Saturday, June 4th: Road Music - The TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies
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Saturday, June 4th: Road Music


The idea of the open road creates a deep link between Dylan and the Beats—a shared belief in the values of freedom, mobility, escape, and self-invention made possible by post-war American automobile culture.  The rambler and the rounder, the gambler and the hitchhiker, the drag racer and the rolling stone all weave their ways powerfully in and out of Dylan’s music.  It’s nearly impossible, in fact, to imagine Dylan’s art without the open road, which runs alongside the rivers and railways that carried the blues music from the muddy delta of the Mississippi, through hot jazz cities like Memphis and Kansas City, and on up into the northern reaches on Minnesota where he set out in search of his home.

This second day of the symposium will focus on Dylan’s road music and the debts it owes to the Beats—a debt famously acknowledged when the Rolling Thunder Revue paused in Lowell, Massachusetts for a quiet séance at the Jack Kerouac’s grave.  These sessions will look not only at Dylan’s music, but also at the larger role of the road in the imagination of American identity.  The Beats, typically seen as largely white and male, had a rather different experience of traveling America’s highways and backroads than Black Americans who followed the Green Guides and had to steer clear of dangerous sundown towns. Yet, Black musicians and artists faced these challenges and traversed America’s by-ways anyway to forge world-changing music in their recordings and performances, many that influenced and enabled Dylan and the Beats.  Women, who too faced challenges while traveling, found new opportunities and identities on the road, creating their own counterpoint to the male visions of Kerouac and Dylan.  That new-found freedom—both spatial and sonic—then helped transform American music.

Road Music

All times listed are Central Daylight Time (UTC/GMT -5:00 hours)

8:30am              Continental Breakfast

9:00am           Panel: Hard Travelin’

Maria Damon, Pratt Institute

“Tangled Up in Crackling Blueness: Memory and Opacity in Bob Kaufman, Bob Dylan, and the late 1950s Counterculture”

Holly George-Warren, Journalist 

“From Desolation Angels to Desolation Row: The Kerouac-Dylan Connection”

10:00am              Break

10:30am           Keynote Address: Dylan’s Art of Collage

Rona Cran, University of Birmingham

“‘Great art can be done on a jukebox’: Bob Dylan and the Art of Collage”

11:30am            Lunch

1:30pm           Panel: Catching a Ride

Gina Arnold, Journalist and Scholar

“On the Road with On The Road: our never-ending romance with rock ‘n’ roll touring.”

Jack Reid, Author and Scholar

“An Unfiltered Dose of the Human Condition: Hitchhiking on the Open Road”

2:30pm            Break

3:00pm              Panel: Story, Song, and Poetry

Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama

“Iconic Vernacular: Dylan and the Songbooks”

Ernest Suarez, Catholic University of America

“Poetic Song Verse: Blues-Based Popular Music and Poetry”

4:00pm               Break

4:30pm             Panel: The Rolling Thunder Revue

Timothy Gray, City University of New York

“‘A change in the weather is known to be extreme’: Bob Dylan in 1975”

John Milward, Journalist and Author

“On the Road Again: Bob Dylan and the Company He Keeps”

5:30pm               Reception at the Zarrow Center

7:30pm              Featured Keynote Address <Virtual>

Steve Earle in Conversation with Jeff Slate