Star-Spangled Music Day—Friday, September 12, 2014
JOIN US TO CELEBRATE A BANNER BIRTHDAY!
The Star Spangled Music Foundation (SSMF) in partnership with the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), America Sings, Resounding Joy, and others are pleased to announce a national Star-Spangled Music Day for Friday, September 12, 2014 in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the United States National Anthem—“The Star-Spangled Banner.” For this day we ask that Americans far-and-wide sing patriotic songs—including “The Star-Spangled Banner”—and discuss the history and significance of the anthem. Performances may be videotaped and posted to YouTube, Twitter, and other social media outlets using the hashtag #Anthem200. See the website for further information and ideas: starspangledmusic.org/national-day-of-patriotic-song-september-12-2014.
|SAM members and Star Spangled Music Foundation board members Susan Key and Mark Clague with NEH Summer Scholars studying U.S. music. Each teacher contributed a curricular project now available at starspangledmusic.org.|
Honoring Judith McCulloh: A New Endowment, an Enduring Legacy
|Photo courtesy of MaryE Yeomans|
I’ve been asked to “shine the spotlight” on Judith McCulloh to celebrate her contributions to American music in general and folk music in particular. The Society for American Music is honoring Judy’s work and memory with its newly established Judith McCulloh Fellowship, a competitive grant program to support an annual, short-term research residency at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Since I drafted this piece, Judy passed away after a long and valiant struggle with cancer, so I am obliged to write in the past tense. But even now I sense her at my shoulder.
Judy was never one to shine the spotlight on herself, so I will tell you that this most recent honor joins a long list. The American Folklore Society has named her the first recipient of its Lifetime Award for Service to the Field (to be awarded posthumously later this year), and she was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010, receiving the Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship, given to an individual who has made major contributions to the excellence, vitality, and public appreciation of the folk and traditional arts. The Association for Recorded Sound Collections gave her its Award for Distinguished Service to Historical Recordings, which honors a person who has made outstanding contributions to the field, outside of published works or discographic research. Other honors include a Society for American Music Distinguished Service Award, an International Bluegrass Music Association Distinguished Achievement Award, an International Country Music Conference Lifetime Achievement Award, a University of Illinois Chancellor's Academic Professional Excellence Award, an Ohio Wesleyan Distinguished Achievement Citation, and some twenty ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards for outstanding books. She was a founding member of the Society for American Music, served for many years on the board of the COPAM initiative to publish Music of the United States, and was instrumental in establishing the journal American Music. She served as president of the American Folklore Society and served on the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress at a time of crisis when her leadership, vision, and unflagging lobbying efforts helped to save the center from dissolution in the 1990s. She was a longtime member of the Center's Board of Trustees, a Fellow of the American Folklore Society, and an Honorary Member of the Society for Ethnomusicology.
But Judith McCulloh was more than an editor, more than the brilliant architect of the Music in American Life series at the University of Illinois Press, more than a scholar, more than a visionary protector of a vital center for studying and preserving American traditional culture. She was herself a force of nature: inspiring and transforming those around her, nudging those in need of nudging, and nurturing those with stories to tell. A certified folklorist, having earned her PhD at Indiana University with a dissertation based on deep ethnographic research into the histories and practitioners of an iconic folksong, Judy proceeded over four decades to apply her expertise, insights, ingenuity, eloquence, and dauntless energies to the cultivation of American music as a subject of serious scholarly study. Judy’s approach to this endeavor came directly out of her background as a folklorist, in that she valued and nurtured the story inside each individual.
Judy’s contributions have been a major force in the preservation, understanding, and documentation of American folk culture. Her Music in American Life series runs the gamut of American music, from blues and gospel to bluegrass and country, doowop, jazz, rock, cowboy and railroad songs, minstrelsy, opera, pow-wow and ghost-dancing songs, and more. Her particular interest in folk, roots, and traditional music helped build a place for those musics in scholarly domains, with foundational publications such as Neil Rosenberg’s Bluegrass: A History, Dena Epstein’s Sinful Tunes and Spirituals, Nolan Porterfield’s Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America’s Blue Yodeler, and Norm Cohen’s The Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong (the full list would occupy this whole publication). In addition to the Music in American Life series, Judy created the series Folklore and Society, publishing sixteen books that stand as models of folklore scholarship. As the development officer for the Press, she created the L. J. and Mary C. Skaggs Folklore Fund, an endowment to support the publication of folklore books, by piecing together small donations to match a grant she secured from the Skaggs Foundation. She also established the Henry and Edna Binkele Classical Music Fund to support books on classical music topics.
In all these material ways, Judy contributed immeasurably to the establishment of American music and folk culture as credible scholarly fields. For countless individuals who have sat with Judy and discussed their book projects, her contributions go far beyond the material. Always asking, “What brought you to this project?” Judy sought the connections between writer and subject, looking for the author’s investment in the topic, the personal perspective that gives a narrative energy and life. An incisive but always gentle critical reader, Judy had a gift for encouraging and shaping, but also for telling it like it is. She patiently guided many an author to confront the realities of publishing without losing heart. She brought many a book to fruition whose authors, I daresay, didn’t realize they had a book in them, or doubted they had the wherewithal to complete it.
When I last saw her, in June 2014, she had slowed down, but she still had that twinkle in her eye when she detected that someone had a story to tell. Her vision and encouraging spirit live on for all those of fortunate enough to have crossed her path.
University of Illinois Press
SAM/2.0 Campaign Nears $800,000
In June Mariana Whitmer, the Society’s Executive Director, submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities confirmation of $150,000 in contributions to the SAM/2.0 Campaign. Once the donations were validated as non-federal in nature and that they had been given expressly for the Campaign, the NEH matched them at a rate of one-to-three and mailed the Society a check for $50,000. With this and recent contributions by SAM members, the Campaign now stands at $788,529.
Although we have raised $788,529 towards our $1-million goal, only $357,900 of that amount can be counted towards the NEH Challenge Grant. This is because donations received prior to December 1, 2012, bequests received at any time, and federal donations are ineligible under the conditions of the challenge program. We are still in need of $144,321 in order to receive the full Challenge Grant amount of $175,000. Your donation or pledge is needed to complete both the NEH Challenge Grant and our $1-million goal!
Other exciting developments in the Campaign include meeting the minimum threshold to endow the Judith McCulloh Fund. In recognition of Judy’s lifetime contributions to American music (see Laurie Matheson’s article in this issue), the Judith McCulloh Fellowship will fund an annual, short-term research residency at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Look for the call for proposals next year, as the fellowship will be awarded for the first time in 2016. Members who wish to make contributions to this fund in Judy’s memory are encouraged to do so.
The Aaron Copland Fund for Music has earmarked its $20,000 donation to establish the Vivian Perlis Fund. This fund recognizes Vivian’s contributions to understanding twentieth-century American composers through the Oral History of American Music project, publications on Copland and Ives, and recording and television productions. When fully endowed, the Vivian Perlis Fund will support professional performances of American composers’ music at the Society’s annual conferences. Members are encouraged to help endow this fund!
The Development Committee spent the spring and summer researching other grant possibilities. As we prepare applications, one of the criteria that agencies and foundations use to assess the effectiveness of an endowment campaign is the percentage of the Society’s members who have supported the Campaign. To date, 317 members of the Society have made a bequest, donation, or pledge to the Campaign. This is an impressive number, but represents only 42% of the Society’s members.
Stepping up to the plate with a pledge or donation will enable the Society to expand its financial support research in music of the Americas. Spreading a manageable monthly contribution over the next thirty-four months can yield a significant donation. Pledges or conations may be made at sam2point0.net. Help bring the NEH Challenge Grant around third base and home now!
bruce d. mcclung
Chair, Development Committee
From the President
|Judy Tsou, SAM President|
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Much is happening this summer in the Society, even though most SAM members may be taking a break from the hectic academic year. The Program Committee, under the able leadership of Leta Miller (other members are Tara Browner, Carol Hess, Charles Sharp, Jessica Sternfeld, and Lydia Hamessley, program chair for the Boston meeting), completed its work with an excellent program for the Sacramento meeting. This year, we had a bumper crop of 360 submissions, a 26% increase over last year. As a result, the Program Committee, in consultation with various members of the Executive Committee, decided to expand the program with 5 simultaneous sessions on Friday morning and Saturday, and a Thursday evening session as well. I know some people do not like evening sessions, but the papers were of such high quality that the Program Committee felt strongly that as many qualified papers as possible should be included. We know you will enjoy the program. The local arrangements committee is also hard at work, under the leadership of Beth Levy. Beth has been raising funds and finding sponsorships for the Sacramento meeting. She is also arranging a short concert for the Honorary Member Ceremony for composer Olly Wilson. Emeritus professor of music at University of California, Berkeley, Wilson has received many honors, including the Guggenheim Fellowship (1971–72), the coveted Elise Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society at Lincoln Center (1992), the Rome Prize (2008), and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1995), among others. In addition to being a composer, Wilson is a scholar who published groundbreaking work theorizing the relationship between African American music and West African music. I hope you can all join me at the Honorary Member Ceremony.
As most of you know, this year we changed the requirements for proposal submissions for the conference; all submitters must be members of SAM. As a result, there was a surge in new or renewed members, reversing the recent downward trend in membership numbers: as of June 10, we have 894 members, the level of membership in 2010. The Membership Committee will work on strategies to retain these new and renewed members.
The SAM/2.0 donations had a lull this summer after enthusiastic support by members at the Lancaster meeting. Despite the slowed donations, I am happy to report that we received the first $50,000 from the NEH Challenge Grant, thanks to the previous year’s donations. With the matching funds from NEH, the campaign total stands at $788,529. We still need $144,321 in new donations to receive the remaining $100,000 from the challenge grant. Please help us obtain the full NEH matching by donating generously. For more details on donations and pledges, visit the campaign website at sam2point0.net.
Speaking of finances, SAM is slowly marching towards financial stability, one of the chief strategic goals of the Society. With the increase in membership, the fiscal picture is better and the campaign money generates good dividends to fund our awards and fellowships. The Lancaster conference, too, showed a $6,700 profit, thanks to the intense fundraising by Doug Bomberger, chair of the Lancaster Local Arrangements Committee, and the savvy negotiations by our Executive Director, Mariana Whitmer. With the new line-item budget, we are also carefully tracking our income and expenses.
As announced in Lancaster, John and Roberta Graziano are establishing a new research fellowship to support research in nineteenth-century American music. The first award will be given in Sacramento. Look for a call for applications on the SAM listserv in September.
It is with great sadness that I report that SAM has lost one of its founding members, Judith McCulloh, a stalwart supporter of the Society and American music. As Kitty Preston puts it, Judy was a champion for America music studies “before it was trendy.” Ron Pen sums it up elegantly: “Judy was a wellspring and font of so much joy in the world of American music. She hummed like a mandolin in full bluegrass cry, she sighed sweetly like a bluegrassian fiddle lick, she was always a breath of fresh air in any conversation.” As most of you know, we have named a fellowship in her honor, and the funding for this fellowship has reached its minimum threshold; the first fellowship will be awarded in 2016. If you are interested in donating a memorial gift to this fund (which will be matched by NEH), contact bruce mcclung, chair of the Development Committee, at email@example.com. Laurie Matheson, a colleague and friend of Judy’s and Editor-in-Chief at the University of Illinois Press, has written a tribute to Judy elsewhere in this Bulletin. Gayle Sherwood Magee represented the Society at Judy’s memorial service in August.
Lastly, as in the previous year, I plan to fill most vacant committee positions in December and January so that new committee members can meet with the current members during the Sacramento meeting to ensure continuity. If you are interested in serving the Society, please contact Charles Hiroshi Garrett at firstname.lastname@example.org, the chair of the Committee on Committee Governance. The function of this committee is to nominate possible committee members for the President’s consideration.
Have a good rest of the summer!
Interest Groups and Committee News
Forum for Early Career Professionals
The Forum for Early Career Professionals will be working to update and revise the list of research interests used in the SAM directory. A PDF table of the current research interests can be found on the SAM membership webpage, american-music.org/membership/index.php. If you have suggestions about research areas that would more closely reflect your work and/or that of all our Americanist colleagues, please contact Dan Blim (email@example.com).
It’s that time of year again! It’s time to begin thinking about what you can donate to the 2014 Silent Auction. New or old, shiny or dusty: any items of interest to the SAM membership will be accepted. Books, which tend to increase revenue substantially, are especially welcome. All donations are tax deductible, and all of the auction’s proceeds benefit the Student Travel Endowment. Contact Student Forum Co-Chair Megan Murph (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Executive Director Mariana Whitmer (email@example.com) for more information about how to donate.
If you would like to get involved in student happenings for next year’s conference, feel free to contact co-chairs Megan Murph or Megan MacDonald (firstname.lastname@example.org). We invite all students to join our Facebook group, “Society for American Music Student Forum,” and to sign up for the Student Forum listserv through the Society for American Music website to keep up to date on the latest news for SAM students. Looking forward to seeing you all next year in Sacramento!
Journal of the Society for American Music
Volume 8, Number 3 (October 2014)
Before Kong Was King: Competing Methods in Hollywood Underscore
“Something Beneath the Flesh”: Music, Gender, and Medical Discourse in the 1940s Female Gothic Film
Strange Voices: Subjectivity and Gender in Forbidden Planet’s Soundscape of Tomorrow
James Wierzbicki, Film Music: A History
Beth Levy, Frontier Figures: American Music and the Mythology of the American West
Seattle Symphony, The Musical Fantasies of Charles Griffes & Deems Taylor
The Great American Main Street Band, Marches
Harlem Quartet and Chicago Sinfonietta, Delights & Dances
John Frankenheimer, dir., Seconds
Jerry Goldsmith, I.Q./Seconds
JSAM and SAM Bulletin Reviewers Needed
The Journal of the Society for American Music and the SAM Bulletin are always seeking reviewers for books, recordings, and multimedia publications. If you are interested in serving as a reviewer for either publication, please send your name, email address, and areas of expertise to Katherine Preston, Chair of the SAM Publications Committee, at email@example.com.
Calling All Multi-Media Reviewers!
Do you use any scholarly databases, websites, DVDs or other multi-media items in your research or teaching that would be of interest to our SAM community? Please share your findings in a multi-media review for JSAM! Also, if you are interested in writing a review, but do not have a particular multi-media item in mind, we have opportunities for you too! Please contact JSAM’s multi-media editor, Trudi Wright, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Society is pleased to welcome these new members:
|Lee Martin, Toledo, OH
Mario Dunkel, Dortmond, GERMANY
Del-Louise Moyer, Bethlehem, PA
Peter Graff, Cleveland Heights, OH
Dustin Mallory, Norristown, PA
Daniel Weaver, Elmira, NY
Carol Shansky, Tenafly, NJ
Barbara Quilliam, Arvada, CO
James R. Bomberger, Harrisonburg, VA
Melanie Green, Morgantown, WV
Saesha Senger, San Marcos, TX
Victor Carvellas, Fremont, CA
Joel Roberts, Memphis, TN
Nicholas Gebhardt, Lancaster, Lancashire, UNITED KINGDOM
Sarah E. Bereza, Durham, NC
John Pymm, Rowley Regis, West Midlands, UNITED KINGDOM
Michele Jelley, Maplewood, NJ
Sarah Clemmens Waltz, Stockton, CA
Molly Barnes, Chapel Hill, NC
Alex Lawler, The Woodlands, TX
Trevor Nelson, East Lansing, MI
Michael Levi, Troy, NY
Marianna Wilcox, Stonington, CT
Patrick Rivers, New Haven, CT
Jessica Rudman, West Hartford, CT
Francisco Javier Albo, Atlanta, GA
Elizabeth Morgan, Media, PA
Olivia Lucas, Cambridge, MA
Michael Kennedy, Cincinnati, OH
Mimi Haddon, Montreal, QC, CANADA
Stephanie Doktor, Charlottesville, VA
Lana Tyson, Ithaca, NY
Abigail Chaplin-Kyzer, Corinth, TX
Kate Sutton, Tallahassee, FL
Christopher Smith, South Lyon, MI
Alexandra Hill, Morgantown, WV
Karl Hagstrom Miller, Austin, TX
Bethany McLemore, Austin, TX
Elizabeth Rosner, Riverside, RI
Giovanni Chiriaco, Lecce, ITALY
Ryan Harper, Princeton, NJ
Leslie Simmons, Greensboro, NC
Brad Rohrer, Tallahassee, FL
Rebecca Crow Lister, Lebanon, PA
Erich Nunn, Atlanta, GA
Elaine Hayes, Redmond, WA
Alexia Smith, Lexington, VA
Tim Storhoff, Tallahassee, FL
Lytton McDonnell, New Brunswick, NJ
Sarah Kolat, Seattle, WA
Joel Hunt, Rochester, NY
Kristin J. Lieb, Boston, MA
Sarah J. Eyerly, Tallahassee, FL
Steven Lewis, Charlottesville, VA
Rachel Kelly, Somerville, MA
Karen Claman, Queens, NY
Micah Wittmer, Cambridge, MA
Nicole Robinson, Tallahassee, FL
Gregory Barnett, Houston, TX
Jacques Vest, Ypsilanti, MI
Erinn Knyt, Amherst, MA
Scott Swan, Jacksonville, FL
Erin Bauer, Pomona, CA
Heather Paudler, Onalaska, WI
Ann Linnea Zeiner, San Diego, CA
George Marie, Salt Lake City, UT
George Bozarth, Seattle, WA
Virginia Lamothe, Fairview, TN
Brian Casey, Boulder, CO
Christopher Culp, Buffalo, NY
|Matthew Hoch, Auburn, AL
Victor V. Bobetsky, Fresh Meadows, NY
John W. Wright, Salisbury, MD
Christina Vinson, Westcliff on Sea, Essex, UNITED KINGDOM
Michael Palmese, Martinez, GA
Katie Callam, Cambridge, MA
Samuel Dorf, Dayton, OH
Rachel Geier, Davis, CA
Tysen Dauer, Mountain View, CA
Mark Yeary, Louisville, KY
Twila Bakker, Edmonton, AB, CANADA
Joanne Barnes, San Francisco, CA
Kyle Kaplan, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Jessica Stearns, Denton, TX
Erin L. Mock, Brooklyn, NY
Katie Beisel, Franktown, CO
Stefan Love, Amherst, MA
Marianna Ritchey, Portland, OR
Justin Williams, Bristol, UNITED KINGDOM
Kyle Chattleton, Charlottesville, VA
G. Y. Kendall, Houston, TX
JoAnn Taricani, Seattle, WA
Nathaniel Sloan, Oakland, CA
Benjamin Negley, Phoenix, AZ
Tomoko Deguchi, Rock Hill, SC
Ellen Lueck, New Haven, CT
Walter Frisch, New York, NY
Elizabeth Macleod, Mt. Pleasant, MI
Rachel Golden, Knoxville, TN
Katherine Reed, Gainesville, FL
David Hunter, Austin, TX
Navid Bargrizan, Gainesville, FL
Gail Lowther, Rochester, NY
Katherine Williams, Sacramento, CA
Chad Schneider, Sanford, NC
Aaron Fruchtman, Tarzana, CA
Courtney Brown, Tempe, AZ
Marti Newland, Yonkers, NY
Kaylina Madison, Murfreesboro, TN
Nico Schuler, Austin, TX
Nolan Warden, Lafayette, IN
Richard Brown, San Diego, CA
William Fulton, Brooklyn, NY
Daniela Smolov, San Diego, CA
Sarah Gilbert, Tallahassee, FL
Grace Edgar, Minneapolis, MN
Donna Kwon, Lexington, KY
Alyssa Mathias, Oakland, CA
Carolyn Watts, Thunder Bay, ON, CANADA
Julianne Lindberg, Reno, NV
Katelyn Medic, Minneapolis, MN
Agnes Malkinson, Ottawa, ON, CANADA
Cara Stroud, Tallahassee, FL
Dawn Stevenson, Ottawa, ON, CANADA
Catherine Wolter, Chicago, IL
Steve Wilson, Iowa City, IA
Peter Shelley, Bloomington, IN
Lucie Vagnerova, New York, NY
Michelle Meinhart, Franklin, TN
Lauren E. Acton, Toronto, ON, CANADA
Jayme Kurland, Boston, MA
Joshua Charney, La Jolla, CA
Peter Gough, Kearney, NE
Faythe Vollrath, Placerville, CA
Eugene Montague, Silver Spring, MD
Josh Ottum, Athens, OH
Jason Rosenholtz-Witt, Chicago, IL
James Delorey, Worcester, MA
Benjamin Krakauer, Cambridge, MA
|Alex Rodriguez, West Hollywood, CA |
Michael Uy, Laguna Niguel, CA
Valentina Bertolani, Calgary, AB, CANADA
Wynn Kiyama, Portland, OR
Jason Decristofaro, Asheville, NC
Meghan Joyce, Ventura, CA
Kristina Nielsen, Los Angeles, CA
Serena Yang, Davis, CA
John Bower, Columbus, OH
Jared Oaks, Salt Lake City, UT
Warren Kimball, Baton Rouge, LA
Michael Harris, Longmont, CO
Vanessa Blais-Tremblay, Sainte-Agathe, QC, CANADA
Mathilde Zagala, 3800 Bourgoin-Jallieu, FRANCE
Harmony Murphy, Lafayette, CA
Gina Bombola, Carrboro, NC
Brian Jarvis, Tallahassee, FL
Kent Underwood, New York, NY
Myron Gray, Lafayette Hill, PA
Sundar Subramanian, Ottawa, ON, CANADA
Farley Miller, Montreal, QC, CANADA
Heather de Savage, Willimantic, CT
Andrew McGraw, Richmond, VA
Tes Slominski, Beloit, WI
Katherine Turner, San Antonio, TX
Margaret Murata, Irvine, CA
J. Daniel Jenkins, Columbia, SC
Felicia Youngblood, Salisbury, NC
Kirsten Carithers, Evanston, IL
Rose Boomsma, Los Angeles, CA
Elizabeth Hartman, Minneapolis, MN
Kate Lewis, Sherman Oaks, CA
Melanie Shaffer, Boulder, CO
Mishona Frost, Ann Arbor, MI
Smith Alexander Reed, New York, NY
Ronald Lewis, New York, NY
Joseph Fort, Cambridge, MA
Charles Olson, Roan Mountain, TN
John Kapusta, Brooklyn, NY
Claire Thompson, Davis, CA
Steven Ottomanyi, Whittier, CA
Benjamin Doleac, Los Angeles, CA
Amy Bauer, Irvine, CA
Nathan Gibson, Bloomington, IN
Deonte Harris, Los Angeles, CA
Benjamin Court, Los Angeles, CA
Emily Baumgart, Greenfield, WI
Theresa Chafin, Athens, GA
Niel Scobie, Nanaimo, BC, CANADA
Leonor Perez, San Diego, CA
Joseph Matson, Bloomington, IN
Andi Eng, Spruce Grove, AB, CANADA
Rachel Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Holley Replogle, Van Nuys, CA
Chelsea Hodge, Springdale, AR
April Greenan, Fredericksburg, VA
Elizabeth Soflin, Tucson, AZ
Mark DeWitt, Lafayette, LA
Gregory Camp, St. Mary's Bay, Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
Mehdi Boukharouba, Guelma City, ALGERIA
C. Dianne Mack, Houston, TX
R. James Tobin, Sheboygan, WI
Mark Laver, Grinnell, IA
Hendrik N. B. de Villiers, London, UNITED KINGDOM
Paul Schleuse, Binghamton, NY
Are you a graduate advisor with the perfect student to review a new book? Or, are you a graduate student who wants to review a book but could use some help through the process? As part of a new initiative from the SAM Publications Council, the SAM Bulletin actively seeks "mentored" book reviews for a large number of recent titles. Experienced authors will guide newer reviewers through the process of evaluating an American Music-related text and crafting their observations into a substantive, informative, and concise essay. The initiative also offers an opportunity for faculty to incorporate the book review experience into coursework for graduate students, transforming a typical book-review assignment into an authentic publishing opportunity.
The work of the Publications Council on this venture is already bearing fruit. Eric Neil Hermann’s insightful review of Hidden in the Mix below was mentored by Patrick Warfield, and three more mentored reviews are in the works for the coming year. Interested advisor/advisee duos, as well as those with an interest but without a pairing (such as faculty at undergraduate-only institutions), are encouraged to contact the Bulletin Reviews Editor Ryan Bañagale (email@example.com) for a list of currently available books.
Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City, Elizabeth L. Wollman, Oxford University Press, 2013. 271pp. ISBN-978-0-19-974748-1. Cloth.
Hard Times is a book about a largely ignored or forgotten subgenre of musicals—the adult musical. Elizabeth L. Wollman presents a meticulously researched examination of the way the sexual revolution, the 1970s financial crisis in New York City, second-wave feminism, and post-Stonewall LGBTQ activism were reflected in the Off-, Off-Off-, and Broadway musicals of the seventies. Wollman admits some dissatisfaction with the term adult musical in her introduction; she writes that she referred to the subgenre as “nudie musicals” during her initial research, but abandoned that term when it became clear that several of the musicals she wished to discuss had adult themes but no nudity. She acknowledges that the word “adult” has long been a stand in for pornographic material, and so is not an ideal descriptor for the musicals, most of which address some form of human sexuality, but are not designed to titillate or arouse. Wollman writes that she settled on the term adult musical as the most apt shorthand for the descriptive, but lengthy phrase, “commercial musicals staged in New York City during the 1970s that were directly influenced by the sexual revolution, women’s liberation, or gay liberation” (3). The themes that emerged in the adult musicals are the same themes that drive Wollman’s book, and she provides rich context for the way these provocative musicals were produced and received in a specific time and place.
Wollman notes that many musical theatre historians overlook the 1970s because it was the decade that immediately followed the Golden Age of the Broadway musical (which some scholars argue started with Show Boat in 1927, and others argue started with Oklahoma! in 1943, but all agree ended in the late 1960s, usually after Cabaret in 1966 and before Hair in 1968). Apart from the works of Stephen Sondheim, or analyses of hits like The Wiz, the 1970s are largely viewed as a creatively barren decade for the musical theatre. Larry Stempel argues in his book Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater that “belief in a historical Golden Age inevitably invites unflattering comparisons with the current one.”1 The overriding focus on canonical Golden Age musicals in scholarly texts on the genre not only allows for the current age to be unfavorably assessed, it also means the core repertory of “Show Boat to Sondheim” fails to include many of the musicals that interrogated contemporary issues and that continued to be immensely popular with audiences in the decades after Hair.2 Wollman’s book thus joins other recent scholarship like Jessica Sternfeld’s The Megamusical and Wollman’s own first book on rock musicals in allowing for a broader understanding of the musical genre.3 Wollman also argues that the focus on commercial and critical successes in the majority of Broadway histories has left a gap in the discourse around more modest hits or outright failures (with the important exception of Ken Mandelbaum’s book Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops).4 In the push to take the genre of musical theatre seriously, the flops and embarrassments within the genre are often disregarded or suppressed. Wollman therefore suggests that her book is a departure from the norm. She is correct in identifying these gaps, and although she does not spend much time on issues of canon formation, her well-documented assessment of the reception of the adult musical subgenre is a useful case study for how contemporaneous production and reception can affect later canon formation. Hard Times broadens the scope of musical theatre scholarship to include a forgotten subgenre outside the canon, and is a welcome addition to the field.
I will venture that most of the musicals Wollman analyzes in the pages of Hard Times will be unknown to readers—even those who are knowledgeable about musical theatre. Many of the adult musicals in the 1970s originated Off- or Off-Off-Broadway, with few of the commercial tie-ins of larger shows. There are therefore no cast recordings or published books for several of these musicals, and Wollman has relied to a great extent on contemporaneous reviews and interviews with artists involved in the original productions. She admits, in her introduction, that she has not seen a majority of the adult musicals she writes about, and that the second-hand stories about these musicals may be flawed. Wollman tracked down bootleg recordings and included some audio clips on the book’s companion website, but she acknowledges that some of the details about the lesser-known musicals continue to be “frustratingly evasive” (9). Wollman also points out that many of her informants were embarrassed by their participation in musicals where they may have appeared naked or performed simulated sex acts. She explores the cultural embarrassment around these musicals throughout her book. In the introduction, Wollman writes that her informants’ embarrassment and the scant primary material were hurdles to uncovering the truth about some of the musicals, but that her desire to make sense of the adult musical subgenre trumped these methodological difficulties.
Wollman’s stated aim in Hard Times is to expose the adult musical to the light of day. She writes that she hopes “to allow it, at the very least, to take its proper place in the archive; to ease some of the collective embarrassment about it and its time; and even, perhaps, to nudge it, however gently, back into the approving embrace of collective memory” (10). I am not sure how successful Wollman will be with this last goal; unless her book encourages producers to revive Oh! Calcutta! (1969) or Let My People Come (1974), it is unlikely that adult musicals will experience a wider resurgence. I do think, though, that her book will be of great interest to scholars and fans of the musical genre. More useful even than the exposure to a seldom-studied subgenre is the analytical framework Wollman uses in her book, and the way she provides important sociopolitical and theatrical contexts for the study of adult musicals.
In her previous book on rock musicals, Wollman supplied theoretical and contextual “interludes” on audience reception theory or economics and marketing; in Hard Times, Wollman incorporates these strands directly into her chapters, weaving them through the histories of each musical. This approach makes for a stronger book and a more cohesive argument. In each chapter she focuses on a different aspect of the adult musical, so that she returns to some musicals several times over the course of the book with various contextual readings. In chapter one, Wollman writes about the precursors to the adult musical, both immediate—with the Off-Off-Broadway movement—and distant—with a brief history of burlesque. She notes that many adult musicals owe a debt to burlesque not only for the way they parody topical themes and include nudity to sell tickets, but also in their structure. The two main musicals Wollman examines in her first chapter, We’d Rather Switch (1969) and Oh! Calcutta!, have an old-fashioned revue structure, as do many of the musicals in the subgenre. Wollman does not address how the structure of these musicals may have affected their place in the canon, but their status as revues seems to have barred them entry to a core repertory that fetishizes the “integrated” musical as the paragon of the form. Wollman could have gone further with the structural argument, because it seems that their format, more so than their subject matter or nudity, made the adult musical an ephemeral subgenre.
In chapters two and three, Wollman explores gay musicals and gay characters in adult musicals of the 1970s. She builds on the work of John M. Clum and others who analyze musicals from a queer perspective, and examines how the cultural landscape shifted throughout the seventies as openly gay characters on Broadway and Off-Broadway stages provided more nuanced readings of gay life. Wollman also reexamines well-known musicals of the late 1960s early 1970s through the lens of gender and LGBTQ activism. Her reexamination of Hair (1967, Off-Broadway; 1968, Broadway) and Company (1970) are not lengthy, but they strengthen her argument about how these works inspired the creators of adult musicals. For example, Wollman provides some history and analysis of the post-Stonewall gay theatre scene that emerged around Café Cino in New York City in order to draw attention to how Robert in Company was often read as a closeted gay man by gay theatregoers. Wollman convincingly argues that the coding inherent in earlier forms of musical theatre was an acknowledged facet of the relationship between gay men and musicals, and that the post-Stonewall activism of the 1970s made for a seismic change in the theatre from covert messages to overt examples of gay relationships in such adult musicals as The Faggot (1973), Lovers (1974), Sextet (1974), Gay Company (1974), and Boy Meets Boy (1975).
Wollman’s analysis of Hair’s female characters reminds the reader that for all of the left-leaning ethos of musicals like Hair, women remained little more than objects for men’s desires. In her fourth and fifth chapters, Wollman examines how many women broke away from the androcentrism of the New Left throughout the seventies and set up their own feminist theatre companies. Adult musicals like Myrna Lamb’s Mod Donna (1970), Eve Merriam’s The Club (1976), and Gretchen Cryer and Nancy Ford’s I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On The Road (1978) are all feminist musicals that complicate gender stereotypes. There was strong sexual content in these musicals, but little to no nudity, which reflected these feminist writers’ desire to explore the sexual revolution without exploiting the female body. In chapter six, Wollman examines how the sexual revolution and feminism interconnected, and where they were ideologically opposed. In the same chapter, she recounts how the relaxation of obscenity laws and the rise of “porno chic” meant that many female actors were being pressured to appear nude on stage. Wollman makes the important point that the lines were blurred between liberation and exploitation in the production of adult musicals like Let My People Come and Oh! Calcutta! She also points out that the musicals were often open to different interpretations so that the audiences included “as many Betty Friedans as Larry Flynts” (152); feminists and pornographers alike were drawn to the adult musical.
While Wollman’s sociopolitical and theatrical contextualization of adult musicals is detailed and illuminating, she does not provide very much musical context for these shows. She makes some mention of the musical aspects of various songs, but does not make connections between the sound of the adult musicals and the sound of other musicals during the 1970s, or of the popular music during that decade. She addresses the discomfort a female singer had with the lyrics of the song “Come in My Mouth” from Let My People Come, and further contextualizes the song by unpacking the influence of the film Deep Throat (1972) and studies on the sonic impression of the female orgasm, but she neglects to talk about the song as a potential precursor to popular disco hits like Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You” (1975). Perhaps Wollman does not probe the musical nature of the musicals because so many of them were revues, and contained a pastiche of older styles, or because there was a dearth of cast recordings for these musicals, but the lack of detail about the musical qualities of these shows made me wonder if another reason they are largely forgotten is because their music tended to be unmemorable.
Wollman leaves the New York City stage for the Los Angeles screen in chapter seven, examining the porn-musical hybrids Alice in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Fantasy (1976) and The First Nudie Musical (1976). Wollman quotes Linda Williams, who argued that the film musical and hard-core porn films were similar in their structure and aesthetics. Wollman lists some of the striking arguments made by Williams about the way musical numbers and sex scenes can be mapped onto one another, but Wollman points out that musicals and porn do not work as an amalgam, because it is difficult to overlap the climax of a musical number with the climax of a sex scene. In this chapter, Wollman also explores how the brief trendiness of hard-core pornography in the 1970s allowed for some crossover between the worlds of theatre and porn, but ultimately, how such associations tainted the reception of adult musicals and ensured that they would fade out of sight when the more conservative 1980s rolled around.
In chapter eight, Wollman investigates the many run-ins adult musicals had with obscenity laws. She looks at how Che! (1969) was deemed obscene by a criminal court and eight of its company members were found guilty of participating in an obscene performance. The obscenity trials for Che! and Let My People Come sparked debates about freedom of expression in the arts during a decade when New York City mayors were trying to eradicate the adult bookstores and peep shows that proliferated in Time Square. In her last chapter Wollman provides further context about the financial crisis in New York City and how it affected Broadway tourism for most of the seventies. She explores the way the countercultural movement was losing steam by the late 1970s and how this was reflected in the musical I Love My Wife (1977), when two couples considering a foursome ultimately decide to reaffirm their conventional monogamous relationships by the end of the show. Wollman writes, “I Love My Wife, one of the most conservative (and popular) adult musicals to run in New York City, would also be the last” (219). She argues that although the adult musical died out as the economy began to recover, the subgenre deserves a reexamination for the ways it grappled with the social and political issues of the day.
I am grateful to Wollman for writing this book with such engaging and insightful prose (along with a few NSFW images), which made discovering a new subgenre of musicals fun as well as illuminating. Her research is comprehensive and the responses garnered from her informants provide a fascinating window into the world of adult musicals. I recommend this book to those interested in the cultural milieu of 1970s New York City, gender and sexual politics in theatre, or anyone who wishes to broaden and deepen their understanding of the musical genre.
1 Larry Stempel, Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010), 655.
2 Geoffrey Block, Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
3 Jessica Sternfeld, The Megamusical (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006); Elizabeth L. Wollman, The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical: From Hair to Hedwig (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006).
4 Ken Mandelbaum, Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991).
Blowin’ the Blues Away: Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene, Travis A. Jackson, University of California Press, 2012. 304 pp. ISBN-978-0-5202-7045-9. Paper.
Joshua D.J. Plocher
Blowin’ the Blues Away is Travis A. Jackson’s attempt to free jazz studies from abstraction by anchoring it in cultural practice. As an ethnomusicologist, Jackson may only be fulfilling disciplinary obligations, but he has crafted a compelling argument for his project’s necessity. That project has three primary elements: acknowledging and examining jazz performance as a cultural practice with African American roots, centering performances within a scene, and treating those performances as multivalent events rather than mere delivery of music. Jackson takes the New York jazz scene of the 1990s as his subject, elegantly laying out the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of his fieldwork. His answers to deeper questions on the nature of jazz and the practice of jazz studies are the most valuable element of the book.
Jackson makes no grand attempt to define jazz, instead establishing boundaries within the field for the purpose of his study. While doing so, Jackson examines the history of jazz studies, particularly the matter of “tradition” in jazz’s development and practice. Tradition is a loaded term, sometimes synonymous with “canon” and sometimes touching on broader concerns of lineage, memory and history. Jackson, titling the first section of the book “Black, Brown, and Beige,” refuses to shy away from the racial and cultural elements of tradition. Instead, he uses them as a lever to simultaneously (but respectfully) demolish difference-effacing jazz studies and to shift focus from essentializing notions of jazz as a cultural entity to jazz as a series of actions and competencies. He reframes “tradition” as memories and pathways, acknowledging the varying experiences that lead participants in jazz to the music. It is a deft maneuver. Jackson’s pragmatic approach keeps jazz anchored in African Americanness without marking it off as an exclusively African American practice.
Jackson’s practical approach continues in his exploration of “Scenes in the City,” the book’s second section. Following Will Straw, Holly Kruse, and Barry Shank, Jackson takes “scene” rather than “community” as his unit of study. Scenes are both spatial and historical; they develop pathways to be navigated through competencies. Individual agents engage with scenes reciprocally, altering them while they themselves are altered. Having established the scene as the unit of study, Jackson moves quickly to an exploration of the New York downtown jazz scene of the 1990s. He not only includes performers, but also venues, critics, audiences, radio stations, educational institutions and the recording industry. Jackson’s analytical framework emerges from the events he observed in the field. Importantly, these events also undergird his interviews and broader methodology.
It is from interviews that Jackson builds the most contestable—and most interesting—argument in the book: that jazz performance derives fundamentally from what he calls a “blues aesthetic” with its roots in African American cultural practices. Jackson could have drawn on existing diasporic scholarship in support of his theory. Instead, he takes the majority of his evidence from interviews with participants in the scene, especially performers. From their words, he describes a blues aesthetic that prizes “sound,” the unique ability of an individual to assert musical personality in performance. Here, originality becomes more important than innovation. From the foundational notion of “sound,” Jackson constructs a convincing model that encompasses apprenticeship, pathways, and race. The blues aesthetic model also explains the peculiar sensitivity to interpersonal balance in small jazz ensembles. Without stretching, Jackson’s blues aesthetic also touches African American spiritual practices (again using interviews as his primary evidence). The blues aesthetic model is not entirely novel, but Jackson does such a deft job of building it from the observations of insiders (as opposed to existing theoretical approaches) that it manages to be fresh.
To connect the blues aesthetic with jazz scenes, Jackson builds on Catherine Bells’ concept of ritualized (rather than ritual) performance, the idea that some activities gain their meaning by being set off from the everyday. The lens of ritualized performances allows Jackson to describe the conditioning elements of behavior involved in jazz performance. More broadly, it provides the framework for navigating the myriad elements of a jazz event. In the process, however, Jackson succumbs to strangely formalized readings of “typical” jazz performances. There is nothing wrong with his typology, but the formalism is jarring after so much of the text’s delicate handling of multiplicity.
The third section of Blowin’ the Blues Away—which shares its title—is split between these theories of jazz performance and summaries of Jackson’s fieldnotes. The book would work nearly as well without the latter. Jackson’s discussions of club performances and recording sessions are detailed, but the connections with his theories are often tenuous. The fieldnotes are dry and clinical, even when Jackson recounts their most allegedly exciting moments. They share the formalism of his discussion of generic ritualized jazz performance, and make for a weak ending to an otherwise strong book.
One wonders about the intended audience for Blowin’ the Blues Away. Jackson’s model of jazz performance as ritualized cultural practice built on a blues aesthetic is strong. It would be a useful addition to general jazz surveys as a complement to works that concentrate on biography or technical musical detail. An exhaustive bibliography provides context for Jackson’s own ideas without being reduced to a rhetorical springboard. There are several portions of the book, though, that explain jazz at levels rudimentary enough for complete novices. The glossary is particularly striking in this regard, going so far as to define various parts of a drum kit. Jackson does not delve far into practical technical details of the music he discusses—those surface features belong to the tradition of jazz studies he works to distinguish himself from—but it is hard to imagine an audience sufficiently interested in jazz studies to pick up a book like Blowin’ the Blues Away that would need such basic explanation.
There is another friction in the book, one that takes little away from the scholarship but sometimes leaves the reader in an odd spot. The lag between Jackson’s research and the book’s publication has created an odd historical tension. Jackson presents the fieldwork—anchored in the middle and late 1990s—as contemporary. His emphasis on labels and local radio stations seems nearly quaint. The internet is not mentioned at all. Only the last two pages of the conclusion suggest ways Jackson’s ideas may function in a millennium that, by the time of the book’s printing, is not so new. This points to a larger tension between historical musicology and ethnomusicology: even when methodologies are similar, there is a slippery point at which ethnomusicology’s present becomes historical musicology’s past. Blowin’ the Blues Away does not sit comfortably on either side of that point, even if Jackson has diligently kept up with scholarship that postdates his time in the field.
These problems are ultimately only distractions. Jackson’s book is a worthy contribution to the field. He convincingly argues that jazz’s roots lie in African-American practices without cutting off further discussion of race and culture in the various jazz scenes. His reliance on insider knowledge to support the core of his analysis is refreshing. Jackson creates a solid foundation of scholarship and fieldwork, then builds it into a wonderfully thorough approach to thinking about and studying jazz.
Shaping Jazz: Cities, Labels, and the Global Emergence of an Art Form, Damon J. Phillips, Princeton University Press, 2013. 217pp. ISBN-978-0-691-15088-8. Hardcover.
What does it mean to shape jazz? In grappling with such a question, a musicologist might examine any number of a broad range of creative forces (e.g. key personalities, repertories, improvisational styles and more), seeking to explain their long-term influence. As a professor of business strategy at Columbia who is also affiliated with both their Center for Jazz Studies and Center for Organizational Innovation, Damon J. Phillips responds in a decidedly different way. Shaping Jazz: Cities, Labels, and the Global Emergence of an Art Form supplements the continued study of the popular origins of jazz with a unique, industry oriented perspective. Phillips’s research centers on discographies, covering tens of thousands of commercially released recordings from sixty-seven cities across five continents. A broad range of supplemental archival materials—interviews, oral histories, sheet music, newspaper advertisements, marketing information, trade press publications, and musician autobiographies—from the Chicago Jazz Archive, University of Chicago Regenstein Library, the Jazzinstitut in Darmstadt, and the Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound allow Phillips to adopt a special focus on the U.S. Midwest and Germany as reassembled test markets. His project tackles the issue of shaping jazz as a question of geography, striving to understand the production of jazz records (as cultural commodities) in terms of the market territories created, maintained, contested, and dissolved under the influence of public consumption.
Broadly speaking, one might characterize the book as an investigation of the economics of early jazz “shapes”—public impressions of the social spaces and places from which early jazz emerged or occupied—focused on measuring the impact of the environmental context of production on the popular value and meaning of jazz records as cultural products. Phillips frames his inquiry as an examination of the organizational structures and identities that gave rise to the early commercial jazz market (1917–1933). Relying on a complex synthesis of sociology, organizational theory, history, and media studies, he aims to demonstrate the applicability of conceptual and analytical tools drawn from the fields of organizational and economic sociology. Specifically he is concerned with theories of sociological congruence and theories of sociological disconnectedness. According to the author, consumers evaluate products (e.g. recordings) in accordance with contextual cues and characteristics derived from the context of their market production. Phillips posits, “To the extent that there are characteristics of a cultural product that are consistent with a receiver’s understanding of the context,” sociologically congruent, in other words, “the more the cultural product will flourish” (5). Theories of sociological disconnectedness explain the moments, situations, and contexts in which there is a beneficial disconnect between a record (read cultural product) and a receiver’s understanding of the context in which it was produced, which serves as “a structural account that brings the role of the exotic, foreign, and ‘authentic outsider’ under a single concept” (16).
As one might imagine, adopting an approach such as this poses certain challenges, chief among which is accessibility. To his credit, Phillips does what he can to demonstrate the value of his analytical stance to a wide audience. The book is organized in a series of similarly structured case studies, each of which tests the validity of clearly defined claims regarding observed business models derived from thoroughly explained applications of his theoretical framework. In the opening study, for instance, Phillips asks and seeks to answer the following question: Do we learn all we need to know about the emergence of the discographical canon of jazz by just considering cities like New York and Chicago that were the nexus of musician mobility and recording activity? His proposed theory of sociological disconnectedness is the analytical means through which he generates the statistical data that informs his response, explaining the long-term appeal of recordings produced inside and outside more centralized jazz hotspots in terms of competing perceptions of the market environment and the cultural context of production. His conclusion is that recordings produced outside of industrial hubs, such as New York or Chicago, commercially benefited from being sociologically disconnected, which in this case translates as “difficult-to-categorize” (19). Where records produced in New York and Chicago received more popular attention when adhering to emergent consumer expectations of jazz (exhibited sociological congruence), a record produced in a place not well known for jazz—such as Ashville, NC; Buffalo, NY; Grafton, WI; and more—benefited more from frustrating expectations (exhibiting sociological disconnectedness). Phillips’s contention is that the root of this disconnectedness was as much geographical as it was artistic, verifying the added market value of exotic regional group names and song titles alongside unexpected instrumentation.
Musicians, record producers, and certain types of early twentieth century record labels are approached similarly, allowing the author to elaborate on his initial findings and engage with music more directly. Extending his application of sociological congruence (and disconnectedness), Phillips asserts that the congruence between a producer (e.g. musician, record producer, or individual record company) and its output (e.g. song) influences everything from the producer’s strategy on what to produce, to how the output is interpreted immediately and over time, to the subsequent evolution and social order of markets (7). In later chapters—particularly “Sociological Congruence and Record Company Comparative Advantage” and “The Sociological Congruence of Record Company Deception”—the sounds of early jazz figure most prominently, explained as the product of the dueling business strategies of Victorian-era firms and jazz-era firms. Compared to newer entrants (jazz-era firms), Phillips claims, older record companies faced greater social costs when recording hot jazz, which he attributes to “groups that were black, more improvisational (‘hot’ or Dixieland style jazz), and otherwise more innovative,” causing the Victorian-era firms to throw a substantial amount of production and marketing support behind symphonic jazz (79). The strength of Phillips’s strictly musical observations in these discussions is inconsistent, showing the strain of the disciplinary divide against which he is working, but the chapters are littered with interesting insights that would be difficult to come by otherwise. Seemingly insignificant details, such as the widespread use of market deception—namely the rerelease of “illegitimate” jazz (read not symphonic jazz) under artist pseudonyms—are parlayed into meaningful business models. For a Victorian-era firm, for example, a pseudonym could combat two types of industry identity threats: popular associations with profitable, but uncharacteristically lowbrow, types of jazz, and the actions of newer, jazz-era record companies that undermined their more established industry identities. Pseudonyms that were carefully designed to align new music with older Victorian-era values allowed the older record companies to expand their catalogs safely without undermining the integrity of their brand.
While not an entirely successful interdisciplinary endeavor, perhaps, Phillips’ book does reiterate the importance and value of interdisciplinary scholarship. He challenges music scholars to revisit old questions about the cultural shaping of popular musical traditions in new ways. Seemingly worlds apart in some respects, Phillips’s book engages with music throughout: “I show that a tune or song’s appeal as jazz is related to the narrative around its creation. The identity of the geographical and organizational context really mattered to the evolution of jazz” (4). Although the extensive data analysis may be difficult to follow at times, topics ranging from the creation of a jazz standard to the identification of the commercial precursors to swing are approached from alternative angles and vantage points, drawing attention to the exciting musicological work still to come in this area. Those who are open to (and prepared for) a primer in coding test variables, running T-Tests, and more, will find Shaping Jazz to be a rewarding read.
Hidden In the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music, Diane Pecknold, ed., Duke University Press, 2013. 392 pp. ISBN-978-0-8223-5163-4. Paper.
Eric Neil Hermann
Since country music’s commercial beginnings in the 1920s, African Americans have played a prominent, if often unheralded, role. The first generation of white country artists absorbed African American musical styles (e.g., blues and ragtime), repertoire (e.g., “Bile Dem Cabbage Down” and “Motherless Children”), and instrumentation (e.g., banjo and harmonica). Many white country musicians learned directly from black mentors and informants—Maybelle Carter from the Kingsport, Tennessee blues guitarist Leslie Riddle, Uncle Dave Macon from former slaves on his family’s Nashville farm, and Doc Boggs from a West Virginia guitar picker named Go Lightning. In addition, a handful of African American musicians—among them DeFord Bailey, Charley Pride, and Darius Rucker—themselves become bonafide country music stars.
Over the past twenty years, an array of scholarly books, articles, museum exhibits, and CD collections have documented the influence and participation of African Americans in commercial country and old-time music.1 Despite these sundry efforts, however, country music continues to be described in racial terms in general encyclopedias as “white music” (2). Moreover, recent collaborations between black rappers such as Nelly and L. L. Cool J. and white country stars such as Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw have done little to erase the widely held perception that country music “sounds white” (to borrow a phrase from Geoff Mann).2 Why does the public faith in country music’s essential “whiteness” seem unmovable despite voluminous evidence to the contrary?
Diane Pecknold, the editor of Hidden In The Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music, a recent collection of twelve scholarly essays, argues that country music’s image makers—phonograph companies, record executives, artists, and fans—largely invented, and then assiduously maintained, the genre’s white identity to serve ideological ends, including racial solidarity and the cultural sanctification of Jim Crow. According to Pecknold, a primary goal of the volume is to “examine how the genre’s whiteness was produced and is maintained, to imagine country music not merely as a cultural reflection of a preexisting racial identity but as one of the processes by which race is constituted” (2).
Part One of the collection is entitled “Playing in the Dark.” It examines the creation and policing of country music’s racial boundaries during the genre’s formative years, showing how the fiction of country music as “white music” collided with the fact of frequent black participation in the industry. Patrick Huber, in his essay “Black Hillbillies: African American Musicians on Old-Time Records, 1924–1932,” documents the large number of black musicians who appeared on pre-World War II country music recordings. Huber finds that black musicians appeared (either as accompanist or lead performer) on approximately 178 records intended for the hillbilly (i.e. white) market. His discussion covers both well-known examples, such as Louis and Lillian Armstrong’s 1930 session with Jimmie Rodgers, and more obscure cases, such as the black Cincinnati street singer Sam Jones, who recorded for Columbia Records under the pseudonym Stove Pipe #1. Huber’s chapter continues the scholarly work of dismantling a long-held narrative (first pushed by talking machine companies in the 1920s) that the work of blues and country musicians reflected separate and divergent musical traditions rooted in essential racial differences.
In addition, Part One includes Erika Brady’s essay on the legacy of Arnold Schultz, an African American musician from Western Kentucky whose impact on the development of the Travis-picking guitar style remains contested to this day; and Diane Pecknold’s chapter on Ray Charles’s album Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music (1962), the success of which, she argues, prompted the country music industry to rebrand its product, in part by promoting its fans as middle-class, geographically diverse, and racially enlightened.
Several other essays in the collection examine the music of black artists who challenged racial genre categories through their embrace of country music. Jeffrey A. Keith’s essay analyzes the career of Kentucky fiddler Bill Livers, an old-time musician who forged an identity by crossing racial and generational boundaries: first, in the 1930s, as a performer in interracial string bands, and then, in the 1960s, as a collaborator with young, white folk revivalists. In his chapter on old-time music in Virginia and North Carolina, Kip Lornell points out that black fiddlers and string bands were common in the region through the late 1970s, a fact that challenges the conventional wisdom that black musicians turned to blues and gospel when the popular music industry became segregated in the 1920s. Finally, Tony Thomas’s essay on the black banjo tradition illustrates how African American's abandonment of the five-string banjo after World War I (the guitar was better suited to the new styles of blues and jazz) reinforced the historical misconception that the banjo was originally a white, “hillbilly” instrument.
Part Two, “New Antiphonies,” looks at the subject from a different angle: how black musicians and fans have engaged with country music as a means of exploring their own musical and social identities. Michael Awkward recounts the story of Al Green’s The Belle Album (1978), which critics at the time described as “countrified soul” (191). According to Awkward, the album signified Green’s rejection of the smooth, feminized sounds of Motown and marked a self-conscious return to Green’s Southern heritage of gospel, blues, and country music. In his chapter, Charles L. Hughes shines a light on the sub-genre of “country-soul,” a melding of post-war country and Southern soul that reached maturity in the work of singer-songwriter Arthur Alexander. Hughes demonstrates how country-soul was the product of an interracial network of performers, studio players, songwriters, producers, and executives, all located in a “country-soul triangle” stretching from Memphis to Nashville to Muscle Shoals. In a similar vein, David Sanjek investigates the syncretization of black and white popular music traditions in an essay on King Records’ founder Syd Nathan and his pioneering African American producer Henry Glover. Sanjek focuses on instances of musical “crossover” (i.e., the recording of a country song by a soul performer or vice versa) in Glover-produced tracks by the Delmore Brothers, Wynonie Harris, Bullmoose Jackson, and others. Crossover, Sanjek argues, represents a “musical melting pot” in which “musical and cultural traditions consequently collide, fuse, and reformulate.” The post-war “country-soul conversation,” he concludes, was a “two-way interchange” that produced a unique and remarkable musical blend (286, 311).
Country music’s interracial experiments present a challenge not only to our understanding of country music, but to our conception of “black music” as well. Invariably, African American artists who venture into country terrain are criticized for engaging in gimmickry, or for abandoning “authentic” black styles. Adam Gussow’s essay critically examines the work of Cowboy Troy, a “hick-hop” artist whose 2005 single “I Play Chicken with the Train” featured a bizarre mixture of rap lyrics, country guitar and fiddle, and hard rock instrumentals. According to Gussow, Cowboy Troy was coldly received by Nashville’s country music industry because he “dared to create a hybrid art by mixing two musical idioms understood to be racially pure, country and rap, thrusting his hip-hop braggartry into country’s pristine white precincts with the help of his renegade white producers” (236). To assume that black artists who crossover or mix styles do so at the expense of their core musical values, Gussow contends, is a cynical view that bolsters the claims of racial essentialism underlying pop’s traditional genre categories.
While no essay collection can be expected to exhaustively cover a subject, two noticeable deficits weaken this book as a whole. First, the discussion is heavily skewed toward the post-World-War II era, with numerous chapters covering country music from the 1960s and 1970s, and only one addressing pre-war commercial country music; consequently, we learn little about the stylistic influences of blues, jazz, and ragtime on early country musicians—a fundamental aspect of the African American presence in country music. Second, the book largely neglects the current environment of interracial exchange in country music—for instance, the recent wave of collaborations with hip hop artists and the growing use of electronic sampling—which signals the rise of a new generation of country music fans that are no longer committed to discrete, racialized genre categories.
Finally, although the reclamation of African Americans’ historical role in country music is a worthy endeavor, there is a danger that the scholarship will tilt too far in the opposite direction; namely, by suggesting that black and white musicians played co-equal roles in the development of country music (an idea as absurd as claiming that white musicians played an equal role in the formation of blues and jazz), or that the genre’s perceived whiteness is
1 See for instance, Pamela Foster, My Country: The African Diaspora’s Country Music Heritage (My Country, 1998); Cecilia Conway, “Black Banjo Songsters In Appalachia,” Black Music Research Journal 23 no. 1/2 (2003): 149–66; Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame (2006); CD boxed set From Where I Stand: The Black Experience in Country Music (Warner/Reprise, 1998).
2 Geoff Mann, “Why Does Country Music Sound White? Race and the Voice of Nostalgia,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 31, no.1 (2008): 73–100.
Ralph P. Locke has published entries on Aida and related topics (e.g., the librettist Ghislanzoni) in the recent Cambridge Verdi Encyclopedia. He is now readying for the same publisher his book manuscript Music and the Exotic from the Renaissance to Mozart. The book draws attention to ways that music echoed, in some way, current-day images of East and South Asia, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere. Particular attention is given to reflections, or even direct depictions, of the growth of colonization and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Published in November 2013 as a boxed set, Black Europe by Jeffrey Green, Rainer E. Lotz, and Howard Rye is a lavishly illustrated, two-volume book documenting politicians, musicians and entertainers of African descent who worked in Europe before 1927, providing detailed biographies and historical context. Also included are 45 CDs featuring the sounds of African American minstrels, ragtime performers, and early jazz bands, as well as folk tales told in native African languages, spirituals, and other religious music, including the recordings of Rev. J.J. Ransome Kuti, Fela Kuti’s grandfather. For details and ordering information please see www.black-europe.com.
Although women have been teaching and performing music for centuries, their stories are often missing from traditional accounts of the history of music education. In her new book, Women Music Educators in the United States: A History (Scarecrow Press, 2014), Sondra Wieland Howe provides a comprehensive narrative of women teaching music in the United States from colonial days until the end of the twentieth century. Defining music education broadly to include home, community, and institutional settings, Howe draws on sources from musicology, the history of education, and social history to offer a new perspective on the topic.
Peter H. Bloom gave a lecture-recital on 18 July 2014 at the Organological Congress hosted by Animusic Portugal at the Museu Nogueira da Silva in Braga, Portugal. Bloom’s lecture-demonstration featured two instruments by the great 19th century American flute maker Alfred G. Badger (1814/1815–1892), in celebration of Badger’s bicentennial. Repertoire included music composed expressly for American audiences by Sidney Lanier and Louis Drouet. Contact Peter Bloom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAM members are encouraged to periodically check the Golden Pages website (goldenpages.jpehs.co.uk/conferences) for updated information about additional forthcoming conferences in musicology.
Judith McCulloh (16 August, 1935, Spring Valley, IL; 13 July 2014, Urbana, IL)
|Photo courtesy of Gerry Szymanski|
We mourn the loss and celebrate the life and spirit of Judy McCulloh, who helped bring into the world some of the first and most important books of generations of scholars and who midwifed American music research publishing as we know it. Among many other career highlights, she founded the Music in American Life book series with the University of Illinois Press, was instrumental in the founding and served as board chair for the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, and was elected president (1986–87) of the American Folklore Society.
Armed with a diploma from Cottey College (Nevada, MO) and a bachelor’s degree in English from Ohio Wesleyan, she earned a master’s degree in English from Ohio State University, won a Fulbright Fellowship to study Indo-European philology at the Free University of Brussels (1958–59), and earned a PhD in Folklore from Indiana University (1970) with a dissertation titled “In the Pines”: The Melodic-Textual Identity of an American Lyric Folksong. She developed a lifelong, abiding love and encyclopedic knowledge of the fiddle tunes and folksongs of the rural Midwest.
When her husband Leon took a faculty position in Mathematics at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign, Judy participated in the University of Illinois Campus Folksong Club, producing two LP recordings: Green Fields of Illinois (1963), field recordings of central and southern Illinois; and cowboy balladeer Glenn Ohrlin’s Hell-Bound Train (1964), annotated with Archie Green of the English Department. Judy began as an assistant editor of publications on English literature and music for the University of Illinois Press in 1972, and that year launched the first book series devoted to the study of music in the United States, which she called Music in American Life, with Green’s masterpiece, Only a Miner: Studies in Recorded Coal-Mining Songs. That same year, she was approached by Jean Geil, Doris Dyen and Deane Root with a proposal for a new journal in American music; she and director Richard Wentworth determined that the Press would love to publish it, but that it would need a scholarly society to serve as a subscriber base to cover the production costs. After the Sonneck Society was founded three years later, its negotiations with McCulloh and Wentworth launched the journal American Music (1983), edited by Alan Britton.
Music in American Life began issuing path-breaking studies shaped by the fields of folklore, English literature, and labor history, before American music had become a subject in the academic curriculum, and it had a profound effect on shaping the emergent field. Judy sought out authors and nurtured topics that fit her vision for the series: Great Day Coming: Folk Music and the American Left by R. Serge Denisoff; American Labor Songs of the Nineteenth Century by Phil S. Foner; Stars of Country Music by Bill C. Malone, a volume for which she was credited as co-editor; Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War by Dena Epstein; and a host of others spanning the musical lives of musicians, occupations, industries, ethnic groups, and regions. The series even included more technical and bibliographical volumes such as Richard Wolfe’s Early American Music Engraving and Printing and D.W. Krummel’s Resources of American Music History. Judy was a constant presence at the UI Press exhibit table during annual meetings of the Sonneck Society, Society for Ethnomusicology, American Musicological Society, Music Library Association, AFS, and other confluences of scholars and ideas that would feed into the series. And consequently, she became an invaluable sounding board for new scholarly ideas and approaches, a publishing mentor to scholars young and old alike even for research not destined for her signature series. When she retired from the Press in 2007, she continued to maintain a heavy schedule of scholarly conferences.
To be sung the tune of “The Wabash Cannonball”
Words by Laurie Matheson
|From the shores of Chillicothe
To the Indiana line
She is searching for the folklife
In the hills and in the pines
For the ballads and the stories
That everyone should know
She's a woman with a mission
Our Judy McCull-oh
So let us raise our glasses
To Judy once again
An editor extraordinaire
A colleague and a friend
Our Judy is a wonder
She's known quite well by all
She is the one and only
Our Judy McCull-oh
The golden age of gospel
Unfolds at her command
The theremin and banjo
Are putty in her hands
From minstrelsy to miners
From cowboys to Hank Snow
She's searching for the lost sounds
Our Judy McCull-oh
Now Judy goes to Memphis,
Milwaukee, and Mattoon
She is an institution
At Bean Blossom in June
She's traveling the highway
With Ralph and Bill Monroe
She is the queen of bluegrass
Our Judy McCull-oh
So here's to Jimmie Rodgers
And here's to Milton Brown
They never would have found their voice
With Judy not around
The heartbeat of the people
Is Judy's battle call
Come join the celebration
For Judy McCull-oh
When she wasn’t serving on the board of trustees of the American Folklife Center (1986–2004) or providing other services to scholar’s organizations, she devoted attention to her marvelous garden at home. For the Society for American Music she was first vice President (1989–93) and delegate to the AMS Committee on the Publication of American Music (1989–93; 1994–2008), and served on the ByLaws Committee (1991–94), Nominating Committee (1993–95; 1999–2001), and Honors & Awards Committee (2001–03; 2008–09), which she also chaired (2009–11). Over the years she was recognized by many of the societies whose members she mentored, receiving the Society for American Music Distinguished Service citation (2001), International Bluegrass Music Association Distinguished Achievement Award (2002), International Country Music Conference Lifetime Achievement Award (2003), Society for Ethnomusicology Honorary Member (2005), National Heritage Fellow (2010), and Association for Recorded Sound Collections Distinguished Service Award (2011).
Judy McCulloh was a woman of incisive intellect, gentle wisdom, plain speech, and deep humanity. She spoke quietly but always with a sense of authority. She listened carefully to each person’s ideas and took them seriously, whether that person was a first-year graduate student or a scholar with many years in the field. She held both others and herself to high scholarly and ethical standards, yet she was never stuffy or high-handed. She was a patient teacher, whose academic institution was the University of Illinois Press, and whose movable “classroom” was the book exhibit hall at innumerable academic conferences. She generously mentored scholars young and old with practical advice on successful publishing and on-the-job training in editing. A memorial service was held on the University of Illinois campus August 16th. She is greatly missed!
Deane L. Root and Doris J. Dyen
The Bulletin is published in the Winter (January), Spring (May), and Summer (September) by the Society for American Music. Copyright 2014 by the Society for American Music, ISSN 0196-7967.
Items for submission should be submitted to Laura Moore Pruett 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.
Student Travel Grants
Available for student members who wish to attend the annual conference of the Society for American Music and intended to help with the cost of travel. Students receiving funds must be members of the Society and enrolled at a college or university.
Mark Tucker Award
Awarded at the annual SAM conference recognizing a student who has written an outstanding paper for presentation at that conference.
Cambridge University Press Award
This award is presented to an international scholar (not a student) for an outstanding paper presented at the annual conference.
Adrienne Fried Block Fellowship
The Block Fellowship supports scholarly research leading to publication on topics that illuminate musical life in large urban communities, focusing on the interconnections and the wide range of genres present in these metropolitan settings.
Wiley Housewright Dissertation Award
The Wiley Housewright Dissertation Award annually recognizes a single dissertation on American music for its exceptional depth, clarity, significance, and overall contribution to the field.
H. Earle Johnson Bequest for Book Publication Subvention
The Johnson Subvention is given to support the costs of the publication of a significant monograph on an important topic in American Music. Two subventions of up to $2,500 may be awarded annually.
Sight and Sound Subvention
The Sight and Sound Subvention provides financial assistance to facilitate the publication of non-print material concerning American music. Such material may include film, DVD, CD and other audio/visual formats, radio programs, website development, or other projects that further the Society’s mission and goals. One subvention of up to $900 is awarded annually.
Irving Lowens Memorial Book and Article Awards
The Lowens Award is presented annually for an exceptional book and article that make important contributions to the study of American music or music in America.
Judith Tick Fellowship
This fellowship, endowed in honor of Judith Tick, is awarded competitively to scholars at any phase of their careers to support scholarly research leading to publication on topics that have been the focus of Prof. Tick’s distinguished career: women’s music-making across time and musical genres, musical biography, and source studies in American music.
Hampsong Education Fellowship in American Song
The Hampsong Fellowship supports projects developed by educators who wish to explore the repertory of American classic song as a means to understand the broader narrative of American history and culture.
Virgil Thomson Fellowship
The Virgil Thomson Fellowship is awarded competitively to scholars at any phase of their careers whose interest is focused on the history, creation, and analysis of American music on stage and screen, including opera.