Terminated for Reasons of Taste (2016) is Chuck Eddy’s second book of music criticism published on Duke University Press. Throughout the book, the collection of articles, written over a span of from when Chuck was in high school until very recently, covers music from the Depression-era up until the late aughts. While the writing is broken up into short, song or artist-focused pieces that are the right size for newspapers and online articles, there are enduring thematic ‘threads’ throughout the book. This is an impressive collection that covers a wide range of genres, and Chuck makes it a point to not only review so-called ‘essential’ music, but also music picked up in bargain bins and songs that rarely cross even devoted music fans’ radars. This book is an excellent example of music journalism and is especially helpful as a tool for scholars looking to take a cue on how to compellingly write about music.

 

 

Rachel Skaggs: The first place I wanted to start is that in the book you write about such a diverse array of genres and styles. Obviously it is over a pretty long time period, too. Can you tell me about your approach to listening to and writing about music so broadly?

Chuck Eddy: I think what it has been is just—I started writing in the early 80’s, for money. A lot of it was just, necessity is the mother of invention stuff. I’d find kind of a niche. When I was writing in the mid 80’s there was really no one writing about metal and I had grown up in the upper Midwest where that was just the environment. So, I basically started writing about that, not because I was a huge fan, but because I knew it just from growing up around it, and apparently I had a voice there. As time has gone on in the decades since, I’m curious. I have curiosity about different types of music. You may have picked up in the book that if I’m concentrating too much on one genre or one artist, I tend to get bored. So, I’m constantly looking for other things to listen to. And because it is what I do for a living to write about and it hasn’t really been a conscious thing where I’ve said, “Oh, I want to write about a wide variety of music” it just sort of has to do with how my personality is and staying alive in the business, at least to a certain extent, for a pretty ridiculously long time.

RS: At the same time as its diverse, it seems like your voice is very consistent across the book, even as you are writing about things from pre-R&B to bro-country. It is clear that you are still the one writing it.

CE: That’s interesting to me because my voice really changes according to the source I’m writing for. In the course of the book, I probably arranged it so that the pieces would flow into each other. If you look at the pieces I wrote for Creem magazine in the 80’s—in a way it’s, I’d almost be embarrassed to write a piece like that. I think—well I wouldn’t be embarrassed, but there’s stuff in there that I can’t believe or some of the fan zine stuff too, whereas if you look at the stuff I’ve written for the Village Voice it is probably in some ways more straightforward. I wouldn’t say it is less jokey or humorous, but it’s probably more—I don’t want to say academic, but it’s sort of less tossed off, more like written more as an expert. The oldest thing in there is something I did for my high school paper. The other thing is, talking about the really early music, from the 1930’s, the music of the depression. One thing to remember is that I wasn’t actually writing that in the 1930’s.

RS: There is the retrospective side, so writing about music that you weren’t there for or music that you were there for but that you wrote about later. So how do you write about music from the past and the present—you bend the lines between that throughout.

CE: I think that was intentional in the book, to have them melt together in that way. I’d say in recent years, especially since the dawning of the internet, there have just been more opportunities to write about music retrospectively. Historically, music critics wrote about music it in real time. Also in recent years, since SoundScan started in the early 90’s, you write about albums the week they came out or even now the day or night that they come out, if it is something that comes out at midnight. Whereas thirty years ago you could easily review a record three months down the line. People wouldn’t think you were behind the curb. So, it has sort of gone in both directions. With new music, you almost have to write about it immediately, but at the same time, there are more opportunities to write about stuff that is really old, a couple of decades old, because websites know—or think they can—get lots of hits that way. They have determined that it is part of their business plan. I guess what I’m saying is, the music of the Depression piece or the songs of the 1930s piece weren’t really written too far away from that bro-country piece or the Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe piece—they were all written in the past half-decade. Whereas, the early part of the book, the BC section, which is Before Criticism/Before Chuck, most of that is fairly recent writing. The oldest stuff is probably from the mid-80s. Because the BC section, for the most part, is stuff that was written in the last decade.

RS: So how did you approach that BC section—I think it stands out as something I’ve never read much music criticism about that period and I found it very interesting. How did you go about choosing for that?

CE: Well there’s actually a lot of writing about music from then. In the introduction to that section, I say “I am not a historian.” I’m a guy who is interested in this stuff, but there are academics who have written about this stuff and have gone even much further back. There’s a recurring series through the book called “Country songs 1” “Country Songs 2”, etc. Those were all written originally as one piece, bizarrely for a hip hop website called Complex. I just, when I did that, I think the earliest one is a song from the late ‘20s or something, Charlie Pool, and the most recent ones are probably a Toby Keith song from a few years ago. They actually called it, and I hated this, they called it “50 country songs that don’t suck” which I was like—the assumption here is that most country does—like these are the 50 exceptions. I wanted that to run the scope of the history of country music from the beginning because I see threads running through. I think one of the threads I talk about is the idea of country calling from fairly recent African American music—blues all the way to hip hop. You see, some people who consider themselves purists about country music say, ‘oh my gosh, these singers are influenced by rap music,’ and I wanted to get across the idea that this is what country music has always done. It isn’t a new thing; it was never a purist music. That is a myth.

RS: And it is really explicit now, thinking about all of the name dropping and collaboration in country music. Obviously like Florida Georgia Line and Nelly, but even a newer country song that name drops Tupac. It also name-drops Travis Tritt in the same song.

CE: When I first started seeing that was the first Big and Rich album around 2004. I remember getting a press release in the mail that said ‘our fans don’t just listen to Kenny Chesney, they also listen to Outkast and Ludacris’. And they had a rapper named Cowboy Troy and they had their hit “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” but they also had a song called “Rollin’ with Big and Rich” that was, I remember actually. I was living in Philadelphia and I was listening to a country station and I didn’t know who Big and Rich was, and I’m like, ‘What the hell is this,’ and then it broke into this extended rap and then started rapping in Spanish, and this is like the most amazing thing. I guess some people would be aghast, but I found it really, really interesting. And I their first album was really big but it took a few years for it really to grab hold, and in the bro-country piece, I talk about how a song that Luke Bryan sings has internal rhymes that is really hip hop. It isn’t even that explicit; it’s an incidental thing. And Jason Aldean references ‘Real Slim Shady’ in a song, almost without making a big deal out of it.

RS: Now I’d like to talk about format—broadly. The period of time that this book covers saw the rise and fall of different iterations of recorded music and the places where fans can discover new music have become more numerous than in the past. What are your thoughts about the ways we now listen and respond to music?

CE: Theoretically, music criticism has expanded, with the idea that “anyone can do it,” but in a lot of ways, it has been reined in. I had infinitely more freedom about what I can write about 30 years ago, compared to now. It is really data driven now, what outlets want me to write about, when you write about it. Its metrics driven. There are always new people coming in to listen to stuff. There is the assumption now that younger people have a wider scope of taste just because they can download or stream anything they want at any possible time, but I don’t know—outside of people who are really dedicated to one specific genre, like someone who would really call themselves a metal head—I don’t know that most listeners really ever drew boundaries around genres like saying ‘I’m only going to listen to R&B or I’m only going to listen to country or I’m only going to listen to something brand new. There has been a phenomenon at least since the 80’s where kids would listen to rock music that their parents grew up on like the Beatles or Led Zeppelin—that goes back at least to the 80’s. It is almost a platitude or a foregone conclusion now that kids grow up listening to this huge, wide scope of music with no boundaries whatsoever, but I’m just not sure I buy it.

RS: Music is political and can be emblematic of big societal issues, but it is also mundane in the sense that it is part of many people’s daily routines. Throughout your writing, you talk about music in both of these ways—in kind of the big way and in the everyday way as well. Can you elaborate on the cultural connections, cultural commentary, and the balance you strike while writing?

CE: Yeah—I guess I’m not sure that I even acknowledge the dichotomy. I think that music happens in the course of life. You know, you listen to music while you are driving to work, while you are driving to the store. And while you’re hearing it, or you’re playing Christmas songs at the holidays, or you’re at the grocery store and they are playing a radio station. I think that political stuff is mundane too, political stuff happens. I guess I have one piece in here, the ‘Country Music after 9/11’ one and the ‘Country Music Talks about Mexico’ one—I don’t necessarily think those are bigger than when I talk about something that might be more mundane. For a lot of those Radio On reviews, it is just like a song reminded me of someone in my neighborhood or something that was happening in my life, or my kids. It doesn’t make sense to talk about music not as part of life, but the bigger picture is jut life in general. Whether that is washing dishes, watching the Sopranos, or whoever won an election. You don’t have to separate it. One thing to understand is that there is way more writing that I’ve done that I left out of this book and my previous book, Rock and Roll Always Forgets, so really there’s been two editions, so together it is probably somewhere between 600-700 pages, and two books before them, but there is way more writing that I’ve left out of these books than what I put in. The writing I put in is the writing I like most, and a lot of that is because it talks about music in the course of everyday life, whether that’s, as you call it, big picture life, or just what happens in it. I’ve always enjoyed using music writing as a frame where I could bring in whatever I want whether it is baseball or dinosaurs, or whatever.

 

Chuck Eddy is an independent music journalist living in Austin, Texas. Formerly the music editor at the Village Voice and a senior editor at Billboard, he is author of Rock and Roll Always Forgets: A Quarter Century of Music Criticism, also published by Duke University Press; The Accidental Evolution of Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Misguided Tour Through Popular Music; and Stairway to Hell: The 500 Best Heavy Metal Albums in the Universe.

Rachel Skaggs is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Vanderbilt University. Her dissertation focuses on the career pathways of Nashville Songwriters, a piece of her larger focus on arts entrepreneurship and work in the new economy.

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Photo Credit: Samik Greene

 

In Punk and Revolution Shane Greene radically uproots punk from its iconic place in First World urban culture, Anglo popular music, and the Euro-American avant-garde, situating it instead as a crucial element in Peru’s culture of subversive militancy and political violence.

David Pearson: What made you decide that Peruvian punk in the 1980s would make a good subject for an academic book? What possibilities did that open up that studies of punk in the US or Britain wouldn’t have?

Shane Greene: In general, I think the book is trying to do a few basic things, like decenter the Anglo punk story in part by reopening older cultural studies questions about whether or not, or what kind of, “revolutionary” can be found in subcultures of discontent like punk, to retell the Latin American experience of the “Cold War” from the vantage point of urban anarchists who are pretty absent from that story, and to challenge the way we write and think as academics, so adopting an experimental method of using different punk voicings and anarchist aesthetics within a still academic project.

DP: These days the word revolution is thrown around for practically everything other than the violent overthrow of the existing order. Bernie Sanders used the word. You develop a theory of punk revolutionary practice that hinges on the idea of underfucking the system. Could you explain this idea and how it existed and was affected by the context of armed insurgency by communists in 1980s Peru?

SG: One of the things we learned in the twentieth century is that Marxist experiments, when they’re actually successful, can also erect newly oppressive states. So I wanted to reopen the anarchist question of whether or not the state should be the objective. And whether or not there are other means and modes of thinking about what it means to be political in the world, what it means to use the word revolution in the world.

One of the things I saw happening in the punk scenes in general but was particularly obvious in the punk scene in Peru because there was a Maoist proposal to take the state was that there was sort of an articulation of a desire to strategically withdraw into anarchist communities and imagine a scenario in which taking the state was not the outcome of the revolution. Erecting a new state was not necessarily the desirable outcome of the revolutionary process. So a sort of disarticulation of the idea of revolutionary action and militancy from what has always been, in the history of Marxist militancy, the central, first objective, which is to take the state.

Disarticulating those two things became a point of active debate amongst some of these people, at least the more militant ones, in the same way that’s been a point of debate amongst anarchists of various stripes in the history of anarchism. Sort of an engaged retreat or an engaged withdrawal from the state. The kind of thing that the Zapatistas, for example, have been trying to articulate since the mid-1990s. Or other kinds of social-movement-based forms of political action that don’t see militancy against the state as the only option, but are trying to craft other kinds of options.

I suppose the crucial difference here is that this also goes into the realm of aesthetic action, of artistic, musical action, and the various kinds of ways that those actions involved their own engagement with the material world. You can’t be in a band, or produce music, or be an artist, produce a fanzine, without engaging in some kind of material activity. And often times, at least before the point of absorption or widespread commercialization, you’re doing it on the outskirts or underneath the surface of official channels, of official press, of official conduits of circulation. Usually using whatever tools you have at your disposal to do those things, to produce the art, to produce the fanzines. In the first essay of the book I write a lot about the central material role that photocopiers played in producing fanzines, distributing fanzines, getting the word out, getting visual art out in the context of fanzines. And the crucial role in the Peruvian case, and it probably would be the case in a lot of the Global South, that the cassette played. So thinking about the way that there were these underground circuits, material circuits, to get different kinds of information, different kinds of action, different forms of action into the world that do not have, as an objective, taking the state or becoming the state. But rather of producing an underground alternative or underproduced sphere of material action, sociality, artistic expression, etc.

That’s also more or less what I mean by underfucking the system—finding its loopholes and using them against it while not having this pretension to completely overhaul it. Because that usually historically has assumed becoming that which you don’t want to be, which is in power, from a statist logic. So in that sense it links with an idea of anarchist practice as an everyday activity rather than something that has the long-term objective of becoming the oppressive state that you so detest.

DP: Throughout the book you take swipes at a lot of conventional wisdom in cultural studies, anthropology, and related fields, often critiquing the words, such as transnationalism, that always get sheepish nods of approval from audiences at academic conferences. You express a strong distaste for any ism with a post prefix, and, in Interpretation Three, you call out what you consider rigid dichotomies in cultural studies such as ritual rebellion vs. revolution. Could you explain some of your critiques and why it is important to make them? Also, what is it about the institution of academia that reinforces the practice of allegiance to trendy jargon or the constant attempts to display novelty rather than substance in the construction of theory?

SG: Part of what you call swipes has its logic of trying to adopt punk tactics. A lot the post this and the post that or the trans this or trans is that at the end of the day, there is a colonial logic to claiming novelty or firstness. Not just novelty, but the idea of having an established or incontrovertible claim on something, or having established a new historical or intellectual stage of some sort. That necessarily implies the logic of rupture, as “this other thing is now dated, this is now old, past.”

There’s always a bandwagon problem. But I think more fundamentally, it’s like what is the notion of temporality or time or history that it implies? There’s so much firstness in academia, or arriving first to something, to the next stage, to post-whatever, it’s sort of a colonial mindset. I’m interested in a theory of history, or a theory of time, or an understanding of history or movement as dialogic, not as ruptures or stages. Or the theoretical claim that allows you to establish that a new stage has in fact occurred. And I have this different idea of revolution, where it’s an everyday, anarchist practice that I’m interested in, rather than a final telos or seizing the state and becoming the state. Which has been its own way of declaring a new stage of history, and that’s sort of what Marxists have done around the world, claimed that a new stage of history has begun. They’ve erected a socialist order. I’m trying to get away from that idea and think about things dialogically. Moving through fits and starts, and backs and forths, flips and flops. That’s kind of how I want to time travel through history.

The primary logic to organize the book is as seven distinct interpretations because of Mariátegui’s Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality. I like the organizational style also because I wasn’t casting a single narrative, a historical narrative that’s moving forward in time. Each of the seven interpretations is supposed to stand on its own, rather than the assumption of starting at one point and moving toward an end point. I think they can be read in any order. It has to do with this dialogic understanding of history and resisting the notion of newness or rupture.

DP: Your book is not written like a typical academic monograph, especially with Interpretation Seven as an imagined dialogue between Mariátegui and Bakhtin, and with the model of José Carlos Mariátegui’s famous Seven Interpretative Essays on Peruvian Reality structuring your book. How does the book’s unconventional form help bring to life its subject matter and maintain a certain fidelity to punk? Did this create problems for you in bringing it out within the academic world?

SG: Well it definitely creates problems.

The fidelity thing is interesting because I was trying to disrupt not just academic discourse, but also disrupt certain kinds of punk discourse claiming, implicitly or explicitly, that you can’t be authentically punk if you operate from within the non-punk institutional spaces of academia. I’m also trying to make the most “authentic” of punks uncomfortable. I was trying to force those different camps, the stoic and serious academics and the hardcorest of street punks, into an uncomfortable conversation with each other. That was certainly behind it.

I knew of course that Mariátegui was sort of an anti-academic thinker, an anti-academic intellectual, who didn’t have any formal training, and had an anti-institutional attitude about what he wrote and thought. So I was thinking about ways to put him in dialogue with people who see themselves as thinkers and theorists who have their own ways which don’t conform very well to academia as an institutional practice. So Bakhtin himself, who was castigated by the Soviet intellectual establishment. Or theorists that we’ll often cite in academia without recognizing the tense relationship they’ve had operating within or in parallel to formal academic institutions.

As much as we talk about neoliberalization and corporatization of the university and academia, I think it’s fundamentally still feudal. It’s still medieval. When you consider the banality of the profession, faculty claiming possession over students. There’s an incredible amount of time spent and energy and attention given to problems of status, of prestige, and of institution. What press you publish with, who you hang out with. It’s an obsession not with money, because there isn’t much money in the grand scheme things. It’s an obsession with prestige, with rank—it’s an aristocratic problem. That strikes me as the absolute other end of the spectrum from punk. And I wanted to tell those people to fuck off. On no uncertain terms.

I think for the punks I wanted to expand their vision. From my perspective, as a US hardcore kid in the 1980s, the idea of what punk could be, particularly in musical terms. In the 1970s almost anything, musically speaking, jazz influences, reggae influences, all kinds of influences, could be punk. With the hardcore scene it became, no, it’s gotta be three or four dudes dancing aggressively and wildly screaming. I wanted to open up the parameters of what a punk voice could be. Like the fictional dialogue between Mariátegui and Bakhtin. Once I started writing that, I was like, is this like a punk short story or not. And I said, it’s not just about punk, but the way they’re talking about things, the focus on the grotesque body, all the slang and informality, in addition to the content of what they are talking about.

I realized I wanted to do these visual arts collaborations, and I ended up collaborating with a comic book artist who came out of the punk scene, and was one of the better illustrators who came out of the punk scene. So doing these collaborations with people who came out of the punk scene only made it that much more real. Fidelity is not necessarily the voice or the moves that I’m making as much as the relationships that I developed with people, artists, musicians, comic book artists in the process of doing the book. Not just interviewing them, but having them be part of the production of the book.

DP: So what problems did this book pose for academic publication?

SG: I sort of ended up creating a conversation around that in chapter four. The relationship between language, sexuality, and gender. Those are the three primary threads in that chapter. But it had four different lives. It started out as an experiment on my part to engage in a sort of pornographic tone. Because I was engaging with María T-ta as the center of that piece, who made it part of her repertoire to be as vulgar as possible, and whose punk feminist discourse centered on sexuality and the use of language, bodily, performative, discursive and so on.

That piece in fact went through a series of prior iterations that were very different from the one that’s in the book. I learned a lot from the critiques I was getting. Some of the critiques were fairly straightforward, like “you can’t do that.” Usually, it was more about what my assumed subject position was. Like if you are going to say the word “pussy,” what does that mean for you? So there was this fairly large concern about the pornographic words and terms I was using from within an academic context.

Three iterations of that piece were rejected by six or seven different Anglo academic journals. But ironically enough a Spanish-language version of one of the early iterations was published immediately with no requests for revisions in Colombia. And it was mostly understood by people as an interesting experiment in radically sexualized language, but in Spanish, the language of María T-ta. So, it kinda depends on the audience, the audience of academics, and what language they’re reading it in maybe.

I also got some pushback when a version of Interpretation #2 went out to the Journal of Popular Music Studies, and they didn’t want me to call Dick Hebdige “Dickhead.” Go figure. They were fine with the rest of the “fucks,” but “why don’t you take dickhead out?” I was told by a guest editor that they were worried about a libel suit. I was like, “really?” If anyone is gonna get this joke, it’s gonna be Dick Hebdige. But it’s in the book version, it’s in the Duke University Press version of that essay. So there has been a lot of playful back and forth to see what I could get away with. I got away with more than I thought quite frankly.

DP: In Interpretation Four—on women performers in Peruvian punk—you argue that intersectionality, as it’s articulated in the U.S., doesn’t apply well to 1980s Peru and note the sharp difference in reception to your feminist analysis in Latin America vs. in the US. Could you explain these seemingly related phenomena?

SG: The second one has to do with what language I was being read in. The use of vulgar language—when you’re using the exact same words that María T-ta was using, they don’t sound the same in your head when you’re reading them if it is in the original language. So, generally speaking, Spanish readers are like, “Oh, he’s using her language. He’s using the language of the people he’s engaging with and taking it seriously.” And then the theoretical relationship, in earlier versions I was relying heavily on the Spanish queer theorist Beatriz Preciado, who also writes and theorizes vulgarly. Anyway, I think once you switch it over to an Anglo context, all that flops or something, like Anglo academics just can’t fathom me trying to align myself with María T-ta’s sex politics and instead just think I’m a run of the mill porn addict or something.

I think intersectionality is a perfectly viable conceptual paradigm for trying to analyze this infinitely difficult problem of how to put together race, class, gender, sexuality and so on. What I don’t like about the way certain people use it is that it easily leaves the context from which it emerges unclear and takes on an assumed universality. And so I’m asking the necessary question: Is it in fact translatable to different contexts that have their own theories of race, class, gender, and so on? What I lay out very briefly in that essay is the problem that I’ve always seen with intersectionality when it arises in the US context. Whether people realize it or not, it assumes a geometric reasoning.

It’s about an analogy to geometry, it’s about intersecting points on an imagined social grid. That’s where the metaphor comes from. So what’s behind the metaphor is that you have presumed quadrants of race, quadrants of class, quadrants of gender, or sexuality and so forth and you try to figure out the complex ways in which the quadrants come together or the lines intersect. At least metaphorically speaking that’s what it’s doing. I think that’s no accident. Particularly when you think about race in the United States, where there’s a long-term problem of negating racial mixture, relying on narratives of racial purity, and of pretending that mixture doesn’t exist.

The exact opposite is the case in Latin America, where you have a long history of theories and ideas and experience of racial and cultural mixedness. The dominant trope and figure of the mestizo. People are very accustomed in Latin America to talking about social life in messy terms, where categories get conflated and confused. Where one day you’re this and the next day you’re that, depending on what you’re wearing or how you’re talking. There’s a kind of receptiveness to messiness rather than geometric quadrants. This doesn’t produce an obvious solution to racial or other kinds of inequalities, but the point is they have their own theories of how social categories work out in practice. And I’m that kind of ethnographer, I use those as a point of departure, rather than theories that have been constructed in a different context.

DP: What were some of the particularities of doing ethnography for this book? I was thinking especially of Interpretation Six, where you have a series of brief stories on people labeled X.

SG: The particularity of interpretation number six is that it was conceived of as a situationist-inspired art project which includes these narratives and these images that I designed or produced in collaboration with people who submitted images to me when I put out an open call. I did my own collages is basically what they are. And then a friend of mine, Shad Gross, helped me do hi-resolution photography of them. They’re actually physical, three-dimensional designs.

I feel like in scholarship there’s the classic case of the single individual author / hopefully a genius, and part of this spectacle of or pretension to be the individual author / genius who’s making a radically new claim on X. At the other end there’s group research, where you all assume that you’re on more or less the same page or you occupy the same status. I just wanted to break both those molds. I definitely wanted to break with the spectacle of the individual genius mold, and have other, quite literal hands involved. Literally, those are people’s hands who’ve drawn stuff or photocopied stuff and sent it to me. They ended up being cut and pasted and messed around with in my design. I wanted to break with that by having these people’s bodies and imaginations and fantasies and their own handwriting in the book. Literally in the book, rather than as something represented or something I’m talking about or analyzing from a distance. This is also not the team research model, where people meet every Thursday in the lab to talk about how they’re making progress on the thing they’re trying to produce. No, more like “hey, everybody, give me images that I wanna roll around on my floor with and do something with.”

Then the particularity of representing everybody with X – not just everybody, but every place, every date, every name, every band name, every art name, with X. Once, when I was thinking about that piece I sat down and wrote out everything X means, in mathematical terms, symbolic terms, linguistic terms, historical terms. X used to be the thing that people who were illiterate used to use for their signature, it is both the variable to be discovered and the variable that has no fixed value in Math, etc. It has all these complicated meanings. Interpretation Six is also an homage to Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, which has a series of numbered texts, and he used a sequence of numbers as a way to structure thinking. So the use of a sequence of letters is an indirect reference to that, with the caveat that it’s not going to end at Z, but at X. With the final X image, every single individual who submitted something to the project, at least some part of what they submitted is present in it. So, there’s this culminating effect of everybody ending up in a symbolical mosh pit in that final image.

Then there’s the obvious ethical implications of what I was doing. I was describing things that got people killed, or put in prison, or about people who took refuge in other countries for political reasons. Some people are more open about talking about these things than others, but a lot of people are still extremely hesitant and needed assurance that their identity is not going to be revealed. So it was an act of shielding.

And to be honest, this project was fun. I met so many people that I immediately became friends with and that I continue to be close friends with. Many of them ended up talking about difficult circumstances and times in Peruvian history and in their lives. But they were doing so retrospectively with at least enough distance, in most cases, to not feel entirely burdened by the conversation. Despite that feature of it, that painfulness of it, the delicacy, outside of that stuff, it was just fun. It was just fun, hanging out with Peruvian punks I should have been hanging out with the whole time I’ve been going to Peru. Because there’s a certain kind of punk sensibility that really is sort of universal on some level. You just pick up on that. Not in the sense of, “Oh, we’ve been listening to the same bands for the past thirty years.” There’s just some kind of punk sensibility, which I couldn’t define for you, you just kind of feel it. That was my experience doing that particular project.

I’m not saying everybody, but there was a small group who I developed intimate friendships with. Some people were just, “Yeah, I’ll give you an interview,” and that’s all it ever was. Or a handful of people didn’t really want to talk to me, so I just had to not worry about them. But overwhelmingly it was defined by friendliness. It was remarkably pleasurable in that sense.

DP: Finally, how does Peruvian punk in the 1980s break out of conventional narratives on globalization, postcolonialism, and popular music?

SG: That’s at least partially one of the things the book’s doing, but not necessarily giving a grand theory. I don’t really like grand theories. I like eclectic theoretical engagement and very grounded theoretical engagement. In terms of globalization, it’s not just the fact that I’m dealing with the 1980s and not the 1990s, which, to be perfectly honest, the conversation about globalization begins in the 1990s. Globalization is used as a marker of the fall of the wall, the fall of communism, the disarticulation of the Soviet Union, third wave democratizations. It’s seen as the transition to a triumphant form of capitalist democracy. And then criticized as neoliberalism. The fact that I’m doing this in the 1980s is not necessarily the primary point—it’s the Cold War context. This is Peru’s experience of the Cold War, which comes sort of late in the 1960s to early 1990s period of the Cold War, but nonetheless it was Peru’s experience with the Cold War. So in that sense it’s pre-globalization.

I’m clearly invested in the material dimensions: How could we talk about globalization without obsessive reference to the internet as crucial to the infrastructure of globalization? The whole rise of the internet and the digital age have also been tantamount to announcing the period of globalization. This context is of course pre-internet, and so too are the forms of circulation that were taking place – photocopy machines were an important technology. Cassettes were an important technology. People sending letters from Peru to Maximum RockNRoll in San Francisco and waiting two or three months for a response. That was the mode of global engagement. Or sending their cassettes. With rare exceptions, everybody was recording to cassette, and most everything was only circulating on cassette. Despite [now] the fact that there’s this misplaced nostalgic trend to convert what was originally Peruvian punk cassettes into foreign-produced vinyl, because there is no vinyl production in Peru to speak of.

I feel like the problem with thinking about the analog versus digital divide as also marking the transition to globalization is that it leaves unanswered questions. Like the fact that things in prior periods were also circulating globally, they were just so much fucking slower, but they were circulating widely across borders.

For example, Martín Sorrondeguy from [the Chicago-based Latino punk band] Los Crudos – he was an absolutely crucial conduit to bringing various kinds of Latin American punk into the United States. When I interviewed him and asked him where he found it, did he have to go to Latin America to get it, he was like, “No, not at all.” You could go to used record stores in Chicago in the 1980s and find a copy of [Peruvian punk band] Ataque Frontal’s EP. Who would have thought? But there it was, and I’m sure it took a zillion months to get there. The only claim that globalization has going for it really is velocity. Things have sped up. But the actual processes are just fucking ancient, so again a rupture it is not.

In that way I was also sort of resisting globalization discourse and transnationalism discourse. Because I was saying I’m going to read this story from within the context of Peru, and be totally comfortable with that, but when it seems relevant or interesting to point out the connections that are beyond Peru, I will do so. But I want to remain grounded in this context because I think there’s something utterly unique about it. So you see in different chapters these different international connections taking place—I just don’t obsess about it, and I also don’t have a particular global or trans paradigm to sell on it.

Like, I have this picture of an envelope from Tim Yohannan of Maximum RockNRoll at my friend Richard’s house. I documented those sort of things to show that this conversation was taking place across large expanses of geopolitical, linguistic, and cultural distance. It just took a long time to converse. And it was literally like, “Hey Richard, thanks for the this. We’ll get it in one of the next issues.” The classic Maximum RockNRoll response.

Just trying to disrupt these post-ness and trans-ness claims about new periods or paradigms having arisen, or being nicely neatly aligned with something like the digital age. Look at every digital platform, and there’s almost always a reference to something analog, like the little play button, the stop button, the fast forward button. You’re not actually physically forwarding through anything like you were on a tape, you’re just using that symbol which was created in the analog era and it’s now been transposed into the digital era. Again, I’m just not interested in ruptures or new stages or radical revolutionary breakthroughs of that kind. I’m interested in the complex everyday flip flop of dialogue and life.

Shane Greene is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Indiana University Bloomington, writes about social movements, music, art, politics, race and ethnicity in Latin America and sometimes elsewhere. He also plays in a bilingual rock band, El Cuervo Sucio.

Links to:
Book website with alternative versions etc.:  www.punkandrevolution.com
El Cuervo Sucio: https://elcuervosucio.bandcamp.com/releases
Video Project (related to book):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onWJk336sL8

David Pearson is a doctoral candidate in musicology at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an adjunct instructor at Lehman College. His dissertation, “Constructing Music of Rebellion in the Triumphant Empire: Punk in the 1990s United States,” provides a cultural history of the 1990s underground punk renaissance as well as style analysis and hermeneutic interpretation of crust-punk, extreme hardcore punk, and So-Cal punk.

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David Sanjek Update

by Jarek Ervin on February 17, 2017

Deadline extended for submissions for the David Sanjek Graduate Student Paper Prize. Please send your submissions to 2017sanjekprize@gmail.com by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, February 19th. Further details can be found in the original call for papers below.

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 2017 IASPM-US conference to submit their papers for consideration.

Eligibility: Any student who presents, in person, a formal paper at the 2017 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.

Application Process: To apply for the prize, candidates must electronically submit a copy of their paper to 2017sanjekprize@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 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, Monique Bourdage (monique.bourdage@finlandia.edu), if you have any questions.

Committee: Monique Bourdage, Kate Galloway, Eric Hung

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David Sanjek Graduate Student Paper Prize

by Jarek Ervin on January 26, 2017

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 2017 IASPM-US conference to submit their papers for consideration.

Eligibility: Any student who presents, in person, a formal paper at the 2017 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.

Application Process: To apply for the prize, candidates must electronically submit a copy of their paper to 2017sanjekprize@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 Wednesday, February 15 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, Monique Bourdage (monique.bourdage@finlandia.edu), if you have any questions.

Committee:  Monique Bourdage, Kate Galloway, Eric Hung

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Call for Assistant Web Editor

by Jarek Ervin on January 24, 2017

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 24-month volunteer position that begins March 2017. In the first year, primary responsibilities include managing social media networks for IASPM-US (Facebook, Twitter, Mixcloud), writing the monthly IASPM-US website email digest, and assisting the Executive Web Editor, Jarek Ervin, in generating content for the website. After the 2018 meeting of IASPM-US, the Assistant Web Editor will take on the position of Executive Web Editor, becoming the primary point person for website-related tasks, including: maintaining and generating content for the website; working with the executive committee and program committee to keep the organization updated about elections, annual conference details, and other IASPM-US-related business; addressing the executive committee and broader membership with an annual report at the IASPM-US conference; and training the incoming Assistant Web Editor. We are especially interested in applicants with knowledge of any of the following: social media networking, blogging, online and traditional music publishing, and WordPress or other web platforms. There is a modest stipend for the Executive Web Editor.

To apply for the position, please send a 300-500 word personal statement to iaspmus@gmail.com, including a brief biography, list of accomplishments, and what skills and ideas you would contribute to the position. Applications must be received by February 10, 2017.

Please direct any questions to the current Executive & Assistant Web Editors, Greg Weinstein and Jarek Ervin, at iaspmus@gmail.com.

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IASPM-US Officer Elections

by Greg Weinstein on November 14, 2016

Dear IASPM-US members past and present,

We are due to hold elections for President, Vice President, and three Executive Committee open seats. But we face a challenge: the need to reassemble a true membership list. So please, if you are now an IASPM member, or have been over the past five years, please take a minute ASAP to fill out this survey (click the embedded link, or copy and paste into your browser: https://ung.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0x18hAbMWcfVoNv), even if you think we have your contact information. (Note: the survey is hosted at the University of North Georgia because that is the home institution of IASPM-US’s Secretary, Esther Morgan-Ellis.) You have until November 28 to complete the survey and make sure that your name is on the list of people who will receive the ballot. Ballots will be sent on December 1.

Here are the nominating statements from those running for office. To see their CVs, please go here.

Thanks very much,
Eric Weisbard
Chair, Nominating Committee

[Read the full post…]

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adrian-daub charles-kronengold the-james-bond-songs

In The James Bond Songs, Charles Kronengold and Adrian Daub —a musicologist and a literary scholar respectively, and Stanford University professors— talk to Nayive Ananías about their research on fifty years of James Bond movie theme songs, reflect on the essence of pop songs, and delve into the evolution of capitalism. [Read the full post…]

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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…]

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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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iaspm-us_logoFINAL_300dpiCFP – IASPM-US 2017

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…]

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Call for Nominations: Woody Guthrie Award

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 […]

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Eric Weisbard, 2015 Woody Guthrie Award Winner

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, […]

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IASPM-US Committee Initiative: A Call for Volunteers and Nominations

June 2, 2016

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 […]

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IASPM-US Interview Series: Michael James Roberts, Tell Tchaikovsky the News

May 20, 2016

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 […]

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David Sanjek Graduate Student Paper Prize

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 […]

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