Bienvenue á Montréal!
For the first time in its history, SAM heads north of the border to La Belle Province for our 43rd annual conference. We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful and vibrant city, bursting with great music, dining, theatre, and museums. Our conference hotel is the Marriott Chateau Champlain, which is well located in the city center, in close proximity to Old Montréal and its many charming restaurants, galleries, and architectural treasures.
Special events are the following: Thursday evening we will confer honorary membership on Dr. Beverley Diamond, distinguished Canadian ethnomusicologist. The ceremony will be followed by a light reception. Following the reception, we invite you to attend a concert of twentieth and twenty-first century music by Canadian composers at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University (Tanna Schulich Hall). The annual Sacred Harp Sing will also be held Thursday evening at the Schulich School of Music in the Wirth Opera Studio. A Friday afternoon excursion will take the form of an organ crawl through some of the city’s historic churches. Montréal offers many interesting museums, restaurants, and shopping venues. We will provide directions so that you can explore these and other sights at your leisure throughout the conference. The second Vivian Perlis Concert will be held Friday evening in one of McGill’s architectural gems, Redpath Hall. The concert will feature the music of Aaron Copland, Harold Meltzer, and Marc Mellits.
For those of you who prefer more of a “spectacle,” consider attending the Opéra de Montréal’s performance Another Brick in the Wall, an operatic version of music of Roger Water’s The Wall, adapted by Québec composer Julien Bilodeau. This production is being mounted to mark the 375th anniversary of Montréal (legend has it that it was after a concert at Montréal’s Olympic Stadium in 1977 that Roger Waters got the idea for the project).
The entertainment at the banquet on Saturday evening will be Stéphanie Lépine (voice, fiddle) and Jean-François Branchaud (guitar, fiddle, voice, feet). The duo of Lépine and Branchaud hail from the Lanaudière region, a hotbed of traditional music in Québec. Their performances encompass the full range of the French-Canadian tradition, from fiery fiddling and foot-tapping to poignant vocal harmonies. After the banquet, they will be joined by a dance caller for an evening of Québécois square dances. To quote from their website: “Ils sauront vous charmer par leurs ambiances éloquentes et intrépides, parfois séductrices, rêveuses et soucieuses.”
This year’s program includes several exciting sessions highlighting Canadian music. Thursday’s session “Naughty Nightlife” will feature talks on jazz and musical theater in mid-twentieth century Montréal. Don’t miss Friday evening’s lecture recital honoring Canadian-Argentinian composer alcides lanza (b. 1929), organized by the Latin American and Caribbean Music Interest Group. lanza himself will appear as both panelist and performer. On Saturday morning, entire sessions are devoted to Québécois Composers and Musical Responses to Violence and Tragedy in Canada.
We’ve also scheduled three lecture-recitals that many of you will want to attend. On Thursday afternoon, violinist Katharina Uhde and pianist R. Larry Todd will perform Amy Beach’s Violin Sonata in A minor, op. 34, and discuss its “methods peculiar to Brahms.” On Friday afternoon, soprano Marti Newland and pianist Magdalena Stern-Baczewska will perform concert spirituals and talk about their place and dialect in contemporary recital programs. And on Saturday afternoon, baritone Matthew Hoch and pianist Joshua Pifer will perform Canadian composer Jacques Desjardins’s “Homme Sweet Homme” and discuss how music can respond to tragedy.
We would like to express our gratitude to the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, our conference host, for their support. A huge thanks also to the Executive Director Mariana Whitmer, organizer extraordinaire, and SAM President Charles Hiroshi Garrett. For more information (and links) check out the conference website.
A Break in the Color Barrier: African Americans and World War I Sheet Music
By Michael Saffle and Robert Groves
Editor’s note: 2017 marks the centenary of the United States’ entry into World War I. Some 400,000 African Americans enlisted in the military, where they served despite segregation and lack of official recognition for their valor. To commemorate this event, Michael Saffle (Virginia Tech) and Robert Groves (North Dakota State University) have collaborated on this illustrated feature article on depictions of black servicemen in World War I-era sheet music. The images below have been digitized from Dr. Groves’s personal collection of rare song sheets. Click on the images to enlarge them.
Stereotypical depictions of blackness are as old as American popular song. As early as the 1820, images of blacks—including the urban dandy and rural slave—began to appear on the American stage. Early examples of “coon songs,” a Tin Pan Alley trade term for racist song-sheets, were in print by the 1880s, and the genre flourished throughout the 1890s and early 1900s.1 Most of these songs made cruel fun of stereotyped black people; their lyrics featured dialect English often incorporating references to chickens, watermelons, razors, theft, and laziness. By the late 1890s, their covers were graced with eye-catching and almost invariably unpleasant cover illustrations. A number of successful coon songs were even composed by African Americans, notably Bob Cole, although white Tin Pan Alley notables—Irving Berlin among them—wrote the majority of them. At least 600 coon songs appeared in print during the 1890s.2
Coon songs in the late 1890s often were associated with cakewalks and ragtime, and shortly before World War I ragtime was itself associated with jazz and, to some extent, with blues.3 Most turn-of-the-century coon songs featured popular rag rhythms, and some ragtime songs and solo-piano numbers featured cover illustrations reminiscent of coon songs. “Mah Ragtime Baby” (1898) is one example, Charles Harris’s “Possum and Taters” (1900) another. Serious black rag composers used more poetic titles with handsome covers; “The Cascades” (1904) and “Pegasus” (1920), for instance, were composed (respectively) by African Americans Scott Joplin and James Scott. By 1917 ragtime gradually had given way to the new blues and jazz styles that were taking the country by storm. But elements of racial prejudice lingered even in more enlightened musical circles. The cover of “Everybody Loves a ‘Jass’ Band” (1917), for instance, depicts a caricatured, cake-walking black man, accompanied by a military band composed of white performers. The cover of “The Blue Melody” (1917), on the other hand, a self-proclaimed “‘Jass’ craze” number, includes a photograph of a well-known, all-white ensemble as well as a drawing of a distinguished gentleman playing a grand piano, complete with pre-Liberace candelabra.
Shortly before World War I began in 1914, coon songs had more or less disappeared from Tin Pan Alley. The last two known examples issued by New York City firms—“The Coon Town Quartet” and George M. Cohan’s “Oh You Beautiful Coon”—appeared in 1912. Both of them lacked the mean-spirited stereotypes that had flourished for thirty years or more. However, these stereotypes persisted in music published outside New York; “Nigger War Bride Blues” (1917) is as nasty as the nastiest turn-of-the-century songs. Its Houston, Texas publishers Thomas Goggan and “Bro” must have been compelled to print copies with the less offensive title “War Bride Blues.” Unhappily, this version still boasted the same degrading cover illustration. By the mid-teens, the “coon craze” had all but ended even among regional publishers, but ragtime lingered. In 1916 George and Ira Gershwin released a song entitled “The Real American Folk Song (Is a Rag).” Intermittently syncopated, it recalled early associations of coon songs with ragtime. The Gershwins’ song reappeared in 1992 when Crazy for You (“The New Gershwin Musical Comedy”) opened on Broadway and won that year’s Tony for Best Musical. During the 1920s, African American stereotypes surfaced once again with the appearance of “mama-papa” songs, most of them featuring black women, as well as stereotypical cover illustrations for “blues” songs. Too, coon songs continued to be performed on the vaudeville stage throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
As “War Bride Blues” suggests, the artwork and lyrical content of the coon song became part of World War I-themed song sheets. During 1915 and 1916, isolationist, anti-war songs such as “I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” exemplified our nation’s short-lived pre-war pacifist movement. The song remained popular even after most Americans embraced war fever (by the end of 1915 some 650,000 copies had been sold), and it inspired a number of sequels, imitations, and pro-preparedness parodies. As soon as the United States entered World War I in April 1917, however, national unity songs replaced them. Too, for a brief time during 1917 and 1918, songs about African American soldiers and their surroundings enjoyed a patriotic vogue. Most of them represented blacks as full-fledged citizen-soldiers, and their lyricists refrained from overt racial mockery. However, some continued to feature stereotypical images and behaviors in keeping with racial assumptions ingrained among most of the American public. Ironically, the racial condescension continued in this group while at the same time extolling African American contributions to the war effort.
“They’ll Be Mighty Proud in Dixie of their Old Black Joe” is one of the less enlightened examples. Its cover depicts a mildly comical, non-threatening black soldier wearing an ill-fitting uniform bedecked with medals even though he’s holding a banjo instead of a gun. Like other African American-themed World War I songs, it acknowledged the “colored” soldiers who fought in Europe as loyal Americans. The lyrics attributed to Old Black Joe, the song’s narrator—his name a sentimental throwback to Stephen Foster’s plantation ballad—wants to “give the whole world liberty, just like Lincoln did for me.”
“Ah Didn’t Raise Mah Boy To Be a Slacker” (1917) goes a step farther. A parody of the celebrated anti-war song mentioned above, “Ah Didn’t Raise” is heavily laden with minstrel jargon, while at the same time, its cover depicts a clean-cut African American soldier ready for battle. Furthermore, its lyrics, imitation black dialect and all, proclaim a mother’s desire to see her son serve his country:
Your dad was a soldier in sixty-two,
He fought for his country and you should too,
Steven, Jackson, Washing-ton,
If you’se gwine to be a slacker, Den you aint mah son.
Images of loving white mothers courageously sacrificing their sons for the war effort were a very common tactic pitched by Tin Pan Alley publishers to encourage enlistments. “When the Good Lord Makes a Record Of a Hero’s Deed, He Draws No Color Line” (1918) is explicitly patriotic, and its cover presents a handsome black soldier gazing fondly at his wife or mother. “When Rastus Johnson Cake-Walks Thru Berlin” (1918) depicts a monstrous soldier on the cover about to attack Kaiser Wilhelm with a straight razor: an implement associated with coon songs.4
Four additional titles avoid some of the most derogatory stereotypes of the coon song. “My Choc’late Soldier Sammy Boy” (1919) is an early “mammy” number; its lyrics include a few dialect phrases, and an antebellum steamboat appears on its cover. “Good Bye Alexander, Good Bye Honey Boy” (1918)—the title refers both to the contemporary and successful Honey Boy Minstrel Troupe, as well as to Irving Berlin’s “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” (1911)—features slangy lyrics, but its cover is racially ambiguous. The soldiers depicted on the cover of “Sammy Boy” are almost entirely white, but one African American figure is simply that: darker rather than lighter-skinned. The illustration for “When Our Brown Skin’ Soldier Boys Come Home From War,” on the other hand, glorifies unmistakably black soldier-musicians leading the post-war parade.
A few national unity songs composed by black artists were published by Tin Pan Alley companies. These include Henry Creamer’s and Turner Layton’s “Good Bye Alexander Good Old Honey Boy,” as well as “The Battle Cry Of Peace” (1917) by J. Tim Brymn; “When Our Brown Skin’ Soldier Boys Come Home From War” (1918) by Porter Grainger; and “Bugle Call Rag” (1916), with music by Eubie Blake. Others celebrated individual African American soldier-musicians and ensembles. Among the most interesting of these songs are “On Patrol In No Man’s Land” and “All Of No Man’s Land Is Ours” (both 1919). Both of these songs were composed by Lieutenant James Reese Europe, and both of them were recorded the same year by Noble Sissle and Lt. Europe’s all-African American 369th Infantry Regiment “Harlem Hellfighters” Band. Both covers feature photo images of Reese and his band.
The cover of “Why Did They Stop the War” (1919) includes a photo-quality image of black vaudevillian Bert Williams, formerly of Williams & [George] Walker: a minstrel duo billed as “the two real coons.” Jean Havez’s lyrics acknowledge the fact that African Americans were treated more respectfully as soldiers than they were—and would be—as civilians. Prior to November 1918, the song’s narrator remembers better clothing and “a doctor right there at my door” if he fell ill. Post-1918, though, “I got to put on all the rags I used to wear before” combat ended. “Why Did They Stop the War” reminds us that Williams was the only black performer featured with any consistency on pre-1920s sheet music, and he was the only African American performer to appear regularly in Florenz Zeigfeld’s Follies.
During its heyday, the American commercial sheet music industry amplified and to some extent fostered the human tragedy resulting from our nation’s history of racial division. While it’s certain the problem did not disappear during America’s involvement in World War I, for a brief time (1917-1918) the worst of song land’s history of racial slurs in published songs appears to have been partially and temporarily superseded by patriotic fervor, which suggests the same may have occurred among many Americans as well.5
1 Many histories of American music mention coon songs, including Rudi Blesh and Janet Harris, They All Played Ragtime (New York: Alfred P. Knopf, 1950). For more detailed discussions, see James M. Dormon, “Shaping the Popular Image of Post-Reconstruction American Blacks: The ‘Coon Song’ Phenomenon of the Gilded Age,” American Quarterly 40, no. 4 (December 1988): 450-471; and “The Parlor Song Academy,” In Search of Coon Songs: Racial Stereotypes in American Popular Song.
2 See Dormon, “The ‘Coon Song’ Phenomenon,” 453.
3 For additional information about the musical and cultural intersections of coon songs, ragtime, and the blues, see Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff, Ragged But Right: Black Traveling Shows, Coon Songs, and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007).
4 For additional information about these and other songs, see Don Tyler, Music of the First World War (Santa Barbara, CA: Amadeus, 2016), 44-45. See too the Library of Congress web pages associated with World War I sheet music.
5 Michael Saffle would like to thank Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, especially the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, for support toward the completion of this article.
A Public Musicology Conference on Billy Joel
By Ryan Raul Bañagale and Joshua S. Duchan
With the conference co-chairs seated center stage, stalling for time in front of an eagerly awaiting audience of three hundred, a ringing phone emerges from the sound system. The booming voice of Billy Joel inquires: “Hello? Is Josh or Ryan there, please?” The crowd erupts with applause and cheers, and the keynote event for the first-ever academic music conference on Billy Joel is underway. As the organizers of “‘It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me’: The Music and Lyrics of Billy Joel,” it was a moment of great relief for us both.
Why Billy Joel? In part because of his commercial success and wide appeal. His dynamic career spans nearly five decades and he is the third-highest-selling solo musician in the United States, with most of his albums certified multi-platinum. He currently plays a once-a-month, sold-out gig at Madison Square Garden. And his many accolades include, among others, the 2014 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Despite such popularity and acclaim, however, Joel’s music and live performance have been accompanied by a somewhat uneasy relationship with critics, while scholarship on his extensive output remains scant—a gap that this conference aimed to begin to fill, as discussed in a lengthy story in The New York Times the following week.
Held on the campus of Colorado College—a small, elite liberal arts school nestled along the front range of the Rocky Mountains—the conference took place on October 7-8, 2016. In keeping with the symposium’s “public musicology” focus, Joel’s music provided an ideal vehicle to explore musicological issues and topics in front of a non-academic audience. Familiarity with Joel’s catalogue provided a common point of departure, drawing in attendees who might not otherwise feel inclined to attend a musicology conference (not that musicologists would ever deal in obscurity!).
Over thirty presentations, roundtables, and performances relating to Joel’s life and works were featured on the program, with participants arriving from across the United States, Canada, and as far away as South Africa. Topics ranged widely, from examinations of Joel’s music’s theoretical elements, to considerations of the mixture of historical elements in the songs, to analyses of the music from perspectives ranging from gender to religion to medicine and law. Jason Hanley and Kathryn Metz, of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, led a workshop examining several of Joel’s composition notebooks as artifacts, while Jim Bosse, who played guitar in Joel’s first rock band, led a lively discussion about Joel as a teenager. The keynote event was the hour-long live phone interview that we conducted with Joel himself, drawing on questions from the presenters.
In conjunction with the conference, Bañagale led an upper-level seminar on Joel’s music for undergraduate music students at Colorado College. Before the conference, the class held a wide-ranging discussion with Duchan about his articles on Joel’s music, his forthcoming book on the subject (Billy Joel: America’s Piano Man [Rowman & Littlefield, 2017]), and his experiences interviewing Joel for the book. Also in the leadup to the conference, with the assistance of the Colorado College InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts program, the students constructed an exhibit featuring tour memorabilia, album covers, a visual timeline of Joel’s career, and an interactive space for conference attendees to experience Joel’s music in new ways and share their memories of the performer and his music. From a pedagogical perspective, these interactions and projects enabled students to dig deep into Joel’s work as a songwriter and musician, engaging with the material musically and historically but also with an eye toward crafting a presentation of the singer-songwriter’s oeuvre that would be accessible to a non-academic audience.
After more than a year of planning and now several months of post-conference reflection, we emerge with two important takeaways, two different types of challenges. Towards the end of the first day of the conference, an older attendee approached us with praise and thanks. Her follow-up comment revealed one of the greatest challenges we face with respect to the public musicology endeavor: “I never knew you could talk about music before.” As scholars and life-long musicians, many of us sometimes lose sight of the fact that we quite literally breathe music. It is almost impossible for us to not think about how we would talk about the sonic experience, its history, or its cultural value, yet for some people music exists purely as something to be consumed, not processed. At its core, public musicology may not be a matter of simply communicating insights and observations in non-academic terms, but rather providing models that encourage such audiences to explore the music they enjoy more fully. This leads to our second challenge: As the performing arts become less and less present in the educational realm at all levels, public musicology becomes all the more important. It need not take the shape of a formal conference. A pre-concert talk, a visit to your child’s elementary music class, an op-ed in your local newspaper. These are just some of the ways that we challenge Society for American Music members to publicly engage and interact with those outside of academia—let’s all strive to enable people to think about the music they know and love.
From the President
|Charles Hiroshi Garrett, SAM President|
As our society and its activities have grown, our conferences have become more diverse, more appealing, and more challenging to program. Looking forward to the Society’s 43rd Annual Conference to be held in Montréal, Québec (22-26 March 2017), I wish to thank Steve Swayne for serving as Program Committee Chair (with members Christina Baade, Glenda Goodman, Paul Laird, Kip Lornell, and Tracy McMullen) and Lisa Barg for serving as Local Arrangements Chair (with committee members Lloyd Whitesell, Laura Risk, and Sara Laimon). In addition to panels, meetings, workshops, posters, concerts, and more, we look forward to celebrating our 2017 honorary member: Beverley Diamond, Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and director of the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place. In addition to the honorary member ceremony scheduled for early evening on Thursday, there will be a roundtable and a panel session inspired by Diamond’s work. Other special events will happen at our opening reception on Wednesday, when we recognize the awardee of the Paul Charosh Independent Scholar Fellowship and take time to remember Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., one of our longtime members and most committed supporters. Thanks to the success of our SAM/2.0 Campaign, we will award three new fellowships: the Anne Dhu McLucas Fellowship, the Margery Morgan Lowens Dissertation Research Fellowship, and the Edward T. Cone Fellowship. A preliminary program, conference hotel information, and details on conference registration for Montreal can be found on the SAM website.
Looking ahead, I am pleased to announce that our society’s 44th Annual Conference will be held in Kansas City (28 February–4 March 2018). The Call For Seminar Topics has been issued with a deadline of 20 February 2017, and the Call for Papers will be announced by Paul Laird, 2018 Program Chair, at our meeting in Montreal. The University of Missouri–Kansas City will be hosting the 2018 conference, with William Everett serving as chair of local arrangements. Looking even further ahead, we have confirmed that our society’s 45th Annual Conference will be held in New Orleans (20-25 March 2019). The conference will be hosted by The Historic New Orleans Collection and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, both of which offer fruitful and wide-ranging possibilities for local programming. Gregory Reish will serve as 2019 Program chair, and Brett Boutwell will co-chair our local arrangements committee with our conference hosts, who send these warm greetings: The Historic New Orleans Collection and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation are thrilled for the opportunity to showcase the musical offerings and heritage of New Orleans as well as the unique efforts of our respective institutions to preserve and disseminate the history and culture of New Orleans music. We’re looking forward to meeting you all as we explore the sounds of New Orleans together. Sincerely – THNOC & NOJHF.
The Society for American Music’s Education Committee is pleased to announce the results of the first round of its Digital Lectures in American Music initiative. Aimed at a general audience, each Digital Lecture explores a compelling topic of broad interest and makes strong use of contemporary scholarship in American music studies. The following lectures are now available on the Society for American Music’s YouTube channel: Monica Hershberger: “Making Lizzie Borden: America’s Most Infamous Axe-Murderess Turned Operatic Heroine”; Rami Stucky: “Steve Reich and the Harlem Riots: ‘Come Out,’ 1968”; Katherine Reed: “Stagger Lee’s Come Out on Top: The Ballad of Stagger Lee.” The Education Committee will solicit a second round of proposals for Digital Lectures in Spring 2017.
Finally, I am delighted to announce the results of the 2016 SAM election. Christina Baade has been elected Vice-President, Maribeth Clark has been elected Treasurer, and our new Members-at-Large are Eduardo Herrera and Glenda Goodman. Many thanks to all of the candidates who ran for office and to everyone who voted in the election.
See you in Montreal!
Charles Hiroshi Garrett
Fostering Empathy and Equity in 2017: Two Reflections
Editor’s note: Two scholars offer their reflections on the US political climate at the beginning of a new presidential administration, and on the climate of our discipline. Sarah Gerk (Forum for Early Career Professionals) is Assistant Professor of Music at Binghamton University. Her work on Amy Beach recently appeared in JSAM. Elyse Marrero (Student Forum) is a PhD candidate at Florida State University. Her dissertation focuses on the work of ASL music interpreters at concerts, music festivals, and online videos. Her research interests include Deaf and disability aesthetics, universal design/access, and somatic textuality. She is a member of SAM’s Committee on Cultural Diversity and Inclusion.
“Doubling down on diversity, equity, and inclusion”
by Sarah Gerk
Like many of us, I’ve had a rough few months. Events related to the US election have left me stunned and searching to comprehend a country I thought I knew well. Indeed, I had fancied myself an expert on the United States. That confidence in a deep knowledge has been replaced with shock as I witness an increasingly tense social climate, with escalating expressions of hateful and divisive rhetoric directed at so many people. And like many, I seek to actively resist the normalization of a xenophobic, misogynist, and racist nationalism in the United States. My renewed sense of purpose motivates me to spend more resources working for social justice. I donate a bit more money and work more with local nonprofits. My capacity to contribute in such ways, however, pales in comparison to the powerful platform I am afforded as a scholar of US music. As members of the Society for American Music, and the Forum for Early Career Professionals in particular, we have a role to play in the tumultuous political environment in which we find ourselves.
Amid such uncertainty, US music scholars are speaking truth to power. Examples abound. After a certain president-elect expressed indignation that the cast of the Broadway hit Hamilton appealed to Mike Pence, Elizabeth T. Craft enumerated musical theater’s long history of political engagement. Dana Gorzelany-Mostak’s impressively comprehensive website “Trax on the Trail” provides information on campaign music, seeking to “gain insight into how sound participates in forming candidate identity.” Her work has provided fruitful avenues for understanding how music operates as a site for establishing and contesting political power. Beyond the presidential election, others are working on politically engaged topics with far-reaching ramifications. A panel at SAM’s upcoming meeting in Montreal will explore the cultural work and “engaged scholarship” of Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Benjamin Harbert has worked to raise awareness about life in prison by studying the music of prisoners.1 Joseph Straus has illuminated how musical life shapes notions of disability.2 I could go on, listing a multitude of engaged scholars who reveal or shape our social and political lives. Brought together, so much of our work supports an inclusive, pluralistic vision of the United States.
In my research and my classroom, I try to apply this inclusive model of the United States and its music. American music studies have historically occupied front and center of the movement to diversify musical academia, so my approach is not unusual. I make room on my syllabi for the music of people across racial and class lines. As I undertake research and writing, I make a good faith effort to reject the skewed and damaging value judgments of the past, seeking instead to approach all music equitably. But recent events have me wondering if what I’m already doing is enough. Am I part of the solution? Is there more work to do? At times, I raise a related, but harder, question: are my own unconscious biases contributing to the problem? After all, I’m white, middle-class, straight, US-born, and classically-trained. I grew up with a set of musical values that stem from my social position.
As I’ve mulled such questions, some American music scholars have called for more radically inclusive approach. At the 2016 national meeting of the American Musicological Society in Vancouver, a group of scholars organized a Special Session on Race, Ethnicity and the Profession.3 They bravely took the Society to task for “the lack of inclusion and real diversity in setting the direction for the discipline by way of the AMS.” Naomi Andre, Bonnie Gordon and Ellie Hisama, all active in SAM, spoke candidly about their experiences with continuing barriers in scholarship and the profession. Gordon stated plainly “our society [the AMS] is grounded in racist and exclusionary traditions,” describing the primacy of classical music as something of an original sin that we must confront. On that point, Mark Burford described a conflict at his institution, Reed College. A longstanding required, yearlong course that focuses on ancient Greek and Roman thinkers has met with increasing scrutiny for lacking diversity in representation. Burford’s sensitive interpretation of the controversy, too long and nuanced to consider in full here, highlights an “inertia of desire” on both sides. The course has been a bedrock of Reed’s program for 70+ years, and proponents of the course are invested in its history. Likewise, critics of the course are invested in a different history as they frame the issues with the “slightly anachronistic rhetorical style of late sixties, early seventies Black Power Era discourse.” Turning his attentions back to the AMS, Burford then chalks some of the “frustration felt by some members of the Society” to “our tendency as teachers and as AMS members to also do things the way we do them because we have always done them that way.”
So, what do I do because I’ve always done it that way? Much as it’s hard to admit, I sometimes resonate with Burford’s description of those invested in Reed’s tradition, at a cost to those who lament the lack of curricular diversity. Despite my earnest work for inclusivity, I have privileged certain types of music because of my social position and heritage. I have focused on classical music and other styles of music that appeal to the intellectual set because that is what I know and love. In my classroom and my research, I have not fully acknowledged the historical significance of styles with which I do not posses such fluency, including the music of black Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans, among others. When I teach musical traditions that are outside of my own history, I do not apply analytical tools that compare with the analysis I can bring to bear on classical music. That stems in part from the hard truth that I have given short shrift to the music of non-white, non-privileged people in my research. As a consequence, my students and readers have had cause to develop biases about what music matters, at least to the academy.
As a deliberate response to the alarming rise in divisive rhetoric in politics, then, I’m doubling down on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I will make more room at my table for more styles of music, and I will try to do that in a way that treats music from traditions with which I’m less familiar more equitably. This means I need to bone up on some music on which I’m woefully undereducated myself. Such work is never done; there will always be more to learn. But deficiencies, spread across our discipline, are at the heart of a damaging problem that I can work toward amending. If I don’t commit to being the change I wish to see, I will inevitably contribute to problematic constructions of American music history, and by extension, problematic understandings of the United States, with real consequences.
1 Benjamin J. Harbert, “Only Time: Music Means to the Personal, the Private, and the Polis at the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women,” American Music 30, no. 2 (Summer 2013): 203-240.
2 Joseph Straus, Extraordinary Measures: Disability in Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).
3For transcripts of the papers, see: http://musicologynow.ams-net.org/2016/11/colloquy-race-ethnicity-and-profession.html
“Listen, learn, and be uncomfortable”
by Elyse Marrero
Diversity: a word we throw around until it becomes meaningless. In many ways “diversity” has become an opportunity for privileged folks to cover their bases, to benefit themselves and their institutions, and to ensure the bare minimum. When diversity becomes a bureaucratic process we lose sight of the point of inclusion and fail to realize that diversity is a lived experience for many and not a concept. I am skeptical whenever I hear “diversity” because of the multiple times I have experienced discrimination, especially by people who I trusted to ensure an inclusive environment.
My skepticism became a painful reality in graduate school. I was reminded, either directly or indirectly, of my difference, being Latina. These reminders ranged from being told I should consider an alternate educational and career path, or that I am not as good as my white, male, student colleagues who received academic and financial opportunities I could only dream of. I believed I was inadequate. Whenever I voiced a concern, an opinion, or called out discrimination I was indirectly reminded of my place. I felt I was not taken seriously. I experienced countless micro-aggressions from colleagues who were so unaware of their words and actions. I was constantly compared to students who were different than me and advised I should be more like them. I felt I was not respected. Unlike other students, I had to learn and test the boundaries of being a Latina student, as an “Other” in an othering place. I also found solace in race, gender, and disability theory. Reading assignments became moments of understanding and solidarity for me. I often connected better with assigned texts, not the people in my department.
I don’t want you to think my years in grad school were all bad. I did have wonderful moments of joy, exploration, and growth. I have also made life-long friends. But it wasn’t until my recent choice to accept and openly tell my “diversity story” that I am now finding solidarity with people – not critical theory, not words, not assigned texts. I am connecting with people who want to share their stories with me and are willing to listen.
This past SAM in Boston, I listened to more stories, and although the conference was wonderful and energizing (SAM is always my favorite!), there were moments in which I felt incredible sadness, fear, and empathy. I listened to colleagues express that they are not safe at certain other academic conferences; people wondering if their personhood mattered in our field. Others felt their disability and access needs are not taken seriously. Presenters also challenged our society’s and field’s commitment to diversity, and expressed skepticism for real change. This past SAM taught me that people are scared, unsafe, and skeptical of their lives in academia. Is this the type of community we want?
After the Musicology Now blog post, “Don Giovanni Goes to Prison,” many felt it was time to speak up. That post became the symbol of how diversity frequently becomes a self-serving concept for people with privilege. It also confirmed that when people speak up they often face suppression. I’m hopeful about the new direction AMS is taking with Musicology Now, but I am skeptical that change will occur throughout our field. This is based on the reactions many received when they described their frustrations and fears. When we who represent diversity speak up, know that we are not exaggerating—our lives and experiences are real. They differ from yours. Many of you don’t have to truly embody diversity, meaning you don’t have to risk the assessment of being different. So instead of claiming that “diverse people” are policing the politics and speech of our discipline, or demanding our silence because you claim nothing is wrong, listen and learn. Make a true effort to learn. Then after you have learned, find ways you can make a change within yourself. Your actions and inactions affect all of us.
If we think about it, the odds are against me. I’m not supposed to be here. You’re not supposed to be reading my words. Because of my background, I am less likely to have attended college, let alone graduate school. It is also rare for a young Latina scholar to get the opportunity to voice her opinions on diversity to an academic society. Yet, you are reading my words. Much of this is because other people have given me the opportunity, the chance, the space to express myself using this platform. It is a reminder that I, we, can’t do this alone. In order for “diversity” to work, we must all recognize the need for inclusion and how we can help each other.
I have always felt comfortable within the SAM, and the society is a constant source of support and opportunities. I attended my first SAM meeting in 2012 during a rough time towards the end of my Master’s thesis. I did not trust my advisor and I was waitlisted into the only PhD program I could afford and wanted to attend. It was at the conference in Charlotte, NC that I met Joseph Straus, Stephanie Jensen-Moulton, and Blake Howe—an important meeting I will never forget. The three of them took the time to listen to a young, discouraged, and depressed scholar. They lifted me up and gave me the confidence to realize I can succeed. They didn’t have to do that. They didn’t have to show me kindness and compassion. From then on, SAM was my home.
This society is one that many already consider as a safer space and an alternative to AMS or SEM. In comparison to SEM or AMS, SAM is an incredibly welcoming space. We encourage first-time attendees. Students are less afraid to interact with scholars and professionals, and they have more opportunities to serve the society. The society-wide support for the silent auction, which benefits student travel funds, is also remarkable.
Our society is not perfect, but we can be a leader in creating an inclusive environment for scholars of all statuses, abilities, and backgrounds. But in order to get there, I feel we must always remember to practice these simple acts of civility: to listen, to accept, and to respect. As a Society, as a community, we must openly call out against others who create hostile environments (both online and offline) for scholars without privilege. Effective communication and discourse cannot happen if people feel afraid and discouraged.
Now is the time to listen, to learn, and to be uncomfortable. As we begin a new American presidential term, many of us fear for our lives, jobs, friends, and families. We are uncertain about our healthcare, immigration status, our civil and human rights, the current effects of climate change, environmental racism, and our religious freedoms. We’re wondering when we will experience violence against our bodies and beings. For many of us, these uncertainties are not a matter of if, but when. Imagine living your life waiting for and fighting against the inevitable, yet you still need continue your scholarship, work, and provide for you and your family. The day after the election, I was in Washington DC for SEM’s annual conference. Amid feelings of anxiety, sadness, and uncertainty, I spoke to people who felt ready and eager for a revolution. It was difficult for me to explain that a revolution scares me. I am tired of fighting. I can only think of the many “diverse people” who will die because they are often on the front lines and are the first to experience the worst during political instability. So, while you may be eager to write, create, and advocate, remember a lot of us are tired and worried for our survival.
As an ethnographer I believe in the power of voices and stories. Ethnographic work teaches us to listen and learn from our informants; all the cultural theory you need is present in their voices and experiences. But unless we show empathy, kindness, and compassion we will never learn from the voices of others and we will never understand their lived experiences. E. E. Evans-Pritchard, commenting on his experiences learning Azande spirituality and divination, reminds me of the importance of listening and believing in people with different life experiences: “You cannot have a remunerative, even intelligent, conversation with people about something they take as self-evident if you give them the impression that you regard their belief as an illusion or a delusion. Mutual understanding, and with it sympathy, would soon be ended, if it ever got started” (1976:244). If we fail to listen to, believe, and empathize with the voices of marginalized scholars we will never be able to understand or fully include the diverse people that make up our field.
Student Forum in Montreal
It’s that time of year again, and we need your help! The 2017 Silent Auction needs donations of new or used books, scores, or any other items of interest to the SAM membership. Books, which tend to increase revenue substantially, are especially welcome. All donations and proceeds benefit the Student Travel Endowment. Items should be brought with you to the conference in March, or can be mailed to the conference hotel. Contact Kate Sutton or SAM Executive Director Mariana Whitmer for more information.
For student members: The annual meeting in Montreal is fast approaching! The Student Forum organizes several events, and we are always looking for volunteers to help. At the conference, we will hold a Student Forum Business Meeting to elect a new co-chair and discuss student ideas and issues. This year the meeting will follow our student luncheon with SAM donors. We have also organized a panel titled “Applications, Interviews, and Self-Presentation on the Job Market,” which will take place on Thursday morning. We hope to see you all there! If you have questions or would like to get involved with any of these happenings, contact co-chairs Jamie Blake or Kate Sutton.
You can also help stretch your travel budget and get to know a fellow SAM student member by participating in the Student Forum roommate search. If you need help finding a roommate for Montreal, check the Student Forum Facebook page or email the Student Forum co-chairs.
We look forward to seeing you in March!
Jamie Blake and Kate Sutton, Student Forum Co-Chairs
Journal of the Society for American Music
Volume 11, Number 1 (February 2017)
“Embodying Musical Heritage in a New–Old Profession: American Jewish Cantorial Schools, 1904–1939
Binder’s Mickey Mouse Muzak: Shaping Experience Musically in the Disney Theme Parks
Storytelling in Jazz Work as Retrospective Collaboration
Jeffrey Magee, Irving Berlin’s American Musical Theater; Benjamin Sears, ed., The Irving Berlin Reader
Todd Decker, “Show Boat”: Performing Race in an American Musical; Dominic McHugh, Loverly: The Life and Times of “My Fair Lady”
James Revell Carr, Hawaiian Music in Motion: Mariners, Missionaries, and Minstrels
Thomas Brothers, Louis Armstrong: Master of Modernism
Michael James Roberts, Tell Tchaikovsky the News: Rock ’n’ Roll, the Labor Question, and the Musicians’ Union, 1942–1968
Ben Johnston: String Quartets Nos. 6, 7 & 8.
The Society for American Music is pleased to welcome these new members:
Rory Cowal, Vancouver, BC, CANADA
Tod Fitzpatrick, Las Vegas, NV
Carolyn Chong, St. John's, NL, CANADA
Alexander Hallenbeck, Los Angeles, CA
Jay Hammond, Durham, NC
Scott Gleason, New York, NY
Sally Podrebarac, Lubbock, TX
Yoshiko Arahata, Rochester, NY
Nichole Rustin-Paschal, Fort Leavenworth, KS
Martha M. Healey, Batesville, AR
Austin Richey, Rochester, NY
Caroline Bishop, Port Washington, NY
Alecia Barbour, Haleiwa, HI
Sandra Kilman, Canoga Park, CA
Kathy Acosta Zavala, Tucson, AZ
Are you a graduate advisor with the perfect student (or group of students) to review selections from our list of currently available titles? The mentored book review process offers an opportunity for faculty to incorporate the book review experience into coursework for graduate students, transforming a typical book-review assignment into an authentic publishing opportunity. Interested advisor/advisee duos, as well as those with an interest but without a pairing (such as faculty at undergraduate-only institutions), are encouraged to contact Bulletin Reviews Editor Esther Morgan-Ellis (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a list of currently available books.
Playing with Sound: A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games. Karen Collins. MIT Press, 2013. 200pp. ISBN 9780262018678. Hardcover.
Julianne Grasso, University of Chicago
When Pac-Man dies, there’s a cartoonish, descending tone-spiral that signifies his fate. It’s also a sound of failure, made more bitter by the common role-playing conceit of games: you are Pac-Man, consuming white dots and fleeing ghosts in a maze, accompanied by auditory feedback and ambient noises. In a way, Pac-Man’s sounds are your sounds, no matter how artificial they seem. It’s probably a truism to say that sound in video games has come a long way from the “beeps and boops” of the 1970s and ‘80s, when arcade games like Pac-Man were popular. But even those old games featured something novel and special: anyone with a quarter could press a button to enter a world of images and sounds far different from those of daily life. Sound in video games thus entails more than listening; by playing with games, we also play with their sounds.
The technology and design of those sounds was the subject of Karen Collins’ previous book, Game Sound: An Introduction to the History, Theory, and Practice of Video Game Music and Sound Design (MIT Press, 2008), a valuable resource for both scholars and enthusiasts. The book helped ignite the field of game sound studies, which was then finding footholds in articles, chapters, and dissertations published across a range of fields.1 Since then, research on video game music has gained traction in several new monographs and edited collections, and it is a consistent presence at major academic conferences.2 It would not be an overstatement to say that Karen Collins’ work has shown that video game music, whether produced by beeping synths or sweeping strings, is worthy of study.
Playing with Sound: A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games serves as both an update and a companion to Collins’ earlier book, and in many ways raises the analytical stakes of the first volume: knowing that video games offer a uniquely interactive medium for creative sound design, what does it actually mean to interact with and among all of these sounds? Collins is interested in games as practices rather than texts, aiming to understand “the ways in which meaning is found, embodied, created, evoked, hacked, remixed, negotiated, and renegotiated in the space of interactive sound in games” (1).
From this ambitiously charted point of departure, Playing with Sound reaches far in its 150-or-so pages. Collins begins with theoretical accounts of sonic experiences in games, later emerging to discuss “real world” activities that draw on and extend those experiences. For Collins, “interaction” should be understood broadly, extending from physical engagement with a game to the interplay of elements on screen, the construction of interpersonal relationships among players, and the influence of larger sociocultural contexts.
Given the complexity of such a multifaceted notion of interaction, one of Collins’ contributions is some helpful terminology. To characterize the action-sound interaction that occurs during gameplay, she adapts Michel Chion’s concept of synchresis, which describes the fusion of sound and image in film, adding to it the term kinesonic.3 The notion of kinesonic synchresis allows Collins to account for player-driven events that correlate with sound, which offer the player agency in sound-making—the boing of Mario jumping in Super Mario Bros. is only heard when a player presses the right button. Following Chion, Collins sees these moments of multimodal congruity (or incongruity) as having potential for new associations—“haptic recontextualizations”—that enhance the gameplay experience (39).
To conceptualize these experiences, Collins frames her study in terms of embodied cognition, drawing on work in psychology, cinema and media studies, philosophy, and human-computer interaction (among other fields). While the role of embodied experience might aid our understanding of a wide range of media, physical engagement is central to playing video games, and Collins argues that phenomena of “involvement, interpretation, and therefore attention” are implicated more directly (22). Following research on the mirror neuron system, Collins argues that sound’s associations with image and action persist even if image and action are removed, and that these associations are embodied: hearing a sound associated with an action activates many of the same neurons that fire when the action is actually performed. Perhaps most intriguingly, because events in a video game are tied to player interaction, our embodiment might extend to rather complex actions our character performs, rather than ending with the simple button-press that triggered it.
Collins relates these embodied engagements to the various attentional and perceptual phenomena of “getting into” a video game, which can refer to feelings of immersion, incorporation, or character role-play. Game sound, Collins argues, facilitates these effects because it has the unique capacity to blend with sounds in the player’s immediate environment, bridging the gap between player and game. She also suggests that it can help us better identify with in-game characters: if sound activates somatosensory neurons related to events, and those events are also tied to emotion and affect, then sound might also facilitate a deeper sense of empathy. As a consequence, we might adopt not only the actions of an avatar but also its goals, feelings, and personality. Collins mostly discusses voices and sound effects here, but we know that music can also be experienced bodily and engender emotions. How, then, might the musical sounds that are such an important part of many games also support different kinds of engagement and character identification?
While sound might facilitate a deep engagement with a game, its worlds, and its characters, sound can also allow opportunities for creativity and community building. These practices are the focus of the latter half of Playing with Sound. Music-based games like Rock Band or Just Dance turn players into performers by emulating spaces for physical and musical expression, like a rock concert or a dance club. Even non-performance games can offer technologies for customizing one’s own in-game sonic experiences—for example, VoIP allows vocal communication over a multiplayer game network, which turns the soundscape into a social space for personal expression. Collins sees these social opportunities as redefining our notions of audience and spectatorship. Drawing on Kiri Miller’s influential work in this area, Collins notes that in-game performance blurs our definition of liveness.4 Because video games offer separate virtual worlds and identities, the performing body is distributed between the virtual and human spaces. To add to this multiplicity, game sound performance outside of games is increasingly popular. Collins describes a variety of media here, from parody videos, remixes, and large-scale concerts, to the development of new genres like machinima and chip music that utilize game technology to creative ends.
In the final chapter of her book, Collins turns to the various means by which players re-shape games, either by modifying pre-existing elements of a game or by creating new content. Changes such as these illustrate the greatest level of agency that a player can have over her or his play experience, sonic or otherwise. Collins also suggests that modifying games can be a way to extend the gaming experience rather than a form of creative resistance. Although the various kinds of interactions described here don’t necessarily involve sound, they often do; playing with sound is fun. And part of that fun is the game players’ practices of co-creation (of experience, meaning, and even content) with game designers and fellow players.
In the few years since the publication of Playing with Sound, forms of interactivity in video games have multiplied, particularly with recent developments in virtual and augmented reality devices. Nonetheless, Playing with Sound should have staying power as a central resource for scholars interested in games and sound studies. Collins has written a well-researched book, brimming with multidisciplinary sources at every turn. Its brisk pace keeps many topics afloat, though the reader might be left wanting some breathing room for one topic to develop before moving along to the next. But she does acknowledge that the book asks more questions than it answers, and Playing with Sound situates itself as a launching point for more discursive treatments of the many issues it raises. From this perspective, Karen Collins achieves breadth, depth, and clarity—a special kind of interactivity, indeed.
1 Game Sound was likely the first book not aimed at aspiring game sound designers. One of the first and most cited contributions to the scholarly realm of game sound was Zach Whalen’s article “Play Along: An Approach to Videogame Music,” Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Game Research 4/1 (November 2004), http://www.gamestudies.org/0401/whalen/. The website for the Ludomusicology research group contains a helpful and frequently updated bibliography.
2 Some recent book publications on the topic of sound in video games include William Cheng, Sound Play: Video Games and the Musical Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); K.J. Donnelly, William Gibbons, and Neil Lerner, eds., Music in Video Games: Studying Play (New York: Routledge, 2014); Michael Austin, ed., Music Video Games: Performance, Politics, and Play (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., 2016); Michiel Kamp, Tim Summers, and Mark Sweeney, eds., Ludomusicology: Approaches to Video Game Music (Sheffield, UK: Equinox Publishing, 2016). Additionally, 2012 marked the first Ludomusicology conference in the UK, and 2014 welcomed the first annual North American Conference on Video Game Music, at which Karen Collins gave a keynote talk.
3 Michel Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 63.
4 See Kiri Miller, Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
Remixology: Tracing the Dub Diaspora. Paul Sullivan. Reaktion Books, 2014. 263pp. ISBN 9781780231990. Paper.
Sarah Gilbert, Florida State University
Some forty years after its creation in Jamaica, the sounds and production techniques of dub are nearly omnipresent in mainstream popular music. However, the genres that have been influenced by dub are so far removed from Kingston that many listeners are perhaps unaware of the connection. Paul Sullivan’s Remixology: Tracing the Dub Diaspora meticulously maps the innumerable manifestations and interactions of dub forms by compiling an encyclopedic genealogy of deejays, MCs, and sound engineers that reveals the continuing legacy of Jamaican sound systems and, as DJ Spooky has put it, “the idea of using the studio as an instrument” (104). Remixology is one of a relatively small number of studies on dub music that includes Christopher Partridge’s Dub in Babylon: Understanding the Evolution and Significance of Dub Reggae in Jamaica and Britain from King Tubby to Post-Punk, Michael Veal’s Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae, and Lloyd Bradley’s Bass Culture: When Reggae was King. Sullivan adds to this collection by emphasizing technology as a creative extension of diasporic communities.
As its subtitle suggests, Remixology: Tracing the Dub Diaspora is organized geographically. It begins with the development of dub in Kingston and then follows its many permutations as it swept through London, New York, Bristol, Berlin, and Canada. The chronology sometimes gets murky, but this strategy allows for a better focus on the ways that diasporic communities hybridize and reconcile innovation with tradition. Sullivan begins the book with an introduction briefly explaining the aural characteristics of dub, including reverb, delay, echo, and the recombination of preexisting sounds. Sullivan calls dub “a creative solution to practical challenges within a specific set of circumstances in 1970s Kingston,” (214) and indeed, the early dub pioneers interviewed by Sullivan repeatedly describe its development in terms of adaptations to technical limitations.
The first two chapters, “The Kingston Context” and “Kingston’s Dub Pioneers,” give a thorough overview of Jamaican musical infrastructure from the 1950s through the early 1970s. The prohibitive expense of radios and turntables, coupled with the limited number of imported records, meant that the only way many people could hear new music was by attending listening parties. Sound system owners were booked to play R&B records on portable systems for increasingly large crowds, and electronics experts began experimenting with sound possibilities. Major breakthroughs, such as the invention of a splitter that could separate high, mid-range, and bass levels, and multitrack recording, allowed for the manipulation of each individual musical element. A shortage of imported R&B records eventually drove local musicians into Kingston record studios, where they recorded ska and rocksteady tracks that were then mixed and remixed by recording engineers who removed vocals, turned up the bass, and looped instrumentals. Accidental miscues and cuts in the production of acetate dubplates proved popular with listeners and were soon included as versions on B-sides by such pioneers as Augustus Pablo, Lee “Scratch” Perry, King Tubby, and Hopeton “Scientist” Brown. Sullivan’s writing is beautifully evocative—he describes Clive Chin’s technique as “peeling songs back to just bass and drums before slowly fading the instruments back in” (35)—and he successfully details the snowballing effects of financial constraints, technological innovation, artistic vision, and chance in the development of the genre. Dub possesses its own expansive vocabulary, which is woven organically throughout these foundational chapters, and Sullivan, for the most part, makes it easy to understand the terms through context.
The Jamaican origins of dub are not the main focus of Remixology, however, and by the third chapter Sullivan has followed dub across the Atlantic to Britain, which claimed Jamaica as a territory for over three centuries. In this chapter, as well as those that follow, he provides a brief yet helpful history of the political relationship between the Caribbean and its geographically displaced diaspora. Three chapters are devoted to dub in Britain; topics include the initial wave of digidub and the later growth of fast style, jungle, and dubcore in London, and the birth of trip-hop and drum-and-bass in Bristol. Sullivan’s examination of the Rock Against Racism (RAR) organization in London, which aligned groups like The Clash, The Buzzcocks, and The Slits with dub and reggae bands, nicely highlights the connections between the two seemingly disparate musical cultures. In the chapter on Bristol, Sullivan explains how dub became the foundation of the “Bristol Sound,” encapsulated by such groups as the Slits, the Pop Group, Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead. In each of these chapters we see the transformative, sometimes controversial effects of new technology and the increasing difficulty of defining a genre as it crosses borders and undergoes reinterpretation.
Moving outside the UK, Sullivan takes a look at dub in New York, Berlin, and Canada. The New York chapter mostly focuses on the intersection of rap, dub, and reggae in artists like DJ Kool Herc and DJ Spooky, but Sullivan also mentions musicians whose work would not be overtly classified as dub yet who have adopted its production techniques, including avant-garde cellist Arthur Russell and Italian dance music producer Giorgio Moroder. The Berlin chapter introduces the glitchy, minimalist techno-dub of sound systems like Basic Channel, Rhythm & Sound, Monolake, and Pole, as well as the heavily sampled eight-bit melodies of Jahtari and the improvisational work of Bernd Friedmann. Remixology ends with a look at dub poetry in Canada, a fascinating “extension of and deviation from Kingston’s deejay culture” (193). Unfortunately, the sociopolitical context of this tradition—it is “a vocal instrument of social engagement,” according to the Dub Poets Collective—is all but ignored.1
The lack of detailed musical analysis sometimes leaves the text feeling dry, but readers who are willing to search for recordings on their own will find this book to be a useful guide. To this end, Remixology is accompanied by an extensive reference list, bibliography, discography, and filmography. Sullivan occasionally interjects with surprising statements of judgment, like when he derides “artists such as Skrillex, who stripped away all the interesting subtleties of the sound and reduced it to its lowest common denominators” (143). But overall he is more interested in letting the musicians speak for themselves. The text is rich with photographs, and musicians’ voices are heard at length on nearly every page thanks to Sullivan’s numerous interviews.
Sullivan often overloads paragraphs with the names of sound engineers, producers, labels, and recording artists, and these lists can be overwhelming upon the first read. They are, however, useful in illustrating the complex lineages that connect artists—particularly important in a genre where remixing others’ work and paying homage to predecessors is a defining feature. Rather than delving deeply into a select number of musicians, Sullivan instead emphasizes the interconnectedness across diasporas. Remixology is a thoroughly researched map of the geography, both physical and aural, of a genre that continues to undergo deconstruction and reconstruction, and it can serve as an extensive reference for readers who want to learn more about the subject.
1 See the Dub Poets Collective website. For contextualization of dub poetry as both a performative and print multicultural tradition, see Susan Gingell, “‘Always a Poem, Once a Book’: Motivations and Strategies for Print Textualizing of Caribbean-Canadian Dub and Performance Poetry,” Journal of West Indian Literature 14/1-2 (November 2005): 220-59.
Roots of the Revival: American and British Folk Music in the 1950s. Ronald D. Cohen and Rachel Clare Donaldson. University of Illinois Press, 2014. 216pp. ISBN 9780252038518. Cloth.
Laura Turner, University of Chicago
While scholarship on the expansive field of folk “revival” is in no short supply, Ronald D. Cohen and Rachel Clare Donaldson’s Roots of the Revival: American and British Folk Music in the 1950s (2014) is a valuable addition, filling an evident gap. Acknowledging that many narratives of United States folk “revivals” focus either on key events in the 1940s through early 1950s, when folk music was associated with left-wing political activism, or the so-called folk “boom” (late 1950s to mid 1960s), Cohen and Donaldson’s study serves two aims. First, it addresses the misconception that folk activity in the United States between these two notable periods was scant, silenced almost entirely by anti-Communist fervor. Second, it explores a dense series of networks that connect folk developments in the United States with those in the British Isles. Connecting threads, among many things, include the transatlantic wanderings of characters like Alan Lomax, the paths of touring musicians, the circulation of recordings, the proliferation of radio programs, the influence of left-leaning musicians and activists in both locales, and an increasing demand in Britain for sonic products from the United States.
Arranged in six chapters, Roots of the Revival traverses the decade chronologically in a detailed, dexterous narrative that pivots between discussions of the United States and British Isles. While chapters two through six focus on one- or two-year periods, the opening chapter explores the differing manifestations of folk music interest (and the agents involved) in America and Britain prior to 1950. In the United States, the authors show how and why interest in folk musics accelerated and diversified during the first half of the twentieth century through a number of means. These include folklore collection expeditions, the growth of archives, developments in phonograph and radio technology, and the gradual alignment of “folk” with politics. While activity in the United States in the lead-up to 1950 was effervescent and varied, with traditional, political, and popular dimensions, Cohen and Donaldson argue that folk in Britain had a narrower following, encompassing the traditional and to some extent political, but lacking popular appeal at this time (21).
In the chapters that follow, the study uncovers entangled networks of performers, fans, writers, folklorists, activists, record labels, publications, venues, and the like on both sides of the Atlantic, illuminating points of intersection and divergence. The story is context-rich, set within the multifaceted socioeconomic, political, and (counter-) cultural environment of the 1950s. While in this short review it is impossible to touch on all of the avenues explored, I focus here on two themes that feature with prominence: the ubiquity of political surveillance within folk circles during the so-called “Red Scare,” and folk’s unpredictable and alternating movements in and out of the musical mainstream.
Sensationalist narratives linking folk and communism have all the trappings of a political thriller: subversive musicians operating in the cultural underground, watched continuously or blacklisted by anti-Communist officials. Such romanticism, Cohen and Donaldson elucidate, has contributed to the belief that folk music activity for the majority of the 1950s, when anti-Communist frenzy reached fever pitch, was quiet, uneventful, and unremarkable. The authors demonstrate that although fear of Communism was strong and real, particularly affecting the lives of folk musicians in the United States, this very condition enabled folk to appear in new or altered contexts. The travels of Alan Lomax, for example, form an important thread throughout this study. Lomax’s near constant surveillance by anti-Communist officials, along with a personal fear of the McCarran Act (39–40), initiated his swift departure from the United States to Europe in 1950, where he settled for a while in London. Cohen and Donaldson explore Lomax’s significant impact on, and encouragement of, the developing United Kingdom folk scene, as well as his role in fostering wider listenership for American and African American folk styles through his BBC radio shows (40–43).
Although a number of the musicians and activists introduced in the study participated in left-wing activities and faced surveillance, the authors’ discussion of the Weavers’ career is particularly informative. This exploration (predominantly in chapters two and three) tracks the group’s history of active engagement with the political left (through the Almanac Singers and People’s Songs), gradual professionalization, brief period of commercial success (when an overt political stance was quieted), blacklisting, and long-awaited reunion. Interestingly, their initial rise in popularity coincided with a growing market demand for “international” folk musics. By performing and refashioning songs from around the world, the authors argue, the Weavers exuded a sense of political responsibility that highlighted “their search for world peace and understanding, deftly countering Cold War xenophobia” (37).
There are many instances on both sides of the Atlantic in which a variety of musics labeled as “folk” have entered the popular consciousness. While the Weavers’ commercial success marks one early-1950s flourishing of popular folk, another is represented by the outwardly apolitical and preppy Kingston Trio's rendition of the old Appalachian ballad “Tom Dooley” (1958). While Cohen and Donaldson provide nuanced coverage of both examples, most interesting are their explorations of other moments when “folk” (in its broadest conception) became commercially viable. Their coverage of skiffle in Britain and calypso in the United States is most compelling. The development, spread, and growing popularity in the British Isles of skiffle—a homemade, raw, energetic music influenced heavily by varying shades of American folk, jazz, and blues—initiated creative dialogue and musical engagement among British and American musicians (61–63; 73–78; 96–97). Calypso, representing one of many international styles that gained popularity in 1950s America, reached an unprecedented level of fame in 1956–57, when it was championed by New York-based musician and activist Harry Belafonte (84–90). Belafonte’s success, they explain, stimulated a flurry of artists to record traditional calypso and calypso-style songs, with albums appearing in the catalogues of prominent labels including RCA, Capitol, and Columbia (88).
Alan Lomax, Pete Seeger, Peggy Seeger, Carl Sandburg, the Weavers, the Kingston Trio, the New Lost City Ramblers, Ewan MacColl, Guy Carawan, Woody Guthrie, Bert Lloyd, Lonnie Donegan, Harry Belafonte, and Harry Smith are just a handful of the characters that animate this rich, transatlantic story. Ronald D. Cohen and Rachel Clare Donaldson, two scholars who have already made extensive contributions to studies of folk musics, provide much food for thought. In addition, by rejecting the notion that the 1950s was folk’s “dead zone” (1), the authors provide fresh perspectives from which to consider the intensified role and popular presence of folk musics in the decade that follows.
New Orleans Suite: Music and Culture in Transition. Eric Porter and Lewis Watts. University of California Press, 2013. 158pp. ISBN 9780520273887. Paperback.
Nicole Riccardo, Florida State University
New Orleans is known for many things, but one always stands out: jazz. The cultural and social environment of this iconic city contributes to its distinctive music, which has a long history of innovation, transformation, and survival. New Orleans Suite is a collaboration between Eric Porter, Professor of American Studies, History, and History of Consciousness, and Lewis Watts, photographer and Professor of Art, from the University of California, Santa Cruz. This book emulates Duke Ellington’s five-movement composition of the same title, and it addresses transitions in the music and culture of New Orleans both before and after Hurricane Katrina. It pays homage to the city, its residents, and its unique culture, while seeking to highlight how Hurricane Katrina “was both a transformative force and a vehicle for enabling long-standing processes to come into view” (x).
The unique format of the volume is designed to provide equal importance to both textual and visual components. Like Ellington’s composition, the book has five sections, each designed to stand on its own such that they may be read individually and in any order. Watts’s powerful photographs, which span from 1994 to 2011, bookend each section and provide visual documentation of the transformation of the city and its people. Another way in which Porter and Watts reflect the influence of New Orleans Suite is by reimagining its multiple genres and five stand-alone movements as textual and formatting components of this written book. The reader is urged to think of the book as “a jam session, where we riff separately and in unison on ideas and variations on themes” (xiv).
The book begins with a preface of sorts, titled “Foundations,” comprised of sixteen photographs meant to “portray the atmosphere of the city” (xiv). All but four of the images show life in New Orleans prior to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, but the “few post-Katrina images . . . reflect enduring qualities that have survived the natural and human-made disasters” (xiv). Similarly, the first two textual sections of the book that follow also serve as foundational. They provide background information on the city and culture that Porter believes must be considered in any discussion of the music of New Orleans.
Section 1 is entitled “New Orleans, America, Music.” Here, Porter points out the complexities of attempting to analyze music, as well as the tendency of many scholarly works toward “distortion” (8). Part of this distortion can occur when there is failure to take into account that the vast majority of popular music is not created solely by the artist: it is also created by producers, business people, and recording engineers. Porter states that it is “analytically dangerous to indulge in neat assumptions . . . musical scenes bleed into and inform one another, artists are in dialogue across genres, and audience tastes are hard to pin down” (7). These points provide hope that the musical analysis to be provided later in the book will stray from the tradition of academics producing musical analysis, however far-reaching it may be, in order to support their arguments. It is difficult to conclude whether or not Porter actually upholds these principles, as the majority of the musical analysis he offers is not actually original, but cited from other sources. For the original ideas he does offer, anything conclusive is avoided in preference of simply presenting various arguments one could make.
The second foundational section, titled “Reflections on Jazz Fest 2006,” is largely focused on “culture as resource” as it relates specifically to the regeneration of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. As one of the largest income generators for the tourism and hospitality industries post-Katrina, Jazz Fest was used as “a kind of grassroots attempt, with official support, to cash in these cultural resources as a means of generating wider respect for and knowledge about New Orleans’s working-class black communities” (21). However, many native New Orleans residents complain that Jazz Fest places the focus on big-name, out-of-town acts instead of the local musicians and Mardi Gras Indians, who do not feel they receive the same respect. In addition, native New Orleanians also feel that the programming is intended to appeal to a “predominantly white and more affluent audience” (25). Porter unhesitatingly explains the reason for this. He discusses how the increasingly expensive ticket prices force the festival to exclude the primarily low-income residents of the city, which in turn requires that it be marketed to affluent attendees. The yearly increase in the profitability of the festival has decreased the efforts once in place to involve local residents.
Section 4, titled “Reconstruction’s Soundtrack,” is the only section of the book that presents musical analysis. This section focuses primarily on two albums: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s 2006 album What’s Going On, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s 2010 album Preservation. The majority of this analysis is comprised of cited material from liner notes and interviews with the musicians themselves. Porter’s sparse original analysis focuses on the possible symbolism and meaning behind certain songs and albums, and his lack of music-theoretical background is revealed in some questionable statements. While the bulk of this book provides some wonderful insight and reflection on the society and culture of New Orleans both before and after Katrina, the musical analysis in this specific section was weak.
The final section of the book, “To Reinvent Life,” defines and surveys the terms “creolization” and “diaspora” as they relate to New Orleans. Creolization is discussed in regards to racial connotations, cultural interactions, and music. Porter concludes that proper, accurate analysis of New Orleans music requires scholars to pay attention to the creolization of the emergent traditions that are now building upon and integrating with the established ones. Similarly, New Orleans has been shaped by many cultural influences throughout its history, including French, Spanish, and African, which allows us to think of the city itself as a site of diaspora. Yet in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we are reminded of another form of diaspora: displacement. The book concludes by offering ways in which these elements have helped the city to continuously rebuild and regenerate itself, including a new “fetishization” of New Orleans culture.
Aside from the fourth section of the book, the information and arguments presented here should serve as a groundwork for anyone interested in the music or culture of New Orleans, or those just interested in the more recent history of the city. Unfortunately, the writing style makes it inaccessible to those unfamiliar with advanced geographical and sociological terms, and detracts from the important information and arguments this book contains. But the photographs that bookend each section provide wonderful contrast with the dense academic jargon that fills each textual section. Giving an outsider’s perspective on the culture and music of New Orleans both before and after Hurricane Katrina, this book provides many important insights and discussions, especially regarding the usage and exploitation of culture as resource in the rebuilding of this iconic city.
Reinventing Dixie: Tin Pan Alley’s Songs and the Creation of the Mythic South. John Bush Jones. Louisiana State Press, 2015. ISBN 9780807159446. Cloth.
Natalia Alexis Perez, Florida State University
Recent studies of American music have explored the construction of whiteness and regional identity through music. Some authors have focused on individual artists, while others have sought to encapsulate entire genres or culture areas. For example, in Frontier Figures, Beth Levy outlines the historical and cultural construction of the American West through the musics of American composers. Leigh Edwards, meanwhile, privileges the individual, analyzing the self-fabricated and socially constructed mythologies of Johnny Cash in Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity. Charles Hiroshi Garret contributes to our understanding of American identity in Struggling to Define a Nation, where he discusses the eclecticism and variability of American music through analyses of different genres, including Tin Pan Alley tunes. He examines Tin Pan Alley’s appropriation of “otherized” cultures for commercial gain, specifically those of China and Hawai’i. In Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Nadine Hubbs considers the construction of gender and social status and its political implications in country music. Consistent with these works, Reinventing Dixie: Tin Pan Alley’s Songs and the Creation of the Mythic South is a study on the cultural construction of the American South, namely the locale of Dixie. John Bush Jones considers how Dixie and its inhabitants were perceived by the European immigrants of Tin Pan Alley in their songs.
Jones’s text contains nine chapters, each of which explores a Dixie-related subject that was common in Tin Pan Alley tunes during the height of the industry’s success, between 1910 and 1932. His first chapter traces the history of the term, “Tin Pan Alley,” and the mythologies associated with it. While the term first referred to the clanging of small pianos, which were endearingly called “tin pans,” it eventually evolved to signify a geographic area in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, mostly inhabited by Jewish immigrants. Many of these immigrants made a living through song-writing. Tin Pan Alley tunes frequently offered comic and exoticizing portrayals of different groups of people. In the case of Dixie songs, that group was Southerners. Tin Pan Alley’s song-writing process was highly industrialized and profit-driven. Writers were not concerned with authentic portrayals of cultures; rather, they sought to appeal to the mass market. Tin Pan Alley writers were also fascinated by nature; much of their oeuvre romanticized the South’s wide open spaces and moonlit starry skies, with nature serving as an “escape from the worst elements of modernity, if but a fleeting one” (9).
The chapters that follow are each dedicated to common themes in Tin Pan Alley songs, including those representative of Southern sentimentality, hospitality and leisure, nostalgia, and romance. He also details the common stereotypes of Southerners that are often at the crux of Tin Pan Alley tunes. Females—or “belles”—were often portrayed as frivolous, chaste, and as objects of male attention. Men were depicted as “good ole boys,” belligerent hillbillies, or working-class “white trash.” Like women, men were also subject to derogative typecasting. The poor white male was often described as “lank, lean, angular, and bony with flaming red, or flaxen, or sandy, or carroty-colored hair, sallow complexion, awkward manners, and a natural stupidity and dullness of intellect that almost surpasses belief” (75). Blacks were “happy darkies” despite their enslavement, “always singing, dancing, or both” (80) in cotton fields. To counteract these stereotypes, Jones also surveys Tin Pan Alley works that have been largely ignored, including those written by black composers and those that realistically portray the social dynamic of their subject matter.
Accessible to the general reader, Reinventing Dixie is effective in many ways. Jones completed quite the daunting task of compiling what he calls the “cultural artifacts” (ix) of Tin Pan Alley sheet music. Drawing upon musical manuscripts from archival collections at Brown, UCLA, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and Indiana University, Jones cites over one thousand Tin Pan Alley songs in his book. Navigating, sorting, and reading this body of music is a laudable accomplishment alone. He includes a comprehensive index of all of the songs included in his text, which is useful for quick reference. Jones quotes lyrics for every song he analyzes, allowing the reader a glimpse into the primary documents themselves so that he or she can experience Tin Pan Alley’s compositional style firsthand.
Reinventing Dixie is not without its shortcomings. While Jones was meticulous in his collection of Tin Pan Alley tunes, his work lacks critical analysis beyond that of the text. Jones merely surveys each type of Dixie song, categorizing and listing them by subject matter. Because he includes a vast amount of material in his text, he is unable to dedicate an appropriate amount of detail to each song’s cultural implications. Furthermore, the subject matter of Jones’s text presents a paradox that he neglects. Jones contends that Tin Pan Alley works sought to portray the idyllic South via the etic perspective. As largely Jewish immigrants who had never been south of Maryland, Tin Pan Alley writers mythologized, romanticized, and capitalized on a culture that was inherently not their own. While Jones comments on the identity of Tin Pan Alley writers and acknowledges their otherness vis-à-vis Dixie inhabitants, he does not expound upon its subsequent effect on Southerners’ construction of their own cultural identity. For a text slated to examine the “creation of the mythic South,” it is surprising that Reinventing Dixie does not comment on how Southerners mythologized their own culture or even how Tin Pan Alley’s mythologization affected Southern identity. Tin Pan Alley songs were known for their “longevity and virtually universal popularity across America”, (10) appealing to consumers in the North and South. Many Tin Pan Alley tunes became standards in other genres, including jazz, country, and folk music. Thus, the influence of Tin Pan Alley spread far beyond its local audience in New York City, arousing nationalist sentiment throughout the country with its idealized and romanticized markers of the South.
While Jones sees himself as an “empirical historian” (ix), studying musical relics in their cultural, historical, and social contexts, his work lacks detailed discussion of the cultural climate surrounding Tin Pan Alley songs. He seldom includes cultural description beyond brief, intermittent historical references. This text would have benefited from a brief historical overview of this period in American history. Tin Pan Alley’s heyday coincided with America’s entrance into the First World War, women’s suffrage, and the Great Depression , to name only a few significant historical developments. While some of these historical landmarks are mentioned in passing, they are not given enough attention to paint the portrait of American culture necessary for a full understanding of Tin Pan Alley’s output. Jones privileges the lyrical content of Tin Pan Alley songs, omitting any consideration beyond the text. Although Jones’s position as a non-musicologist (he is a theatre historian) potentially prevented him from studying the musical construction of Tin Pan Alley songs, he demonstrates the value in a lyrical analysis of Tin Pan Alley songs.
Reinventing Dixie draws our attention to the impact of Tin Pan Alley, emphasizing, albeit indirectly, its effect on American culture at large. Extending far beyond the borders of New York City, the influence of Tin Pan Alley should be acknowledged as having shaped not only the development of subsequent theatrical genres, such as the American musical, but also other forms of popular and folk musics, namely jazz and country music. By compiling a vast amount of sheet music, Jones offers a new perspective on musics concerning the American South, juxtaposing the idyllic, often-humorous, picturesque vignettes of Tin Pan Alley with the longing and hopeful plantation songs of the antebellum South. Reinventing Dixie encourages us to consider the deeper issues in a multiplex American historiography, analyzing works and their time periods from multiple perspectives and elucidating the complexities therein. Jones’s accessible text paves the way for musicologists to expand upon lyrical content and cite specific musical indicators of “Dixie,” triggering more questions about the eclecticism and variability of not just Tin Pan Alley tunes, but of American music at large.
Revueltas, Silvestre. Redes. Directed by Paul Strand. 1935. Franklin, Tennessee: Naxos, 2016. DVD.
Anna Ochs, Purdue University
The last 20 years have seen a resurgence of scholarly and performance interest in Mexican composer Silvestre Revueltas. This attention resulted in numerous articles and books, recordings, and concerts spanning the globe. In recent years, the Washington D.C.-based PostClassical Ensemble promoted Revueltas’s music through conferences and performances, culminating in a newly recorded version of Revueltas’s soundtrack for the 1935 film Redes, featured in the 2016 Naxos DVD release. Redes, a film by American cinematographer Paul Strand, tells the story of humble fishermen who, in their struggle against oppression, start a revolution. The Naxos release includes a remastered version of the film with the original and new soundtracks, as well as interviews with Revueltas scholars Roberto Kolb Neuhaus and Lorenzo Candelaria by Joseph Horowitz, and a conversation between Kolb and the conductor of the PostClassical Ensemble, Angel Gil-Ordóñez. Taken together, these special features and the liner notes provide a rich context for the film and score, as well as Revueltas’s life and music more broadly.
The scholarly commentary adds significantly to the pedagogical value of this DVD release. Kolb provides a multi-layered analysis exploring how Redes reflects diverse aspects of Revueltas’s life, ranging from his leftist political leanings to his childhood experiences listening to local bands. In complementary interviews, Kolb and Candelaria compare Revueltas’s compositional style to his contemporaries, focusing on his compatriot Carlos Chávez and American Aaron Copland. Candelaria and Kolb position Revueltas as part of the counter-narrative to Chávez and Copland’s modernism by examining the impact of leftist social and political ideologies on Revueltas’s musics during the period after the Mexican Revolution. Gil-Ordóñez and Kolb enrich the sociocultural context by drawing connections between these political ideologies and specific scenes in the film.
The new PostClassical Ensemble recording is a significant contribution, especially due to the technical issues with execution and sound quality in the original recording. In their interpretation of the score, the PostClassical Ensemble emphasizes musical contrasts through attention to timbral, textural, and motivic layering. These serve to highlight the relationship Revueltas creates between instrumentation and visual depictions of social class in Redes, especially differences between fishermen and businessmen. As Kolb states, “through the instruments he represents the voice of a social class, and this is a political gesture.”
The 2016 Naxos release of Redes is a great contribution to the scholarly and pedagogical spheres. The interviews with well-known Revueltas scholars and the director of the PostClassical Ensemble provide fascinating insight into the composer’s biography, musical influences, and the sociopolitical beliefs that inspired his works, including Redes. The inclusion of both soundtracks demonstrates how changes in musical interpretation can influence how we understand and interpret the film. This is an excellent resource for scholars of music and politics, film, music of the Americas, and modernism.
Virginia Foundation for the Humanities: Virginia Folklife Program. “Eastern Virginia Gospel.”
Carrie Allen Tipton
The Google Cultural Institute and the Virginia Folklife Program recently collaborated to produce an online exhibit entitled Eastern Virginia Gospel, exploring the history of selected African American gospel artists active for several decades in the region. The virtual exhibit documents two ensembles and one solo artist: the Paschall Singers, an a capella male quartet; Maggie Ingram and the Ingramettes, a female vocal ensemble with instrumental accompaniment; and Charlie McClendon, a singer, keyboardist, and arranger who turned to gospel music after a modestly successful R&B career. The exhibit includes a combination of prose, photographs, and streaming audio/video of interviews, studio recordings, and concert footage. McClendon’s segment of the exhibit also includes a 30-minute biographical documentary. Eastern Virginia has attracted attention from gospel scholars primarily because of its a cappella Black male quartet tradition, so the exhibit’s presentation of a diverse group of performers nicely expands our awareness of the region’s multifaceted Black gospel tradition. Additionally, audio and visual media documenting regional Black gospel groups are always welcome, especially in easily-accessible online settings. The exhibit is visually attractive, full of valuable media, and quite informative about the artists’ individual trajectories.
Even with these positive aspects, however, the exhibit lacks uniform attention to historical contexts, stylistic descriptions, and socio-cultural issues that typically inform Black gospel music studies. With some exceptions, the exhibit does not address topics such as the intersection of commercial and religious concerns; professional vs. semi-professional performer status; the significance of denominational background; tension between innovation and tradition; processes of composing, arranging, and rehearsing; the role of instrumentalists; and professional elements of the industry such as publicity, fan culture, DJs, and media outlets. (A welcome exception to this trend is information about the distinctive regional aspects of the Paschall Brothers’’ and Charlie McClendon’s sound.) A concluding bibliographic slide would somewhat ameliorate these oversights; unfortunately, however, the exhibit cites no scholarship on Black gospel music at any point. Additionally, recordings are accompanied by very little description, even when such information can be established: are we hearing arrangements of spirituals? Gospel songs by Black composers such as Thomas Dorsey or Roberta Martin? Nineteenth-century hymns common in the repertory of both Black and white churches? For viewers not overly familiar with Black gospel music history, the exhibit omits some crucial data.
Despite these shortcomings, the exhibit still proves a welcome addition to resources on Black gospel music, North American sacred music, and folk and religious traditions of the U.S. South. With some caveats, pedagogical use is easy to imagine, in lectures and assignments for both traditional and online courses. Instructors should provide clear instructions for students to maneuver to a particular portion of the exhibit, because it contains no clickable menu. Users must navigate throughout the whole exhibit slide-by-slide in a linear fashion, an inconvenience for those attempting to read about only one artist or listen to only one recording. More importantly, instructors should treat this exhibit as complementary material to a robust diet of scholarly readings on Black gospel music.
|Adrian Childs, D'Anna Fortunato, Jane Rupert, and Peter Bloom|
Flutist Peter H. Bloom sends news of concerts in New York, New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast showcasing recent works by American composers. In September 2016, Bloom and the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra opened the band’s 44th season at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston with North by Northeast, a new composition by music director Mark Harvey. With mezzo-soprano D’Anna Fortunato and pianist Mary Jane Rupert, Mr. Bloom performed the premieres of two works written for the ensemble: Onward, Onward, Speeding Slowly by Adrian Childs (University of Georgia), and Dividend by Beth Wiemann (University of Maine), together with Soliloquy III by Elliott Schwartz (2015 for Bloom), Play of Light by Richard Nelson (2010 for Bloom and Rupert), and Kleemation (2003) by Elizabeth Vercoe. In November, Ensemble Aubade (Bloom, flute, with viola and harp), gave the premiere of Oxygen Footprint by Karl Henning (2016, written for Aubade) at the Friends of Music Stamford, New York, and the ensemble toured Massachusetts, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, celebrating the centennial of Arnold Bax’s Elegiac Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp (1916) and Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp (first performed in November 1916).
Sabine Feisst has guest-edited the current issue of the Contemporary Music Review 35, no. 3 (2016). All four essays in this issue focus on music composition, performance and listening in North America: Denise Von Glahn, “Music, Place, and the Everyday Sacred: Libby Larsen and Lessons in Environmental Awareness”; Sabine Feisst, “The American Southwest as Muse: Maggi Payne’s Sonic Desertscapes”; Ellen Waterman, “Witnessing Music from the New Wilderness”; and Garth Paine, “Ecologies of Listening and Presence: Perspectives from a Practitioner.”
The Bill Randle Chronicles - From Electric Elvis to The Shakers (PineTree Press, 2016) is a new DVD collection by music preservationist and former disc jockey Roger Lee Hall. The multi-media collection provides details about the Cleveland radio legend Bill Randle. Included on the disc are folders about Randle’s record promotion of Elvis Presley in 1955 and 1956, his record production for blues singer Big Bill Broonzy, and his massive 10-LP set on The Shaker Heritage. In addition to the articles there are bonus audio albums and videos.
Ralph P. Locke, emeritus professor at the Eastman School of Music, has moved with his wife to the Washington DC area. A Research Affiliate at the University of Maryland, he gives talks at colleges and music schools in the DC area. He continues as Senior Editor of the University of Rochester’s Eastman Studies in Music. His own most recent publications include an article on a 1622 sacred opera by the Johann Kapsberger, published in the online festschrift for Kerala J. Snyder. Another article, on exoticism in equestrian processions and tournaments, is forthcoming in the online journal Music and Politics. He also reviews recordings for OperaToday.com and New York Arts.net. His letter to the New York Times about race and slavery in Mozart operas has received wide discussion on the Internet.
Larry Starr’s essay “A Listener’s Smile” was published in: Good Vibrations: Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in Critical Perspective, ed. Philip Lambert (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 2016).
Brian Christopher Thompson has taken up the role of review editor for the CAML Review, the official publication of the Canadian Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres. The CAML Review is an open access journal, published three times a year (April, August, and November), containing articles, reviews, and reports pertaining to music in Canada, music librarianship, and music-related topics of current interest. Individuals interested in contributing reviews, and publishers of relevant books or recordings, may contact the review editor at: email@example.com.
Student member C.A. Norling (University of Iowa) has won the National Opera Association’s 2016 Scholarly Paper Competition for “Puccini’s Grotesque West: Exoticism and Appropriation in La fanciulla del west." Additionally, he will read his paper at the NOA’s annual convention in Santa Barbara, where he will be presented with the Leland Fox Scholarly Paper Award. Norling’s paper addresses American Indian depictions in Puccini’s Gold Rush drama, La fanciulla del west. In doing so, he highlights the opera’s two indigenous characters, Wowkle and Billy Jackrabbit, and compares their portrayal to the setting’s historical realities. Norling concludes that their text and music have little connection to the composer’s attempted authenticities but rather rely solely on a stereotyped exotic image.
The distinguished American composer, performer, author, and teacher Pauline Oliveros passed away peacefully in her home in Kingston, New York on November 24, 2016. Oliveros was born on May 30, 1932 in Houston, Texas in what was then a rural area of the city dotted with farms, pecan orchards, and berry patches. Its rich soundscape, saturated with choruses of natural sounds made by birds, frogs, cicadas, and other insects, inspired the young musician’s lifetime exploration of environmental sound.
In 1952, Oliveros moved to San Francisco, where she studied composition with Robert Erickson and joined a close-knit community of like-minded musicians, dancers, poets, actors, and visual artists. Oliveros pioneered collaborative mixed-media compositions with electronic sounds, light projections, and theatrical elements during the 1960s. She also created tape music compositions now considered classic works in the history of electronic music and contributed to the early development of free improvisation. Along with composers Ramon Sender and Morton Subotnick, Oliveros co-founded the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1961 and became the director of the center when it moved to Mills College in Oakland in the fall of 1966. She established a progressive, open-minded creative vision at the Mills Tape Music Center (later re-named the Center for Contemporary Music), which, after a half century, continues today.
In 1967, Oliveros accepted a position at the University of California, San Diego and was a vital part of its new music program for fourteen years. In 1985, she established the Pauline Oliveros Foundation (subsequently renamed the Deep Listening Institute), a non-profit organization supporting the creation, presentation, and dissemination of experimental music. She returned to Mills College in 1996 as the Darius Milhaud Composer in Residence. Although in 2001 Oliveros accepted a position as Distinguished Research Professor of Music at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, she continued to teach a composition seminar at Mills every year.
Oliveros was a staunch advocate for women composers both as a teacher and in her writings. Her essay “And Don’t Call Them Lady Composers” appeared in the New York Times in 1970, long before feminist musicology gained momentum. She also made path-breaking contributions to feminist aesthetics by advancing a non-hierarchical performance practice based on alternatives to traditional assumptions concerning the separation of performer and audience, authorship, and talent. Oliveros developed a new form of integrated listening in the 1970s through her work with an all-women improvisation ensemble and the research she pursued with a team that included a dance kinesiologist, a psychologist, specialists in biofeedback, and an optical physicist. These activities culminated with her Sonic Meditations (1974), a series of compositions consisting of verbal instructions aimed at cultivating a form of integrated listening that applies what she described as focused and global attention to both musical and environmental sound.
Oliveros embraced the infinite variety of sounds in our world. She viewed its sonic multiplicity as “a grand composition” and was committed to developing and teaching perceptual skills that made it possible for both musicians and non-musicians to appreciate this global “sound environment.” Her inclusive approach to listening parallels the work of John Cage, whose composition without sound 4'33" (1952) provides us with an opportunity, as Cage put it, “to listen, in an aesthetic way, to what there is to hear.” Oliveros extended this commitment to all sound, including not only the sounds of external environments, but also the more ephemeral sounds of our innermost thoughts. She also replaced Cage’s musical anarchism, which leaves sounds alone “to be themselves,” with what she termed “Deep Listening,” a form of meditative art embracing interactions between sounds, people, and the environments within which they coexist. Deep Listening for Oliveros was a foundation for collaborative work that can cultivate an appreciation of human diversity. Pauline Oliveros believed that music was a humanitarian project to which she dedicated her life’s work. She left the world not only with an extraordinary artistic legacy, but also with a sense of music’s profound potential at a time in human history when it is most needed.
David W. Bernstein
The Bulletin is published in the Winter (January), Spring (May), and Summer (September) by the Society for American Music. Copyright 2017 by the Society for American Music, ISSN 0196-7967.
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Awards, Fellowships, and Subventions of the Society
Student Travel Grants
Available for student members who wish to attend the annual conference of the Society for American Music and intended to help with the cost of travel. Students receiving funds must be members of the Society and enrolled at a college or university.
Mark Tucker Award
Awarded at the annual SAM conference recognizing a student who has written an outstanding paper for presentation at that conference.
Cambridge University Press Award
This award is presented to an international scholar (not a student) for an outstanding paper presented at the annual conference.
Wiley Housewright Dissertation Award
The Wiley Housewright Dissertation Award annually recognizes a single dissertation on American music for its exceptional depth, clarity, significance, and overall contribution to the field.
H. Earle Johnson Bequest for Book Publication Subvention
The Johnson Subvention is given to support the costs of the publication of a significant monograph on an important topic in American Music. Two subventions of up to $2,500 may be awarded annually.
Sight and Sound Subvention
The Sight and Sound Subvention provides financial assistance to facilitate the publication of non-print material concerning American music. Such material may include film, DVD, CD and other audio/visual formats, radio programs, website development, or other projects that further the Society’s mission and goals. One subvention of up to $900 is awarded annually.
Irving Lowens Memorial Book and Article Awards
The Lowens Award is presented annually for an exceptional book and article that make important contributions to the study of American music or music in America.
Adrienne Fried Block Fellowship
The Block Fellowship supports scholarly research leading to publication on topics that illuminate musical life in large urban communities, focusing on the interconnections and the wide range of genres present in these metropolitan settings.
Paul Charosh Independent Scholar Fellowship
The Paul Charosh Independent Scholar Fellowship is intended to foster research by independent scholars, and to encourage their participation in Society conferences. For purposes of this award, an “independent scholar” is someone who does not teach at an institution of higher learning, or who does so with a non-renewable contract of one year or less.
John and Roberta Graziano Fellowship
This fellowship shall be given to support scholarly research in all genres of music that originated in the United States in the nineteenth century, as well as other music performed in North America during that historical period.
Hampsong Education Fellowship in American Song
The Hampsong Fellowship supports projects developed by educators who wish to explore the repertory of American classic song as a means to understand the broader narrative of American history and culture.
Judith McCulloh Fellowship
The fellowship is given annually to support a short-term research residency at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Awarded competitively to scholars at any phase of their careers, the fellowship may be used to support expenses associated with the residency, such as travel expenses, lodging, and duplication expenses at the center.
Virgil Thomson Fellowship
The Virgil Thomson Fellowship is awarded competitively to scholars at any phase of their careers whose interest is focused on the history, creation, and analysis of American music on stage and screen, including opera.
Judith Tick Fellowship
This fellowship, endowed in honor of Judith Tick, is awarded competitively to scholars at any phase of their careers to support scholarly research leading to publication on topics that have been the focus of Prof. Tick’s distinguished career: women’s music-making across time and musical genres, musical biography, and source studies in American music.