Karl Hagstrom Miller has been named the winner of the 2011 Woody Guthrie Award for Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow (Duke University Press, 2010). This award recognizes the most distinguished English language monograph in popular music studies published during the past year. Segregating Sound was the unanimous choice of the prize committee, which reviewed 21 titles this year. The committee extolled the depth of its research, its argumentative rigor, and its wide-ranging implications for scholars of music, race, and American culture. As Kwame Harrison wrote in his assessment, the book “pushes us to rethink history” with an ear to the importance of “the sonic demarcation of racial segregation.” Segregating Sound thus not only contributes enormously to our understanding of the ways musical expression has been shaped by racial formation, it demonstrates that the history of the United States simply cannot be fully understood without reference to the role popular music culture played in legitimating conceptions of racial difference.
Miller is Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. His research uses popular music to explore the cultural, economic, legal, and intellectual history of the United States. His special focus is on the ways that people have used music to forge their conceptions of race and region, to imagine their relationship to the wider world, to comprehend the past, and to dream about the future. His current book project examines recent debates about illegal music filesharing over the internet within the context of the long historical struggles over the meaning and control of music as property.
Honorable Mention was given to Katherine Meizel for Idolized: Music, Media and Identity in American Idol (Indiana University Press, 2011). Idolized was recognized for its impressive combination of media studies and ethnographic methodologies, and for its nuanced exploration of the ways American Idol represents and negotiates fundamentally conflicted conceptions of citizenship, democracy, and Americanness. Meizel is currently Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University.
This year’s prize committee consisted of Diane Pecknold (chair), Anthony Kwame Harrison, and Michael Mario Albrecht. The award was presented at the Kimmel Center of New York University during the 2012 Joint Conference of IASPM-US and the EMP Pop Conference on March 23, 2012.
IASPM-US represents the U.S. branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, a 700-member international organization established to promote inquiry, scholarship and analysis in the area of popular music. IASPM-US, which has about 200 members, publishes the peer-reviewed Journal of Popular Music Studies (with Blackwell Publishing), holds conferences, and encourages research projects designed to advance an understanding of popular music.