Decolonizing the Society for American Music

Tamara Levitz

Last spring, I accepted the kind invitation of the Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Committee of SAM to speak at the Annual Meeting of the society on March 23–26, 2017 in Montréal, Canada. I had never been to a SAM Annual Meeting and am not a contributing member of this society, but I have been working intensively for several years on structures of white supremacy in the American Musicological Society (AMS), and accepted the invitation on the basis of my interest in investigating the histories of sister societies. To prepare for this event, I reviewed materials I had gathered from the large number of archives I had visited related to the history of the AMS, and read all issues of the Newsletter/Bulletin in their entirety, as well as conference programs, and all articles in American Music, the Journal of the Society of American Music, and other journals and websites related to the society’s history. I informed myself, yet came to SAM as an outsider—a stranger, born in Montréal.

My lecture on “Decolonizing the Society for American Music” on the morning of March 25 was followed by a second, afternoon session in which Karl Hagstrom Miller, Candace Bailey, Nancy Yunwha Rao, and Tammy Kernodle led society members through a workshop discussion of ten points I had opened up for debate. I felt enormously grateful to these brilliant members of the Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the opportunity they gave me to participate with them in such an inspiring dialogue, and to the current and past presidents and administrators of the society, who created these forums, and who have worked assiduously to address these issues.

Tamara Levitz
Tamara Levitz (photo by Peggy McInerny)
In the following remarks, I develop the views I expressed on that occasion to reflect the many engaging conversations I have had with members of the SAM and others both during that annual meeting and subsequently. A wide range of people expressed to me their urgent desire to confront structures of inequality and white supremacy in the society; many have researched these topics and committed their enormous energy, wisdom, and labor to advocating for change for years. SAM members have been instituting change step by step in crucial contributions; I hope my profound respect for their work shows. In the following, I focus primarily on how SAM functions as an institution; when I use the phrase “SAM members” it is to describe how they represent themselves collectively. I am adamant about their and my own complicity in structures of white supremacy. And yet I also aim to have demonstrated, through the example of my own person, the subtlety and plurality of approaches required in theorizing whiteness, the urgency of avoiding monolithic thinking, and the many intersectional roles we all play in negotiating decolonization. I hope the ten actions I outline below are helpful in contributing in a small way to the society’s current debate on its future.

ECOLONIZE! Members of SAM have not yet written about decolonizing their society, although they show great interest in seeking social justice through programs of diversity and inclusion. These actions are not the same, however, and part of the goal of this statement is to clarify what decolonization is, and to argue why it is an urgent project for SAM. First, it is important to understand the distinction between colonization and coloniality—a concept that scholars in the Americas have developed within the context of their critique of postcolonial studies. The geopolitical location of decolonial thinking is crucial in understanding its importance to SAM. Nelson Maldonado-Torres clarifies that whereas colonization and decolonization designate “specific empirical episodes of socio-historical and geopolitical conditions” in the past, “coloniality” refers to “long-standing patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism, but that define culture, labor, intersubjective relations, and knowledge production well beyond the strict limits of colonial administrations.”1 Aníbal Quijano has argued that these patterns of power first emerged in the conquest of America, when the idea of race became foundational to relations of domination, and when Europeans established new structures of control of labor within Eurocentered world capitalism, and a hegemony of knowledge. He coined the term “coloniality of power” to describe the specific relations of power that include these three elements—racialized power relations, capitalist distribution of labor, and knowledge production—which cannot be bracketed out or forgotten in discussing coloniality.2 Ramón Grosfoguel made this very clear when he described coloniality of power as the “entangled and mutually constitutive relations between the international division of labor, the global racial/ethnic hierarchy, and the hegemonic Eurocentric epistemologies in the modern/colonial world-system.”3 Coloniality of power is intrinsic to Western civilization and modernity, and to the existing global neoliberal system of capital and labor today.

To decolonize, Maldonado-Torres writes, is to develop a “decolonial attitude.”4 “If coloniality refers to a logic, metaphysics, ontology, and a matrix of power that can continue existing after formal independence and desegregation,” he clarifies, “decoloniality refers to efforts at rehumanizing the world, to breaking hierarchies of difference that dehumanize subjects and communities and that destroy nature, and to the production of counter-discourses, counter-knowledges, counter-creative acts, and counter-practices that seek to dismantle coloniality and to open up multiple other forms of being in the world.”5 The decolonizers or damnés (to speak with Frantz Fanon) ask critical questions, and emerge as creators and agents of social change.6 Decolonization is a collective project that involves theorizing about and clarifying coloniality of power, considering its spatial and temporal consequences, and taking a wide range of actions to counter it.

Members of SAM may find inspiration in the tactics being developed worldwide to decolonize knowledge, education, and, what Ramón Grosfoguel has labeled the “Westernized university.” They may want to look, for example, to the Rhodes Must Fall (#RhodesMustFall) and Fees Must Fall (#FeesMustFall) student protest movements in South Africa in 2015. Activists there focused on how South African universities have continued to privilege Eurocentric over African knowledge systems or epistemes, often suppressing the latter. Deeply cognizant of the connections between knowledge production, capitalism, and race, they strategized about how to stop tuition fee increases; become self-reliant and end neocolonial dependency; transform the physical space of university campuses; negotiate heart-wrenching racial and intergenerational conflict and power struggles on the means and ends of their protest; and decolonize the curriculum through new methodologies, modes of teaching, pedagogies, and content. How does one counter the fact that scholars from or working in the global north control knowledge about Africa, for example, especially when most grant organizations, archives, and financed academic journals are located there? Jess Auerbach at the African Leadership University in Mauritius, describes a plan there to decolonize the social sciences by offering students open source texts, using other languages than English, establishing a 1:1 ratio in student exchange, assigning non-textual sources of history, culture, and belief, giving students agency as producers, and following the highest ethical standards.

Yet, at the same time, one of the most crucial tasks ahead for members of SAM will be to consider whether and how these tactics of decolonization apply to the specific situation in the United States. In their much-cited article from 2012, “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor,” Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang warn that global discussions of coloniality of power, social justice projects, and postcolonial approaches may be incommensurable with the geopolitically specific project of decolonization. They argue that the term should be used in the United States in reference to a very precise set of specialized circumstances of settler colonialism. Decolonization is not a metonym for social justice, they caution, but rather about, “the repatriation of Indigenous land and life,” period.7 It should remain unsettling.

Tuck and Yang’s analysis of settler colonialism, and of settlers’ evasion of its reality, is extraordinarily helpful in understanding what is at stake in decolonizing SAM. The United States presents a unique situation of settler colonialism, they explain, because it is both a settler nation-state and empire, where external and internal forms of colonialism operate simultaneously. Settler colonialism is first and foremost about land ownership, and about the profound violence settlers inflict on Indigenous relationships to land when they settle in their territories. These settlers cannot be considered immigrants, because they are not beholden to Indigenous law. Settler colonialism involves the “subjugation and forced labor of [Native and African] chattel slaves, whose bodies and lives become the property, and who are kept landless.”8 Africans and other dispossessed people are brought onto seized Indigenous land through other colonial projects than settler colonialism, Tuck and Yang explain, including, for example, through enslavement, military recruitment, and displacement or migration. The triadic structure of settler-native-slave and imperial/settler colonial US context explains why the social justice goals and critical approaches of various white, nonwhite, immigrant, postcolonial, and oppressed people may actually further settler colonialism, rather than combat it, and may oppose, mask, or delay the project of decolonization.9

Tuck and Yang identify six “moves to innocence” or ways in which settlers—and scholars in the academy—use metaphors of decolonization to reconcile their guilt and complicity, and assure their future as settlers. These include: “settler nativism” or inventing ancestors with native blood; “settler adoption fantasies” or adopting native thought; “colonial equivocation” or homogenizing different experiences of oppression or colonization; “freeing your mind” or focusing on decolonizing the mind or critical consciousness rather than on the question of relinquishing stolen land; “a(s)t(e)risk” or erasing Indigenous people by representing them as “at risk” in research and statistics; and “re-occupation and urban homesteading,” exemplified by the Occupy movement.10 I take up Tuck and Yang’s idea of “moves to innocence” in my critique of SAM below.

The theorists and activists whose arguments I have summarized here give a blueprint of how to proceed in decolonizing SAM. Collectively, members have to prioritize research into the material history of the United States as a white supremacist, settler colonial state and empire founded on the genocide and dispossession of Native Americans, and on chattel slavery. They have to explore in detail that nation’s capitalist system and distribution of labor. And they then have to investigate how the coloniality of power in that nation determined and controlled the production of knowledge about music there. Decolonization as a historical process requires that members know this material history. Members also have to recall at all times that structures of white supremacy, the distribution of labor, and knowledge production are inextricable from each other. They have to be vigilant, persistent, and relentless every single day in addressing the material history of settler colonialism and imperialism as they manifest in all aspects, even the most mundane, of the society. And they have to take action to redress crimes and injustices committed in the name of the nation they serve—when necessary, or wanted, through reparations, including the return of land and material goods.

XPLAIN WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM “AMERICAN.” The first task at hand in decolonizing SAM is for members to clarify the material foundation of their discipline by defining the geopolitical boundaries of the nation they study, and the meaning of the term “American.” As is well known, a small group of dedicated scholars established SAM in 1975—as the United States prepared for Bicentennial celebrations. In its early years, the society’s members focused on music in colonial America and the revolutionary period, organizing one of their earliest conferences in Williamsburg, Virginia. The founding members named their society in honor of Oscar Sonneck and for years championed his work on early US music history, and the bibliographic and musicological methods he established.11 Revered, pioneering men (Gilbert Chase, Richard Crawford, Charles Hamm, H. Wiley Hitchcock, Robert Stevenson, etc.) dominated in establishing the field. Although members acknowledged that their primary goal was to promote national culture, they did not interrogate that nation and its settler colonial and imperial past in their official publications. Discussions about the term “American” did take place around the time of the founding of the society’s first journal American Music in the early 1980s, but they were reported upon rather than made public in the Bulletin, and tended toward the perfunctory, personal, and celebratory when reproduced elsewhere.12 Rather than define their discipline, members of SAM moved toward innocence by treating the term “American” publicly with tenacious vagueness—a pattern that has continued to the present day.13 They accompanied their obstinate discursive ambiguity with a relaxed approach to cartography—a tendency to treat the borders of “America” like penciled lines on a private map that could be erased and modified at will.

Members’ strategies for speaking about what is “American” have often reflected their “possessive investment in whiteness” (to use George Lipsitz’s phrase) and implication in the coloniality of power of the United States as a settler colonial and imperial nation. In the early years, members established ethnic and class diversity as the cornerstone of what they considered to be “American.” They drew on the popular idea of the United States as a nation of immigrants, and sometimes gave central European immigrants particular attention.14 They did not know that such acts of selective inclusion, and such interpretations of diversity, functioned as a means of perpetuating white privilege. There was little widespread understanding in SAM then about how racist immigration law in the United States had led to the acceptance of some immigrants over the exclusion of others, or about how immigrants can occupy the role of settlers by being brought onto Indigenous land in colonial projects, and how they can contribute to the oppression of Indigenous peoples, as explained by Tuck and Yang.15 SAM members’ emphasis on their own sense of arrival in the United States as immigrants led to another inadvertent move to innocence, that of describing themselves as “native” or “indigenous.”16

From the start, SAM members conceptualized music in “America” in terms of the broad class-based notions of cultivated versus vernacular or popular musical practices, with an emphasis on the “Americanness” of the latter. In the early years the move toward the vernacular motivated SAM’s separation from the AMS and helped members to feel progressive in relation to it. But later, this binarism became a hindrance to serious critical thought on white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and inherited ideologies of settler colonialism and US nationalism within the society. Popular or vernacular music tended to become an amorphous category, encompassing traditional, folk, commercial, dance, and other genres, and frequently, in statements about the discipline, standing in as a substitute for the “American people” as an undivided whole. As a result of these and other distortions, many members came to assume problems of social justice could be resolved through expansion of the canon. They aspired to racial equality, for example, by including repertoire and scholarship on African American music in their society, without being aware that structures of white supremacy and their own white privilege prevented such effortless assimilation—a situation Eileen Southern, Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., Guthrie R. Ramsey, Jr., and others addressed repeatedly in stunning interventions over the years.17 SAM members likewise spoke frequently about bridging class divides without considering how their power made such actions unilateral rather than based on mutual agreement, and how they solidified whiteness by focusing, as they often tacitly did, on reaching out to the white working class. One consequence of such conflations of musical taste and the reality of social racial formation, or of the vernacular and the people, is that many members of SAM came to define “America” as an infinitely expanding, utopic, inclusive human and musical canon—a vision that continues to dominate in the society today.

Many members are fully aware of and engaged in studying the history I am describing, and concerned about how they use the term “American” to describe both a geopolitical entity and national identity. In 2004—over a decade ago—a small symposium on “Disciplining American Music” appeared in American Music. And in 2006, Loren Kajikawa first questioned the term “American” in The Bulletin, when he commented that, “an ideal program in American music studies for me would question the very need for itself to be named ‘American.’ In American Studies circles, it has become fashionable to call for an end to ‘American Studies’ because such a rubric potentially reinforces a belief in a homogenous, essential identity that favors sameness and inclusion at the expense of conflict and difference, not to mention that it posits the U.S. as the be-all-end-all of America.” “American music should never be defined simply by our political borders or the nationalist rhetoric of our leaders,” he further explained, “but should instead be heard as signifying a network of relationships and struggles over power.”18 By recognizing the unsettled nature of the word “American” and the coloniality of power, Kajikawa made what I perceive as one of the first moves in the society to decolonize. From the written record I sense, however, that no rigorous debate on this issue followed.

In 2011, Alejandro Madrid provocatively drew attention to these issues when he spoke about how US nationalism has shaped the curriculum for teaching “American” music in the United States in a roundtable at the annual meeting.19 He correctly noted how “musicology has validated a bifurcated racial (black-white) view of ‘American music’”—a statement that has led, as Madrid tells us, to a “marginalization of various ethnic groups (and their music).” Yet Madrid bracketed out in his short comments the fact that the United States is not just a nation, but also a settler colonial and imperial nation—a slip that allowed him to oppose the idea of nation to that of “postnation,” and to propose the unwieldy solution of studying music in the United States today in a “postnational” framework. Indeed postnationalism is an interesting analytic for studying current music. It situates Madrid’s thought within the context of the “transnational turn” in American Studies, which both provides a welcome challenge to nationalist paradigms, yet can also serve as a “move to innocence” if used to evade them. Likewise, “postnational” can be as slippery, potentially harmful, and historically inaccurate as “postracial” for those engaged in decolonization, because it can so easily be used—and this is absolutely not what Madrid intended—to deny or ignore the settler colonial and imperial foundations of US nationalism and the structures of white supremacy, as if the country has moved beyond them.

I am encouraged by these developments. But I have yet to see any sustained investigation of SAM’s foundational ideologies and of how settler colonialism and imperialism formed the study of “American music” in any representative publications of the society. Whereas members of the American Studies Association (ASA) have undertaken extended and thorough critical investigation of how changing understandings of “American” shaped the professionalization and development of their discipline, SAM as a whole has persistently sidestepped such necessary disciplinary debate.20 As a result, SAM as an organization continues to enforce, perpetuate, and strengthen structures of white supremacy.

Time is passing. As Eduardo Herrera has recently eloquently argued, SAM members urgently need to address what they mean when they use the term “American.” They need to face the consequences of recognizing that they are members of a society that produces knowledge within the structures of heteropatriarchal white supremacy of a powerful settler colonial and imperial nation with sovereign borders established through ruthless violence, draconian immigration laws, exterminations, deportations, acts of war, legal exclusions, and violations of human rights.

RITICALLY EVALUATE SAM'S EXPANSION INTO THE AMERICAS. In recent years, members have tried to move beyond nationalism by expanding SAM to become a society that studies music in the Americas—a geopolitical project supported by a fund-raising campaign and announced on the society’s web page. There is a certain amount of moral righteousness in this move, which builds on the society’s historic tendency to avoid thinking about the power relations and violence associated with settler colonialism and imperialism by appealing to a benevolent image of the United States as a melting pot that includes all, and that can thus be easily expanded outward to include other countries as well. Members give the impression they feel like good people when they include the Americas. SAM’s territorial expansion began in the 1980s, when the Bulletin began sporadically publishing a “Letter from Canada.” It coincided with a campaign to find new members to sustain the society, which was concerned about its finances. In other words, the move to include Canada may have been unconsciously imperial, a masked financial calculation in collaboration with Canadian friends, rather than an act of grace. Members of SAM had long understood the work they do as a corrective to the narrow study of “European” music in historical musicology; for decades, they defined themselves as “not European.” Cold War competition was surely at the root of some of this strategic positioning, and of the need to bond with “American” friends. In fact, the idea of welcoming the Americas into SAM’s fold harkens back to Pan Americanism—a central political project and ideology that the US government developed in the late nineteenth century, yet established prominently as the center of its foreign policy in the Americas in the Cold War period. Given that Pan Americanism often masked US expansionism and exploitation of resources under the mantle of compassionate cultural exchange, why should it be considered a model for the present? What purpose does it serve at all to group musical practices in the geopolitical entity of the Americas today, in the globalized twenty-first century?

The drive to represent the Americas institutionally as part of the Eurocentric discipline of Western musicology is not new, but began with the International Musicological Society in the 1920s, and was central to the establishment of the American Musicological Society in the 1930s. In other words, extending a friendly welcome to scholars in the Americas is foundational to how these professional societies have asserted their national power. The AMS and SAM have repeated such gestures of inclusion again and again at different moments in the histories, often forgetting that they had made the very same gestures before. Yet such invitations have never led to shared power and equal access to economic and career advancement. Instead the gesture of welcoming scholars from the Americas has been repeated compulsively yet vacuously like the movement of a broken needle stuck in a groove—each reiteration producing a hiccupped snippet of masked imperial ideology, a chilling sound that has echoed through the AMS and SAM for almost a century.

Members of SAM need to investigate their motives in appealing to the Americas and how this strategy has failed scholars from across the Americas for a very long time. They need to ask with Herrera why they do not integrate structurally what is Latino/a American within the United States, rather than assuming its lies outside. Currently, annual conferences and publications do not include research on all music of the Americas, French, Indigenous languages, Portuguese, and Spanish are not on equal footing with English, and scholars from the Americas, and Latino/a American scholars, do not share power and privilege in this society and the ones that preceded it, in spite of a century of efforts at integration. It is time to ask why.

WN UP TO SETTLER COLONIALISM BY ADDRESSING THE ISSUE OF NATIVE AMERICAN MUSIC. In “American Indians, American Studies, and the ASA,” Philip Joseph Deloria questioned whether American Studies was a good home for students of Native Studies. The idea of “America” may be compelling for scholars whose experience arises from diaspora and immigration, he writes, but not for tribal people and societies for whom citizenship means attachment not to the United States, but to one’s tribal nation. Further, whereas social groups may have the historical goal of acquiring equal rights and citizenship in the United States through intellectual work, for tribal people equal rights can mean the “supercession of tribal understandings of social order and political self-governance.” “For many Indian people, integration into the rights and equalities of American citizenship has as often looked more like assimilation to a repressive social order than a brand of liberation in which an American political structure built around citizenship offers refuge from institutionalized social and cultural oppression.”21 Aware of these difficulties, Deloria seeks a form of dialogue with Native studies scholars that recognizes their “anti-assimilationist position.”22

In November 2016, Robert Allen Warrior returned to the theme of how the ASA could become a home for Indigenous scholars in his ASA Presidential Address, “Home/Not Home: Centering American Studies Where We Are.” Warrior spoke about what Native American dispossession meant for American Studies, and how Native studies scholarship “obligates itself to being connected to the real lives of real peoples living in real time,” and making the Indigenous world a “better, more just, and more equitable place to live, thrive, and provide for future generations.” After an intricate, multi-angle, and thoughtful exploration of what it means to be at home in institutions, Warrior ended by interpreting Edward Said’s exilic thinking to describe taking an intellectual position on the “margins of the minority position”—occupying a place that “others find uncomfortable or don’t see at all.”23 Commenting on Warrior’s speech, Dylan Rodriguez asked: “Should ASA ever be considered a ‘home’ for those engaged in insurgent institutional inhabitations, who take seriously that such places bear and ooze atrocity, to the extent that they require as they reform the states of occupation, violent normativities of sexual personhood, and distended relations of gendered racial chattel?”24

It is remarkable that similar debates are not taking place in SAM—an organization that has welcomed scholarship on Indigenous music in the Americas, and yet whose members have refrained collectively from undertaking the work of decolonization necessary to making such invitations more than potentially hollow gestures toward multiculturalism. Whereas SAM administrators frequently include Native American music in the list of topics they encourage members to explore in their call for papers for the annual meetings and on other occasions, for example, I found no public evidence that they have ever negotiated substantially about these issues with Indigenous and Native American scholars, launched a program of repatriation of Indigenous instruments, songs, and other material and immaterial heritage housed in institutions and collections, or shown their commitment to Indigenous and Native American activism. In an eloquent recent statement in The Bulletin, Beverley Diamond reflected on how to move forward with Indigenous music studies: “We are in a moment that can generate new ways of seeing the world,” she wrote, “and put existing ones in productive dialogue.” SAM members should heed her wisdom, and address in earnest why Native American music has played such a small role in their alleged “American” society, and what damage its frequent absence and neglect has caused. What can SAM offer Native American and Indigenous scholars, given the pointed arguments Deloria, Warrior, Rodriguez, and Diamond make? Is it not an act of epistemic violence for SAM members to try to assimilate Native American music studies into their society without engaging in sustained dialogue with Indigenous and Native American scholars, and without confronting these issues?

EARN ABOUT THE COLONIALITY OF POWER BY RESEARCHING HOW STRUCTURES OF WHITE SUPREMACY BECAME INSTITUTED IN SAM WITH THE GOAL OF DIMANTLING THEM. Members of SAM have tended at times to trace the origin of the study of American music in the United States to the foundation of their own society, priding themselves in the strides they took to advance that field in comparison to the AMS. As a consequence, there has been little or no comprehensive investigation into how their conceptual schemes, categories, frameworks, means of operating, and methods may have been shaped by Eurocentric and settler colonial hegemonies of knowledge. To view this from another angle, I would like to again cite Lipsitz, who has described American studies as an “academic enterprise that monitors, registers, and responds to lived social experience.” “Many of the most generative frameworks and paradigms in American Studies have emanated from contradictions between the national culture’s bright promises and its bitter betrayals,” he explains, “from the paradox of the state’s proclamation of a Manifest Destiny characterized by conquest and colonization and the simultaneous existence and persistence of what Toni Cade Bambara describes as the people’s Latent Destiny as authors and architects of egalitarian ideas and institutions.” Following Lipsitz, SAM members need to investigate how folk scholars, collectors, librarians, and amateurs created generative bodies of knowledge and research paradigms for studying “American” music within structures of power determined by US settler colonialism and imperialism beginning in the late nineteenth century.

It is notable in this respect that so many early American music scholars were librarians. Sonneck was head of the music division of the Library of Congress from 1902 to 1917; not coincidently, Irving Lowens, the first president of the society, was also a librarian, and assistant head of the music division of the Library of Congress from 1959 to 1966. Numerous other early elected members of SAM were also librarians or collectors: Cynthia Hoover, a curator at the Smithsonian since 1961, was an early vice president. They and others used their bibliographic and library skills to gather knowledge and materials about “American” music and centralize them. Today, members of SAM need to decolonize the archives established by these and other pioneers, asking questions about what epistemic and material violence occurred in their construction, what theoretical frames determined their contents, how they devalued or excluded materials, how they served the settler colonial, imperial nation and its erasure of Native American cultures, and how they continue to shape current modes of knowledge production in the society.

SAM members also need to investigate how Eurocentric systems of knowledge shaped approaches to US music before their society was formed, and how conceptual frameworks established in the past continue to operate today. They need to research, for example, their connection to the American Society for Comparative Musicology (ASCM), founded in 1934 yet disbanded shortly afterwards. The most prominent comparativists in that organization—among them Henry Cowell, George Herzog, Helen Haffron Roberts, Charles Seeger, and Harald Spivacke—had studied with or knew vergleichende Musikwissenschaftler of the Berlin school, including Erich von Hornbostel, Carl Stumpf, and Carl Sachs. Through these connections, they brought imperially inflected means of gathering and studying data to the United States. Operating in a settler colonial rather than colonial context, however, they necessarily shifted the focus of their research, from the “primitive” without, or subjects of European colonization, to what they considered to be the “primitive” within, or African and Native American populations—which became the prime focus of their research. In the 1930s, comparativists collaborated with musicologists in establishing the categories for studying African American and Native American music in the United States.

Settler colonial ideology is evident in George Herzog’s “Research in Primitive and Folk Music in the United States”—the first bibliography commissioned by the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), which in 1934 had formed a dedicated committee to help develop the discipline of musicology in the United States.25 In this volume, Herzog argued that the need to study primitive and folk music was “perhaps more urgent in the United States of America than anywhere else,” because it was dying out as a result of modernization. “Moreover,” he wrote, “we have within our reach forms or trends that are not familiar to us from our own experience and history, forms which can perhaps help us to understand better the groups which are close to us geographically, but not in their life-mode.”26 In the first part of his bibliography, Herzog lumped African Americans and Native Americans together as “primitive” peoples, treating both as colonial subjects. But in the second part of his bibliography, he reconsidered, and designated African American music as folk music, and even as urban folk or popular music, listing sources under the subheadings “United States Folk Music, White,” “United States Folk Music, Negro,” and “Creole.” His confusion over whether African American music was “primitive” or “folk” reveals how knowledge production in the AMS and ASCM at the time was shaped by the ideology of settler colonialism, which allowed Herzog to frame African Americans simultaneously as “primitive” people from Africa and as settlers who recreated musical forms in the United States. Funded generously by the ACLS and profiting from its means of distribution of information to institutions across the country, Herzog’s bibliography, along with others, may have contributed significantly to establishing the conceptual foundation for studying music in the United States, and the categories with which scholars of that music would operate. Traces of that foundation, and of these categories, remain in SAM.

More serious archival and historical work needs to be undertaken to understand how epistemologies, conceptual frameworks, and categories grounded in settler colonialism and imperial history emerged, the power structures that enabled their consolidation, and whether they continue to operate in SAM. Only when members understand coloniality of power, and know how these structures of white supremacy became instituted in their society, can they dismantle them.

FFER RESPECT TO THE VICTIMS OF US IMPERIALISM AND SETTLER COLONIALISM BY ABANDONING FRIENDLINESS AS A BRAND. When I attended the SAM annual meeting in Montréal, what struck me most is how almost everybody I met told me how friendly people in their society were, and how much more I would enjoy it there than at the AMS. Having read all the issues of the Newsletter/Bulletin, I knew that members had from the very earliest years of the society repeatedly accentuated this camaraderie, and the informality of their gatherings. The current marketing video posted on SAM’s web site to encourage new members to join likewise emphasizes that the society is made up of a dedicated, family-like community of (majority white) supporters and friends.

I felt excluded from the friendliness at the conference, and alienated when watching the video, both of which were punctuated with music I perceived, perhaps incorrectly so, as white and often Christian, performed by a closed circle of musicians to which I felt I could not belong. I recognized that SAM members cherish their capacity for warm, mutual support, as well as their long-standing practices of live and amateur music making, and I respect enormously their individual commitment and dedication to their field. Yet as a collective affect the friendliness felt hermetic—shared by a closed-off group of people genuinely united in their passion for the society and investment in its traditions. I wondered about the kind of public sphere formed when people identify so strongly with a society—limiting the possibility of welcoming the stranger who does not identify. Raised to be cynical about patriotism, I recoiled when SAM members began singing popular tunes I did not recognize but understood to be “of the (white?) people” during the SAM Brass Band rehearsal on Friday night—their seemingly joyful immersion reminding me, perhaps uncharitably, of the kind of somatic incorporation into the nation I fear when people put their hand on their heart to sing the national anthem or pledge allegiance to the flag in the United States. Now, in hindsight, I think about Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem, and ask myself why not a single member of SAM remained visibly silent in protest during the singing as a sign of resistance to the whiteness of the whole affair, and to the injustices committed in the name of the nation their society serves. Can members in a professional, neoliberal, national society in the twenty-first century still claim the innocence of engaging in allegedly amateur, “popular” music making during their annual meeting without self-reflection on what they are doing? I wondered how members of a society representing a country that has used notions of the “good neighbor” and friendliness to pursue its most rapacious imperial aims, could champion such qualities in themselves. Is friendliness really the most desirable character trait for members of a critical, “woke” scholarly society in the twenty-first century?

Members of SAM need to ask whom this informal conviviality excludes, what settler colonial and imperial history it masks, and whether it is time to drop it as a brand.

AME AND RAISE CONSCIOUSNESS ABOUT WHITE GUILT, WHITE PRIVILEGE, AND WHITE SUPREMACY. As I travelled the country last year speaking about how structures of white supremacy became instituted in the AMS and SAM, I encountered many people who felt angry about the stories I told, and who wanted me to show more respect for those who dedicated their lives to these societies in the past, especially by not accusing them of “racism.” Some expressed concern that I was misjudging the pioneering men who founded the discipline by applying to them moral categories that were not historically valid for their time, or by expecting of them a certain kind of historical prescience, or moral purity. Others correctly asked for a more comprehensive history that took into account their own personal experience, memories, and achievement (and I hope they write that history!).

I took very to heart, and continue to learn profound lessons from, these conversations, many of which took place at the annual meeting of SAM. First and foremost, I learned how crucial it is for people to understand the distinction between judging individuals and personal prejudice, and investigating the structural injustices and inequalities of white supremacy. Philosopher Gideon Rosen made an extremely helpful distinction in this regard at a talk he gave at NYU on February 11, 2017. Rosen distinguished between the emotions of moral outrage—which one feels when a perpetrator commits a crime, is proven guilty by undeniable evidence of the facts, and is not punished—and the moral disgust one feels when one is faced with unrecognized structural inequality or systematic abuse on account of race. It would have been difficult to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, did so because of racial prejudice, Rosen argues, because his actions may have been a consequence of implicit biases, or expressive of larger structural injustices. This ambiguity prevents Black Lives Matter protesters from assigning blame unequivocally to him, and thus from experiencing moral outrage. Instead, Rubin argues, Black Lives Matter activists feel moral disgust at the structural inequality and racism that led to the shooting; they seek acknowledgement of those structures, or a negation of the message that Black Lives matter less (hence the slogan, Black Lives Matter).

Speaking of decolonization can provoke white guilt, panic about the potential loss of white privilege, and anger over what is perceived as the unfair judgment of dear white friends. What work, I ask, needs to be done in SAM for such discussions to incite not a personal response grounded in assumptions about moral outrage over individual guilt, but rather collective moral disgust—a disgust so powerful that members can no longer tolerate structures of white supremacy, and storm the barricades, demanding immediate change? SAM administrators can organize workshops and sessions devoted to constructive intersectional and intergenerational dialogue on decolonization, in which everybody’s voice is heard. They also need to plan specific events and adopt effective practices to raise consciousness in the society about white guilt and privilege, and white supremacy. Finally, white people (and that includes me) need to stop taking up space, and to step back and listen.

NHABIT POWER STRATEGICALLY. The founding fathers of SAM established their society because they felt the music they cared about was unwelcome in the AMS. In the early years, SAM members distinguished their society from the AMS primarily on the basis of the repertoire they covered. Indeed SAM provided a genuine home to people who knew their work on US music might not be accepted, and might even be despised and looked down upon, elsewhere. But their secession was of course not only about repertoire: members also questioned other aspects of the AMS, including how it accrued power. It was as if some members felt professionalism and historical musicology as then practiced could diminish one’s capacity for empathy and connection with the people—a quintessential aspect of being “American.” These concerns and others led some of them to reject the scholarly exclusivity, cultural elitism, and professionalism of the AMS in favor of amateurism, popular repertoires, and informality (meetings taking place in people’s living rooms, as some fondly remember).27

Tensions between the two societies came to a head in 1979, when the AMS allegedly unfairly rejected a panel SAM had proposed.28 Everybody who was in the AMS or SAM in the 1980s can remember how acrimonious the situation was. But these battles eventually subsided as the AMS gradually opened up and SAM professionalized in the 1990s. Although the two societies now resemble each other in many ways and include the same repertoire and constituencies, SAM members still identify their beloved society as “not the AMS.”

As many members know, “not being the AMS” is not a viable identity for SAM in the twenty-first century. I understand that SAM members may need to draw a line in the sand in terms of protecting the repertoire they study, because otherwise, blurring could easily occur. That muddiness is already evident in how both societies use the word “American” unreflectively in their names: one to indicate a national society (the AMS), the other to indicate the national repertoire its members study (SAM). I also understand the anxiety members feel about losing their humanity and connection as they deepen their embeddedness in the neoliberal business arena of professional academic life in the United States represented by the AMS. But for members to continue to distinguish SAM’s informality from the AMS’s professionalism when their society has now exceeded 1,000 members and has an endowment of over $1,000,000 appears to be just another move to innocence—a way of disavowing their power and white privilege.

It is time for SAM members to own their power, and to use it to lead by example in decolonizing US academia.

ERO IN ON A CRITIQUE OF LIBERAL STRATEGIES OF PROMOTING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION. As a Westernized, liberal institution in a globalized world, SAM reproduces relations of coloniality yet masks its entanglement by adopting strategies of promoting diversity and inclusion, more recently as a catch-all for solving problems of discrimination, injustice, inequality, and exclusion. Such liberal strategies are often unmoored from the material historical circumstances of US settler colonialism and imperialism, and lead to metaphorical understandings of what it means to decolonize.

Many people in the neoliberal academy, not only members of SAM, appear unaware of current critical work on diversity politics. Aviva Chomsky recently drew attention to this problem when she called the diversity industry “big business.” “While adept in the terminology of power, diversity, inclusion, marginalization, injustice, and equity,” she wrote, “[campus diversity offices] studiously avoid topics like colonialism, capitalism, exploitation, liberation, revolution, invasion, or other actual analyses of domestic or global affairs. Lumping race together in an ever-growing list of marginalized identities allows the history and realities of race to be absorbed into a billiard ball theory of diversity, in which different dehistoricized identities roll around a flat surface, occasionally colliding.”

Nancy Leong expresses serious concerns about what happens to nonwhite bodies in the diversity industry in her detailed study of “racial capitalism”—an idea famously theorized by Cedric Robinson. She encourages promoting racial diversity, as long as individuals and institutions examine their motives, and understand the problems that arise when they derive social or economic value or capital from the racial identity of nonwhite people by commodifying and exploiting it in a way that does not benefit those people.29 Sara Ahmed critiques diversity work within institutions. She thinks diversity policies can mask inequality and perpetuate institutional racism, rather than reversing it. Strategies of diversification, in Ahmed’s analysis, can allow institutions to define themselves as static bodies “unified in its diversity” and with the fixed “appearance of valuing.”30 Institutions can use diversity to change perceptions of whiteness, for example, and to present themselves as ethically on the right side of history.31 Such strategies can cause policy makers to neglect the material history of how structures of white supremacy became instituted in their institutions.

Members of SAM, and all those working in institutions of higher education and professional societies in the United States need to critique, debate, and challenge strategies of diversity and inclusion. They need to ask whether such liberal strategies are moving beyond the representational and symbolic, and to what degree they may only serve the consolidation of white privilege and supremacy, and the institutional status quo. Are they effective in the project of decolonization?

NGAGE IN DECOLONIZING THE NEOLIBERAL UNIVERSITY. On August 17, 2017, in the wake of a white supremacist rally at which James Fields plowed into a protesting crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing Heather D. Heyer, SAM officers and members-at-large issued an urgent “Statement in Solidarity with Anti-Racism and Anti-White Supremacy.” They condemned white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, and neo-Nazis, and reiterated their commitment to diversity, and to dismantling white supremacy.

I felt both grateful and uneasy when I saw SAM’s statement, and others like it from professional societies and universities around the United States. Aviva Chomsky put her finger on the source of my ambivalence when she asked why the bipartisan coalition of people who responded to the events in Charlottesville focused on “individual, extreme, and hate-filled mobilizations and rhetoric, rather than the deeper, politer, and apparently more politically acceptable violence that imbues United States foreign and domestic policy in the 21st century.” Chomsky sharply critiqued the left for shifting in its protests “away from actual goals and towards using these tactics merely to express one’s moral righteousness or ‘allyship.’ ” “Rather than organizing for change,” she wrote, “individuals seek to enact a statement about their own righteousness.”

I am not sure I entirely agree with Chomsky’s analysis. But my unease remains. Perhaps my reaction is inflected by my own experience as a Jewish woman, who neo-Nazis have chased, brutally verbally harassed, hit, spit upon, thrown, and directly existentially threatened over a dozen times in Germany since the 1980s. Maybe some members of SAM know these feelings: you wipe the spit off your face, but it never quite goes away; you shut out the derogatory racial epitaphs, but they still ring in your ears; you’ve stopped running for your life, but your body still holds the fear, that feeling of constricted breath and wobbly legs. In light of such internalized discrimination, I wonder a bit why the SAM board is responding to neo-Nazis and white supremacists in this way now, and why they (like so many others) seem so taken off guard. I appreciate the sentiment, but also ask myself what is achieved by such expressions of moral outrage.32 Perhaps I am hardened: after years of reflection, the fear in my bones has metamorphosed into a feeling of moral disgust, a conviction that structural change is necessary—a determination to decolonize.

I think issuing statements of moral solidarity against white supremacist extremists may constitute a move to innocence in that it diverts attention from the real matter at hand: addressing neoliberalism as a “governing rationality” that founds knowledge production in SAM. At first, this subject may seem like quite a leap from the strategies for decolonizing SAM that I have suggested so far—a curve ball I throw just before concluding this essay. Yet as I read SAM’s statement on anti-racism and anti-white supremacy, I kept thinking about how structures of white supremacy, knowledge production, and capitalism are inextricably linked in the coloniality of power, and how the white supremacists on the streets in Charlottesville are just a symptom of the structural racism grounded in unfettered and predatory neoliberal capitalism, and neoliberal rationality, that marks Trump’s presidency and knowledge production in the United States today. Is SAM’s statement just an example of what Ta-Nehisi Coates has analyzed as the left’s escape from complicity in white supremacy through a focus on the disillusionment of the white working class—in this case on the abhorrent actions of white supremacist extremists? Is SAM’s condemnation of those extremists a way of evading what Coates describes as a necessary “existential reckoning”? And wouldn’t that existential reckoning require first and foremost a plan to dismantle and reform the neoliberal university? As a Westernized institution, the neoliberal university dominates the hegemonic knowledge production in the United States; SAM operates within the relations of coloniality it establishes. I concluded that to respond to Charlottesville, then, is to decolonize the neoliberal university, in which a large group of SAM’s members work or with which they are affiliated.

Yet members of SAM, like academics in music studies in the United States more broadly, have shown tepid interest in decolonizing that neoliberal university, and often downplay its harrowing impact on people’s lives. In the minutes from the annual business meeting on March 25, 2017, for example, Neil Lerner reported how President Charles Garrett commented that, “despite acute contractions in the musicological workforce, our Society is enjoying robust health: for the first time ever our membership has exceeded 1000, and more than 175 of those members share their time and energy in service to the Society, an indicator of an organization that people care about and that possesses the people power to grow, adapt, and make a difference.” This tiny statement gives evidence of a dramatic discrepancy between how SAM administrators react to white supremacists and to the structures of white supremacy in the neoliberal global world order that have caused “contractions in the musicological workforce.”33 They react to the former by immediately issuing a symbolic statement of resistance. They react to the latter by organizing panels to ease members’ anxieties, or by playing down the devastation caused by the neoliberal academic market in a secondary clause of a sentence at a business meeting that celebrates the unpaid labors of love SAM inspires in its constituency.

To decolonize SAM is to confront the wreckage of human lives and state of existential precarity caused by neoliberalism, which has ravaged the Westernized university. It is to open up an urgent, necessary intersectional debate in SAM on how to decolonize that university, and to use the context of a professional society to plan grassroots organizing. It is to address the fact that precarity is occurring more in the younger generations, as data gathered in the Forum for Early Career Professionals’ initiative on the gig economy in this issue suggests, and that a specific form of intergenerational dialogue is required to change the situation. When I attended SAM, I witnessed how invested older members expressed opinions at odds with younger members desiring change, leading me to conclude there is a generational divide on the importance of decolonization. I also noticed how younger generations of scholars are now speaking out with eloquence and courage, in spite of their precarity, while the older generations are speaking out less. I wondered how we can all show our deepest respect for the wisdom, achievement, and experience of the elders, while making the urgent changes the next generations need. I understood that those with and without security also need to play different roles in the collective project of decolonization, while acknowledging that these are not the only roles we play. We with tenure need to use our power and privilege, and to put ourselves on the line, to secure a decolonized future for the next generations. We need to stand arm in arm with them—acting as their comrades, listening, and supporting them—in decolonizing the neoliberal university. This is the battle we should now all be fighting together.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I am especially grateful for feedback and insights, both on my talk or this statement, from Candace Bailey, Erin Brooks, Benjamin Court, Wade Dean, Oded Erez, David Garcia, Alejandro García Sudo, Naomi Graber, Kyle Kaplan, Elizabeth Lindau, Karl Hagstrom Miller, Tiffany Naiman, Ben Piekut, Miriam Piilonen, Liz Przbylski, Rosaleen Rhee, Nancy Yunwha Rao, Jill Rogers, and Schuyler Whelden.

Correction: An earlier version of this essay stated that SAM’s first meeting took place in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was held in Middletown, Connecticut. The Bulletin’s editor regrets the error, and is grateful to a charter member for bringing it to her attention.

Click the above image for additional readings
1 The first definition comes from “Outline of Ten Theses on Coloniality and Decoloniality”; the second from “On the Coloniality of Being: Contributions to the Development of a Concept,” Cultural Studies 21, nos. 2–3 (March–May, 2007): 243.
2 Aníbal Quijano and Michael Ennis, “Coloniality of Power, Eurocentrism, and Latin America,” Nepantla: View from South 1, no. 3 (2000): 533.
3 Ramón Grosfoguel, “Colonial Difference, Geopolitics of Knowledge, and Global Coloniality in the Modern/Colonial Capitalist World-System,” in “Utopian Thinking”, ed. Grosfoguel, special issue, Review: A Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center 25, no. 3 (2002): 205.
4 Maldonado-Torres, “Ten Theses,” 22.
5 Ibid., 10.
6 Maldonado-Torres explains this in theses seven to nine in Ibid., 24–28. On the damnés, see his “Coloniality of Being,” 257–58.
7 Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization is not a Metaphor,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1, no. 1 (2012): 1–40.
8 Ibid., 6.
9 Ibid., 4–7; abstract.
10 Ibid., 9–35.
11 The first few years of issues of the Newsletter are filled with information about Sonneck, and the society’s first major project was to edit his work. Members also wrote about singing new texts to national folk tunes in his honor. See “Oscar’s Ghost,” The Sonneck Society Newsletter no. 4, 2 (Summer 1978): 2–3.
12 See “What’s in a Name?” The Sonneck Society Newsletter 6, no. 1 (Spring 1980): 13. A selection of editorial commentaries and statements about “American music” published around this time is given in the bibliography.
13 Michael Broyles gave an example of this when he was President, when he remarked that: “We can no longer discern such nationalism in American musical scholarship, however. Not only do American music scholars come from all parts of the world, but American music can be found almost everywhere . . . What makes music American versus some other category has become more and more difficult to discern, although something called American music will always be at the core of SAM.” “From the President,” The Bulletin of the Society for American Music 33, no. 1 (Winter 2007): 3.
14 I cannot list here all the very many instances in which SAM members envisioned “America” as a nation of immigrants. See, for example, Nicholas Tawa, “An Editorial: On Looking at a Recent List of New American-Music Publications,” The Sonneck Society Newsletter 3, 1 (March 1977): 9–10.
15 Program Chair Jean Geil could inform society members that a meeting on the “Midwest” in 1982 would focus on “the music of immigrant settlers of the Midwest (German, Russian, Scandinavian, etc.),” for example, without mentioning Native Americans. See The Sonneck Society Newsletter 7, no. 2 (Summer 1981): 11.
16 See, for example, “Somewhere Near the Essence: An Essay by Elie Siegmeister,” The Sonneck Society Newsletter 4, no. 1 (Spring 1978): 14–15; Allen P. Britton, “Keynote Address: Sonneck-Society Liberty Supper, Queensborough Community College, 29 May 1976,” The Sonneck Society Newsletter 5, no. 3 (Fall 1979): 17–19; and Nicholas Temperley, “Preferences and Prejudices,” The Sonneck Society Newsletter 11, no. 3 (Fall 1985): 69.
17 The foundation of SAM coincided with the rise of Ethnic Studies, and discussions of “American music” tended to balkanize. In the early years, Eileen Southern embodied the study of black music in SAM to the degree that when she became ill, Richard Crawford commented that the volume on nineteenth-century slave songs for MUSA would be “incapable of being completed.” See “MUSA’s Early Years: The Life and Times of a National Editing Project,” American Music 23, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 36n51. Samuel A. Floyd founded the Center for Black Music Research in 1983. Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. explicitly outlined the need to analyze racial relations critically in considering black music within American Music Studies in “The Pot Liquor Principle: Developing a Black Music Criticism in American Music Studies,” in “Symposium: Disciplining American Music,” ed. Mary Wallace Davidson, American Music 22, no. 2 (Summer 2004): 284–95. Southern received SAM’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000, Floyd in 2006.
18 Loren Kajikawa, quoted in “Standpoints: Imagining a Graduate Program in American Music,” The Bulletin of the Society for American Music 32, no. 3 (Fall 2006): 52–53. See also Davidson, ed., “Symposium: Disciplining American Music,” 270–316.
19 Jennifer L. Campbell, “2011 Meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean Interest Group: Music of the Americas and the College Curriculum,” The Bulletin of the Society for American Music 38, no. 3 (Fall 2011): 35. See also Madrid’s related statements from a roundtable of the Ibero-American Music Study Group at the annual meeting of the AMS in 2015: “Diversity, Tokenism, Non-Canonical Musics, and the Crisis of the Humanities in U.S. Academia,” Journal of Music History Pedagogy 7, no. 2 (2017): 124–29. In this article, Madrid proposes a transnational solution, his decolonizing tactics still consisting of redressing the crimes of nation by moving geopolitically outwards into the world.
20 Different attitudes toward the term “American” in the ASA and SAM may have to do with the fact that the founding members of SAM were trained in musicology or librarianship, rather than in the social sciences or anthropology, and were not aware of debates about culture. See Vivian Perlis “American Music in American Studies” and Betty Chmaj’s “Response to Vivian Perlis’ [sic] Report,” in The Sonneck Society Newsletter 8, no. 2 (Summer 1982): 34–37; and Stuart Levine, “Some Notes on American Studies and American Music History,” The Sonneck Society Newsletter 8, no. 3 (Fall 1982): 53–56.
21 Philip J. Deloria, “American Indians, American Studies and the ASA,” American Quarterly 55, no. 4 (December 2003): 671–72.
22 Ibid., 679.
23 Robert Warrior, “ASA Presidential Address: Home/Not Home: Centering American Studies Where We Are,” American Quarterly 69, no. 2 (June 2017): 197; 210.
24 Dylan Rodríguez, “Protective Measures: Reflections on Robert Warrior’s 2016 ASA Presidential Address,” American Quarterly 69, no. 2 (June 2017): 226.
25 George Herzog, “Research in Primitive and Folk Music in the United States,” American Council of Learned Societies Bulletin 24 (April 1936): 1–97.
26 Ibid., 1.
27 The first Sonneck Society Newsletter lists the professions of the first 101 members, noting how many of them were not academics. See “Who are the Members?,” “What are the Musical Interests of the Members,” and “Member’s [sic] Views of the Sonneck Society,” Sonneck Society Newsletter No. 1 (Summer 1975): 4–6.
28 See “The Limits of Tolerance,” and “Le Nouveau Salon des Refusés,” in The Sonneck Society Newsletter 5, no. 2 (Summer 1979): 7, 10; and Leeman L. Perkins, “Rebuttal,” The Sonneck Society Newsletter 5, no. 3 (Fall 1979): 10–11.
29 Nancy Leong, “Racial Capitalism,” Harvard Law Review 126, no. 8 (June 2013): 2155.
30 Sara Ahmed, On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 59.
31 Ibid., 34.
32 Is the Society for Ethnomusicology’s “Music and Social Justice Resources Project” not a more productive response for the larger community?
33 Garrett’s statement is all the more telling given his own profound contribution as a scholar and administrator in increasing understanding of racial inequalities and structures of white supremacy in musical life in the United States. I see this statement as symbolic of a general tendency administrators have to minimize the damage of the neoliberal university, and not of Garrett’s own politics as President of SAM—a role he filled with brilliance, compassion, and wisdom.

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From the President

Greetings, SAM colleagues! The first few months of my presidency have been busy ones!

ACLS Annual Meeting, SAM, and Community
“There are no humanities in a dystopia . . . The humanities are by nature ‘challenging’—an incubator for change. The role of humanities is to ask questions the public refuses to ask, to amplify the voices society doesn’t hear.” These were the words of Pauline Yu, president of the American Council of Learned Societies, at this year’s annual meeting in Baltimore. Every year SAM sends Executive Director Mariana Whitmer and a SAM member to the conference, and this year I went in place of SAM delegate Carol Oja, who had a scheduling conflict. Yu closed her remarks with these words: “We value the public humanities because there’s no such thing as private humanities. Learned societies were created because humanities are a communal act.”

Sandra Graham, SAM President
Sandra Graham, SAM President
These words reminded me why SAM is vitally important. As SAM has grown (we now hover around 1000 members) and as interests and trends in scholarship have evolved, it can be challenging at times to remember—and define—what binds us together. We aren’t the “little society that could” of SAM’s first decade, when members all knew each other and shared a common goal. We are a diverse population (never diverse enough—more on that later), reflected in sixteen active interest groups, an active Student Forum, some twenty-five awards and fellowships, and a premier journal whose articles traverse chronology, methodologies, national boundaries, and music genres.

As a community, SAM shares the same challenges as other learned societies: staying financially healthy, maintaining membership, satisfying a growing array of member needs, figuring out how to make conferences relevant to membership, ensuring equity in the paper proposal process, and making our conferences financially feasible, especially for the underemployed, independent scholars, and students. Inspiration abounded at this tightly packed, one-day meeting, from the research reports of the current ACLS fellows, to the inspirational luncheon address of Freeman Hrabowski III (president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County), to numerous breakout sessions, to stimulating discussions with other society representatives. I wish every SAM member could attend an ACLS meeting. In lieu of that, you can check out the media page of the ACLS website, which includes interviews, research talks, fellows’ reports, and the Charles Homer Haskins Prize Lecture Series.

On a broader scale, the ACLS, as a member of the National Humanities Alliance, has been a major force in the fight to retain federal humanities funding, holding hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill and sending 150,000 messages to legislators in support of the National Endowment for the Humanities. It continues to increase the number of fellowships it offers: there will be 78 next year, up from 71 in 2017. SAM members Sarah Eyerly and Sasha Metcalf are the most recent beneficiaries of ACLS awards: Eyerly with a Collaborative Research Fellowship for Songs of the Spirit: The Collaborative Hymnody of the Mohican Moravian Missions, and Metcalf with a position as program analyst for the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Program in the Education and Community Engagement program at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Congratulations to them, and appreciation to the ACLS and its delegates for fighting to keep the humanities alive. If you’re inclined toward activism, mark your calendar for the 2018 Annual Meeting of the National Humanities Alliance and Humanities Advocacy Day, March 11–13, in Washington, D.C.

Governance and Transparency
By the time you read this, SAM’s Board of Trustees will have had our fall meeting in Philadelphia. As part of this retreat we will be undergoing anti-bias training with a facilitator from the Philadelphia chapter of the Anti-Defamation League. This will be the beginning of a lengthy process in which we examine SAM governance, policies, and procedures with the goal of transparency, accessibility, inclusion, and equity for all members.

To that end, if you have a question about how things work at SAM, please don’t hesitate to ask me, or Executive Director Mariana Whitmer. I welcome feedback from members, whether it’s constructive criticism or affirmation! I look forward to reporting more on this process in future columns.

Mariana Whitmer’s Very Special Fall Semester
Center for American Music PreservationCongratulations to Mariana Whitmer, who has been invited to teach at West Virginia University for the coming academic year. Mariana will commute to West Virginia in the fall while continuing to teach a course at the University of Pittsburgh and continuing with executive director duties.

Resolution on Executive Order on Immigration
After the last business meeting in Montréal, SAM membership voted to solicit position statements on Trump’s executive order from all corporations and institutions with which the society does business in excess of $500 per year, and publish links to those statements—or note the lack of such statements when none are forthcoming—on the society’s website, together with the society’s own updated position statement about that order. A link to this information is now on the society’s home page.

And Speaking of Resolutions . . .
As of this writing the Board is in the process of crafting a response to the NAACP’s travel advisory for Missouri, where SAM is holding its 2018 annual conference. Look for this shortly on the SAM conference website.

But on to KC . . .
The preliminary program that Paul Laird and the Program Committee have assembled for Kansas City 2018 is magnificent. The next Bulletin will have the particulars, but I can assure you that this is a conference you won’t want to miss! Mark your calendars for 28 February–4 March!

Dr. Rae Linda Brown
As the Bulletin was going to press we learned of the death of Rae Linda Brown, past president of SAM (1999–2001). She was the third woman and first African American to lead our organization. At the time of her death on August 20, Rae Linda was at the height of her career, serving as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Pacific Lutheran University. Rae Linda’s pioneering scholarship on Florence Price, her dedicated mentoring of and advocacy for students, and her collegiality have left a deep impact on generations of SAM members. We mourn her passing, and will honor her with a more extensive remembrance in the next issue of the Bulletin.

Sandra Graham

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Statement in Solidarity with Anti-Racism and Anti-White Supremacy

We are facing horrifying events. White supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members, and Neo-Nazis boldly champion hateful causes and commit unconscionable acts of violence. The Board of the Society for American Music condemns these groups and their actions. We condemn the terrorizing and intimidating tactics of bullies and bigots, for they are anathema to the principles we stand for. The Society for American Music promotes the pursuit of knowledge and education, broadly construed. Celebrating and understanding diversity is at the core of SAM’s mission. As people who are dedicated to understanding musical life in the Americas, we are all too aware of how some voices have been silenced while others privileged. We support fully work that uncovers the influence of racist white supremacy in the past, and we support work that dismantles it in the present.

We welcome all members of our extended community regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic background, political or institutional affiliation, and ability, and we are fully dedicated to promoting a diversity of voices and views as a scholarly society. We recognize that there is still work to be done to make the spaces of SAM safe and hospitable to all, and we are committed to continuing to do that work.

Sandra Graham, President
Christina Baade, Vice-President
Neil Lerner, Secretary
Maribeth Clark, Treasurer
Charles Hiroshi Garrett, Past-President

Members at Large:
Renee Lapp Norris
Steve Swayne
Cecilia Sun
Danielle Fosler-Lussier
Glenda Goodman
Eduardo Herrera

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Announcing the Robert Walser and Susan McClary Fellowship

Robert Walser and Susan McClary
Robert Walser and Susan McClary

The Society for American Music is delighted to announce the establishment of the Robert Walser and Susan McClary Fellowship, an annual award for PhD candidates that seeks to diversify the field of scholars working in American music. The couple has endowed the fellowship with a $1.2 million gift that is partly a bequest and partly an outright contribution. SAM will begin naming Walser-McClary Fellows in 2018. Applications for the inaugural award are due on November 1, 2017, and information can be found here.

“The Society for American Music is profoundly grateful to Robert Walser and Susan McClary for this extraordinary gift, which is the largest the society has ever received,” said Sandra Graham, SAM President. “It couldn’t be more timely—now more than ever we need diverse voices in our work. The Walser-McClary fellowship will have a deep impact on American music scholarship and on SAM beyond our lifetimes.”

Recognizing academic achievement and future promise in the study of American music, the Walser-McClary fellowship is awarded to an outstanding PhD candidate at a US or Canadian university who is a member of a historically underrepresented group in the field. Applications are especially welcome from African Americans, Native Americans, Native Pacific Islanders, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans, and, from Canada, aboriginal peoples and visible minorities (as defined by Canadian legislation). The society embraces and promotes diversity of race, ethnicity, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, and religion, among other expressions, among our membership and throughout all society activities. Understanding that the definition of diversity within the field of American music studies may change over time, the SAM Board will periodically revisit the fellowship guidelines to ensure an appropriate pool of students from underrepresented groups. The fellowship, granted annually, provides a six-month stipend of $11,000. Upon completion of the endowment, the fellowship program will be expanded to support two full-year fellowships.

Professors McClary and Walser are both distinguished musicologists on the faculty at Case Western Reserve University. Robert Walser has published extensively on jazz and other popular musics, including his books Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music, and Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History. He has twice won the SAM Irving Lowens Award for Distinguished Scholarship in American Music. A MacArthur Foundation Fellowship recipient, Susan McClary focuses on the cultural criticism of music. Exploring the European canon and contemporary popular genres, her distinguished publications range from Conventional Wisdom: The Content of Musical Form to the award-winning Modal Subjectivities: Renaissance Self-Fashioning in the Italian Madrigal. She is best known for her book Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality.

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Future Conference Site Selection

The Site Selection Committee is happy to announce that in addition to the upcoming conferences in Kansas City (2018) and New Orleans (2019), the 2020 conference will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Planning for future years includes investigations of potential sites in the western United States and at least two Latin American cities. Any individuals who are interested in hosting a future conference at their institution or in their home city is welcome to contact the incoming chair, Laura Moore Pruett. Please note that an offer to host isn’t automatically an acceptance to host! The society is also open to returning to cities we have already visited if it has been ten years or more. Click here for full details on site selection.

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Forum for Early Career Professionals: The Gig Economy

The Forum for Early Career Professionals is coordinating a yearlong initiative that explores contingent labor, an effort that we call “SAM and the Gig Economy.” Our goal is to raise awareness about the ways in which contingent employment—defined as temporary, short-term, and/or freelance work—shapes the lives of American music scholars. In this conversation, we seek to include those American music scholars who undertake all types of contingent labor, regardless of whether the work takes place within the academy. We plan to devote several of our columns in the Bulletin as well as our panel discussion at the meeting in Kansas City to the topic.

To inform our initiative, we would like to hear about the experiences of American music scholars who work in the gig economy whether or not they are members of the FECP or SAM. Those employed contingently are invited and encouraged to take part in an anonymous survey online that will ask about your personal, professional, and financial life. You can find the survey here.

At the time of this column’s writing, we can report some preliminary results from the survey. At this point, we will focus on closed-ended questions, in order to preserve the integrity of answers to open-ended questions in the ongoing project.

Some results reveal the divergent professional paths that American music scholars take. For instance, slightly more than 20% of respondents (9 out of 43) do not have PhDs in musicology. Respondents report terminal master’s degrees, DMAs in performance, and PhDs in music education. Many also work for multiple employers. They report working for as many as 15 different organizations or institutions during the last 2 years, and about 20% have worked for more than 5 employers. More than 50% report working outside of music at least part time.

The survey results allow us to understand how contingent employment shapes the lives of American music scholars in various ways. We believe that SAM can become a more effective academic society by considering the implications of such employment patterns on the society’s membership. In one example, several FECP members have recently raised questions about printing institutional affiliations on nametags at national meetings. They have wondered aloud if the implicit hierarchy of prestige attached to institutional reputations needs to have a place on our nametags. They suggest printing research interests or other information as an alternative. But the simple act of filling in the “institutional affiliation” box on a conference registration form is more complicated for some of us who work in the Gig Economy. Some lecture at several different schools and thus claim multiple institutions, while others among us claim no formal academic affiliation at all. For those members, deciding what to print as an institutional affiliation on their nametag can be a source of confusion or anxiety that accompanies their experience of the national meeting.

The preliminary findings of the FECP survey also suggest ways that national political events shape the lives of American music scholars. Passage of the Affordable Care Act in the United States may have had a dramatic impact on the lives of contingent workers among us. Though there is clearly still work to do in order to improve health care access for contingent workers, we have been delighted to see that 95% of respondents report that they have some form of health benefits. Some claim benefits through a spouse. Others—around 10%—disclose that they have health benefits through Medicaid or the HealthCare Marketplace (which may or may not mean that their insurance is subsidized). Additionally, some respondents disclose that they participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (colloquially known as “food stamps”). We urge the SAM to consider how threats to federal assistance programs affect its members and their scholarship.

It’s still early days for our initiative, and such conversations will continue for the next few months. We thank those of you who have already lent time and energies to the initiative, and look forward to turning the perspectives gained into a program of collective action.

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Call for Proposals: The SAM Bulletin Student Column

The SAM Student Forum established a Bulletin column in 2016. The past three issues of the Bulletin have included columns by Meg Orita, Elyse Marrero, and the co-organizers of Harvard’s Black Lives Matter Conference. The Student Forum co-chairs invite student members to submit short writings in a variety of formats, including interviews with American musicians or scholars, conference reports, and opinion pieces on issues in American music. Contact co-chairs Kate Sutton and Kori Hill if you have an idea for a Student Forum piece. The submission date for consideration for the Winter Bulletin is October 15. The completed column of 800-1500 words will be due December 1.

Journal of the Society for American Music

Volume 11, Number 4 (November 2017)

Transatlantic Contrafacta, Musical Formats, and the Creation of Political Culture in Revolutionary America
   Glenda Goodman

“Yes, [Gospel] is Real”: Half a Century with Chicago’s Martin and Morris Company
   Kay Norton

“A Fountainhead of Pure Musical Americana”: Hobo Philosophy in Harry Partch’s Bitter Music
   Graham Raulerson

Catfish Row in the Soviet Union: The Everyman Opera Company and Porgy and Bess, 1955–56
   Michael Uy


Christopher J. Smith, The Creolization of American Culture: William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy; Katrina Dyonne Thompson, Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery
   Renee Lapp Norris

Sherrie Tucker, Dance Floor Democracy: The Social Geography of Memory at the Stage Door Canteen
   Christina Baade

Sean McLeod, Leaders of the Pack: Girl Groups of the 1960s and Their Influence on Popular Culture in Britain and America
   Alexandra Apolloni

David Gilbert, The Product of Our Souls: Ragtime, Race, and the Birth of the Manhattan Musical Marketplace
   Edward Berlin

Kendra Preston Leonard, Louise Talma: A Life in Composition
   Marian Wilson Kimber

Eric Weisbard, Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music
   Kim Simpson

Anthony de Mare, Liaisons: Re-imagining Sondheim from the Piano
   Naomi Graber

Jennifer Higdon, Cold Mountain
   Stephanie Jensen-Moulton

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New Members

The Society for American Music is pleased to welcome these new members:

David Samuels, New York, NY

Jonathan Lower, Canal Fulton, OH

Dana Goot, Carmel, IN

Lydia Waren, Franklin, MA

Alysse Padilla, Berkeley, CA

Daniel Neill, St. John's, NL, CANADA

Rachael Lansang, Bayonne, NJ

Maria Ryan, Philadelphia, PA

Pamela Saalbach, California, MD

Sophia Enriquez, Columbus, OH

Ronald Squibbs, Vernon, CT

Samantha Holland, SINGAPORE

David Lewis, Pittsburgh, PA

David Miller, Ithaca, NY

Center for American Music Preservation, Stoughton, MA

Kathryn Radishofski, New York, NY

Andrew Snyder, Oakland, CA

Leann Osterkamp, New York, NY

Glen Hicks, San Tan Valley, AZ

Marquese Carter, Bloomington, IN

Pamela Pilch, Henrico, VT

Pamela Moro, Salem, OR

Samantha M. Cooper, Thornhill, ON, CANADA

J. Michele Edwards, Saint Paul, MN

Colleen Reardon, Irvine, CA

Marc Hannaford, Richmond, Victoria, AUSTRALIA

Aida Marc, Timisoara, Timis, ROMANIA

Gwen DAmico, Brooklyn, NY

James Aldridge, Cleveland, OH

Brenda Gardenour, St. Louis, MO

Stephanie Lim, La Crescenta, CA

Mary Au, Los Angeles, CA

Benjamin Weissman, Evanston, IL

Allyson Rogers, Montreal, QC, CANADA

Jeff Weston, Pittsburgh, PA

Patrick Craven, Los Angeles, CA

Ted Buehrer, Gambier, OH

Caitlin Carlos, Santa Ana, CA

Norma Coates, London, ON, CANADA

Maya Brown, Tiffin, OH

Woodrow Steinken, Pittsburgh, PA

Taylor McClaskie, Cleveland Heights, OH

Sean Colonna, New York, NY

Gretchen Peters, Eau Claire, WI

Jeffrey Yelverton, Columbia, SC

Daniel Castro, Riverside, CA

Carolyn Stallard, Brooklyn, NY

Zach Wiggins, Mesa, AZ

Amy Zigler, Greensboro, NC

Ya-Hui Cheng, Temple Terrace, FL

Jeannelle Ramirez, Austin, TX

Codee Spiner, Fredonia, NY

Stephen Armstrong, Grand Rapids, MI

Christopher Scheer, Logan, UT

Benjamin DuPriest, Oxford, MS

Elizabeth York, North Logan, UT

Sarah Holder, Clarksville, TN

Matthew Carter, New York, NY

Jeffrey Yunek, Marietta, GA

Jordan Stokes, River Edge, NJ

Timothy Watkins, Fort Worth, TX

Chelsea Stern, Floral Park, NY

Orit Hilewicz, New York, NY

Joy Calico, Nashville, TN

Jill Chambers, Parrsboro, NS, CANADA

Johannes Snape, New York, NY

Frederick Schenker, Richmond Heights, MO

Steven Serpa, Austin, TX

Sean Riley, Austin, TX

Ezra Teboul, Troy, NY

Christopher Batterman, Lawrenceville, GA

Catrin Watts, Austin, TX

Anne Midgette, Washington, DC

James Gabrillo, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UNITED KINGDOM

Andrew Virdin, Fairfield, CT

William Heimann, Shrewsbury, NJ

Catalino Balensuela, Terre Haute, IN

Christopher Parton, Princeton, NJ

David Kant, Santa Cruz, CA

Thomas Hanslowe, Wharton, NJ

Nick Rissman, Beaumont, TX

Karen Olson, St. Louis, MO

Yu Ye, Austin, TX

James McNally, Ann Arbor, MI

Erik Heine, Oklahoma City, OK

Derek Jenkins, State University, AR

Scott Murphy, Lawrence, KS

Nikolaus Schroeder, Allendale, MI

Katherine Rogers, Cleveland, OH

Nicholas Kmet, Astoria, NY

Campbell Shiflett, Princeton, NJ

Cody Jones, Vine Grove, KY

Joseph Pfender, New York, NY

Lindsey Eckenroth, Brooklyn, NY

Dana DeVlieger, Saint Paul, MN

David Pearson, East Elmhurst, NY

Bryan Proksch, Lake Charles, LA

Fuyuko Fukunaka, Taito-ku, JAPAN

Michael O’Connor, West Palm Beach, FL

Gabriel Ellis, Ann Arbor, MI

Kacey Link, Santa Barbara, CA

Barbara Lewis, Grand Forks, ND

Serena Wang, New York, NY

Andrea Ivis, Phoenix, AZ

Justin Sextro, Lawrence, KS

Kim Loeffert, Stillwater, OK

Mary Horn Jones, New Haven, CT

David Catchpole, Austin, TX

Victoria Clark, Charlottesville, VA

Jennifer Messelink, Edmonton, AB, CANADA

Robert Lagueux, Medford, MA

Lisa Feurzeig, Grand Rapids, MI

John Sienicki, Grand Rapids, MI

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Book Reviews

The Hip Hop & Obama Reader. Travis L. Gosa and Erik Nielson, eds. Oxford University Press, 2015. 336pp. ISBN: 9780199341801. Hardcover.
   Dana Gorzelany-Mostak
, Georgia College

In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, social activist and rapper Sister Souljah made the following remarks to a writer from the Washington Post: “I mean, if black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? You understand what I’m saying? In other words, white people, this government and that mayor were well aware of the fact that black people were dying every day in Los Angeles under gang violence.”1 Her remarks, and quite possibly her collaboration with Public Enemy, a group known at the time for their black nationalist rhetoric, drew the attention of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. A month later, he made reference to her interview at a May meeting of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition. “If you took the words white and black and reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech,” he said.2 With these words, the presidential candidate distanced himself from purveyors of black extremism and tacitly reassured white voters that he was solidly in their camp. Indeed, the intersection of race, hip hop, and presidential politics came into sharp relief at this pivotal moment. Hip hop and hip hop activism have come a long way since Clinton’s “Sister Souljah Moment” and its fallout, but the questions that this exchange illuminated still persist: Can hip hop bear a political voice and serve as a stimulus for social change? And if it can, who is listening?3

These questions in all their messiness and complexity are elegantly and thoughtfully explored in The Hip Hop & Obama Reader, a collection of essays edited by Travis L. Gosa and Erik Nielson. The pair have already published a handful of insightful essays on this topic, along with a number of other scholars, including H. Samy Alim and Geneva Smitherman, Richard Daniel Blim, Shaun Ossei-Owusu, Lester Spence, and this author, as well as Murray Forman and Michael P. Jeffries, who also lend their voices to this ambitious project. In this collection, an interdisciplinary team of scholars—who represent fields diverse as English, Africana studies, women’s and gender studies, political science, history, sociology, media studies, and American studies—as well as activists, journalists, and even a playwright, come together to investigate various topics as they pertain to hip hop in the age of Obama. These include community organizing and activism (in real and virtual contexts); tracks created in response to Obama’s campaign and presidency; the candidate’s engagement with the genre, its practitioners, and its audiences; and media trends that coincided with the former senator’s historic presidency. Interdisciplinary and transnational in its scope, this volume brings diverse voices and perspectives into the narrative and relies upon various methodological approaches to support its critical and contextual frame.

Perhaps the book’s greatest strength lies in its reliance on voices outside (or adjacent to) academia. The editors establish this orientation from the outset as the voice of Killer Mike, half of the duo Run the Jewels and “self-proclaimed Pan Africanist Gangster Rapper, Civic Leader & Activist,” is interwoven throughout their tour de force introduction, lending a real-world perspective to their theorizing (17). In order to set the stage for the essays that follow, the introduction explores some of the underlying tensions existing within a genre that can simultaneously be socially conscious yet materialist, a product of a tightly controlled industry yet also a grassroots movement. Perhaps the greatest tension exists within the artist himself as he writes song lyrics that sometimes venerate the social ills he later rallies against when fashioning himself as an activist-artist offstage. But the candidate many rappers apotheosized similarly assumed a liminal position on the sociopolitical field, as he felt a need to distance himself from identity politics and the more radical black nationalism of previous candidates, yet was compelled to devise an authentic (but non-alienating) racial performance. Black communities found themselves in an equally vexing quandary as their desire for racial loyalty abutted their need to critique the candidate’s policies and politics that in many cases did little to improve black lives, a point Tricia Rose drives home in her foreword: While some may point to Obama’s success as evidence of a post-racial America, persistent disparities in education, healthcare, housing, and employment suggest the Obama candidacy was symbolic rather than constitutive of actual change (viii).

The first of the reader’s three parts, “Move the Crowd: Hip Hop Politics in the United States and Abroad,” explores hip hop activism in the age of Obama, as well as hip hop’s role in branding and voter mobilization. Setting the stage for the chapters that follow, Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar’s essay looks backward to the Bush administration to examine the foundation for the style of hip hop activism that emerged during the first Obama campaign. Dismissing the idea of the hip hop community as an “ideological monolith,” he addresses both grassroots and celebrity-spearheaded conferences and symposia (32). Two activists in the trenches, Bakari Kitwana (co-founder of the first National Hip Hop Political Convention) and Elizabeth Méndez Berry (founding board member of the League of Young Voters), cover similar terrain, dispelling some of the myths associated with youth mobilization. In an interview with the volume’s authors, Kevin Powell continues the discussion of hip hop activism by addressing the community’s disenfranchisement under Obama post 2008, as well as the role of online spaces in complementing social movements.

Turning to diasporic practices and the genre’s transnational flow, Sujatha Fernandes and Torie Rose DeGhett conclude the book’s first part with essays on hip hop and global activism. Fernandes investigates the role of hip hop during the Arab Spring protests, an instance where rappers served as truth bearers for those who wished to speak out against deplorable social inequalities and corruption at the highest levels of government. In a similar vein, DeGhett tackles some of the misconceptions regarding Arab hip hop in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Arab diaspora, arguing that the artists’ and audiences’ affinity for the genre does not constitute an uncritical acceptance of Western culture and pro-democratic values, but rather demonstrates the fluidity and flexibility of the art, which at times serves to challenge the domestic and foreign policies of both East and West.

The second part of the reader, “Change We Can Believe In? The Contested Discourse of Obama & Hip Hop,” turns to the candidate himself, interrogating “the ideological, historical, cultural, and political implications of Obama’s title as the first ‘black’ and/or ‘hip hop’ president” (19). Pero Gaglo Dagbovie historicizes emcees’ elevation of Obama as a black leader (despite the fact that he lacked a black agenda) by examining the thread of historical revisionism that wove its way though tracks created during hip hop’s formative years, a time in which artists evoked the names of prominent black historical figures. He argues that Obama was strategic in his “surface-level references to black history,” and that his deft code-switching appealed to both blacks and whites, a point Michael P. Jeffries broaches later in the volume (128). This tactic that Obama deployed in his speeches carried over to his engagement with music and music genres. Using age identity as a point of departure, Murray Forman analyzes how the candidate tempered his associations with hip hop by frequently alluding to his old school tastes—a strategy that mitigated potential stereotypes regarding black male deviance, and allowed the candidate to establish a cool persona that appealed to different publics.

But not everyone responded with enthusiasm to Obama as hip hop candidate-cum-president. Like Gosa and Nielson, Anthony Kwame Harrison brings the voices of activists into the mix, specifically Filipino American rap group Power Struggle, for whom “political rhymes are no substitute for political activism” (147). Weighing in on the political consciousness of underground hip hop during Bush’s second term and Obama’s first, they position grassroots efforts and global activism as the necessary ingredients for lasting change (as opposed to a dependence on national electoral politics). While Obama certainly had some vocal critics within the progressive black community, most of the vitriol came from outside it. Charlie Braxton examines the Right’s response to the rapper Common’s 2011 White House appearance, arguing that Republican detractors used the opportunity to alienate the president from his base supporters before an election year and to deliver retaliation for a 2003 White House poetry reading that was cancelled in response to poets’ protests against the Bush administration’s War in Iraq. Several of the authors in this section attempt to historicize specific intersections between hip hop and Obama, but Raphael Heaggans constructs what I would argue are problematic homologies between the lyrical content of “socially unconscious” hip hop and subjugation tactics as formulated by whites and executed by blacks during the height of slavery. While no one can deny that some emcees glorify misogyny, violence, and materialism, and that the saturation of such images in the media can perpetuate harmful stereotypes about black men (and, as Kyra D. Gaunt argues later, girls), his suggestion that unconscious hip hop is complicit in the perpetuation of criminality and degeneracy seems a bit far reaching. Moreover, his flat hermeneutic omits the potential for subversion, irony, and play, which are commonplace in black art forms, and does not account for the myriad social, institutional, and structural barriers that likely bear a far greater impact.

Taking on a strong intersectional bent, the third part, “Represent: Gender and Language in the Obama Era,” investigates hip hop’s twenty-first-century evolutions through representation and cultural performance. Interweaving her critique of social media with autoethnography, Kyra D. Gaunt examines the impact of hip hop videos on young women and girls, arguing that these media perpetuate problematic gender roles that ultimately impede their social and emotional development. Her poignant and provocative storytelling offers a thoughtful counterpoint to the valorization of digital technologies (which indeed played a role in establishing Obama’s brand). Ruth Nicole Brown covers similar ground, offering a performative account of black girlhood to critique “hegemonic images of black love,” which she argues silence queer and gender non-conforming subjectivities (238). Like Gaunt, who calls for improving media literacy, Brown describes her experiences with Saving Our Lives Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT), a collective centered in hip hop feminist pedagogy that works to empower girls of all gender identities and sexual orientations. Turning to representation, Michael P. Jeffries investigates the code-switching strategies deployed by Obama and one of his most famous supporters, Jay Z. Class privilege and patriarchy paired with hip hop’s evolving notion of authenticity in the wake of the genre’s commercialization allows both men to “remix” black identities, and ultimately offer compelling social performances that appeal to a diverse fan base (in the case of Jay Z) and diverse constituencies (for Obama). This part concludes with James Peterson and Cynthia Estremera’s application of speech act theory to explore how references to American presidents in hip hop lyrics allow artists to address race, inequality, and power in meaningful ways. Focusing on tracks by Young Jeezy and Nas, they argue that references predating Obama served as a form of counterhegemonic discourse, but that Obama’s ascendancy brought on “cheerleading” for the candidate and calls for racial solidarity.

Overall, Gosa and Nielson’s reader represents a valuable contribution to ongoing dialogue regarding intersections between music and presidential politics. While at times a few of the authors default to theoretical jargon that may alienate the general readership (and perhaps some hip hop heads), the book in general adopts an accessible tone that will no doubt appeal to professors who are teaching courses on music and politics, hip hop, or, more generally, American music. I do have one small critique. While diverse disciplinary perspectives are offered here, I am somewhat baffled by the absence of scholars in musicology and ethnomusicology, as there are many scholars in these fields publishing groundbreaking, influential work on hip hop. This absence is felt perhaps the most deeply in places where some music-analytical insight might add nuance and depth to the author’s rich contextualization of the subject.

In 1998 Toni Morrison pronounced Bill Clinton to be “our first black president,” a claim that was met with much contention.4 Is Obama the first hip hop president? I won’t weigh in here, but with this book we now have ample evidence to make the case. Considering the most recent political upheavals, it may be time for Gosa and Nielson to join forces once again and create a proposal for The Hip Hop $ Donald Trump Reader, because if the many user-generated hip hop tracks posted on YouTube are any indicator, “45” may have just as profound an impact on the genre.

1 Quoted in David Mills, “Sister Souljah’s Call to Arms: The Rapper Says the Riots Were Payback. Are You Paying Attention?” Washington Post, May 13, 1992,
2 In this speech, Clinton also quotes remarks from the opening of Sister Souljah’s music video, “The Final Solution: Slavery’s Back in Effect,” stating “If there are any good white people, I haven’t met them.” He then refutes her claim. See “Remarks of Governor Bill Clinton to the Rainbow Coalition National Convention,” June 13, 1992, accessed September 14, 2017,
3 A “Sister Souljah Moment” generally refers to an instance where a politician disavows an extremist voice within their own party.
4 Toni Morrison, Comment, The New Yorker, October 5, 1998,

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The Paraguayan Harp: From Colonial Transplant to Nation Emblem. Alfredo Colman. Lexington Books, 2015. 196pp. ISBN-13: 978-0739198193. Hardcover.
   Elizabeth Huston
, harpist (Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra)

When Neolithic hunters released the arrows from their bows, the string emitted a pleasant twang. Some particularly innovative huntsmen of the time came up with the idea of adding a few more strings, transitioning their bows from weapons to harps and thereby creating the oldest known human-made instrument. The earliest discovered depictions of the harp date back to 3000 BC in Egypt. Because of the great length of time that the harp has been in existence, it has diverged into dozens of seemingly different instruments. Harps come in various shapes, sizes, and ranges. Some Asian harps have parallel sets of strings played simultaneously. Western harps have complex mechanisms for changing key, while some Latin American harps cannot change key at all. In Ireland, harps are typically utilized in touring bands or public house sessions and are therefore small and portable, while the European harp is close to one hundred pounds and six feet tall. Some harps are played with fingertips, while others are played with fingernails. In Western countries, it is considered a feminine instrument, and was historically the only way a woman could be involved in a professional orchestra. In Latin America, the harp is seen as masculine. Each of these divergent evolutionary paths emerged from a long, rich history that embodies the story of not only each instrument but of the regional culture in which it developed. The Paraguayan Harp: From Colonial Transplant to National Emblem tells the story of this transformation in Paraguay.

Alfredo Colman chooses to introduce his audience initially not to the instrumental subject matter but to his country. As a native resident of Paraguay, he describes what it was like to grow up in a nation whose government was slowly transitioning from a violent dictatorship to a capitalist democracy. One senses his deep connection to the traditions of his youth, as well as the importance of tradition to Paraguay as a whole. It becomes abundantly clear later that understanding tradition is vital to understanding how the harp reached its stature as a pillar of tradition and identity. Colman’s decision to introduce the reader to regional words such as paraguayidad (Paraguayan-ness), tekó (the Paraguayan way of being), Ñande rekó (Paraguay’s dimension of existence), and Ñane mba’e (a Paraguayan person’s traditions or habits) drives home the importance of identity to Paraguayans. These and similar words are used abundantly in his writing as a reminder of this fact.

Next, Colman dives into the narrative concerning how the harp traveled to Paraguay with sixteenth-century explorers and missionaries. As it was both a sacred and secular instrument in Spain, it became widely used in all facets of life in Paraguay. After the expulsion of the Europeans by the native Paraguayans, local luthiers had to develop their own ways of building harps. While the harp’s shape was maintained, little else is similar, and Colman details these differences in his volume. Colman also pays homage to the pioneer luthiers, performers, and composers in the region with inspiring stories of their humble beginnings and eventual commercial success. Details about the players involved in this era personalize Colman’s narrative, bringing the history to life. An invaluable resource that comes with this volume is the extensive appendix of Paraguayan harpists, both living and deceased, who are introduced in what he calls “biographical vignettes.”

As Colman describes the performance practices of his instrument, Paraguayan traditions begin to feel not so different from other American folk practices, which also include self-taught musicians, oral transmission, and varying levels of professionalism. In Paraguay, these differences are categorized. There are Arperos Popular, who often build their own instruments, are self-taught, and learn to improvise by listening to recordings. Separately, there are Arpistas Profesional, who follow the strict oral traditions and study with other professionals while developing unique styles and accompanimental practices that build on the traditions of those who came before then. In chapter 5, Colman explains types of Paraguayan folk music alongside helpful musical examples that detail popular rhythms, accompaniments, and patterns common to the region. Historical backgrounds are also included in these descriptions, placing the music in a larger context.

Despite the book becoming more harp-centric as it progresses, the chapters continue to track the socio-economic, musical, and cultural developments of Paraguay. Interestingly, Colman describes how policies have been enacted that exploit music for nationalist agendas. For example, the percentage of television programming that must be based around folk music traditions is explicitly controlled. The government’s cultural control and interests even reach so far as to create new institutions. As recently as 1997, an official proclamation created the Conservatorio Nacional of Paraguay, which offers a degree in the Paraguayan harp among other traditional Paraguayan musical practices. Government-organized music festivals are held nearly every weekend of the year and promote nationalism and tradition. Colman describes these festivals in vivid detail and gives a sense of their importance to daily life.

Alfredo Colman’s work is a great resource not only for harp history but also for Paraguayan history, language, and culture. His research is extensive and complete, rendering this book multi-faceted and engaging for readers of all backgrounds. While this book may be of particular interest to ethnomusicologists and harpists, the language is accessible and vivid, painting a fascinating picture of life in Paraguay.

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Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane and the Legacy of an Album. Tony Whyton. Oxford University Press, 2013. 160pp. ISBN: 9780199733231. Paperback.
   Mark McCorkle
, University of Western Ontario

In his fascinating study Beyond A Love Supreme: John Coltrane and the Legacy of an Album, Tony Whyton probes the interaction of jazz historiography with recorded sound technology. Using A Love Supreme as case study, the author explores how the meanings and values assigned to musical objects can accrue, be sustained, and change over time. Whyton’s focus on the fluid cultural identity of static objects illuminates jazz recordings’ active role in the construction of art histories and cultural mythologies. He looks at this historicizing process through a revisionist lens to uncover some historiographic issues in our current practice and to encourage critical self-awareness in the study of jazz history

The “beyond” from this book’s title refers to a study that will deemphasize musical materials to focus instead on a recording’s shifting cultural meanings. In the author’s words, the goal of this book is to “move beyond existing textual and musical observations” to instead discuss “the influence of recordings on culture at large” (8). The value of a study that goes “beyond” an album’s sonic material is defended with Whyton’s foundational assertion that “there is no such thing as ‘the music itself’ ” (9), which not only validates his approach, but necessitates it. The “beyond,” as used here, is a compelling site of inquiry for both the exploration of the fluid cultural legacy of recordings and the interrogation of the habits of our discipline.

After outlining the above method and goals in his introduction, Whyton’s first of four chapters, titled “Elation – Elegance – Exaltation,” examines the constructed binaries that shape jazz discourse. These binaries include improvisation vs. composition, live performance vs. recording, and black vs. white, to name a few. Whyton describes how these dualisms have been entrenched in historical jazz discourse and how they have become the dominant frameworks through which popular narratives of jazz history are formed. Whyton then provides an analysis of A Love Supreme that demonstrates how the recording has and can be used both to reinforce and to challenge those problematic and simplified antonymic historical narratives. Here, Whyton makes a valuable contribution to discourse on jazz historiography with his incorporation of Jacques Derrida›s writings on the politics of binary thought. Whyton leans on Derrida’s philosophy to discuss how the binaries that shape jazz history are political in nature because they are often understood as hierarchical structures of value. For example, improvised jazz is often considered to be more “spontaneous” and “free” than composed jazz, giving improvisation heightened value and a preferred position over composition. Whyton asserts that, when enacted in historical thought, these power dynamics create reductive and problematically exclusive narratives of jazz history. He concludes that “neutralizing” these binaries by balancing, and thus removing, their political power will result in more nuanced methodologies that will allow popular jazz narratives to better capture the complexities of history.

Chapter 2, “From Reification to Deification: A Love Supreme and the Canonization of Jazz,” considers how both A Love Supreme and Coltrane are canonized, and therefore reified, in jazz histories. Whyton describes a familiar narrative of canonization in his discussion of A Love Supreme: the album, eventually labeled as “timeless,” becomes the historic representation of an artist and/or era and then a standard against which other related cultural activities are judged. The story presented, however, becomes increasingly nuanced as the ensuing discussion reveals that Coltrane’s canonization is in fact deification. The author gives various examples of how Coltrane is elevated to a demi-god-like status through discourse laden with spiritualized language and of how this deification process exemplifies common cultural practices of mythologizing and narrative creation. By tracing how both the music and the man are reified in jazz cultures, this chapter highlights the active role that recordings play in historicizing cultural objects.

Proceeding directly out of this discussion of canonization, chapter 3, “Critical Listening: Reviewing the Late Coltrane Recordings,” discusses how the elevated canonical status of the album has affected the reception of Coltrane’s post-A Love Supreme recordings. Here, Whyton presents interpretations of Coltrane’s late works that challenge the musicological methods he deems responsible for creating problematic representations of Coltrane’s career and output. The chapter concludes with an admirable discussion of the author’s understanding of “listening as a discursive practice,” an act that brings current and past historical contexts into dialogue to form well-considered judgments of Coltrane’s wide range of recordings.

Finally, chapter 4 concludes the book with a broad-scoped glimpse of A Love Supreme’s life after Coltrane. Here, Whyton gives various examples of how the album has interacted with a wide range of art forms from 1970 onward and has impacted cultural activities in music, poetry, and literature. Of particular interest to Whyton here is how the idea of authenticity has been consistently reiterated in discussions of A Love Supreme and how those discussions interact with the trope of universality. This chapter effectively concludes the book by fulfilling Whyton’s promise at the outset of the study to deal with wide-reaching and interdisciplinary topics in a broad yet purposeful and well-considered way.

Although A Love Supreme is prominently featured throughout the text, scholars seeking a close and exclusive reading of the album will not find that here. Rather than being consistently at the center of attention, the album effectively functions as a case study to illustrate the author’s broad points about historiography and ideologies of recorded sound; these broad ideas, not A Love Supreme, claim centricity in this text. Take, for example, the section of chapter 1 that deals with the political nature of the hierarchical binaries that permeate jazz discourse. Surely, any album must be able to challenge such binaries if, as Whyton asserts, they consistently produce false histories. He claims that the album in question is the best recording for his revisionist task, but it is clear that it is not the only viable option. So, if other recordings can adequately fulfill the same function, A Love Supreme becomes nonessential, an interchangeable case study in service of a broader discussion that extends significantly beyond the confines of any one recording. As it turns out, then, a book that appears to be about A Love Supreme frequently pushes the album to the periphery of its focus.

Certainly, however, those interested in jazz historiography, cultural mythology, or recorded sound technology will find a great deal of thought-provoking material in Whyton’s study. Each of his four chapters contributes something unique and insightful to their respective topics and each merits close consideration and further study. This book is an admirable achievement and a fine addition to jazz discourse.

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Surfing About Music. Timothy J. Cooley. University of California Press, 2014. 240pp. ISBN: 9780520276642. Paperback.
   Dori Howard
, Liverpool Hope University

Surfing About Music could have easily detailed the history of 1960s West Coast surf music, including Dick Dale, The Beach Boys, and Jan and Dean. While this genre is undoubtedly central to the relationship between popular music and surfing, Timothy J. Cooley—fortunately for his readers—digs so much deeper in this necessary and important book on what he describes as music about surfing and “surfing about music.”

Because of his own experiences as both a surfer and a musician, Cooley was “compelled to consider seriously the claims by many surfers that surfing is somehow musical—that surfing and musicking go hand in hand” (172). Although some may question whether a real and meaningful relationship between the two activities is simply a myth propagated by the ever-resurfacing influence of the surf music genre, Cooley claims that the relationship not only exists, but that it is highly complex. It requires one to consider how surfers use certain musics to mediate the surfing experience on the one hand, and how the sport affects surfers’ musical habits and practices on the other. This is not an easy task when one considers that the idea of what constitutes a “surfing lifestyle” seems constantly in flux. However, Cooley’s willingness to focus on surfers themselves, and especially on the communities they construct through musical practices, makes it evident that there is indeed a special and reciprocal relationship between surfing and music. He suggests that an ethnomusicological approach to understanding this relationship can illuminate much about the construction of musical communities and affinity groups, genre, locality, and the ways in which people use music to make connections in and to their everyday lives.

Cooley illuminates these issues in detailed and carefully considered chapters. He begins by building a useful contextual framework for the relationship between surfing and music by outlining an accessible history of surfing (including its Hawaiian origins), examining the traditional meles, or chants, first associated with the sport, and exploring the subsequent globalization of surfing through a discussion of the growing Hawaiian tourism industry in the early twentieth century. Of particular interest in these first chapters is the way that Cooley dispels the commonly held belief that surfing was a “dying” Hawaiian tradition that was saved and revived via the colonialization of Hawaii (and of surfing as a sport). These ideas also steer the next chapter’s consideration of the “surf music” genre and the spread of the sport’s popularity all over the world, including to Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom, and especially to California. Through a discussion of the “surf music boom” of the 1960s, Cooley illustrates how the popularity (though not necessarily with actual surfers, as his interviews demonstrate) of musicians such as Dick Dale and The Beach Boys not only brought an awareness of surfing to the mainstream but also contributed to the white, hypermasculine, and heteronormative associations with surfing that persist even into the present day.

Moving away from the stereotypical associations between music and surfing, Cooley’s chapter about music in surf films provides an interesting counterpoint to the ideas explored in the previous chapter. While the surf music genre was embraced by non-surfers in the 1960s, surf films and their soundtracks were created and consumed by surfers themselves. For this reason, Cooley argues that the music used in these films provides an interesting insight into the relationship between surfing and musicking, demonstrating via semiotic analysis the ways in which, for many surfers, the film soundtracks may represent the actual experience of surfing.

The fourth chapter, an ethnographic study of surfing festivals, demonstrates that the relationship between music and surfing is highly complex and highly individualized, but in some cases perhaps inconsequential to certain festival attendees and organizers. It also suggests that “surf music” of the 1960s is not the only genre associated with surfing for those involved in the sport. To dispel this misconception, Cooley describes the ways in which punk rock and acoustic rock surfaced as significant genres within his ethnography. The next two chapters outline ideas about professional surfers and what Cooley labels “soul surfers,” or surfers who make music. The interviews in these chapters are illuminating, and lead well into the final chapter about why surfers need music. While Cooley offers many insights in answer to this question, the takeaway appears to be that surfers need music because it connects them to each other and helps to construct communities. “The participatory quality of shared musicking . . . allows for a collective expression of group identity unachievable in the water” (164).

The biggest strength of Surfing About Music is Cooley’s ability to bring together seemingly disparate strands of information and allow them to construct a narrative that is neither deterministic nor overly generic. By including historical analysis, semiotics, and ethnographic case studies, Cooley’s multidisciplinary approach effectively illustrates how the relationship between surfing and music has been influenced by a range of factors, such as changing technologies, business and commerce, religion, tourism, film, and genre. The ultimate result is a work that successfully observes the fascinating intersection of two separate but related cultural and social practices while simultaneously allowing the participants within those subcultures to speak for themselves.

I appreciate how Cooley acknowledges the lack of female representation in literature, film, and discourse surrounding surfing (most notably in chapter 3). However, although Cooley suggests that many women actively participate in surfing communities (and indeed he does include a few throughout his work), I was left curious as to whether this was an accurate or proportionate reflection of actual female involvement when it comes to both music about surfing and surfing about music. I would have been interested in a chapter discussing female surfers. But perhaps that topic is deep enough for another work entirely—one that I hope to read from Cooley someday.

Overall, Surfing About Music is an engaging, well-researched, and significant contribution to the fields of popular music studies and ethnomusicology. It provides new insights into our approaches to locality and genre while simultaneously illuminating the need for further inquiry into the many ways that music connects individuals and constructs communities.

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Back to the Fifties: Nostalgia, Hollywood Film, and Popular Music of the Seventies and Eighties. Michael D. Dwyer. Oxford University Press, 2015. 240p. ISBN: 9780199356843. Paperback.
   Rebecca O’Brien
, University of Kentucky

According to Michael Dwyer, the motivating factor in the “Re-Generation” of the 1980s was an obsession with “the Fifties,” or at least the idea of that time period. “This is a book,” he writes, “about the creation, circulation, and interaction of the competing meanings for the Fifties in Hollywood film and popular music in a period roughly defined by the fifteen years from 1973 to 1988.” Dwyer examines how films (Back to the Future, American Graffiti), the birth of “Oldies” rock and roll, the origins of MTV, the crossover appeal of Michael Jackson, and the star power of James Dean and Sandra Dee were used by a new generation to “remake the Fifties” in the image of the Reagan Era. Dwyer is clear to note that “the Fifties” is not the same as the 1950s. The former is a concept that, for the author, begins in the years immediately following the end of World War II and lasts until the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. An important concept also emphasized by Dwyer is the idea that the teen generation during the Reagan years was what he termed the “Re-Generation.” Because this generation had access to more media texts, archives and cultural memories than any generation before them, they were “uniquely positioned politically and historically to recast nostalgia from a personal to a popular experience.” (7)

The first chapter, “Fixing the Fifties,” looks at how the 1985 film Back to the Future literally went back in time and “fixed” the 1950s by removing any references to the social and racial issues that eventually gave rise to the counterculture of the Sixties. For example, when the viewers are taken to the Hill Valley of 1955, they are shown a town that is surreally idealistic. Everyone is orderly, affable (and mostly white), when the real 1950s was full of already simmering tensions between whites and African Americans that would fully boil over in the 1960s. One of the biggest changes made in the film implies that Marty McFly, a white teenager, introduces the world to rock and roll instead of Chuck Berry.

The second chapter, “Rereading American Graffiti” examines the seminal 1973 film American Graffiti and how it, along with other films of the era, used popular hits of the Fifties in their soundtracks. But where Back to the Future attempts to “fix” the Fifties, American Graffiti attempts to “un-fix” the era by reminding the viewers that the Sixties rose out of the Fifties ambition and idealism that are represented by the character Curt. In this film, nostalgia thus “un-fixes” the Fifties by showing the era to be a natural prelude to the Sixties, rather than a counterpoint that stands in opposition to the ensuing counterculture.

The third chapter, “ ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’ on Re-Generation Soundtracks” focuses on the rise of the “Golden Oldies” in radio and their persistent presence in the soundtracks of teen-centric films. Many of these films, such as The Outsiders (1983), Porky’s (1981) and Stand by Me (1986) are set in the Fifties era, while other films, particularly Blue Velvet (1986), evoke the time period by using specific 1950s songs on their soundtracks. Dwyer emphasizes that these soundtracks are not merely “repeating” these old songs, but instead employ “repetition with a difference” by layering new meanings from the 1980s on top of the old meanings from the 1950s.

The fourth chapter, “MTV, Michael Jackson and Crossover Nostalgia,” examines the rise of MTV and the crossover appeal of Michael Jackson as he sought to break away from his image as the kid brother of the Jackson Five. During this journey, Jackson produced and starred in a series of music videos that borrowed visual and aural cues from Fifties cinema. These videos, all produced in the 1980s “reveal the way that nostalgia can change over time and vary across texts.” (114) Dwyer specifically highlights the production of videos for “Thriller” and “Smooth Criminal.” Along the way, Jackson has to balance his roots in black music and his mainstream appeal to white audiences—the more accepted he became by white audiences, the more it appeared to some that Jackson was “betraying” his heritage.

The final chapter, “Star Legacies: James Dean and Sandra Dee in the Re-Generation,” looks at how the image and ideals represented by actors James Dean and Sandra Dee were re-used and transformed in the 1980s in films such as Footloose and Heathers. A primary example is the changing definition of “cool.” Dwyer makes the point that Dean’s masculinity and “coolness” was originally defined by his inner vulnerability, whereas by the time Kevin Bacon did an impression of Dean’s character for Footloose, the idea of “masculinity” and “being cool” had been altered to refer primarily to a toned muscular body. In contrast to Bacon’s character in Footloose, JD, the Dean-esque figure played by Christian Slater in Heathers is not only irredeemable, but is also revealed as the villain of the story. In this way, the film plays on the nostalgia for Dean’s character by setting up audience expectations only to reveal a different character entirely.

Musicologists who specialize in the films and music of the Fifties will be interested in this book, as it provides an insight into how and why the tropes of that decade were transformed in the Eighties during the Reagan Era. Similarly, this book would also be useful for musicologists who specialize in the films and music of the Eighties, particularly if they’re interested in how these films pay homage to the Fifties. Dwyer breaks down the different layers of “nostalgia” that can be found in different media texts. Nostalgia can exist on a personal, national and universal level and these layers can all affect how different texts are viewed. In conclusion, Back to the Fifties is a well-organized book that highlights the Eighties obsession with Fifties nostalgia and shows how this re-purposing of old tropes changed their meaning and perception in popular culture.

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Media Reviews

New York Philharmonic. “Leon Levy Digital Archives.” Accessed August 5, 2017.
   Ryan Harrison
, Ohio University

The New York Philharmonic’s Leon Levy Digital Archives is an extensive interactive collection of documents from 1842–1970. The resource contains a breadth of unique archival resources, including scores and parts, photographs, programs, and business documents. The Digital Archives makes a wealth of information available to the scholar, artist, and pedagogue.

The Digital Archives utilizes a simple discovery tool with which users may search by keyword and date. Once the search term is entered, the engine provides related programs, scores and parts, images, business documents, and audio/video examples. Using the user-friendly interface, one can also search every New York Philharmonic concert since December 7, 1842. To test the system, I entered “Beethoven Symphony #7” into the “Search for” field. The search yielded 513 programs, 7 scores, 26 parts, 1 image, and 5 business documents. I was then able to refine by facets such as conductor, location, venue, and event type. My curiosity led me to the scores. Each score’s record listed its publisher and “marking artist.” I found digitized scores marked by Leonard Bernstein, Gustav Mahler, and Arturo Toscanini all available for viewing. Some score items even include parts, allowing the curious instrumentalist to check markings made to original parts. The performer will enjoy access to scores and parts with the ability to view previous markings. As a percussionist, I viewed parts marked by previous Philharmonic members Saul Goodman and Walter Rosenberger. The media viewer allowed me to zoom, magnify, and rotate, the different pages. I was particularly drawn to the superb quality of the images—it is quite an experience viewing Bernstein’s colored markings and notes in a score.

Business documents, images, and photographs can also be viewed with ease. Shortly after my first search, I found myself spending time browsing correspondences between composers and the New York Philharmonic, and perusing the large number of photographs. For example, Elliot Carter’s entry contained various performance receipts and conversations with New York Philharmonic administrators. Performers, pedagogues, and university instructors can use the Digital Archives to study common performance practice. It could be a resource in university instrumental pedagogy courses.

It is very difficult to critique such a valuable resource. However, adding audio, video, press clippings, and concert magazines will expand the Digital Archive’s content and application to other areas in humanities. Fortunately, the help page indicates that these materials will be added soon. In addition, while the Digital Archive provides multiple highlighted features, such as the impressive “Vienna and New York: 175 Years of Two Philharmonics,” and “Mahler and Toscanini’s Beethoven,” an introduction to the Digital Archives, or perhaps an interactive history component of the New York Philharmonic could complement its rich amount of resources. This additional content could easily supplement a course section on museums, orchestras, or the importance of preserving archival material.

The Leon Levy Foundation has made numerous contributions to the arts and humanities organizations such as Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, The New York Historical Society, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the New York City Ballet. The New York Philharmonic’s Leon Levy Digital Archives adds to these as an indispensable resource to scholars, performers, and pedagogues that hopefully will continue to grow.

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Block, Adrienne Fried and John Graziano. “Music in Gotham: The New York Scene 1862-75.” Accessed July 18, 2017.
   Jesse Freedman
, University of California, Riverside

Music in Gotham reflects generations of efforts to document the musical climate of nineteenth-century New York City. The impetus for the collection is Vera Brodsky Lawrence’s Strong on Music (1836-1862), an encyclopedic and monumental work that organizes the writings of lawyer and music enthusiast George Templeton Strong. Strong’s diary documents amateur musical criticism, and cultural observations of nineteenth-century New York. Lawrence compiled these musical writings in the collection but passed away before she could publish them. In assembling this database, musicologists John Graziano and the late Adrienne Fried Block bring Lawrence’s project to completion.

Musicologists interested in aesthetic trends and programming considerations among professional and amateur musical institutions from post-Civil War New York will appreciate the artful, florid language found within the transcribed reviews. At times, the criticism is reminiscent of that compiled in Nikolas Slonimsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective. A wealth of concert programs, notes, and reviews from Strong’s diary and prominent periodicals of the era are searchable by person, work, venue, organization, event, and citation. Most entries are hyperlinked to all other instances of their appearance within the annals of this project, and this extensive hyperlinking affords a fluency and spontaneity of searches (à la Wikipedia). An unfortunate omission from this project is corresponding scans of source materials. However, what the database lacks in aesthetic fluff it balances with ease of use. This unique project will surely interest scholars of American music criticism and programming.

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Kanopy Streaming Video Service. Accessed August 5, 2017.
   Andrea Decker
, University of California, Riverside

Kanopy streaming video provides online access to more than 26,000 films. This service carries 585 music films ranging from guitar instructional videos to staged operas, and documentaries such as Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song. Kanopy’s documentaries about music and social change are particularly strong, as are their offerings on international stars, which include the likes of Googoosh, Tupac, and Fela Kuti. Kanopy includes many documentaries and concert recordings of American popular and classical musics, and has an entire category called “Ethnomusciology.” However, films focusing on Native American music are comparatively rare. Perhaps the most significant advantage to this service is their partnership with Criterion Collection, which grants streaming rights to more than four hundred classic art films and documentaries.

Center for American Music PreservationThe diversity of film suppliers to this streaming service unfortunately results in accessibility inequities across the catalog. Not all films provide closed captions and transcripts, films from non-English-speaking suppliers are least likely to have closed captioning or transcripts, and those that do provide captions and transcripts are limited to English. The result is an imbalance in the accessibility, particularly of global film. However, viewers may request closed captioning for any film in the Kanopy database.

Despite these shortcomings, Kanopy is an excellent source for streaming video. In format, Kanopy mirrors the bold cover art and trending categories of commercial streaming services. While some users might find this utilization of commercial formats too oriented towards browsing, this dedication to interface and personalized recommendations caters to the viewing behaviors of college students. Its user-friendly interface, Criterion Collection, and documentary features will prove instantly attractive to individual patrons and film music courses. For libraries, Kanopy offers a free trial, cost-per-play pricing options, robust usage data, and acquisition requests.

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SAM Brass Band Plays Concert of Canadian Music

SAM Brass Band
Carolyn Bryant, Haley Nutt, and Steven Ledbetter make up the percussion section of SAM’s Brass Band. When the rental company neglected to include a bass drum mallet, Ledbetter improvised one with his shoe!
For the twenty-sixth performance in its history, the SAM Brass Band played a concert of music by Canadian composers during the Saturday evening reception (March 25) at the society’s Montréal conference. In all, nine compositions by composers who lived in Canada were performed, ranging from totally obscure figures to well-known creators such as Calixa Lavallée (1842–1891; composer of Canada’s national anthem), Herbert L. Clarke (1867–1945; cornet soloist with Sousa’s Band for two decades), and Robert Nathaniel Dett (1882–1943; a Canadian-born composer who became one of the most significant African American composers of his era). The band’s performance opened with Lavallée’s O Canada, followed by The Maple Leaf Forever by Alexander Muir (1830–1906). Other Canadian-titled works on the program were the 1871 Onward to Canada—Galop by F. W. Zeiner, Salute to Montréal by Norbert Boisvert, and the 1848 Ontario Quick March by Henry Schallehn. Two selections from Herbert L. Clarke’s The Imperial Band Book (Toronto: Whaley, Royce & Co., ca. 1890) were offered: Friendly Greeting Schottische and Vanity Waltz. Nathaniel Dett’s After the Cakewalk (Characteristic March) (1900) was the most recent work in the band’s repertoire. The SAM Brass Band ended with the only non-Canadian composition on the program, their traditional closer/sing-along, Fireman’s Polka by W. S. Ripley.

Cornet and trumpet players at the Montréal performance were Josh Gailey (Yale University), Kery Lawson (University of Iowa), Craig B. Parker (Kansas State University), Deane Root (University of Pittsburgh/Grove Music), and Robert Walser (Case Western Reserve University). Raoul Camus (retired, Queensborough Community College; director emeritus, Queens Symphonic Band) played alto horn, and was the arranger for Fireman’s Polka. The trombone section was comprised of Dianna Eiland (retired; Fairfax County, Virginia Public Schools), Nathan Platte (University of Iowa), and Linda Pohly (Ball State University). Euphonium player George Ferencz (University of Wisconsin–Whitewater) also wrote the masterful brass band arrangements of the compositions by Lavallée, Schallehn, and Zeiner. John Koegel (California State University, Fullerton) was the tubist. Carolyn Bryant (cymbals; President, American Musical Instrument Society), Steven Ledbetter (bass drum; The Boston Musical Intelligencer), and Haley Nutt (snare drum, Florida State University) provided the rhythmic foundation for this conductor-less band. The band was led by Parker, with Walser serving as rehearsal director since Parker, like many other SAM members, was flying from the International Musicological Society conference in Tokyo to Montréal at the time of the band’s only rehearsal.

The SAM Brass Band will perform on March 3 at the society’s upcoming forty-fourth annual conference. Since Kansas City, Missouri is the site of the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and several conference sessions will be held there, the band’s 2018 repertoire will consist of works written during the Great War, particularly those by John Philip Sousa. The SAM Brass Band always welcomes new members. Brass and percussion players wishing to perform with this group in Kansas City or at future SAM conferences should contact Craig B. Parker ( so that a folder can be prepared for you.

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Call for Proposals: AMIS Meeting

The 2018 American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) meeting will be hosted by Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, during May 23–26, 2018. The conference will focus chiefly, but not exclusively, on North American topics, especially those relevant to our venue—historic Bethlehem and Nazareth, Pennsylvania. In addition to the Moravian Museum, Archives, and Historical Society, attendees will have the opportunity to visit other nearby sites including the enlarged and renovated museum of the venerable C. F. Martin guitar company, the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, and the new, Smithsonian-affiliated National Museum of Industrial History.

Proposals, due on or before November 15, 2017, are invited for presentations of either ten-minute length plus five minutes for discussion, or twenty-minute length plus ten minutes for discussion, though a few longer time slots will be available, for instance for group discussions. Presentations may take the form of traditional papers, roundtable panels, instrument demonstrations, video showings, or other forms suitable to a lecture room. Because of space limitations, poster sessions will not be possible.

Proposals must include an abstract or description of up to 300 words for presentations of any length, a 75-word biography of each presenter, a list of required A/V aids, and e-mail contact information for a response, forthcoming during the first week of December 2017. Proposals on North American (including Mexican) topics and imported instruments used in North America will receive preference, but all subjects will be fairly considered.

Each year, AMIS offers several generous scholarships to enable students to attend the annual meeting. Preference is given to students who are presenting papers, but those who are not presenting may also apply. The award is the William E. Gribbon Award for Student Travel—see details about the application process here. The deadline for scholarship applications for the coming meeting in May 2018 is February 1, 2018.

Proposals should be sent as e-mail attachments to:
Laurence Libin, Conference Committee Chair

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Bulletin Board

Flutist Peter H. Bloom celebrated American composers with diverse performances this Summer. In June, he served as artist in residence for the Snow Pond Composers Workshop, co-directed by Edward Jacobs and Richard Nelson. The workshop featured premieres of ten works by emerging young composers from across the United States. In July, Bloom and the Aardvark Jazztet (a sextet drawn from the legendary Aardvark Jazz Orchestra) gave the premiere of music director Mark Harvey’s Saint-Gaudens Studio at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site (Cornish, New Hampshire), and marked the tenth anniversary of the West Claremont Center for the Arts with music by Mark Harvey, Cole Porter, George Gershwin and others. Peter’s other recent concerts included shows with his own jazz trio in Boston’s Post Office Square Concert Series; chamber music with mezzo-soprano D’Anna Fortunato for the Amy Beach sesquicentennial; bebop and Great American Songbook favorites with The Modernistics; and performances with Ensemble Aubade (Bloom with Francis Grimes, viola, and Mary Jane Rupert, piano and harp), showcasing Robert Russell Bennett’s Seven Postcards to Old Friends and Karl Henning’s Oxygen Footprint (2016, written for Aubade). Contact Peter H. Bloom here.

Davide Ceriani has received a 2017–18 John W. Kluge Center Research Fellowship to work on a project titled “Defining Italian Cultural Identity in American Urban Centers through Opera from Mass Migration to World War II, 1881–1941” at the Library of Congress. He also published an article titled “Romantic Nostalgia and Wagnerismo in the Age of Verismo: The Case of Alberto Franchetti” in Nineteenth-Century Music Review.

David F. Garcia has published his new book, Listening for Africa: Freedom, Modernity, and the Logic of Black Music’s African Origins (Duke University Press), which explores how a diverse group of musicians, dancers, academics, and activists engaged with the idea of black music and dance’s African origins between the 1930s and 1950s. Garcia examines the work of figures ranging from Melville J. Herskovits, Katherine Dunham, and Asadata Dafora to Duke Ellington, Dámaso Pérez Prado, and others who believed that linking black music and dance with Africa and nature would help realize modernity’s promises of freedom in the face of fascism and racism in Europe and the Americas, colonialism in Africa, and the nuclear threat at the start of the Cold War. He traces how such attempts to link black music and dance to Africa unintentionally reinforced the binary relationships between the West and Africa, white and black, the modern and the primitive, science and magic, and rural and urban.

David K. Hildebrand, director of The Colonial Music Institute, has co-authored Musical Maryland: A History of Song and Performance from the Colonial Period to the Age of Radio—officially published on September 14, 2017 (the 203rd Anniversary of Francis Scott Key observing “the dawn’s early light”). As laid out in the table of contents, it is the first comprehensive survey of the music emanating from the Old Line State. Hildebrand and Elizabeth M. Schaaf explore the myriad ways in which music has enriched the lives of Marylanders. From the drinking songs of colonial Annapolis, the liturgical music of Baltimore’s Zion Lutheran Church, and the work songs of the tobacco fields to the exuberant marches of late nineteenth-century Baltimore Orioles festivals, and the triumphs of the Baltimore Opera Society, this richly illustrated volume explores more than 300 years of Maryland’s music history.

This book touches on the development of music clubs like the Tuesday Club, Florestan Society, and H. L. Mencken’s Saturday Night Club, as well as lasting institutions such as the Peabody Institute and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Yet Maryland’s soundscape also includes militia quicksteps, sea chanteys, and other work songs. The book chronicles “The Star-Spangled Banner”—perhaps Maryland’s single greatest contribution to the nation’s musical history—and also the wide range of music created and performed by Maryland’s African American musicians along Pennsylvania Avenue in racially segregated Baltimore, from jazz to symphonic works. Among others covered are Billie Holiday, Eubie Blake and Chick Webb.

Full of musical examples, engravings, paintings, drawings, and historic photographs of composers and performers, Musical Maryland also describes the places around the state in which music flourished. This is an engaging, authoritative, and bold look at an endlessly compelling subject.

Various book talks, signings, and recitals are being offered in Annapolis, Baltimore, Frederick, Mount Vernon, Virginia, and elsewhere as per David & Ginger Hildebrand’s performance schedule.

Ralph P. Locke, emeritus professor at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, has recently published, in the Revue de musicologie (2016, no. 2), an article (in English) on how the people of India are portrayed in two Baroque operas: one by Handel, the other by Hasse. Another article, on exoticism in equestrian processions and tournaments, can be found in the current issue of the online journal Music and Politics (2071, no. 1). His review of the final volume of the Berlioz Correspondance générale appears in the current (September 2017) issue of Music Library Association Notes. Interested in reaching out beyond scholarly circles, he has become a staff reviewer at American Record Guide, focusing on opera and other vocal CDs.

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The Bulletin of the Society for American Music

The Bulletin is published in the Winter (January), Spring (May), and Fall (September) by the Society for American Music. Copyright 2017 by the Society for American Music, ISSN 0196-7967.

Editorial Board
Editor: Elizabeth Ann Lindau (
Reviews Editor: Esther Morgan-Ellis (
Media Editor: Elizabeth Ozment (
Design and Layout: John McCluskey (

Items for submission should be submitted to Elizabeth Ann Lindau as an attachment to e-mail. Photographs or other graphic materials should be accompanied by captions and desired location in the text. Deadlines for submission of materials are 15 December, 15 April, and 15 August.

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