York’s pop musicologist helps resurrect ‘Memphis sound’

Rob Bowman, rock music historian in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts and biographer of Stax Records – famous for the “Memphis sound” – has played a key role in establishing the Stax Museum of American Soul Music which opened this week in Memphis, TN, reported that city’s The Commercial Appeal April 30. The newspaper described Bowman as a white professor of ethnomusicology at York who is one of the museum project’s top three decision makers. The museum is on the same hallowed street corner as the original studio and chronicles the phenomenal success in the ’60s and ’70s of the record company with musicians such as Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Sam and Dave. The Stax signature sound was, from the outset, integrated at a time when integrated bands were still unusual, noted the Appeal. In interviews for his book, Bowman said, Stax folks often brought up the race factor, but in a positive way. “A lot of people I talked to called it an oasis of racial sanity,” Bowman said. “Stax itself was a manifestation of Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, not because they were forced to work together, but because they had a common purpose: to make music.”

Prying game an inexact science

With lie detectors and truth serums discredited and standard police interrogation practices shown to be unreliable, other solutions are being aggressively pushed as a guaranteed way to get at the truth, reported The Toronto Star May 2. One is brainwave fingerprinting, patented as Mermer, a system that records electroencephalographic response to visual stimuli. Suspects are shown three different types of visual stimuli, including one that supposedly would cause brain activity only in someone who was concealing guilty knowledge. Its originator has claimed 100 per cent success. But many brainwave experts remain unconvinced. “Until I see this with my own eyes, I won’t believe it,” says Anthony Singhal, who is finishing a PhD in York University’s psychology department working with Barry Fowler, a Canadian pioneer in p300 research and a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science. Singhal is in the process of setting up an experiment to try to replicate published findings about Mermer. One key question is how the Mermer brainwave relates actual neurological activity. The second is the huge potential for misusing brain fingerprinting. “There are so many possibilities for this to get screwed up and produce a false signal. That’s quite a risk if it’s being used to determine guilt or innocence,” Singhal says.

Creativity in the air with Munya at AGYU

Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) exhibits Munya Madzima’s The greatest weapon that was used against the Afrikan is: THE GUN, THE CAMERA AND THE BIBLE from April 28 to May 11. Using found objects and recycled material, Madzima’s sculpture and kinetic works reflect an improvisatory practice, wrote Andrea Raymond in The North York Mirror April 25. Exploring notions of identity and dislocation, Madzima’s fabricated film projectors and cannon machine-gun are both menacing and humorous, adapting so-called democratizing technologies to subversive ends. Madzima’s exhibition in the gallery is accompanied by an installation of paintings in York University’s Vari Hall.

On air

  • York women’s studies Professor Andrea O’Reilly spoke May 1 about the conference on mothering starting May 2 at Toronto’s York University, on “News” (CFBC-AM), Saint John, and (CJLS-AM), Yarmouth.
  • Dennis Raphael, professor of health and policy management at York University’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, was guest speaker at the Ajax Pickering Social Development Council’s annual meeting, reported “First Local” (ROG-DUR), Durham Region, April 30.