions to rock history. For the first three minutes and twenty seconds, the group delivers an appropriate, if uninspired, cover version of what is arguably Harrison’s best-known composition, complete with Lynne guitarist Marc Mann playing a largely “note-for-note”sonically accurate recreation of Eric Clapton’s original solo. As the song heads towards completion, Prince, who up until this point had largely held back both musically and performatively, steps forward and, using the accepted semiotic gestures of rock guitar God-ery, begins a musical statement nearly four minutes in length that traverses genre, style, decade, performance practice and the binaries of the codified and the improvisatory. Although Prince had made throwing divisive binaries into flux (music, style, race, gender) a career-long practice, this particular performance is memorable, I argue, for his re-contextualization of Harrison’s song as a blues trope and his assertion of performance-based agency on this sacrosanct piece of music. The result was electrifying. The band, particularly Tom Petty, look flummoxed and for the more than 35 million people who have now viewed it on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s official YouTube channel, the performance, which culminates with Prince throwing his guitar into the air, has become both part of his lore as musical iconoclast and further evidence of Prince’s authenticity as more than simply a typical “pop” star. In this paper, I offer a musicological unpacking and deep reading of Prince’s performance that uses musical transcription andanalysis, primary interviews with members of Prince’s band and the lens of signifyin(g) to locate extra-musical meaning while problematizing the role that iconic recordings/performances play in the history of rock.
Luke Leavitt, “Bassless propositions: the racial politics of Prince’s sound and the blurring of pitch and rhythm”
Turning to the materiality of sound, this talk investigates Prince’s manipulation of timber to situate his dual relationship to the potentially divergent racial politics of underground music and pop spectacle. It inquires into the fact that two of Prince’s five number one US singles famously lack bass lines, in contrast to Prince’s own output and to the R’n’B, rock and pop traditions that Prince had conquered. I suggest that ditching the bass made room for Prince’s innovation in the manipulation of timber, a practice that situates both “When Doves Cry” and “Kiss” in two seemingly contrary trends: the proliferation of underground electronic dance music in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with its timbral experimentations, as well as the simultaneous emergence of “pop”as a category of music defined by a lighter, softer, version of R’n’B (where the “low-end” is downplayed). The talk draws on music scholarship which has employed Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of music synthesis, to understand, in this case, timbre as a gathering of “forces, densities and intensities” that combine to make “pulsations” which “are not measured recurrences of the same but ametrical rhythms of the incommensurable and the unequal.” “Ametrical” rhythm might resonate with rhythmic practices important to Black music – swing, for example, which Prince executes in these examples not in his use of rhythm per se, but in his manipulation of timber, or “sound quality,” of which a note’s harmonic overtone series is an important part. In this aspect, I suggest that by manipulating timber (harmonic overtones), to create nearly indiscernible rhythms (swing), Prince approached a style of music which began to collapse the boundaries between pitch and rhythm, a potentially radical maneuver aesthetically and politically that was nonetheless made in the context of corporate record contracts – an “underground” sound emergent in the world of pop spectacle.
Suzanne Wint, “‘Some stick around 4 the aftershow’: reproducing Prince during public mourning”
In the year following Prince’s death, his iconic song “Purple Rain” played in important role in his fans’ and colleagues’ mourning process. Reception was mixed for many public performances, and the musical quality of the first televised tribute – Madonna’s rendition at the 2016 Billboard Awards – was severely criticized. A number of authorized tribute events precluded musical critique by including audio or video reproduction of Prince’s live performances accompanied by members of his longest-lived band, the New Power Generation (NPG). In this paper, I consider the impact and the cultural work of three such performances, each of which reproduced Prince in different ways with the estate’s support. I draw on live and virtual ethnographic fieldwork with fans and interviews with the events’ musical directors in assessing the efficacy of these performances as public mourning. In some cases, the reproduction of the deceased was cathartic for mourners; in others, it was traumatic. Methodologically, this paper is based on 18 months of ethnographic research among mourners, and incorporates literature on fan cultures (Duffett, Bickerdike), celebrity death (Blaine, Davies, Walter, Kear and Steinberg, Wint) and posthumous image (Jones and Jensen), while also taking into account the work of the visual and aural reproductions through lenses of affect theory (Berlant) and theories of the image (W.J.T. Mitchell). The three performances of “Purple Rain” I consider are: the halftime tribute during the Minnesota Vikings’ season opening football game in the new USBank Stadium on September 18, 2016, featuring the Minnesota Orchestra, the Steele Family, and members of the NPG; the Official Prince Tribute at Xcel Energy Center on October 13, 2016 with members of the NPG, 3RDEYEGIRL, and other friends and colleagues in attendance; and the NPG concert that closed Celebration 2017 on April 23, 2017, to commemorate the first anniversary of Prince’s death.
Paper session 1c Gender and sexuality I Anderson 310
Ciara Cremin, “What’s in a name? The refusal of the capitalist logic of exchange and the gender binary”
In 1988, my head dizzy after seeing Prince live on the “Sign o’ the Times” tour, I went to all seven nights of the “Lovesexy” tour in London and was invited to meet Prince for a special gathering with 49 other dedicated fans. To say Prince was an inspiration is an understatement. Not only did he show me colours that until then I didn’t know existed, providing the motive to escape the intellectually and culturally stultifying environment I was brought up in, his gender-defining persona was pivotal in my coming to terms with a lifelong desire to present as a woman. Now an established critical theorist, nearly thirty years later I began dressing openly and wrote a book Man-Made Woman about my experiences in which I discuss Prince’s influence. Drawing on Adorno and Horkheimer’s theory of the culture industry and Lacan’s ideas on signification, I explore Prince’s lifelong defiance of categories, both in respect to his music and stance on the music industry but also the gender binary culminating with his adoption of an unpronounceable symbol.On Gold Prince sung “Everybody wants to sell what’s already been sold. Everybody wants to tell what’s already been told. What’s the use of money if you ain’t gonna break the mould?” and scrawled “Slave” across his cheek. His stance was in defiance of what Adorno and Horkheimer said about the culture industry, that art in the service of capital is subject to the laws of exchange and thereby fashioned according to what sells. This is the basis for exploring the tensions between Prince’s dedication to art and commercial necessity, and the unpronounceable symbol as a refusal of the capitalist logic of cultural production and gender categorisations.
Dana Venerable, “‘If I was your girlfriend’: disidentification and vocal drag within Prince’s world”
The concept of disidentification is vital when applied to mainstream American art. As José Esteban Muñoz states in Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics: “Disidentification is about recycling and rethinking encoded meaning. The process ... scrambles and reconstructs the encoded message of a cultural text in a fashion that both exposes the encoded message’s universalizing and exclusionary machinations and recircuits its workings to account for, include, and empower minority identities and identifications” (31). One artist who I think exemplifies disidentification through creating spaces where people can participate in “disidentificatory spectatorship” and find their own ways of disidentifying, is Prince. From his fashion of collared white shirts, military-style coats and heeled boots reminiscent of theAmerican Patriots during Revolution era, to his multi-gender, multiracial band The Revolution, Prince strove for independence through self-creation and a collective musical mission—starting in Minneapolis—to bring (re)visions of historical liberation to life. He explicitly and/or covertly undermined socially encoded scripts of race and gender, especially “an essential blackness...in various strains of black nationalist thinking ... decidedly heterosexual” through performance (6). He reimagined his Minneapolis origins as a struggling biracial musician “The Kid” in his first film Purple Rain, reflecting a racially ambiguous persona while maintaining dynamism as a black intellectual. Prince also explored and embraced androgyny (i.e. his love symbol), camp and ethnic dandyism. He pitch-shifted his voice to sound like a woman’s voice—participating in vocal drag—throughout Sign o’ the Times, The Black Album, Lovesexy, and the abandoned Camille project driven by his feminine alter-ego, furthering his overall mystique regarding gender identity. Prince’s “queer showing” remains pertinent concerning what his performances provide for shaping people’s identities and modes of thinking: avenues for artists and viewers alike, especially Minnesotans, to fantasize lifestyles free from labels, unless it’s his record label, NPG, that freed artists.
Dalena Ngo, “Music, masculinity, and Minnesota: means of resistance”
Prince was, first and foremost, a musician. His body of work spans genres and generations and he was constantly reinventing himself. However, just as his impact is not relegated to Minnesota, but broadened to the United States and the rest of the world, so too his impact on gender, sexual, and racial identity, symbolism, notions of authorship, song craftsmanship, fan culture, fashion iconography even color association. These were ways in which he responded to a shifting schema of social change and political threats throughout his musical career. He reacted against an increasingly secularized and divided world through his gender hybridity, sexual fluidity, name change, and religious expression as modes of resistance and forms of protest. In the background lay his love for his hometown, which not only served as musical inspiration, but a lifestyle. He embodied the structure of Minnesota nice, humble and hard-working, to undermine the hegemonic masculinity permeating from West Coast hip-hop, to center on the locality of Minneapolis as a microcosm of progressive urbanization in the Midwest, and to promote a shared spiritual humanity that inured itself between the sacred and the profane. He used these strategies to combat places of subjugation and took agency in creating his image as an artist, breaking down musical barriers as well as gender binaries, cultural norms, and identity politics. The social conditions, particularly of those in Minnesota, combined with his Midwestern childhood, enabled him to formulate a space of resistance that includes a change to means of black cultural production and differential consciousness. Challenging modern thought on the role of masculinity, the definition of music, and the cultural importance of Minnesota and the Midwest, Prince dismantled standard power structures to foreground an authentic ambivalent black lived experience, placed in the Midwest, but inclusive for all people of all times and places.
Joy Ellison, “Trans girls and boys: Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon in the context of Minneapolis transgender history”
In his 1987 film Under the Cherry Moon, Prince makes use of homoeroticism, feminine affect, and camp references.From vogueing on the piano during “Girls and Boys” to shopping at Diva, Prince’s performance techniques are reminiscent of Black queer and transgender ball room culture.Drawing on the analysis of Francesca Royster’s Sounding Like A No-No: Queer Sounds and Eccentric Arts in the Post-Soul Era, I describe how Black queer and transgender cultural influences shaped Prince’s performances in Under the Cherry Moon. Through a close-reading of this film, I place Prince into the context of Minneapolis transgender history. I argue that the impressive early successes of transgender activists in Minneapolis created a context in which a Black man who did his own eyeliner could enter the public eye in 1976. Through archival sources from Minnesota transgender organizations, I chart Prince’s use of trans symbols and feminine fashion, as well as the desires of trans fans to claim him as kin.By recontextualizing Under the Cherry Moon through transgender history, I hope to inspire scholars to consider the ways that transgender history shaped not only Prince’s career, but our broader culture as well.
12.45-1.45 p.m. Lunch (preordered lunch boxes available in Atrium, Humphrey)
Tuesday 1.45-3.00 p.m. Parallel sessions
Community session 2, “Prince and visual identity: post-Purple Rain” Cowles Auditorium
introduced and moderated by Mike Alleyne and Kirsty Fairclough
This interactive session will feature the evolution of Prince’s visual identity through an analysis and discussion of selected music videos and album covers of the late 1980s when his creative powers coalesced to redefine his audiovisual identities. It will examine the visual presentation of Prince’s identity through an analysis of the album cover, music videos and art direction as part of the evolution of Prince’s visual identity and will consider his visual style post-Purple Rain. As points of discussion departure, the session will feature the following videos: "Glam Slam", "Girls and Boys", and "Raspberry Beret". The featured album covers will be: Around the World in a Day (1985), Parade (1986), Sign O’ the Times (1987), and Lovesexy (1988).
Paper session 2a Place II Anderson 210
Ali Ahmad, “‘It ain’t where you’re from’: Prince from Minneapolis in diaspora”
How did Prince and the Minneapolis sound travel? This paper explores the aesthetics and politics of Prince’s music, message and ethos together with surrounding configurations of Minneapolis funk in one of its most important diasporic contexts: London in the 1980s and 1990s. The paper begins by acknowledging the origins and organic context of Prince’s sound and legacy in Minneapolis, and its location within the specificities of black history, creativity and cultural production – facts too often erased in whitewashed, mainstream accounts and complacent appropriations. Cognizance of this history and context is an indispensable starting point for appreciating the modes of diasporic travel that globalized Prince. The paper then embarks upon a discussion of Prince in diaspora, beginning with a cautious exploration of the critique of origins articulated within the black tradition - by figures as diverse as the rap artist Rakim, and black British intellectuals such as Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy. Prince himself, despite the endless creativity of his art and its global reach, seemed to epitomize the idea of proudly embracing and proclaiming being from a very specific place that had a relatively low profile in global pop culture. How did this provincial posture affect the way his sound migrated to distant locations? Britain is arguably particularly important given its historic role within the trans-Atlantic currents that arguably influenced his music, or at least its context. (We might recall, here, the irony of his band opening for the Rolling Stones – a British rock institution that did more than any other to perpetuate the myth that blues and rock music are authentically white). The particular cultural context of London as an urban and sub-urban setting in the 1980s and 90s produced a wide array of rich syncretic intellectual and musical production against which we might interpret the impact of Prince’s music and art: a world that produced films like My Beautiful Laundrette and novels like The Black Album (by Hanif Kureshi), Gilroy and Hall’s scholarship, and indeed a wide array of little know musical South Asian sub-cultures influenced heavily by black cultural production from the US and Caribbean. In a wide-ranging discussion that draws upon secondary sources, magazine and newspaper archives and interview data with formal and informal distributors of Prince’s music in London’s subcultural economy of the 1980s, I consider the particular forms and meanings of Prince and Minneapolis funk “across the pond”, specifically London. Treading cautiously as I tell my own admittedly somewhat lonely brown narrative of connoisseurship and racial identification in a London that has long disappeared, I ask: would it be productive to explore an additional set of prepositions (e.g. “to”, “in”, or, “at”) to the “from” which rightfully grounds the location of Prince’s music in its primary social context?
Mike Wyeld, “The face it attracts: Prince in London - 3121, psychogeography, and urbanism”
“The fact it attracts” will consider the ways the life of the City is articulated in the work of Prince from Minneapolis. London is the site of Prince’s flagship retail location, and his epic 21 nights of shows. For many Londoners, Prince is one of their own, an adopted son, and people will tell you stories about the time they bumped into Prince in Camden market, or saw him walking to rehearsals in the Isle of Dogs. He walked London streets, and people who know that forever remember it, the way Charlie Chaplin, Chaucer and Shakespeare walked the same streets. “The multi–cultural city, London especially, is being spatially and socially reconfigured...” – Stuart Hall, in Divided City: The Crisis of London. “We don’t intend to prolong the mechanistic civilizations and frigid architecture that ultimately lead to boring leisure. We propose to invent new, changeable decors.” - Ivan Vladimirovitch Chtcheglov, from Formulary for a New Urbanism. Thinking about the work of Stuart Hall we will interrogate Prince’s time in London from three trajectories; - the Planet Earth Tour (locally known as the “3121 shows”) - concerts in which Prince spent 21 nights owning the city in 1997; - the opening of The New Power Generation shop in Camden, London, in 1994, which coincided with his declaration of independence; and - April 2016, when fans mourned Prince’s loss. On that day in London, the skies opened, it thundered and it snowed in April. Using animation, video, documentary evidence, conjecture and conspiracy, we will argue that Prince, while a global citizen, brought with him a delicious joy and distraction that marked and changed the landscape. If any American of the last 40 years deserved a place in London history, it is Prince. And the plaque will read “Born in Minneapolis”.
Crystal Wise and Kim Ransom, “(Up)town upbringing: signs of community cultural wealth in Prince’s Minneapolis”
In a 1996 interview, Oprah Winfrey queried Prince about his “weird” choice to live in Minneapolis “of all places.” With a gentle but self-assured voice and his head tilted upwards then nodding to confirm, he replied, “Minneapolis, yeah, I will always live in Minneapolis.” Prince consistently expressed pride in growing up and living in Minneapolis. However, throughout his career, Prince’s choice to remain in Minneapolis has been considered “odd” and his upbringing has often been situated within a deficit framework. Interviews and retellings of Prince’s childhood focus on his parents’ divorce leading to turmoil, loneliness, and abandonment and as the case with most dominant narratives of Blacks from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, these aspects of Prince’s identity are often foregrounded as obstacles. Despite the consistent incredulous and deficit-oriented reactions and framing of his hometown and childhood, Prince expressed unequivocal love and commitment to his Minneapolis. Using Prince’s adoration for his beloved city and his identity as a member of a historically oppressed and marginalized group, this paper seeks to locate his community’s knowledge and practices as insight into the ways in which they have shaped his upbringing thus his artistry and life. We draw upon the logic and assumptions of ethnohistory methods to explore young Prince’s experience in his Minneapolis community. On two investigative trips to Prince’s Minneapolis, we set out to explore the historical and contemporary spaces Prince frequented which include childhood neighborhoods and homes, schools, community centers, and music venues. We use photography, reflexive field notes, archival documents, on-the-fly interviews with Minneapolitans and ethnographic observations to observe Prince’s Minneapolis. Preliminary insights reveal that a young Prince may have been engulfed in a web of “community cultural wealth,” which could have supported the growth and development of one Black boy’s intellectual and artistic talent and sustained his connection to home.
Victoria Willis, “Dancing with the Prince”
The purpose of this presentation is to provide a first-hand experience with Prince as artist, teacher, and employer. Vicki Willis left her rural West Virginia roots in 1992 after college and moved to Minneapolis in hopes of dancing with Prince. She achieved that and more. She became a dancer at Prince’s Glam Slam Night Club. A chance meeting with New Power Generation member Mayte Garcia led to an audition for Erotic City, an after-hours club within Glam Slam. “Victoria,” aka “the girl with the braids” as Prince called her, soon became the principal dancer and choreographer for Erotic City, performing in the after-hours Club with the Erotic City Dance Troupe, choreographing several videos, and appearing with Prince and the NPG on Soul Train. She did choreography for the NPG and working with Mayte Garcia on several videos and stage performances. Vicki is one of the many women that Prince worked with over his nearly 40-year career and she feels honored to have received his encouragement, example, and mentoring. Vicki spent nearly ten years working along with and learning from Prince. In her presentation, “Dancing with The Prince,” she will reveal stories of what it was really like to watch the legend in action, both at work and at play, and what she learned and will cherish forever about the decade of the ‘90s.
Paper session 2b Musicologies II Anderson 270
Tom Zlabinger, “Under the paisley moon: Prince’s psychedelic albums (1984-1988)”
Prince’s contribution to popular music is incalculable. From the 1970s and up until his death in 2016, Prince assembled some of the greatest bands of all time and recorded vast amounts of music that drew from diverse sources, including funk, rock, R&B, gospel, and others. Psychedelia may not be one of the aspects of Prince that comes immediately to mind. However, Prince included many psychedelic elements in the albums released right after his breakthrough success of 1999 (1982). From the Hendrix-inspired guitar work in Purple Rain (1984) to the Beatles-inspired imagery of Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986) to the 1960s themes of Sign o’ the Times (1987), Prince borrowed heavily from the sights and sounds of the traditional psychedelic canon of the late-1960s. Even the name of the band that recorded the bulk of these albums, The Revolution, evoked the spirit of 1960s psychedelia. The paper takes a close look at the material contained on the four above-mentioned albums. Also, the music videos released in conjunction to the albums is discussed, including the films Purple Rain and Under the Cherry Moon. Though not considered psychedelic, the paper concludes with a brief look at Lovesexy (1988), Prince’s follow-up to his psychedelic period. Many of the psychedelic themes still remain in the album’s artwork and lyrics, but Prince also emphasizes a new-found religiosity and addresses the conflict between good and evil. The album can be seen as an arrival point after Prince’s long exploration of psychedelia. This close examination of Prince’s transformation from Purple Rain to Lovesexy not only provides a deeper understanding of Prince’s music, but also establishes his place within the greater history of psychedelic music.
Tammy Brown, “From Purple Haze to Purple Rain: Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and the color of transcendence”
This paper is part of a larger project — a biography of Rock ‘n Roll virtuoso Jimi Hendrix centering on the spiritual dimensions of his music. Considering Hendrix’s musical genius, it is not surprising that a plethora of biographies already exist; however, the majority of these books were written by Rock ‘n Roll fans and aficionados who were so enthralled with Hendrix’s fast fingers that they mainly discuss his musical technique while neglecting the philosophical and spiritual depth of his lyrics. In response to this void, my research explores how Hendrix defined spirituality on his own terms and expressed it through his “Electric Church” philosophy and through his musical practice. In turn, my biography of Hendrix is important because it will be the first book to provide an in-depth treatment of Hendrix dynamic understanding of spirituality, in which he merged Native American and New Age cosmologies prevalent throughout 1960s as a means to elevate his audience and himself to a higher existential plane. Jimi Hendrix was one of Prince’s principal influences. Both musicians were musical and philosophical visionaries who were ahead of their time. They were also black men in America who grew up in uniquely multiracial cities, Seattle and Minneapolis respectively, that nurtured their expansive worldviews and distinctive musical styles. From Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” (1967), which became an anthem of the 1960s “free love” and anti-war movements, to Prince’s musical exploration of his own multiracial background and tumultuous family upbringing in the song “Purple Rain” (1984) and the film by the same title during the height of post-civil rights era, multicultural America, both performance artists used their music to exorcise societal as well as their own individual demons. This art of exorcism — the music itself, constituted Hendrix’s spiritual practice; whereas, for Prince, the music was an expression of his ever-evolving sense of spirituality. Although Prince was a devoted Jehovah’s Witness for over a decade and a half until the end of his life and Hendrix’s understanding of spirituality was much more flexible and infused with New Age themes of universalism and positive thinking, both musicians believed in the power of music to transform and transcend rigid notions of race, class and gendered identities.
Casey Rain, "Unlocking the Vault: grief and finding peace through Prince's unreleased music”
Amongst endless talent and vision, Prince was a rare artist who saw absence and negative space as concepts that were equally as tangible and important as what you did see and hear, once remarking that the “notes you don’t play” were as important as the ones you did.Viewed through that lens, we can argue that the songs he chose not to release are as important as the ones that he did. Indeed, Prince confirmed that when he remarked in an interview that he often deliberately did not give his record labels the songs he considered to be his best work. Heavily bootlegged songs such as “Moonbeam Levels” and “Electric Intercourse" which became his first posthumous releases, were and are indeed as beloved by fans as anything he did release in his lifetime.I’d like to explore this concept and relate my personal stories of coming to terms with Prince’s death through engagement, gifting, and trading of unreleased music with other hardcore fans, and even Prince’s own associates. My talk will mainly be broken down into a discussion around a few specific songs that either aren't circulating amongst anyone other than the most hardcore Prince fans, or weren't until very recently - including the legendary song “Wally”. The songs, and the stories around how I acquired them involve Prince’s musicians, his friends and his most ardent fans. The trading of unreleased music is a contentious issue, although Prince himself once remarked that fans trading material was cool, as long as they didn’t try to sell them. It’s a subject that covers grief, fan politics, trust, what happens when that trust is broken, the reasons why some songs didn’t get released, covers of unreleased songs, Prince’s own performances of unreleased songs, bootleg labels such as EyeRecords and Free Boot Generation, and Prince himself as the source of unreleased songs.
Tom Attah, “To make purple, you need blue: Prince as embodiment of the postmodern blues aesthetic”
As part of his ground-breaking work as a stylistic provocateur during the 1980s and 1990s, blues music and blues culture provided a fundamental element of Prince’s composition, production and live performance practice. This paper examines the extent to which Prince employed the blues aesthetic to leverage contrasting notions of black masculinity in addition to opening a space for transgression, catharsis, and the creation of community as part of his on-stage presentation. This paper constructs a continuum of blues music performance including Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Jimi Hendrix, positioning Prince as a performer in full command of the historical qualities that characterised African-American music-making with specific reference to the stylistic gestures particular to blues music and blues culture. Through comparative analysis of live bootlegs with the live recordings of B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix, Prince emerges as the embodiment of the postmodern blues aesthetic in popular music. This paper specifically speaks to Prince as musician; Prince as songwriter; Prince and racial representations with specific reference to sexuality and masculinity; Prince, feminism and gender relations with specific reference to the artist’s presence as an actor in a specific performance style.
Paper session 2c Gender and sexuality II Anderson 310
Andreana Clay, “‘And if you’re good, I’ll let you work the stick in my ride!’: sex and the side chick in Prince’s world”
The title of piece refers to the last line of The Time’s “The Walk,” uttered by protagonist Morris Day and followed by his iconic laugh. I use these words here to capture the attitude toward many of the women in Prince’s universe: you get to work the stick, if you’re good. All of Prince’s musical protégés, including The Time, was only allowed to “work the stick” as their albums were produced, arranged, and performed by Jamie Starr (Prince’s not-so-secret pseudonym). However, women, in particular, were treated as embellishments or appendages, punctuated by the fact that many of them were rumored lovers of the artist. Vanity, Prince’s girlfriend from 1980 to 1983, epitomized the kind of woman Prince was attracted to and wanted in his entourage: mixed-race, light-skinned, with curves that filled out his required outfit; the camisole. In the 1980s, women like Vanity, including those who played instruments (Wendy and Lisa, Sheila E) were central to Prince’s rise as an artist and sexual provocateur. Largely undertheorized as more than part of his entourage and punished for their lack of musical skill, the women in Prince’s world were seen as merely “side chicks,” with Prince the sole and true artist. In this paper, I argue that these women, including Susan Moonie, Brenda Bennett, Apollonia, Jill Jones, Susannah Melvoin, Cat, Sheila E, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, and his wife, Mayte, among others, were more than just side chicks. Rather, they were central to Prince’s aesthetic, including his own gender-bending, (hetero)sexuality, and identity. Relying on memoirs, musical performances, public appearances, and interviews, I explore these artists’ relationship to Prince, as well as the lasting influence of their aesthetic.
Sarah Pina, “‘tears go here, tears go there’: Mayte Garcia’s The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince and US Latina authorship”
Within the kaleidoscope-esque life that was Prince’s, the Puerto Rican-born belly dancing muse of beauty known as Mayte Garcia was his first and only in many ways: his first wife, the only woman to bear his child, and the only woman to stay true to her name — despite Prince’s insistence on changing it, as he did to many women in his life, to name a few. The latter alone is very much representative of what I argue is a definitive Third World feminist memoir as Garcia tells her story on her terms, in her own words, by way of literary techniques characteristic of US Latina authors, while also peeling back and unpacking several complex layers and issues common to US Hispanic literature in general, broaching on intersectional matters of social class, racial discrimination, language, gender, and sexuality, all of which are introduced within the first few pages, and are thereafter woven throughout the text. Garcia writes in the introduction that she hopes those closest to him will eventually tell their stories, too, and that a music scholar “will write a book that spans the incredible depth and breadth of Prince’s work” but that “This is not that book” (8). Indeed, this is not that book; it is a much more profound testimony of a woman of color in the United States and her coming of age story in the shadow of the Purple One. The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince is often marketed as a leisurely read; however, I posit that it merits the same if not more analysis that she infers is better suited for another more “scholarly” text, as it is much more than a simple tale of a love story between her and one of the most enigmatic international celebrities of our time. Ultimately, I demonstrate that Garcia’s memoir is a poignant and carefully crafted composition with which Garcia carves her own female agency, asserting her distinctive voice to the many underrepresented voices of women of color as a Latina growing up in the United States, all by way of the unlikely vehicle of the charismatic, magical musical genius known as Prince.
Karen Turman, “Prettyman in the mirror: dandyism in Prince’s Minneapolis”
“In the early morning when I'm feeling nice, I walk by the mirror and kiss it twice,” states the Artist Formerly Known as Prince in the final hidden track from Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. In his posthumously published 1897 work, Journaux intimes, 19th-century French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire writes: “The Dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption; he must live and sleep before a mirror” (my translation). A “prettyman” in front of a mirror, the quintessential Baudelairean dandy aspired to the total sublimation of his existence through a constantly deliberate and self-conscious alignment of style, artistic production, and social rebellion. Much like his predecessors, Henry Murger’s bohemian artists of the mid-19th century whose “every day existence was a work of genius,” the dandy’s life constituted a spectacle on display—he was performing at all times, even for himself. “Everywhere I go, people stop and stare/They just wanna see me swing this pretty hair”: What was the genesis of Prince’s brand of dandyism in the socioeconomic context of Minneapolis during the 1970s? How did the dandyism exemplified by black entertainers for centuries influence Prince’s use of clothing as a social and artistic rebellion? Prince’s dandyism demonstrates an act of taking possession over a curated look as a profound statement of power and assertion of agency.In this paperI analyze Prince’s social rebellion through dress, using Charles Baudelaire’s definition of the Dandy in his 1863 text on modernity, “The Painter of Modern Life” as a philosophical framework while exploring the socioeconomic environment shaping Prince’s dandyism locally in Minneapolis. Considering Prince as a dandy sheds new light on his profound cultural influence as manifested in the ways in which he redefined limits, questioning the social assumptions categorizing race, class, sex, fashion, gender, and history itself.
Nicholas Kiersey, “Flaneur, or dandy? Prince’s insurgent encounter with modernity”
Foucault describes the flâneur via Baudelaire as one who adopts “the spectator's posture,” or who is passive in the face of modernity’s many contradictions. The modern man, or dandy, on the other hand, is a figure compelled constantly to “invent himself” in relation to his natural limits. In this paper, I examine the fluidity of Prince’s interventionist encounter with modernity. For Foucault, the choice in modernity can be reduced to an either/or between the Kantian historicization of the self and a more aesthetic attitude towards oneself. In contrast with the sanctimonious humanism of the former, Foucault clearly prefers the politics of the latter. Yet he also warns of its pitfalls, and the risk of its subsumption within the entrepreneurial spirit of capitalism. In his career, Prince ceaselessly labored against the setting of boundaries on the nature of the man who must be liberated. In his final album, Art Official Age, Prince’s “life as art” mode becomes an insurgent accelerationist praxis against capitalist modernity itself.
3.00-3.30 p.m. Starfish and coffee Atrium
3.10-3.20 p.m. Special performance by Bon Mott/Nadja Mott, “Transmuting into Bon Mott”, set to Prince’s “Darling Nikki” Blegen 110
"Transmuting into Bon Mott", 2018, documents my transmutations by performing "Darling Nikki" by Prince. I create sculpture, media, sound, and performance art through intersecting non-binary themes of Energy, Lightning, and Plasma. I access the non-binary by transmuting into the ghost of singer-songwriter of the Australian band AC/DC Bon Scott. When asked if they were the "AC or the DC", Bon Scott replied: "Neither, I'm the lightning flash in the middle". Bon Scott’s answer is the creative framework of my interdisciplinary outcomes. As a teenager, Prince’s dancing and command of the camera gave every cell in my body shock treatment. This lead me to dance. On May 11, 2012, at the Allphones Arena, Sydney, Prince picked up a rose I threw onto to the stage with my phone number Marry Me. Moments later, I heard my breath, and heartbeat as I danced naked side-by-side with Prince to "Hot Thing" in a c-thru black lace cat suit. The last time I saw Prince was at the "Piano & a Microphone Tour" on February 16, 2016, in The Arts Centre, Melbourne. Two months later ... on my birthday (Southern hemisphere), Prince died. As Prince puts it in "Let’s Go Crazy" – “electric word life, it means forever.”
Tuesday 3.30-4.45 p.m. Parallel sessions
Community session 3, “Prince and the sweetness of black: the Minneapolis queer aesthetic” Cowles Auditorium
featuring Free Black Dirt, Jayanthi Kyle, Danez Smith, Tish Jones with opening black queer sermon by Sangodare Akinwole moderated by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
This power gathering of black queer creatives explores how Prince shows up in the contemporary Minneapolis arts-infused activism. Along with Junauda Petrus and Erin Sharkey of Free Black Dirt, Danez Smith, Jayanthi Kyle, and Tish Jones, the acclaimed black feminist love evangelist Alexis Pauline Gumbs hosts stage space to creatively explore Prince’s impact on contemporary black queer creatives in the Twin Cities. Through writing, spoken word, sermon, and sound the featured panelists willimaginatively explore their relationship with Prince through their craft. This highly interactive and critical artistic engagement with Prince will showcase the unique flavor of the Twin Cities centering love, spirit, and a full-throated embrace of black/queer bodies, sex, sound, and culture in Minneapolis.
Paper session 3a Paisley Park I Anderson 210
Steven Hanna, “Peace-sign sneakers and pleated slacks: Minneapolis’s urban periphery as key to appreciating Prince’s Lovesexy and its related dance remixes”
The Kid cruises on his bike beneath golden leaves, Apollonia hugging him close, feathered curls tickling their ears in the crisp air: this classic sequence from Purple Rain carries us away from Minneapolis into the then-undeveloped western suburbs. We’re watching two people travel from the familiar into the unfamiliar, from the city into the country, their movement mirroring an emotional leap into the unknown as they fall in love. “I don’t care where we go,”Prince declares lustily overtop these images, “just take me with U.” A half-decade later, holed up in Studio A within a complex built upon that very land, Prince would craft another journey, this one sonic: Lovesexy bands the entire LP into a single track like its individual melodies are conversations overheard as we’re led through the world’s greatest party. This paper posits that the musical possibilities opened to Prince as he made his earliest records at Paisley Park in Chanhassen are best appreciated by considering that earlier cinematic journey through the same landscape. Purple Rainpresented love as capable of warping space and time: a body of water both is and isn’t Lake Minnetonka; the snow on the streets near First Avenue suddenly unfalls and the foliage returns to the trees as that bike ride, shot out of sequence down in Henderson, rewinds us from winter to autumn. The great songs from Lovesexy, and the even greater 12-inch-remix expansions of those songs, warp music similarly: “I Wish U Heaven, Pts. 1, 2, & 3” loops in a call-and-response from earlier single “Housequake,” strips the entire track down to the simplest of beats after allowing a full choir to sing the praises of heaven itself, and concludes with a cameo appearance from a well-dressed Prince alter ego who seems to have stepped right out of The Black Album. “I got peace-sign sneakers,” this quasi-Prince boasts, “and pleated slacks...”This was, needless to say, not the customary dress of a late-eighties Minneapolitan, and yet every note of this extraordinary music was shaped by the city in which Prince lived and worked. Prince’s music carves out extensive landscapes in the mind; proper evaluation and navigation of them requires that we consider the Minnesota landscapes he himself moved through in life.
Jaap Kooijman, “Inside Prince’s Paisley Park and Michael Jackson’s Neverland: mediating heterotopias of black male superstardom”
Since the 1980s, the entertainment media and music press have compared and contrasted Prince and Michael Jackson—“The two greatest black [male] stars of the decade”(George 1988: 176)—either to highlight their similarities or their differences. Both black pop starswere considered “eccentric” (Royster 2013), challenging dominant notions of race, gender, and sexuality. However, while Jackson came to embody mainstream pop culture (“The King of Pop”), Prince was heralded for his musical authorship within the rock aesthetic. The allegedand widely publicized “rivalry”between the two artists reinforced this pop-rock dichotomy. In this presentation, I will focus on tworeal yet also mythical spacesthat the twoartistshaveestablished—Prince’s Paisley Park in 1987 and Jackson’s Neverland in 1988—which show both the similarities between Prince and Jackson as eccentric black pop stars, as well as the differences in their star images: Paisley Park with its “secret vault” is located in Minneapolis, away fromthemainstream entertainment industry, whereas Neverland is located at the nexus of US American entertainment. Both places were covered extensively by the entertainment media, seekingentrance to the “inside” of these mythical spaces, which washardly evergranted, with the notable exceptions of Oprah Winfrey interviewing Jackson at Neverland in 1993 and Mel B interviewing Prince at Paisley Parkin 1998.By perceiving Paisley Park and Neverland as heterotopias, as “real places ... which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted” (Foucault 2002: 231),I aim to show how these two spaces represent the two different yet related ways in which Prince and Michael Jackson, as black male pop artists who challenged the rigid racial, gendered, and sexual genre categories of the entertainment industry, subsequently were contained by the entertainment media and the music press. The presentation will include a short audiovisual essay examining the 1990s media coverage of Paisley Park and Neverland.
Caterina Pierre, “This place in your heart: Paisley Park Museum as legacy” Paisley Park in Chanhassen, Minnesota opened as the home and production studio of Prince Rogers Nelson on September 11, 1987. Numerous artists utilized the soundstage and recording studios within the building over the twenty-nine years that Prince lived and worked there, and these comprised not only those with whom he was most famous for working, but also included Celine Dion, Fine Young Cannibals, Kool and the Gang, Madonna, R.E.M., Stevie Wonder, and Stone Temple Pilots, among many others. While Prince was infamous for his abhorrence towards contracts and legal documents later in his career, his use of Paisley Park as a public space during his lifetime, his curating of walls and spaces within the building, and his collecting and archiving practices strongly suggest his desire to create a personal, physical bequest within the building. Limited tours of the interior of Paisley Park were opened to the public beginning in 2015, and it was officially opened to the public as a house museum on October 6th, 2016. Part of the significance of the Paisley Park Museum is that there are very few house museums and personal studios of individual American musicians, especially African-American musicians, which are currently opened to the public in the United States. The former homes of Louis Armstrong and Nina Simone have recently been preserved, but those living spaces did not function as significant music studios. Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios is, by contrast, not currently open for public tours. As the thirtieth anniversary of the original opening of the building approaches, this paper will reflect on the impact of Paisley Park on music production and musicians, on its placement within the larger history of house museums and music studios in the United States, and on its role as a testament tothe artist’s musical and personal legacy.
Wednesday, april 18, 2018
9.00-9.30 a.m. Starfish and coffee Atrium, Humphrey building
Wednesday, 9.30-10.45 a.m. Parallel sessions
Community session 4, “Writing Prince in(to) Minneapolis” Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey building
with Michaelangelo Matos, Chris Riemenschneider, Duane Tudahl, and Jim Walsh, discussant Andrea Swensson
Paper session 4a Race Blegen 445
Joseph Vogel, “Black muse: Prince and race”
"I grew up on the borderline," Prince told Rolling Stone in 1981. "I had a bunch of white friends, and I had a bunch of black friends. I never grew up in any one particular culture." The quote encapsulated the way most people thought of Prince for the first decade of his career. He wasn’t black or white; he was something in-between or beyond; he was Prince. In a 1981 interview with the British magazine NME, he claimed his father was “an Italian-Filipino leader of a mid-West pro jazz band” who left his black mother when he was seven. In a Rolling Stone article the same year, the artist was described as “the son of a half-black father and an Italian mother who divorced when he was seven.” Clearly, at the dawn of his career, something about being of mixed race appealed to him. It was, of course, further mythologized in the movie, Purple Rain, in which his mother is white and his father is black. Why did Prince manipulate aspects of his biography, including his racial background, to the press in his early years? This chapter explores Prince’s complex negotiation with race, from his early ambivalence to his later identification with race-based politics, including the Black Lives Matter movement.
Twila Perry, “'Let’s work!': the racial and the universal in Prince’s fight for artists’ rights”
Prince’s work ethic was legendary. Musicians and others he worked with, and many in Minneapolis who knew him before he was famous, have described the staggering amount of time and effort Prince devoted to his craft. It was also important to Prince for musicians to be adequately paid for their work. Upon his passing, the AFL-CIO cited Prince’s long-term membership in both the Twin Cities Musicians Local 30-73 of the American Federation of Musicians and SAG-AFRA. Prince was described as “a true champion of musicians’ rights.” This presentation will examine Prince’s advocacy for economic justice for musicians as reflected in his music, public statements and actions. Prince, an African-American born and raised in majority white Minnesota, often dealt in dualities, and the presentation will focus on ways in which his efforts to promote fair compensation for the work of musicians reflected both (a) his race-consciousness as an African-American, and (b) his belief in interconnection and cooperation between people from diverse backgrounds. The presentation will reference some points in Minnesota’s history that connect to each of these perspectives as they relate to the issue of work. During his battle with Warner Brothers in the 1990s, Prince analogized record contracts to slavery–an institution in which work was unpaid. Prince also often referred to the long historical exploitation of the work of Black musicians and started performing with "SLAVE" written on his face. An interesting historical note: the facts that gave rise to the infamous 1857 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott slavery case arose at Fort Snelling, in what is now Minnesota. Prince was one of the first artists to recognize the negative economic impact the digital age would have on recording artists. He was an early innovator in seeking ways to distribute music outside the confines of record companies. Prince’s fight against the exploitation of recording artists inspired a whole generation of recording artists from many backgrounds to fight for just compensation for their work. The presentation will briefly reference the work of Nellie Stone Johnson, an African-American woman who was a civil rights activist and union organizer in Minneapolis in the 1930s. She, like Prince, fought for racial justice for African-Americans as well as for economic justice for workers from all backgrounds.
Griffin Woodworth, “Religion, race, and gender in Prince’s voice" (via Skype) Since the untimely passing of the popular musician Prince in April 2016, writers have wrestled with his legacy: some have focused on his work as a champion of gender nonconformity, others on his importance as a black musician; some on his maverick status within the music industry, others on his philanthropic work. Such debates have extended the discourse that surrounded Prince during his life: as musicologists Robert Walser and Anne Danielsen have argued, Prince's fluid manipulation of sex and race deconstructed the very categories on which modern ideas of identity are built. Yet Prince's deeply held religious faith has been less often discussed even as it intersects with other issues of identity in his work. In this musicological study, I dig into Prince's use of two different singing styles in order to explore how African-American religious cosmology informs his constructions of sex and race. Mixing sacred and secular was nothing new within the field of black music, yet Prince's engagement with African-American theology went deeper--literally--than the "sacred-sexuality" of Al Green's high falsetto or Little Richard's sanctified whooping. In my musical analysis, I demonstrate how Prince's singing employs both a Gospel-influenced model of "ecstatic" religious practice and also a "prophetic" voice whose electronically lowered register conveys the Afrofuturist cosmology of funk music. Overall, I argue that Prince's use of these divergent singing styles enacts a syncretic religious cosmology that delivers a potent protest against the ongoing racial injustice in this country.
Roy Kay, “The poetics of race and Prince: ambivalence and complexity in America’s foundational narrative”
After lip-syncing “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on American Bandstand (January 1980), Dick Clark queried Prince about his music and his hometown. Essentially Clark asked, How could a Minneapolitan sound so black? This was neither the first nor the last time Prince had to address the category of race concerning his music and his person. Before his international frame with Purple Rain (1984-85) in all of its media iterations, Prince’s audience was urban black America but his image was racially ambiguous. Prince encouraged this by claiming to be black and Italian; and Purple Rain furthered this narrative by representing the Kid’s father as black and mother as white. Music critic such as Robert Palmer called Prince’s music a “black-white synthesis.” MTV repeated Prince’s claim of biraciality during its promotion of “Little Red Corvette”; and Rick James, a Prince contemporary, attacked Prince for being racially confused. After successfully crossing over and gaining white listeners and fans across the nation, Prince dropped the narrative of biracialism and signs of racial ambiguity for figures and sounds largely associated with blackness: music in the style of James Brown (“Kiss,” “Gett Off,” and “Sexy M.F.”), black speech patterns on albums and in film (Sign O’the Times and Under The Cherry Moon), in addition to rap and hip-hop forms and sensibilities (Diamonds and Pearls to HitnRun Phase 1). However, Prince’s relationship to the figure of race is more complex than marketing a “Prince” image and sound. He was deeply committed to racial justice in America and promoted the ideal of racially utopian communities (Uptown, Paisley Park, the Dawn, the Rainbow Children, and his band, The Revolution). This essay will explore and present the complexity of race in Prince’s words, music and life.
Paper session 4b Ethics and activism Mondale 45
Natalie Clifford, “Peace is more than the absence of war: Prince’s commitment to uprooting systems of violence”
Throughout his life, Prince demonstrated a commitment to challenging pillars of society that marginalized and oppressed communities. From his early days presenting himself via unconventional gender expression to his decision to write the word “Slave” on his face and support of Black Lives Matter in recent years, Prince issued direct resistance to systems of violence in every aspect of his life.Growing up in the segregated, predominantly white city of Minneapolis, Prince was keenly aware from a young age of the socio-political inequities impacting Black communities. His decision to present himself in a purposefully androgynous manner and defy the expectation that he bow to the whims of major record labels - even prior to becoming an internationally renowned musician - demonstrates his insistence on the right of oppressed peoples to challenge dominant ways of being in the world. Publicly denouncing the music industry’s exploitative practices, becoming vegan, and combating stereotypes regarding what Black masculinity could be, Prince continually evolved while centering a lifestyle intent on transformation of systems causing suffering and oppression.In my paper, I will examine the ways in which Prince’s artist-activism reflects his belief in the urgent imperative of creating a world without violence. I will argue that Prince’s work as an artist-activist laid foundations for younger generations to innovate and imagine a world beyond these systems of violence. I will also allude to histories of Black resistance from which Prince’s artist-activism was able to spring. In regards to methodology, I will qualitatively analyze specific examples mentioned above regarding Prince’s artist-activism to inform my argument on his commitment to non-violence. This exploration of Prince’s artist-activism is valuable to community organizers, artist-activists themselves, and scholars within critical race studies and gender, women, and sexuality studies.
Annie Potts, “‘We’re all members of the animal kingdom’: the animal rights legacy of Prince Rogers Nelson”
Prince was best known for his transgressive creativity, his provocative music and performances subverting normative notions of gender, sexuality, race, and spirituality – but over his career less attention was paid to his commitment to animal rights and environmental advocacy. Even after his death, when more about his quiet, yet generous, philanthropy was revealed, Prince’s affection for animals and dedication to a plant-based diet were almost entirely absent from media reports. Former Smiths’ frontsperson Morrissey, an outspoken animal activist, addressed this omission on his own website, stating: “Although Prince was a long-serving vegan and a strong advocate of the abolition of the abattoir, neither of these points was mentioned in the one hundred television reports that I witnessed yesterday as they covered the enchanted life and sad death of [this artist]. He would be thanked not only by humans but also animals for living his lyrical life as he did.” Within songs like “Silicon”, “Animal Kingdom”, “Joint to Joint” and “Get Off”, Prince expressed his compassion for all species. He also famously suggested: “We need an Animal Rights Day when all slaughterhouses shut down”; and, when asked why he cared so much about animals in the face of widespread human suffering, responded in an interview with Ebony magazine: “Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” In this presentation I will depart from the majority of tributes that have emerged in the wake of Prince’s death by addressing his animal rights legacy, particularly his influence on African American veganism and animal advocacy. The place of animal symbolism (e.g. spiders, doves, dolphins) across Prince’s vast musical repertoire will also be discussed.
Candace Laughinghouse, “Animal kingdom: exploring the pneumatology of Prince Rogers Nelson”
Known for his destruction of binaries regarding gender and music genre while governing his own identity, Prince Rogers Nelson was also instrumental in creating space for discussing the environment and animal rights. Familiar with Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, Prince embodied the role of the Spirit as “breath” that moves, renews and creates space. Where there is a lack of breath/spirit, an embodied thing will eventually cease to function and there will no longer remain a sense of hope. A pneumatological exploration of the work of Prince Rogers Nelson in “Animal Kingdom” will explore the harsh overlooked realities of commoditizing female animals, speciesism, hierarchy within animal agriculture and the dangers to the land and humanity. This paper will explore the Spirit of Prince by reviewing his pneumatology of caring for earth and animals through this simple song. Honoring earth and animals is not something reserved for Judaism and Christianity. Prince was also commissioning the tenants of African Cosmology that recognizes the interconnectedness of nature, humanity and spirit. The paper seeks to honor the legacy of Prince that is often overlooked and the spaces where he intentional wrote music to explore points where humanity has a role to play in caring for the environment and earth.
Pamela Reed, “Black, purple maroon: Prince Rogers Nelson and his revolutionary quest for freedom”
This study sets out to ponder an underexplored and underappreciated aspect of Prince’s life: his Blackness. As it were, because of the iconicrocker’s determination not to be limited in reach or bound by genre, some in the African American community felt that—beginning with Purple Rain, wherein he was portrayed as biracial—he was running away from his Blackness. The case will be made in this treatment that nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, this article posits that when Prince made the revolutionary decision to write “Slave” on his face and fight for ownership of his master recordings, he made a very conscious choice to highlight the role of race in the economics of music publishing. Continuing his “Slave” analogy, this writer submits that, after his victory over Warner Brothers, Prince was the equivalent of a “runaway slave.” To be more precise, he was a modern-day maroon. That is, an enslaved person who escapes and establishes his/her own existence/community in a safe setting, historically in the mountains, swamps, or other very rugged, inhospitable terrain. In this instance, Paisley Park—located in the Minneapolis suburb called Chanhassen, with its long, brutally cold winters—was The Artist’s metaphorical mountain. His lifelong fight for freedom and his voluminous body of work will be considered in the historical context of marronage, which is literally the process of becoming a maroon or, put another way, liberating oneself from enslavement. There are two types of marronage, petit (temporary) and grand (permanent). To be sure, Prince’s was a grand marronage, lasting until his untimely transition on April 21, 2016. This examination of his lyrical and musical motifs will attempt to begin the process of enshrining Prince Rogers Nelson, the “Purple Yoda from the heart of Minnesota,” as an honored member of the ancestral pantheon of Grand Maroons of the African Diaspora.
Paper session 4c Spiritualities Blegen 110
Erica Thompson, “Willing to do the work: the spiritual mission of Prince”
Prince’s spirituality is anchored in Minnesota, from his early attendance at Glendale Seventh-day Adventist Church and Park Avenue United Methodist Church to his time at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in St Louis Park. Furthermore, Prince relocated his spiritual adviser, Larry Graham, to the city to aid him in religious study, hosted spiritual discussions with fans at Paisley Park and famously proselytized door to door. But before Prince’s conversion to the Jehovah’s Witness faith in 2003, he experienced a period of spiritual turmoil and exploration during the 1990s — despite previously expressing his dedication to Christianity via his Lovesexy and Graffiti Bridge projects. Additionally, about a decade after his conversion, and up until his death, there is evidence to suggest Prince was evolving beyond the Jehovah’s Witness religion. This paper highlights Prince’s spiritual journey from 1990 to 2016 through a story in three parts: Spiritual Wilderness (Prince embraces aspects of eastern religions and Egyptology, and struggles to reconcile his interest in the sacred with his gravitation toward the profane); Realization (Prince becomes a Jehovah’s Witness and drastically changes his approach to creating music and performing); and Doubts and Unanswered Questions (Prince returns to some of his early erotic musical content and embraces occult symbolism, thus arousing suspicion regarding his religious beliefs). To tell the story, the author conducted interviews with Prince’s family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, as well as media professionals who interviewed and wrote about him. The author also studied Prince’s media coverage, comments to the media, lyrics, performances, audience, previous biographies; and the spiritual journeys of other musicians. The goal of the work is to communicate that, despite his fluctuating doctrines, Prince always expressed a belief in God and even adopted a spiritual mission to make others aware of God’s existence.
Chris Johnson, “I am fine: eschatology in Prince’s 1999 and Purple Rain”
“Hello, how R U ? I’m fine, ‘cause I know that the Lord is coming soon, coming, coming soon...” -- Prince, in the backwards outro to “Darling Nikki” from Purple Rain. The political climate in the US was rife with tension at the outset of the 1980s. The Cold War with the Soviet Union was still raging, and President Ronald Reagan was developing a nuclear satellite platform, codenamed “Star Wars.” The threat of nuclear war was real; everyone felt it, including young Minneapolis musician, Prince Rogers Nelson. A song on his 1981 album Controversy stood out as a punk rock plea for diplomacy. “Ronnie, talk to Russia before it’s too late/ Before they blow up the world.” Out of this political tension, a spiritual struggle was born in Prince’s psyche. He had been raised a Seventh Day Adventist. If the end was near, it meant the impending return of the Messiah. In the short term, it meant seizing the day, making the most of whatever time was left on Earth. Prince was thus moved to express both spiritual and sexual freedom in his work. “If I gotta die, I’m gonna listen to my body tonight.” This paper will explore a three-year period in Prince’s career that is saturated with eschatological images and themes. This eschatology, which is heightened by the political zeitgeist, is marked by both spiritual and sexual undertones, illustrating Prince’s personal belief that sex and faith are not (and should not be treated as) mutually exclusive concepts. Through a thorough examination of two of his albums, 1982’s 1999 and 1984’s Purple Rain (as well as a few other songs that were recorded during this period, ultimately released on a subsequent album), I will attempt to paint a clearer picture of Prince’s personal vision of Eschaton, or the End of Days.
Patricia McKee, “‘Lie down beneath my shadow with great delight’: Prince interpreting biblical text through song”
Prince alludes to and quotes Biblical texts from the Old and New Testaments in his songs. This study will interrogate his use of biblical tropes, themes, and quotations to show how Prince exegetes biblical pericopes within the contexts of his songs and albums. How does the artist use Biblical texts rhetorically to enrich the apparent meanings of his lyrics. In turn, how does Prince’s musical composition and arrangement work to interpret Biblical meaning? Rather than speculate on the artist’s religious beliefs, which it could be argued are unknowable beyond a particular point of inquiry, this discussion will examine how Prince specifically interprets the Bible through song.
Jane Clare Jones, “‘Paisley Park is in my heart, but I’m still trying to find my way back home’: on messianic desire in two senses”
As is widely recognized, from at least as early as Controversy (1981), Prince's work was animated by a persistent eschatological impulse, a sexual-spiritual yearning for the ecstasy of redemptive transcendence which fuelled the flow of his near-constant creativity.1 Such messianic yearning is– and this is why it is so perfectly Princely – a structure of human desire, an expression of longing for ultimate, eternal fulfilment that remains in motion precisely because of its impossibility. As suggested by the two tenses embedded in the eschatological invocation, “He is coming,” such desire involves both a drive towards an impossible future, while, at the same time, providing the momentum of an ecstatic and ever-unfolding creative present. The aim of this paper is, therefore, to explore the relation and conflict between these two tenses in Prince’s work and life, paying particular attention to his figuration of desire's fulfilment in the idea of home. We will explore his enduring longing for eternal requiem, expressed near the end of his life in the shattering vulnerability of “Way Back Home” (Art Official Age, 2014), and contrast this with his dream and realization of life-long creative fulfilment represented by and actualized in Paisley Park. What does Prince’s daily performance of ecstatic creativity – an experience he once described to Tavis Smiley as “heaven” – tell us about the possibility of desire's satisfaction within the fleeting temporality of this world, providing we accept that such happiness cannot be, in the words of “Let’s Go Crazy” never-ending? On the other hand, does his life-long longing to find his “way back home” tell us something universal about the impossibility of desire ever being finally satisfied by less than “never-ending” satisfaction, or is it rather, in Prince’s case, a specific symptom of the loss of his early childhood home?
11.00-12.30 Plenary panel 3, “Prince Alumni” Willey Hall 175, U of M West Bank
organized by Jacqui Thomson and PRN Alumni Foundation, moderated by Craig Rice with Harlan Austin, Scottie Baldwin, Kim Berry, Dave Hampton, Mayte Garcia, Stacia Lang, and Sotera Tscheter
12.30-1.45 p.m. Lunch (preordered box lunches available in Atrium, Humphrey)
Wednesday, 1.45-3.00 p.m. Parallel sessions
Community session 5, “Theology of Prince” Cowles, Humphrey
organized by Pamela Ayo Yetunde and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities
Cindi Beth Johnson, Director of The Intersection: Wilson Yates Center for Theology and the Arts and Professor in the Practice of Theology and the Arts Katie Langston, former Marketing Director, who will talk about how the Theology of Prince contest was conceived and marketed Max Brumberg-Kraus, student, who will read his prize-winning poem "Ours to Give" Amoke Kubat, graduate, who will read from her prize-winning essay "The Ascension of Prince" Lisa Myers, student, who will show her prize-winning photograph Pamela Ayo Yetunde, Director of the Interreligious Chaplaincy Program, who will read from her academic article, "Prince: A Spiritual Bioarchetypography of Nondualism and Dialectical Psycho-Spiritual Healing, Part I" Danny Solis, prize winning video, will perform his poem "The Moment of His Arrival" Zada Johnson, prize winning essayist, who will read from her essay "Prince, the Beautiful Oshun: The Purple One as Embodiment of the River Goddess of Love" and in absentia: Vernell Garrett (not present), prize-winning artist whose art will be displayed and description read Lianne Raymond (not present), prize-winning academic article "Prince's Spiritual Terroir" will be read, in part Thomas Wilson (not present), prize-winning poet, whose poem "The Ladder" will be read
Paper session 5a Aesthetics Blegen 445
Robert Loss, “Queer democracy: Prince and the event”
We often consider Prince's body of work to be revolutionary, and rightly so, but it seems to me that we can still better understand why exactly that is. In my book Nothing Has Been Done Before: Seeking the New in 21st Century American Popular Music (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), I argue that Prince's music in the 1980s constitutes what the philosopher Alain Badiou calls an “event,” the historical emergence of a possibility that's been considered impossible. The realization of this possibility is not, however, guaranteed. “Everything will depend,” says Badiou in Philosophy and the Event, “on the way in which the possibility proposed by the event is grasped, elaborated, incorporated and set out in the world. This is what I name a ‘truth procedure’” (10). In my book, I am primarily concerned with how the event and its truth procedure were sustained in Prince's music in the new millennium. For this talk, I'd like to make a more detailed argument about why the brilliant run of albums from Dirty Mind through Lovesexy constituted an event, and what truth procedure was offered and performed by Prince in those years. They can be summed up by the term “queer democracy”: a sphere of being in which everything a person can be is suddenly possible—black, white, gay, bi, a rock star, a pop star, a sinner, a saint—and more importantly, possible all at once, and most importantly, possible for all people. The “ultra-fusion” of Prince's music is the ultra-fusion of our selves, a more complicated, more sublime, more fluctuating way of being than what is suggested by the concept of “identity.” The individual flux of queerness is reciprocated by social, political, and cultural flux in which all voices and all bodies are, as Badiou terms it, “counted” equally despite their differences in a body politic. What remains vital, and beautiful, is how Prince and his fellow musicians carried forth this truth procedure in the studio and onstage, making potential a reality through performance.
Casci Ritchie, “Before the rain, 1980-1984: how Prince got ‘the look’”
Prince’s impact on fashion has yet to be fully explored by dress historians. Today he stands alone as a revolutionary artist in popular music history with an immortal purple legacy and iconic look forever imprinted in our pop culture mind. Prince’s self-created image was a result of the melting pot of influences of those around him, the city he grew up in Minneapolis and his “Uptown” ideals. The 1980 album release Dirty Mind launched a more provocative image and sound and introduced the world to his band, soon to be named The Revolution. Blurring race, gender and sexuality Prince strutted onstage in stockings, intimidating and arousing crowds alike performing a fusion of funk, new wave, punk, R&B, and rock. The fashion worn by Prince and his band during this influential time foreshadowed what we now view as the epitome of Prince’s style, which of course became iconic in the 1984 cult phenomenon Purple Rain. This paper will explore Prince’s style and creation of self through this dynamic time — focusing on archival garments, press photographs, album art, concert footage and interviews. The author will pinpoint pivotal moments in this journey and creatively explore the origins, development and impact of his style. An object study will focus on the trench-coat as a key garment in Prince’s sartorial life. The evolution and cultural history of this garment will be examined in relation to the role played by the garment in shaping the young provocateur of Dirty Mind into the prolific icon of today. So what came before the Rain?
Stefan Zaric, “Fashioning Minneapolis: towards the Prince fashion exhibit” (via Skype)
By affirming fashion as an art form, fashion exhibitions became expedient ways for museums to look daring and non-traditional. As such, fashion museology, following the success of The Met and V&A’s shows, is becoming one of the leading tendencies within present day museum practices. While New York and London dominate the production of fashion exhibitions, their increase outside these centers suggests that other cities aim to present their own fashion heritage and step out of the margins as well. The artistic legacy of Minnesota native Prince Roger Nelson, which was besides music undoubtedly formed largely based on his fashion sensationalism, can serve as a productive ground for Minneapolis to inscribe itself on the map of fashion capitals as both in his music and appearance Prince deconstructed traditional artistic expression. Codes that the artist belonged to – androgyny, non-heteronormativity, non-whiteness, and his Minnesota origin, combined with codes he consciously transposed in his art – sexuality, spectacle, fashion, and social consciousness, helped him structure his language as an artist and create an eclectic, unorthodox style. This presentation aims to show how mentioned codes work unified through lenses of fashion, and moreover, how Prince’s heterogeneous aesthetics can be potentially read through a fashion exhibition devoted to him. By doing so, the author wants to show how such exhibit might scramble some of the more cynical codes of the high-end New York / London fashion exhibition and ask a question: Where would it be more (culturally) appropriate to exhibit Prince’s style than in Minnesota?
Joni Todd, “Paint a perfect picture: a content analysis of references to color and artistic imagery in Prince’s lyrics”
Everyday is a yellow day. Purple rain. Love is the color this place imparts. The gold experience. Some days I feel tangerine. Prince’s lyrics are replete with references to color – not only as adjectives, but also as a means to describe emotions or invoke feelings. Along with his expressive use of color, Prince’s lyrics often refer to the act of creating art and even use it as a metaphor for making music. For example, in the Lovesexy tour book Prince compares the creation of The Black Album to painting a picture. For modern painter and art theorist Vasily Kandinsky, who was widely believed to have had synesthesia, color and music were inextricably intertwined. A pioneer of non-objective painting, Kandinsky believed art should be concerned with the spiritual; and that these feelings could be conveyed through a universal language of colors and forms. He felt that “the psychological effects of colours were ... vibrations of the soul;” and published his thoughts on the psychology of colors, their relationship to music, and the language of form and color in his influential book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In addition, Kandinsky applied these theories to his teachings at the Bauhaus, the legendary German art school. How can Prince’s use of color be categorized? What meanings are attributed to specific colors; is there a relationship to the song’s subject matter? How do ideas of spirituality and transcendence fit into both men’s work? Are there parallels between Paisley Park (as both a concept and a physical place) and the utopian spirit of the Bauhaus? Using Kandinsky’s writings as a starting point, this paper will analyze references to color and artistic imagery in Prince’s lyrics to explore how Prince used color and music to “paint a perfect picture, bring to life a vision in one’s mind.”
Paper session 5b Paisley Park II Mondale 3
Hilarie Ashton, “‘Cruising Uptown: Prince, Paisley Park, and José Esteban Muñoz”
People inhabit places complexly and contradictorily. Prince, I think, stayed in Minneapolis, and in Chanhassen specifically, because he wanted to, and because he made within them a place to be his anchor as fame swirled around him: the creative compound of Paisley Park. His complex manner of habitation was different from a lot of other stars of his stature, though, and more like a terrestrial shaping of the potential and illusion and mode of queerness, all concepts that José Esteban Muñoz articulates in his beloved and powerful book Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. Queerness was an identity Prince embodied even if he wouldn't always have used the word. In his ways of rooting in and moving through Minneapolis, Prince concretized what Muñoz calls the “not yet here ... an ideality”. The sanctuary Prince created in the form of Paisley Park was almost an answer to Elvis’ Graceland, and yet he appeared regularly in his community, up until his awful death. He cultivated community, too, by throwing parties, in ways that Elvis never did. And despite his towering talent and the fact of most of a life lived in the public eye, he never stopped doing some “normal” things: the week before he died, he was riding his bike around Chanhassen. In this paper, I’ll interrogate the metaphysical (and physical) spaces Prince moved through by being both isolated and populist, “normal” and out-of-this-world, and the ways he expressed all of these sides of himself in the both embodied and metaphysical universes of his music. As Muñoz put it: “Concrete utopias ... are the hopes of a collective, an emergent group, or even the solitary oddball who is the one who dreams for many. Concrete utopias are the realm of educated hope”. If it were possible to distill who Prince was for us into one phrase, it might be “the one who dreams for many,” and he chose to do that from a very particular anchoring home.
David Farley, “‘There’s a place I want to go...’: heterotopias from Minneapolis to Marz”
While Prince had already released five studio albums by 1984 and Minneapolis had long been a bustling musical scene, the album Purple Rain fused performer and place together in a way that would define both Prince’s career and the Minneapolis sound. The city of MPLS, the venue of First Avenue, even the shores of lake pseudo-Minnetonka all show that “place” was important to Prince’s conception of who he was, where he came from, and where he was going. This importance of place can be seen throughout his career, from the construction of Paisley Park, a massive recording studio that served as both home and studio that originated in the psychedelic lyrics of a song; to the similarly fanciful location of Graffiti Bridge; or to his residence in LA the address of which was 3121. The importance of place can also be seen in Prince’s forays into cyberspace, where the various iterations of the NPG Music Club relied heavily on design elements that replicated an actual residence, with different rooms serving different purposes. In this paper, I want to argue that many of Prince’s “places” can best be understood as variations of “heterotopias.” According to Michel Foucault and elaborated on by later critics such as Edward Soja and Henri Lefebvre, heterotopias are places that are both real and imaginary, places that are radically “other.” They serve as sites outside of hegemonic structures (like, say a studio system). Unlike Utopias, which are ideal and unreal, heterotopias are mixed, other, and potentially sites of struggle where ideal representations get worked out. Tracing this concept throughout Prince’s career, up to an including those odd dislocations and disembodiment in “Affirmation III” (from 2014’s Art Official Age), I aim to show that Prince’s various conceptions of heterotopia were central to his artistic process.
Emma Balázs, “Communitas interrupted: the fence at Paisley Park as site of mourning”
Following Prince’s death, Minneapolis become a destination of secular pilgrimage, with Paisley Park as its heart. The first and major site of pilgrimage following Prince’s death was the chain-link fence surrounding Paisley Park. The north-west stretches of the fence were publicly accessible from the street and soon functioned as a shrine, where people left handwritten letters, flowers, guitars, handmade artworks, photos, candles, soft toys, t-shirts, purple underwear, Doritos, balloons, purple locks and pancakes in the hours, then the months, following his death. Visitors could come and go as they pleased and take quiet time to place their own tributes, take in all the other contributions, and meet other people from the Prince community, all in full view of the building and grounds where Prince lived, worked and died. The fence tributes were taken down twice, once by the estate, and a second time by the management of Paisley Park Museum, and it was reported they had carefully archived all the contents, though this was contested by fans who witnessed the process. Less than six months after Prince’s death, shortly before the museum opened, the new museum’s management banned anything further being left on the fence, effectively closing down this reflective, liminal space of mourning and gathering. A small selection of highly presentable works from the fence tributes now form a display in the corner of the gift shop of the Paisley Park Museum. Visitors to Paisley Park Museum can pay to take a highly scripted tour of the inside of the building, but there is nowhere for people to gather nor a place to leave their own memorials to Prince. This paper traces the brief but important life cycle of the fence as site of mourning and gathering in the context of key understandings from pilgrimage studies, including communitas and liminality, and considers the implications of the closure of this site.
Courtney Cox, “Partying at Paisley Park: an oral history of Prince’s relationship with the Minnesota Lynx”
Following the Minnesota Lynx’s win over the Indiana Fever in a decisive Game 5 of the 2015 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Finals, Prince invited the team and staff to a private concert at the Paisley Park compound where they entered to the sound of the music legend at the piano. He serenaded them, playing various instruments and performing his greatest hits and newer records, until four in the morning. Prince’s relationship with basketball is well-documented, as is his love of all things Minnesota. His celebration of the Lynx’s championship (their third in five seasons) reflects the combination of these two passions. This article recreates Prince’s post-championship performance for the Lynx. Through interviews with Minnesota Lynx players and personnel, an oral history of Prince’s relationship with the team and the private concert is constructed, analyzed and organized into themes. Both the interviews and media archival material collected assess the symbiotic relationship between sport and music. Anthony Bateman describes this connection when he writes that “both music and sport have the capacity for emotional stimulation and the ability to evoke a tangible sense of time and place, while both also involve performance, audience/spectator reception and narrative.” This submission interrogates the intersections of space, place, sport, and of course, music. It is also of note to consider how Prince’s support of the Lynx reflects his larger lifetime contribution to supporting, mentoring and elevating women in industries where their work is often ignored or degraded. As Time’s Sean Gregory writes: “Sports lost a favorite fan. The world lost so much more.”
Session 5c Roundtable “40th Anniversary of For You: Prince’s evolution and legacy” Anderson 310 with Adrian Bautista, Zachery Johnson, Zada Johnson, and Roy Kay organized by Judson Jeffries, moderated by Nancy Holland
The legendary artist Prince entered the public domain in 1977, signing a lucrative contract with Warner Brothers. Forty years later, a special issue of the Journal of African American Studies, devoted to one of the world’s most talented artists and released in fall 2017, coincided with that anniversary. In 1978, Prince released his debut album, For You, to which listeners were introduced to a virtuoso, as he played every instrument and sang all the vocals (on at least one of the songs), something unheard of, then and now. For You was a harbinger of things to come. Prince would go on to produce, oversee, and control all aspects of his artistry. In the days, weeks and months that followed, musicians and writers the world over tried to express verbally, musically, and in written form the meaning of this great loss. This roundtable engages in a discussion about Prince’s evolution, how well For You has held up over the years, and Prince’s legacy and lasting impact on society.
3.00-3.30 p.m. Starfish and coffee Central lobby, Rarig Building
3.30-4.45 p.m. Plenary panel 4, “Come” Whiting Proscenium Theater, Rarig Building with LaMonda Horton-Stallings, Alisha Jones, and Elliott Powell
LaMonda Horton-Stallings, "Another world space and joy: quiet storm Prince"
In this presentation, I explore what Prince did to and for quiet storm Radio, moving it away from its earliest blue light basement iterations to something else. Specifically, I will examine several of his slow jams, those written and performed by him, as well as other artists such as the Time and Melissa Morgan. In doing so I demonstrate how Prince served as an interstice between blue light basement slow-jams and new jack R&B on quiet storm radio. I further explore how Prince used the falsetto, pitched vocals, and unique rhythms to shift quiet storm from Smokey Robinson's canonical use of the falsetto in traditional phallocentric R&B, while also laying the foundation for using sonic innovation to encourage desire and sex acts less reliant upon penetrative sex or a phallus. In focusing on the sonic and lyrical, I expand this conversation to think about how his songs become the embodiment of a queer slow dance for the ways in which they provide rhythmic cartography not typically associated with blue light basement jams, as well as technological arrangements of androgyny to intervene on heteronormative regimes of eros, desire, and romance in the quiet storm playlist.
5.00-6.15 p.m. Plenary session 4, “Black” WhitingProscenium Theater, Rarig Building
with Greg Tate and Alexander Ghedi Weheliye introduced by Arun Saldanha, moderated by Zenzele Isoke