The Electric Guitar in Popular Culture ConferenceGuitarConferenceLogo

On March 27 I had the pleasure of traveling to Bowling Green to attend the first day of The Electric Guitar in Popular Culture Conference which was hosted by the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University and received funding from Ohio Humanities. As a longtime (bass) guitar player and a fan of guitar music in general, I was very much looking forward to the conference and interested to see how the interaction between armature aficionados, academic experts and casual fans would play out.

After opening remarks, the conference began with featured speaker Martin Popoff.  Popoff, a highly respected and prolific writer on rock music, focused his presentation on a succession of “guitar heroes”, or those musicians that have expanded the guitar both musically and within the popular imagination (think Jimi Hendrix). Along with many interesting details, I was impressed with Popoff’s ability to relate to the larger historic and cultural context, which can sometimes be lacking in accounts of the history of popular music. The presentation was well received by the audience, who were very engaged in asking questions following Popoff’s talk.

I was similarly impressed with the panel discussion I attended, especially with regards to audience participation.  Here, academic professionals presented and explored the guitar in a variety of contexts, including musical theater, Indian popular music, and comic books.  Despite the wide variety of topics, the presenters and audience engaged in what I considered very meaningful conversation which was characterized by the audience members making many of their own extrapolations about how the electric guitar fit into their context of interest based on examples given by the presenters.  In my opinion, it is the development of these types of interactions that make humanities programing so impactful.

Overall, I came away quite impressed with the folks at the Department of Popular Culture at BGSU, the presenters, and the audience and I encourage all to be on the lookout for opportunities like this in their area.