LIANZA #Open2017 – Future Sound of Libraries / B-sides and rarities

This is the final part of a series on the LIANZA #Open17 library conference.

So you’ve seen how we planned a keynote where the main speaker keeps their mouth taped shut for nigh-on an hour. Seen what happened over the course of that hour. And even seen the consequences of the event.

This is the last post in this series setting out our process, so you can think about how to run such an activity, and push the boundaries even further than we did.

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In this entry I’m just going to focus on all the stuff which remained below the waterline – songs which didn’t make it to the final session, videos which inspired us but whose inspiration might not be very visible in the finished product.

Stuff we watched

I already mentioned how the TV show Legion‘s ‘Bolero’ dance sequence was a big influence on the LIANZA keynote, but that’s not the only moment where that show used music and dance to carry the narrative.

We included the Bassnectar remix of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ in our event as a tribute to this sequence in Legion, where the villainous Aubrey Plaza stalks through earlier scenes in the show at her moment of triumph.

(And there was Legion‘s Serge Gainsbourg bit too).

I thought back to how the makers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had challenged themselves by creating a musical episode and a dialogue-free instalment.

We also looked at Neil Patrick Harris’ spectacular 2013 Tony Awards opening…

…and his ‘Sugar Daddy’ from Hedwig and the Angry Inch for further inspiration.

(In the end, the keynote itself didn’t get very Hedwig, but the conference dinner theme was James Bond…which can get a bit tedious and patriarchal, with all the guys in tuxedos and all the women glamming up, and maybe just a few novelty costumes on the side…so that was our opportunity to push the gender boundaries a bit. I went as Charlize Theron’s character in Atomic Blonde, and the great Kim Tairi went as one of the other main characters in that Cold War spy thriller).

Stuff we listened to

I love working with music. I got to make a playlist for the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll Writers Festival in Brisbane, and have written about using songs in writers’ workshops too.

Songs which almost made it to the final version of the LIANZA keynote included:

Kiwi classic “Andy”, by the Front Lawn, to give a specifically New Zealand inflection to our discussion of music, librarianship, and grief.

‘Six’ by Mansun, to chide librarians for when they fail to live up to their own highest ideals:

At one point, I had been living with the keynote plans for so long, I feared that it was still too tame. Wanting something louder and more confrontational, we almost incorporated Nicki Minaj’s ‘Roman’s Revenge’…

…but ultimately decided that this was just my own loss of perspective from spending so much time working on the project, and the “tame” version would be plenty provocative as it was.

Sometimes you have to know when to step back, as well as when to press on. And I’m sure Nicki will get her library moment at some future event!

Choosing music for a presentation is difficult. It’s good to be personal and idiosyncratic, but when does that get self-indulgent? (I spared you any excerpts from The Craft soundtrack, a memory-laden album from my high school years). The conference dinner theme was James Bond, so I almost chose something Bond-ish to go in the session, but it didn’t really fit.

I’d also point out here that once you’ve used a favourite or significant song in a workshop, keynote, or other event, it may be tainted by that association. Be wary of using a beloved tune at work: its personal meaning may be marred after you’ve shared it in this context.

Finally, when choosing five songs for the create-a-library-programme-in-fifteen-minutes section, I had to think about not only how well the songs fit together, but also the balance of male and female performers, of music by artists of white or black or other ethnic origins, music in languages other than English, contemporary tracks and familiar classics.

You can judge for yourself how well I did. Perhaps I should have included some more music by contemporary Indigenous performers, using the expertise of someone like Chris Cormack on Twitter.

So there you have it: pretty much the soup-to-nuts account of how you create a keynote where the speaker’s mouth is taped shut for most of the event, where the audience are given opportunities to participate, and you end up with a crowd of presenters on the stage, plus coverage for your library conference in the national press.

Go out there. Do your thing. Don’t settle for death-by-Powerpoint, or preaching from the podium. Exceed our expectations and our accomplishments. Challenge your audiences. Scare yourselves. Make a better world.


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