The International Association for the Study of Popular Music-US Branch (IASPM-US) presents the Woody Guthrie Award each year to the most outstanding book on popular music. Winners are awarded $1,000 and are announced each year at the IASPM-US Annual Conference.
IASPM-US requests your nominations for the most distinguished English language monograph in popular music studies published during 2015. Books may be nominated by any member in good standing of IASPM, by members of the prize committee, by their authors, or by publishers. Copyrights must state 2015.
The deadline for nominations is September 1, 2016. Nominations should be sent electronically to Kariann Goldschmitt (email@example.com) and should include the author’s name, book title, and publisher’s information including ISBN. The society will announce the winner at the spring 2017 IASPM-US meeting.
The 2015 Woody Guthrie Award goes to Eric Weisbard for Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music (University of Chicago Press). Top 40 Democracy is the first comprehensive history of commercial radio formats, and a retelling of American popular music history through formats. Weisbard’s wide-ranging book explains how AOR, Country, Rhythm & Blues, and Adult Contemporary formats crystallized in the mid-1970s, while tracing the concept of the format back to antebellum minstrel shows and forward to the “we’ll play anything” “Jack” stations of the 2000s. Weisbard tells this story through long-overdue profiles of the Isley Brothers, Dolly Parton, and Elton John, all artists who achieved commercial success and career longevity by navigating the changing “multiple mainstreams” of their respective formats. Other chapters contain complete histories of A&M Records and Cleveland’s WMMS, in which Weisbard emphasizes the sometimes-neglected perspectives of A&R men, DJs, promoters, and other industry players. Weisbard’s readable prose and encyclopedic knowledge of pop music history make each story engrossing. [Read the full post…]
Dear IASPM-US members,
I offer here not only a report from the conference, but also a call to action. I hope you’ll read to the end, because IASPM needs you.
At the Board / Executive Committee held this past weekend in Calgary, I presented a Committee Initiative to address what our president, Mark Butler, and I see as a serious decline in IASPM membership numbers and conference participation. For reference: our current membership is 142, down from over 400 in 2009. And at the annual conference this year, even though we met jointly with the Canadian branch, we had record low attendance numbers. We do realize that getting to Calgary was complicated and expensive. We’re hoping we can draw a much bigger crowd to Cleveland next year!
Our goals for this Committee Initiative are as follows: we want to increase ownership of the society; reach out to lost members; grow our membership; provide more opportunities for members who would like greater involvement; and shore up our Society’s infrastructure to provide continuous leadership and institutional knowledge. Between Board / EC members who were present at the meeting and some who voted by email, this initiative passed. I then presented the Committee Initiative at the business meeting. [Read the full post…]
In Tell Tchaikovsky the news: Rock ‘n’ Roll, the Labor Question, and the Musicians’ Union, 1942–1968 (Duke University Press, 2014), Michael James Roberts investigates the response of the American Federation of Musicians to the rise of rock ‘n’ roll. The AFM never actively organized rock ‘n’ roll musicians, and often even specifically excluded them from membership—even though recruiting them would have been to the union’s political and economic advantage. Roberts persuasively argues that the union’s failures with regard to rock ‘n’ roll can be found in the intersection of race and class, and in the cultural biases of the overwhelmingly classical and jazz musicians that constituted the union’s core membership and leadership. I recently spoke with Roberts about his work on Tell Tchaikovsky the News, and the broader artistic and political implications of his research.
Greg Weinstein: To start off, perhaps you can tell me a bit of the biographical background of the project, how you came to this topic and how it’s changed over the years as you’ve worked on it.
Michael James Roberts: When I was a grad student in New York, I got hired by the AFM local in New York, Local 802, to do research on the changing structure in the recording industry. What they were concerned with at that time—and this is the early 2000s—was how the recording industry had changed over the past couple decades, where the major record labels mainly controlled the recording industry through distribution, no longer through production. The main problem for labor unions was if the big corporations can claim that legally all they’re doing is distributing products, they can say, “Well, we’re not the actual employer of the workers who are making the products.” All the products are being produced for these big corporate conglomerates, but they can claim that, because they have a subcontractor who’s in charge of making the products, that they’re not legally bound to a labor contract. I was looking at the situation in the early 2000s, and the musicians’ union was concerned that there were a whole bunch of independent labels which were not signatories to the contract. The union was trying to figure out what kind of strategy could they develop as a way to organize the musicians who are making music on these so-called independent labels. The main active members of the union are classical musicians and jazz musicians, and it’s been that way for decades.
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The committee for the David Sanjek Graduate Student Paper Prize of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music – US Branch (IASPM-US) invites graduate students who will be presenting at the 2016 IASPM-US and Canada conference to submit their papers for consideration.
Eligibility: Any student who presents, in person, a formal paper at the 2016 meeting is eligible for the prize. A student shall be defined as a person pursuing an active course of studies in a degree program. This includes persons who are engaged in writing the doctoral dissertation but not those who are teaching full-time while doing so. Student applicants must be members of IASPM-US. (IASPM Canada will hold its own competition, distinct from that of the US branch.)
Application Process: To apply for the prize, candidates must electronically submit a copy of their paper to firstname.lastname@example.org along with a brief bio (75 words) and copy of their conference registration receipt. Paper submissions should be in Word or pdf format.
The deadline for submissions is Friday, May 20 at 11:59 pm. The paper deposited is to be the version that is read at the conference and may not exceed twelve double-spaced pages (roughly 3,900 words).
The winner will be announced at the general business meeting at the annual conference. The award includes a prize of $500.
Please feel free to email the chair of the committee, Eric Hung (email@example.com), if you have any questions.
Committee: Andrew Flory, Kariann Goldschmitt, Eric Hung
“I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul.”
—Cat Stevens, “The Wind” (1971)
“From time to time you get the feeling that you want to disengage yourself from your life. You want to withdraw into some kind of solitary contemplation—a locked room or a quiet corner of your mind—just to think about everything for a while.”
—Advertisement: Leonard Cohen ‘Songs from a Room,’ Rolling Stone, No. 33, 17 May 1969
The whimsical opening lines of Cat Stevens’s “The Wind” (1971) and the listening practices described in the advertisement for Leonard Cohen’s Songs from a Room (1969) perfectly encapsulate the introspection that motivated the singer-songwriter movement in the U.S. during the 1970s. The music prompted listeners to retreat from the world and find themselves. To most listeners, singer-songwriters are not simply artists who write and perform original music, but the artists who present their music through notions of personal story telling, displays of vulnerability, and perceptions of intimate performance, which reinforce this mode of listening and identity searching. My research locates this musical aesthetic as one that coalesced in Los Angeles, home to Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, and many others, and which coincided with broader trends of “self-discovery” sweeping through 1970s culture. As singer-songwriters confessed their personal accounts, the music allowed listeners to indulge in the same act of self-reflection.
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Despite the failure of the student protests and worker strikes to create a political revolution in 1968, many young people in France still believed in the revolutionary potential and the coming change. Many musicians began the decade reflecting on the failures of the movement of May 1968 while others were trying to advocate for change in their music. Still others were interested in cultural change, creating new types of music within French pop music and embracing styles explored elsewhere. The collapse of the economic miracle in the early 1970s created many of the same problems in France—inflation, unemployment, racial strife, and dissatisfaction with government institutions—and led to new musical movements there—regional folk-rock, punk, disco, and electronic music—all offering a reaction to social and political climate in France.
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Jarek Paul Ervin, 2016
1970s punk is curiously iconic. From the Ramones T-shirts that adorn racks in suburban shopping malls to the CBGB-themed restaurant that recently opened in Newark Airport, we are surrounded by images of punk. Most of such representations focus on screeching vocals and buzzsaw guitars, leather jackets, heroin, and the grit and grime of downtown NYC. Punk is practically a caricature today, something made apparent by the ease with which the new HBO series Vinyl dresses up Scorsese’s usual Goodfellas gangsters in seventies rock drag.
On the ground floor, though, punk music turns out to be pretty slippery. More than just the usual ambiguities that affect any given genre, punk artists often seem to deliberately eschew stylistic commonality. This has only intensified as punk has grown into a global phenomenon, a situation that has given rise to dozens of (often competing) visions of its sound.
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