Verdun resident and McGill music professor Lloyd Whitesell joins six others to pay tribute to Canadian singer song-writer Joni Mitchell in a virtual conference held by the University of Connecticut this coming Friday, April 9.

The celebration marks 50 years since Mitchell released her self-produced album Blue.

“Blue has been cited by many musicians and critics as her greatest (and saddest) album,” says event organizer Peter Kaminsky. “The culmination of her early recordings, a work unprecedented in its emotional and psychological depth, craftsmanship, and sheer beauty. 1

The album had a big effect on Whitesell, who first heard it as a music student.

We were listening to the album Blue and grooving on it and getting all, you know, sort of, you know, melancholy…We were trying to learn how to be performers and here was this amazing song writer who just projected so directly all these emotions…If you look across all her songs, she takes on all these amazingly different voices from just simple souls who are just chatting, you know, or just jamming with friends.

Whitesell wondered how Mitchell did what she did. Were there particular chords she used? How did she balance harmony, melody and her ability to take on different voices?

Eventually, Whitesell moved into academia where he could begin to document Joni Mitchell’s talent and sophistication as a composer. He published the results of his investigation in a book published by Oxford Press in 2008. “The music of Joni Mitchell” remains one of the few works that dissects Mitchell’s music rather than her life choices.

During Friday’s presentation, Whitesell will highlight how Mitchell’s use of jumpcut and dissolve special effects evolved throughout her musical career.

Two other McGill professors, Nicole Biomonte and Daniel Levitin will also participate in the conference. Levitin, who now lives in California, is the author of This Is Your Brain On Music.

Anyone can register to attend “Joni Mitchell’s Blue at 50” University of Connecticut conference for $10 at https://joniblueconference.wixsite.com/mysite.

To learn more about Verdun resident Lloyd Whitesell, check out my podcast interview and his bio at McGill University.