IASPM-US: Call for Officers

by Greg Weinstein on October 13, 2016

The US branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music is seeking applications for the following positions:

·           President

·           Vice President

·           Open Seat, Executive Board

·           Open Seat, Executive Board

·           Open Seat, Executive Board

The committee is accepting self-nominations as well as recommendations of fitting nominees that we should approach to apply. For descriptions of specific duties for each position, please consult the IASPM-US by-laws (http://iaspm-us.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/IASPM-US_Bylaws.pdf )  Please note: People elected to positions in the organization are expected to attend the IASPM-US conferences that lie within their terms, beginning with the 2017 conference (February 23-26). Let us know if this presents a financial hardship—we may be able to help. A list of past and present executive committee members can be found on the IASPM-US website (http://iaspm-us.net/Officers/ http://iaspm-us.net/about-iaspm-us/officers/ ) [Read the full post…]


IASPM-US Interview Series: Call for Interviewers

by Greg Weinstein on October 1, 2016

IASPM-US is looking for people to contribute to our Interview Series. The Interview Series has been a mainstay of the IASPM-US website, and there are some new additions to the list of books you can select from. It’s a terrific way to keep up with some of the most recent popular music scholarship, and also to connect with other scholars in the field.

If you’re not familiar with the Interview Series, here’s how it works: We have a list of books on the site that publishers have suggested for the series. If you’re interested in any of the books, you can email me, and I will arrange for a copy of the book to be sent to you and for you to be in touch with the author. You read the book, interview the author in whatever format you prefer, and you submit the interview for publication on the website.

You can look at some past interviews here, and view the full guidelines here.

We accept interviews on a rolling basis, and we will continue to add books to the list throughout the year. But books are generally assigned to the first person who requests them, so why not have a look at the list and start working on one now? If you want to volunteer to do an interview, suggest a book to be added to the list of available books, or ask any further questions, email Greg Weinstein (grweinstein@davidson.edu or iaspmus@gmail.com).


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Gimme Shelter: Popular Music and Protection
February 23–26
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio

“Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones demands that we address musical protections, from the aesthetics of shelter to the realities of social upheavals and the equity of intellectual property rights. The song begins as light rain on an overcast day, but it quickly turns into an all-encompassing textural storm, echoed by the opening lyrics, “A storm is threatening my very life today. If I don’t get some shelter, I’m going to fade away.” As the acoustic atmosphere becomes more tumultuous, Merry Clayton joins Mick Jagger, and their entwined vocals pierce the surge and ultimately suggest that “love is just a kiss away.” Written in 1969 during social and political unrest, the song is a lament and an appeal. As such, it offers temporary shelter from everyday violence that renders certain people and struggles invisible. It also offers shelter for the memories of traumatic events, which is perhaps why it has been used in film soundtracks, in American Red Cross commercials, homeless relief projects, and in 2012 news features about Hurricane Sandy in 2012. “Gimme Shelter” has also had its share of controversy in terms of artistic protections, racial appropriation, and even questions concerning labor, safety, and natal health: Clayton miscarried immediately following the recording session. And, this is just one song, albeit a poignant and powerful example, from a rich archive of popular music practices, performances, recordings, spaces, cases, contestations, and controversies that speak to the necessary and unnecessary protections afforded by circulated sounds. [Read the full post…]


Call for Nominations: Woody Guthrie Award

by Greg Weinstein on August 9, 2016

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 (kgoldschmitt@wellesley.edu) 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.


Eric Weisbard, 2015 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

by Greg Weinstein on June 30, 2016


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…]


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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.

[Read the full post…]


David Sanjek Graduate Student Paper Prize

by Victor Szabo on May 3, 2016

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 2016sanjekprize@gmail.com 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 (msumeric@gmail.com), if you have any questions.

Committee:  Andrew Flory, Kariann Goldschmitt, Eric Hung


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Allison McCracken’s Real Men Don’t Sing: Crooning in American Culture (Duke 2015) outlines crooning’s history from its origins in minstrelsy through its development as the microphone sound most associated with white recording artists, band singers, and radio stars. She charts early crooners’ rise and fall between 1925 and 1934, contrasting Rudy Vallée with Bing Crosby to demonstrate how attempts to contain crooners created and dictated standards of white masculinity for male singers. The short-lived but massive popularity of crooners, as McCracken compellingly demonstrates, fundamentally changed American culture. Recently, Allison McCracken and I discussed over email the writing of the book, crooning history, and the status of gendered standards for pop singing today.

Victor Szabo: When and how did it become apparent to you that the history of crooning in the U.S. was a history that needed to be told?

Allison McCracken: It was a long time ago, when I was a graduate student in the late 1990s. I was working on a seminar paper on the changes in early microphone technologies, and I stumbled across a newspaper article from 1932 in which Cardinal O’Connell of Boston condemned crooners, saying they were “not men”: “whining and crying as the singer does, there is no man in America who would not feel disgusted.” I was easily able to find a few similar reports that indicated a large backlash against these singers from a wide range of cultural authorities during 1932–34. I was fascinated that these white middle-class men’s voices had provoked so much anxiety and had resulted in such direct attacks (the words used to attack them were the same ones used to attack jazz music). It seemed obvious to me that there was a story there, one that involved addressing the unprecedented popularity of radio’s crooning voices—which I had not heard of before—as well as the specifics of their regulation. My visit to Rudy Vallée’s vast personal archive at the American Radio Archives in Thousand Oaks California (an absolute gold mine of material from the era) convinced me that this project was a book—indeed, could be several books. At the time, the only scholarly or popular attention this story had received was from radio historian Thomas DeLong in the early ‘80s, who reported it objectively, and prominent cultural and music historians from the 1970s–90s who were entirely dismissive of crooners as reactionary social forces; the music historians, in particular, often employed homophobic and effemiphobic language that parroted the attacks against crooners from the 1930s. It was the persistence of this discourse in relation to male pop singers (and their audiences) over these many decades that made me realize how formative and foundational this era was, not only in American pop singing but in the gendered circulation of standards for white male vocals generally that have continued to mark certain kinds of male voices (high-pitched, wide-ranging, emotionally intense) as insufficiently masculine.

[Read the full post…]


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“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.

[Read the full post…]


IASPM-US: Call for Assistant Web Editor

April 5, 2016

The executive committee of IASPM-US is currently seeking applicants to fill the position of Assistant Web Editor. The Assistant Web Editor commits to a 21-month volunteer position that begins May 2016. In the first nine months, primary responsibilities include managing social media networks for IASPM-US (Facebook, Twitter, Mixcloud), writing the monthly IASPM-US website email digest, and assisting […]

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Mixtape Series 2016: Dans les années de plomb: French sounds in the 1970s, by Jonathyne Briggs

April 1, 2016

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 […]

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Mixtape Series 2016: “PUNK ROCK NEW YORK,” by Jarek Paul Ervin

March 10, 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. […]

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IASPM-US Interview Series: Robin James, Resilience & Melancholy

March 5, 2016

In Resilience & Melancholy: pop music, feminism, neoliberalism (Zer0 2015), Robin James listens to popular music to hear how it sounds resilience–a performance of feminine overcoming that ultimately feeds and strengthens white supremacist patriarchy–then locates popular music that is melancholic–a failed overcoming that routes power and wealth away from white supremacist patriarchy. She builds her […]

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IASPM-US Election Results

February 19, 2016

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year’s election. The membership has elected the following individuals to the Board of Directors and Executive Committee: Secretary Esther Morgan-Ellis Treasurer S. Alexander Reed Open Seats Robin James Daniel Goldmark

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