(Note: I'll be doing an actual conference review for the Cycling '74 newsletter in a week or two; here's just some simple notes from the front...)
It is important to prepare for a music conference - especially one that will be dealing with modern (and especially computer-based) music. The main thing is to get yourself into the right frame of mind, and to have goals that you wish to achieve during your time there.
Goals like meeting great people, or being inspired to make new work, or catching up on your reading.
But it helps to have some grounding material. To that end, I provide you with two bits of reading that have always helped me:
1. David Zicarelli's Keynote for the 2001 ICMC Conference
If you know David, you'll understand the wry humor in full bloom in this speech. What you may not know is that he didn't give it - it was read by Richard Dudas in his place. And maybe rightly so, since it threw some tomatoes at some of the work being shown at ICMC. Nevertheless, it is a great think-piece about the place of all this stuff within the framework of what we actually need.
2. Bob Ostertag's Discussion about Computer Music Submissions to Ars Electronica
Referenced in David's piece is this discussion by Bob Ostertag, which is maybe even more pointed about the sameness and sheep-like herding toward a 'goal' that is rather vague and completely useless. Also a grim reminder of what it is like to be part of any 'competition' when it comes to music.