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149 8 Music Festivals as Scenes: Examples from Serious Music, Womyn’s Music, and SkatePunk Timothy J. Dowd, Kathleen Liddle, and Jenna Nelson Music festivals exist for numerous and diverse music genres. Festivals resemble local scenes, as they occur in a delimited space, offering a collective opportunity for performers and fans to experience music and other lifestyle elements. However, festivals are also components of broader music scenes that simultaneously exist on local, translocal, and virtual levels. This chapter highlights three characteristics of music festivals that, taken together, enhance the scenes perspective. First, while music festivals occur more rarely than do events that constitute local scenes, the intensity of a festival compensates for its infrequency. Drawn together from geographically dispersed locations and away from the expectations of everyday life, fans and performers can immerse themselves in a particular culture and experiment with different identities. This intensity can have several consequences. For instance, the complexity of festival logistics leads those in charge to adopt formal organizational structures. It also demands commitment from attendees, as they must be willing to immerse themselves in festival culture, as well as make arrangements for travel, vacation time, and attendance fees. If we draw a religious analogy, comparing the events of a local music scene to a weekly church service, ScenesFinalPages.indd 149 4/12/04 5:08:13 PM 150 Translocal Scenes then the festival—with the challenges involved in participation—more closely resembles a pilgrimage destination. Also, as with a pilgrimage, the experience of being temporarily immersed in festival culture can profoundly transform attendees. Second, music festivals face time constraints that demand deliberate boundary work on the part of organizers. While the regularly occurring events of a local scene allow boundaries to emerge organically, festival organizers must make explicit decisions regarding the appropriate music for inclusion or the characteristics of acceptable participants (Santoro 2002). The resulting boundaries shape how a given festival relates to local, translocal, and virtual scenes. Finally, music festivals often create change beyond their own borders. This catalytic potential stems from the intensity of such events. Festivals can provide a forum for creating, mobilizing, and rejuvenating both performers and audience, as when they helped revive the bluegrass genre (Peterson 1997). They can also facilitate changes that may not be viewed as positive, such as their contribution to the commercialization of popular music (Seiler 2000). To illustrate these characteristics of intensity, boundary work, and impact , we focus on three recurrent festivals that span both disparate genres and time. We begin with the Yaddo Music Festival (1932–1952), a gathering for “serious” composers in the United States that helped expand the range of “high culture” music in America. Next, we turn to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (1976–present), an annual women-only festival that celebrates women’s music and feminist ideology. Finally, we discuss the Vans Warped Tour (1994–present), an annual touring festival that features alternative, punk, and hardcore bands, which taps into the current resurgence of skateboarding culture. In offering these three cases, we draw on primary (for example, press releases, organizational documents) and secondary sources (for example, histories, biographies), supplemented by interviews with participants in a particular festival or scene. Yaddo Music Festival The Yaddo Festival emerged amidst the musical flux of the early to mid1900s . Classical music thrived as never before in the United States (DiMaggio 1991; Dowd et al. 2002), through an exploding number of symphony orchestras, an expanding presence in university curricula, and the products of emergent recording and radio industries. Despite this increased availabilScenesFinalPages .indd 150 4/12/04 5:08:13 PM Music Festivals 151 ity of musical “high culture,” the emphasis on works of deceased European composers hindered the attempts of living U.S. composers to disseminate their music (Dowd et al. 2002; Zuck 1980). Consequently, these avant-garde composers founded organizations (for example, the League of Composers ) that championed “serious music”—a label used by some composers to distinguish contemporary, dissonant music from the “classical music” of Beethoven and others. Milton Babbitt, an eminent composer and Pulitzer Prize recipient, noted in a 1994 interview that these organizations “made it possible for [serious composers] to hear live performances of these things that they would not otherwise hear. It gave them some sense of what had been going on. . . . And made it possible for them to hear their own music. There’s nothing more important than that.”1 The Yaddo Music Festival resulted from the impetus of Aaron Copland —a premier...


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