Two Essays on Hearing Loss

Varieties of Hearing Loss:
A Lament for the Modern Ear

By Larry Starr

Back in the late 1960s, at the dawning of the Age of Over-Amplification, I marveled at the then-new phenomenon of individuals wearing earplugs to rock music concerts. I wondered at that time what future anthropologists might say about a culture in which devices designed to suppress sound were being voluntarily employed by people enthusiastically seeking out the very sounds they hoped to suppress. Fifty years later, it would require extraterrestrial anthropologists to find this phenomenon even worthy of comment. The hearing of Earth’s contemporary urban dwellers has been systematically and mercilessly impacted by the volume levels of their own culture—musical and otherwise—to an extent that now ear-damaging amplification and noise is simply accepted as a condition of normalcy. Looking toward the future of the human ear, those seeking sound investments should incline toward hearing-aid companies and research, and the institutions sponsoring such research, as fail-safe choices. It seems unquestionable that the deterioration of the ear will come to be an expected consequence of modern living, starting at an earlier and earlier age.

I already know far too many friends and colleagues of my generation who suffer from ear ailments attributable to excessively amplified music. These ailments are not limited to hearing loss, but include ringing or buzzing in the ears. A good number of the affected individuals are themselves musicians. One distinguished professor of music evidently sustained ear damage from attending a Led Zeppelin concert early in the 1970s; amazingly (to me) he claims that the quality of his experience at that concert justified for him the enduring buzzing in his ears—a buzzing that continues to this day—as its aftermath. My wife suggests the powerful simile that pride in such hearing damage is like the pride a soldier might take in revealing wounds suffered in battle. But in what just “war” was my distinguished colleague fighting?

Thoreau spoke of people who lead lives of “quiet desperation.” Today, most people lead lives of noisy desperation. I wonder if the young people whose cars literally shake from the bass lines being produced over their high-end speakers realize the damage being inflicted on their ears?—and often even on the ears of those in surrounding vehicles? If the recorded music I hear from the house down the block when I step out my front door is already too loud for my comfort from where I’m standing, how must this music sound to those inside the house? My fear is that their hearing may already have been impacted past the point of objectively understanding how loud their music is. “Loudness” is a relative term, of course, and therein lies one crux of the problem. Those with hearing loss need to raise the volume to achieve their desired “loud” effect, which results in further hearing loss, and the vicious cycle continues. Meanwhile, these often gentle, well-intentioned, but hearing-impaired people are injuring the ears of others in the immediate vicinity. Can these others expect those who are already seriously impaired to meaningfully “hear” their complaints?

Nearly a decade ago, the late neurologist and author Oliver Sacks provided a penetrating summary of the evolving situation:

Half of us are plugged into iPods, immersed in daylong concerts of our own choosing, virtually oblivious to the environment—and for those who are not plugged in, there is nonstop music, unavoidable and often of deafening intensity, in restaurants, bars, shops, and gyms. This barrage of music puts a certain strain on our exquisitely sensitive auditory systems, which cannot be overloaded without dire consequences. One such consequence is the ever-increasing prevalence of serious hearing loss, even among young people, and particularly among musicians.1

The only phrase that makes this assessment now seem dated is the reference to the “half of us” who are plugged into digital listening devices, since it has become the case that those who are not plugged in constitute a steadily diminishing minority.

There is statistical data on what constitutes injurious decibel levels. The website of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders states that “long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL [noise-induced hearing loss] to happen,” An example offered is that of “an MP3 player at maximum volume,” which produces sound rated at 105 decibels.2 The idea that there should be some right to be protected from excessive volume seems obviously reasonable and appealing. Yet how can such a right practically be defended in a society where no shared understanding of what might be termed “excessive volume” is possible? In a society where people in restaurants wishing simply to converse with their tablemates must shout in order to be heard over the booming, bouncing, and totally inappropriate dance music being piped in to the room? In such a situation, even the right of one to experience “quiet desperation” appears hopelessly endangered.

Modern civilization is becoming voluntarily deaf, a condition being imposed by our technology much more rapidly than the human ear could possibly evolve to cope with it. Some, being inveterate risk-takers, may actively pursue this condition. Many others are unwittingly sucked into it without complaining, like the frogs in the pot of slowly but steadily heating water. A smaller group is actively distressed and protesting, but their voices are steadily drowned out by the very situation being protested. Contemporary hearing loss is most obviously the result of quantity—decibel level—but it is carrying along with it three further varieties of loss: an insensitivity to sound quality; another condition that I will call social impairment; and finally, and most catastrophically (as Oliver Sacks perceived), a general lack of awareness of the total environment in which one is attempting to lead a meaningful life.

Excessive amplification, with its accompanying overloads, distortion, and feedback, frequently has an inverse effect on the quality of sound, to the point often that the process of amplification itself is the only thing actually being heard. This is, however, but one aspect of diminishing sound quality today. The proliferating use of mediocre (and worse) earbuds as preferred listening devices is going hand-in-hand with the employment of compressed sound files as sources, resulting in vastly compromised listening experiences that deliver a frighteningly small fraction of the sound spectrum.

Just how bad the situation has become was brought home to me by an incident in one of my classes a few years ago. This class, for advanced music majors, had been given the assignment of listening to the two versions of Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht: the original composition for string sextet, and the composer’s own arrangement of the work for full string orchestra. One student mentioned in discussion that she had found the string orchestra sounding thinner in certain passages than the sextet. Confounded by this reaction, I had her identify one such passage and then played recordings of it, using the high-quality sound system in the classroom (turntable, compact disc player, amplifier, and two large wall-mounted speakers). The student reacted with something akin to shock: “Oh, that’s what it sounds like?” She had been listening to the music on the bus, with her portable equipment and earbuds, and obviously had been unable to get any realistic impression of the actual sound under those circumstances. Of course, the actual sound of this music, and of all music conceived by its creators for live performance, can best be experienced fully in a live performance situation. But here’s the punch line: the student in question was herself a very gifted cellist pursuing a graduate degree in performance, a skilled musician who had played in chamber ensembles and orchestras for many, many years. Consequently I would have hoped she had the ability, given her extensive experience with the live sound of her own instrument and that of others, to compensate for the gaps created by her inferior sound source and inferior listening equipment on the bus. Evidently excessive dependence on such low-quality technology had taken a severe toll on the quality of her listening intelligence.

Modern technology continues to erode the quality of sound being heard, in many ways. One very useful listening exercise I offer for students in my classes, when possible, involves playing analog and digital versions of the identical recording, back to back. This piques their curiosity, and heightens their sensitivity to sound. I intend to keep doing this as long as analog equipment remains available in classrooms, but this kind of exercise may well represent an endangered academic species.

If the employment of inferior sound technology is impacting practicing musicians, it is painful to imagine the toll it must take on casual listeners employing such devices, who will assume that the very limited musical information their ears perceive indicates that there is only very limited musical information to perceive. Perhaps this leads them to turn up the volume, in the vain expectation that increased quantity of sound might actually compensate for diminished quality of sound. This accelerates the spread of both varieties of hearing impairment in a particularly unfortunate circular pattern. The implications are toxic for the future of music as a serious art form.

These two varieties of impairment, that result from accelerating quantity and eroding quality of sound, respectively, inevitably contribute to a condition of aesthetic impairment—a numbness to the artistic quality of the music being selected and heard. Aesthetic insensitivity, however, is not by any means an exclusively contemporary problem; it has doubtless existed in certain individuals from time immemorial, even if present-day circumstances are abetting the malady in any number of obvious ways. Of course, aesthetic insensitivity is not limited to musical perception. Addressing this condition is, as it always has been, a challenge of music education and of cultural education generally.

We have all witnessed the now-omnipresent phenomenon of people walking along on the pavements and in the streets, through a sea of other pedestrians and traffic, while glued to their listening devices, cellphones, and dictation recorders. In general these people remain completely oblivious to their surroundings—including their own partners, children, and pets—and to any dangers those surroundings may present to them or to others. It may be the college jock so convinced of his own immortality that he steps off the curb without looking, while breathlessly relating sports scores, new video game developments, and exaggerated sexual experiences on his phone, at the top of his voice. Or it could be the senior citizen, at once so fascinated and so flummoxed by his new technological toy that he stops short in the middle of a busy sidewalk to examine its letters and numbers, obviously assuming that the rest of the known universe will accommodate him by stopping short simultaneously as well. There are many other characteristic examples in between these extremes. In any case, such individuals themselves constitute a clear and present danger to both themselves and others. I regard this phenomenon as social impairment, a situation generally induced by excessive attention to sound outside of the immediate here-and-now. Ironically it is our social networking devices that are most responsible for this increasing social insensitivity to the actual flesh-and-blood human beings present in our immediate environment. Arguably the people who have benefited most from the indiscriminate mixing of “private” and “public” sound are those individuals who talk (or sing) to themselves compulsively in public—in earlier times the objects of confusion, concern, and ostracism, they are now essentially indistinguishable from the public at large. Whether or not this represents a positive development is a decision best left to mental health professionals.

When the social insensitivity occasioned by cell-phone usage penetrates an intimate concert environment, the results are painful to witness. I recently attended a performance by three world-class jazz musicians, during which several young people seated in front of me—who almost certainly were students required to attend this concert for some kind of course credit—sat fixated on their cell-phone screens, scrolling among pictures and texts. This was a demonstration of cumulative impairment, a simultaneous insensitivity both to music and to social context. It suggests that the very concept of listening, as a distinctive, self-contained activity which both demands and rewards undivided attention, may be completely foreign to large numbers of people today. To call this tragic for both the affected individuals and for the culture at large is to state the obvious, while risking understatement.

Another kind of social impairment, this one related to the problem of excess decibels, is evident among spectators and audiences who are convinced that their presence at an occasion must be registered by their own production of the loudest vocal noises possible. Naturally there are many types of community events—sports, rock and folk concerts—where audible, enthusiastic vocal reactions and participation are traditional and welcome, although it is now too common for such situations to get out of hand. There are other occasions, however, where the opportunity to respond quietly, or even with silence, ought to be respected. In the classical concert environment, audience members whooping or whistling at an ear-splitting volume is becoming an all-too-common expression of what one supposes to be appreciation. This behavior surely does not express any appreciation for the sensitivities of those audience members seated nearby who might actually prefer a more quietly respectful reaction to the music, or even an interval for silent contemplation. It was a half-century ago when Bob Dylan wrote “experience teaches that silence terrifies people the most,” which from our present perspective seems an amazingly prescient remark.3 His observation assumes progressively more resonance as time goes on.

As the various modes of insensitivity multiply their incidence and impact among the population, the catastrophic outcome might be labeled environmental impairment: an increasing insensitivity to virtually everything around. This condition naturally entails an erosion of all senses—in effect, an erosion of all kinds of perception. I see no remedy for this deterioration, other than efforts to undertake the conscious, painstaking enhancement of awareness on the part of individuals, an enhancement that often must be pursued in defiance of the current acoustic and social norms. Such efforts might well seem to others a resistance to “progress” itself, an indulgence of eccentricity, and the manifestation of a fundamentally isolationist personality. Speaking personally, which of course is all I can legitimately do, if those are the risks I must take to preserve my hearing as well as what I regard as my most basic humanity, I will take them; obviously I cannot prescribe for others.

As I conclude this rather downbeat series of observations, I have to wonder: is anybody listening? Or is it just that nobody can hear what I’m saying?

Larry Starr is Chair of American Music Studies and Waters Endowed Professor at the University of Washington. He has published extensively on 20th Century American art and popular musics, including books on Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, and George Gershwin. He has been a member of SAM for nearly three decades, and served as Local Arrangements Chair for the Seattle meeting in 1997.

1 Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, revised and expanded edition (New York, 2008), p. 53.
2, accessed August 17, 2016.
3 Bob Dylan, from the liner notes for the album Bringing It All Back Home (1965).

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Composing the Tinnitus Suites:
2008 through 2016 (until death)

by Daniel Fishkin

I want to compose music that makes tinnitus desirable rather than despised. I do not want to get used to my hearing damage—I want to use it.

Like so many teenagers in America, I grew up on punk rock, playing loud sounds that rattled my body. In my college years, I fell in love with experimental music, which centers listening in the practice of music-making. I studied with the composer Maryanne Amacher, who created site-specific work through careful placement of loudspeakers in spaces. Sounds that most ears ignore fell under her meticulous scrutiny. Amacher told me when she first experienced the phenomenon of otoacoustic emissions—her own ears emitting tones in response to square waves—she feared she was losing her mind. She became obsessed with understanding this sound, and devoted herself to intentionally composing with it.

Then my tinnitus turned on; my ears started ringing, and they have never stopped. Doctors offered no solace besides, “You get used to it.” With no medical cure in sight, I vowed to find a creative solution.

I started with Cage. But when I perform Cage’s 4'33", instead of the ambient sounds surrounding me, I hear my own sound—a noteless swirling noise. A thoughtful reader might remark that tinnitus shouldn’t disturb the premise of 4'33", for tinnitus is also an unintended sound. Cage’s silent piece had its un-silent origins in the composer’s experience in the anechoic chamber. The story goes that Cage entered the silent room, and, expecting to hear silence, heard two sounds, which the technician explained were being made by his circulatory and nervous systems. The accuracy of the technician’s statement as reported by Cage has recently been called into question, for nobody can hear their own nervous system. Cage, it is speculated, must have had tinnitus.1 Kyle Gann asserts that the conceptual foundation of 4'33", an embrace of non-intentionality, is undisturbed in the face of tinnitus, which is an unintended consequence of the body.2

Only a year after Cage’s revelation in the anechoic chamber, the field of neuroscience would mirror the avant-garde with its own landmark experiment. In the classic Heller-Bergman study of 1953, one hundred “normally hearing” (or tinnitus-free) persons were placed in an anechoic chamber and asked to describe the sounds they heard. Ninety-three of the test subjects reported hearing “buzzing, humming, or ringing sounds.” The study concludes: “The kinds of head noises described by patients with impaired hearing as a symptom associated with their deafness and those sounds described by normally hearing healthy adults, elicited while in a sound-proof room, appear to be similar. Tinnitus, which is subaudible, may be a physiological phenomenon in an intact auditory apparatus.”3 The Heller-Bergman test is often cited for its therapeutic benefits to tinnitus sufferers. Locating phantom sound as a symptom of all human experience effectively de-pathologizes the condition. But the great oversight of these silent tests of the 1950s is that they are tests of normalcy. They do not account for the disabled or the damaged. The Heller-Bergman study is a survey of “normal” people. Cage’s experience in the anechoic chamber has no pathology—it is a sign of ordinary bodily function. One must be able to hear in order to hear the ambient all-sound. The dilemma, then, is that Cage’s compositional project may hinge on a normative, able-bodied experience.

Listening to tinnitus is listening to the fundamental instability of one’s own listening. I can’t hear music without hearing my damage. If the music is dangerously loud, I may be hurting for days afterward— and donning earplugs only intensifies the ringing sound. Whether I want to or not, it asserts itself upon my listening. Therefore, any musical situation that doesn’t incorporate the hearing damage as an operator is intrinsically out of tune. For me, being out of tune is not just about the tension of strings, but the consonance of ideas. I can’t stop my tinnitus, but I can tune myself to it.

The Lady’s Harp is a system of twenty-foot long piano wires activated by mixer feedback; I can sustain its tone infinitely, using guitar pickups and pressure transducers to coax the strings into vibration. Its name is in tribute to Maryanne Amacher, Ellen Fullman, and the ancient Greek Aeolian harp, whose strings are played by the wind. Rather than plucking the strings, I twirl the knobs, activating the amplifiers, which produces long, controlled feedback tones. The resultant sound is gradual, glacial. It at once represents and coexists with my tinnitus.

Since 2011, I have developed five versions of Lady’s Harp, each unique to the room that contains it. I connect its strings to the walls or floors to turn the room into the instrument’s resonant cavity. I sometimes work with ensembles: a player balances scrap wood on the harp’s strings like a capo, and reorganizes the feedback node. Once I showed the piece to a neuroscientist, and she remarked that it functioned as a mechanical model of the inner ear, its strings representing the cilia that transduce vibrations into electrical impulses for the brain.4 I had found the perfect vehicle for Tinnitus Music!

Since only I can hear my tinnitus, I try to keep my practice individualized. I invented my own instrument as a way to explore techniques and timbres that fit my aesthetic goals. The Lady’s Harp is a place where I experiment. Some people wonder whether the sounds of the instrument resemble the ringing in my own ears. The phantom of tinnitus is not acoustic, and thus it resists acoustic representation. Can we even trust the ear, now rendered unreliable, for specific pitches? I don’t search for pitch content. I am not looking for the “what” of my tinnitus, but the “how”—the way tinnitus makes me listen.

When I work with long sustained sounds, I try to accompany tinnitus formally, devising musical techniques informed by the experience of hearing damage, and also by the technical literature about it. For example: for a tinnitus sufferer, a crucial adaptation for successful survival is the technique of masking: retraining the brain to filter out unwanted stimulus by directing its attention toward another focal point. In my music, the drones are never background music. Instead, I flood the stage with simultaneous sounds, and, with careful manipulation of dynamics and modulation, I then shift the listener’s perspective. By thinking critically about the experience of tinnitus, I have found novel approaches to composition.

In some ways, Lady’s Harp is a literal reification of my hearing damage. Its six hundred pounds of extruded aluminum and its miles of wires add up to a big burden—I can’t set it up unless I have lots of help. In fact, my hearing damage itself is a heavy thing that I have to carry around with me. It prevents me from doing normal things. It is by design that I cannot realize this project alone. Tinnitus severed my connection with people; Tinnitus Suites is my attempt to restore it.

Audience members often approach me to discuss their own hearing damage. Individuals who have no interest in experimental music reach out to me because my work is related to the experience with which they grapple every day. Tinnitus has no cultural representation besides the sterile “Turn it down!” admonishments you might find on a doctor’s wall. I want to avoid reductive thinking, and offer a nuanced perspective on hearing damage, which is, for better or worse, a global affliction. This project is a way of creating an aesthetic and cultural strategy for dealing with this encroaching increase in volume.

By undertaking this project, I accept that I may damage my hearing even further. Every time I make music I am putting myself at risk. I accept this risk as more than an occupational hazard: it is my deep spiritual duty. Habituation—the mind’s ability to retrain its very own conception of normalcy—is a necessity for coping, but by listening to my tinnitus I destabilize my powers of habituation. Repeatedly tuning in to my tinnitus has the effect of making it more constant, and decreases my ability to tune it out. In no uncertain terms, I am playing with fire.

Composing the Tinnitus Suites is not a strict series of musical works but a gerund, a disposition toward life. This work is ongoing, and part of a lifelong oath I made to make the Tinnitus Suites as long as my ears ring—until cure, or death. In ordinary life, there is no cure, and I have habituated to my condition in order to survive: I avoid crowds, the subway, and if I am invited to an interesting concert, I deliberate and weigh my decision with utmost care, for an innocuous squall or cymbal crash could leave me hurting for weeks. However, when I make Tinnitus Music, my symptom has the possibility to transform into something else. I have been asked whether my art functions as a kind of personal therapy. I feel good making what I want to make, but I don’t believe that this project is about healing. The promise of music and its aesthetic potential is sanitized when relegated to a therapeutic modality. The aesthetic realm is the only place where solutions can be found. Only through art could the lived experience of an uncontrollable sound become fertile territory for new experiences. As art, it becomes as dynamic as any melody.

Daniel Fishkin is a composer, sound artist, and instrument builder. He has performed as a soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra, developed sound installations in freight elevators and played innumerable basement punk shows. Daniel has been awarded the title of “tinnitus ambassador” by the Deutsche Tinnitus-Stiftung. Daniel received his MA in Music from Wesleyan University, has taught synthesizer at Bard College, and is just beginning a PhD at University of California, San Diego. Composing the Tinnitus Suites: 2016 will be presented in September and October at the Sanctuary of the Rotunda at the University of Pennsylvania. Co-presented by the Philadelphia group Bowerbird, Suites: 2016 will consist of four different concerts centered on hearing damage and Fishkin’s practice with the Lady’s Harp. This project is supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. See

1 Kyle Gann cites Peter Gena as the source of this skepticism in No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4'33", (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 164. See also Trevor Cox, The Sound Book: The Science and Sonic Wonders of the World (New York: Norton, 2014), 212.
2 Gann, 164.
3 Morris F. Heller and Moe Bergman, “Tinnitus aurium in normally hearing persons,” Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol, 62 (1953): 78.
4 Jascha Hoffman, “Tinnitus Tunesmith,” Nature 505 (2014): 159.

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From the President

Charles Hiroshi Garrett, President of SAM
Charles Hiroshi Garrett, SAM President

Dear Colleagues:

Even as the memories from our conference in Boston linger, SAM members are hard at work preparing for our next annual meeting. The Society’s 43rd Annual Conference will be held in Montreal, Québec (22-26 March 2017), hosted by McGill University, with Lisa Barg serving as Local Arrangements Chair (joined by member Lloyd Whitesell) and Steve Swayne serving as Program Chair (other members are Christina Baade, Glenda Goodman, Kip Lornell, Tracy McMullen, and Paul Laird, program chair of the Kansas City meeting). The Program Committee has constructed an especially attractive lineup for the Montreal meeting, drawn from a pool of 343 submissions. In addition to panels, meetings, and other activities, our upcoming conference will feature an ample number of posters as well as several lecture-performances. The Local Arrangements Committee is hard at work scheduling concerts and other activities that take advantage of the rich and varied heritage of Montreal. We also look forward to celebrating our 2017 honorary member: Beverley Diamond, Canada Research Chair in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland and director of the Research Centre for the Study of Music, Media, and Place.

In Montreal, thanks to the landmark triumph of the four-year SAM/2.0 Campaign, we will award three new fellowships: the Anne Dhu McLucas Fellowship, the Margery Morgan Lowens Dissertation Research Fellowship, and the Edward T. Cone Fellowship. As we look to the future of our society, it is important to highlight that six research funds remain in process: those for Richard Crawford, Charles Hamm, Wayne Shirley, Eileen Southern, and Robert Stevenson, as well as a short-term research residency at the American Antiquarian Society. The Hamm Fund is in partnership with the Center for Popular Music Studies at Case Western Reserve University. Donations to any of these funds can still be made at

SAM heads north of the border to La Belle Province for its 43rd annual conference, 23-26 March 2017. Join us in beautiful Montreal with its sublime dining, irreplaceable bagels, natural beauty and joie de vivre. The city is bursting with great music, theatre, and museums, along with ski trails and everything else you could possibly want to do out in the early spring snow! (Don’t forget your parka and boots!) À bientôt!

The LAC Committee
-Lisa Barg, Lloyd Whitesell, Sara Laimon, Laura Risk

I am very pleased to announce that the next editorial team for JSAM has been approved by the SAM Board. Loren Kajikawa (editor), Travis Stimeling (book review editor), Dana Gorzelany-Mostak (recording review editor), and William Gibbons (multimedia review editor) will be assuming their official positions in 2016-2017. Our editors will have substantial opportunity to shadow their fine predecessors—Karen Ahlquist (current JSAM editor), Christina Baade (current book review editor), Trudi Wright (current multimedia review editor), and Marta Robertson (current recording review editor). We are delighted to have all of the new editors poised to come on board and especially thankful to our current editorial staff as well as Judy Tsou (chair of the Publications Council) for their assistance with the transition.

The Society for American Music's Education Committee has announced the recipients of the first round of funding for its Digital Lectures in American Music initiative. The following proposals were selected: Monica Hershberger (Harvard University): “Making Lizzie Borden: America's Most Infamous Axe-Murderess Turned Operatic Heroine”; Rami Stucky (University of Virginia): “Steve Reich and the Harlem Riots: ‘Come Out,’ 1968”; Katherine Reed (Utah Valley University): “Stagger Lee.” The first round of Digital Lectures will be published in late 2016 and publicized through the Bulletin and the website.

It is with deep sadness that I report that the Society has lost one of its longtime members and most ardent supporters, Samuel A. Floyd. Jr., who passed away on July 11, 2016. The Founder and Director Emeritus of the Center for Black Music Research (CBMR), Sam Floyd championed black music research through the activities, collections, and publications of CBMR as well as through his own pioneering scholarship. Under his guidance at Columbia College Chicago, CBMR became an extraordinarily significant research center, which hosted research fellows, held scholarly seminars, and held numerous national and international conferences. Our Society members will fondly recall how he helped bring together SAM and CBMR at memorable meetings held in Chicago (2006) and in Trinidad and Tobago (2001). Among his numerous influential publications, Floyd’s edited collection Black Music in the Harlem Renaissance (1990), won the Irving Lowens Award for Best Book from our society. He was later honored for his visionary contributions to American music with our Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award (2006). Carol Oja has written a tribute to Sam Floyd elsewhere in this bulletin.

Lastly, as in previous years, we plan to fill most vacant committee positions in December and January so that new committee members can meet with the current members during the Montreal meeting to ensure continuity. If you are interested in serving the Society, please contact Travis Stimeling (, the chair of the Committee on Committee Governance. The function of this committee is to nominate possible committee members for the President’s consideration. It would be helpful if you would include a list of your interests and a copy of your CV.

See you in Montreal!
Charles Hiroshi Garrett

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Proposed Amendment to SAM Bylaws

The following proposed amendment to the SAM Bylaws has been approved by the SAM Board and is subject to ratification by the members of the Society. A vote by members will be conducted at the Annual SAM Business Meeting at the Montreal 2017 conference. Approval of the amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote cast by members present.

Current language in the existing SAM Bylaws:
The secretary and treasurer may serve more than two (2) consecutive terms in their respective offices.

Proposed amendment to SAM Bylaws:
The secretary and treasurer may serve no more than four (4) consecutive terms in their respective offices.

Forum for Early Career Professionals (FECP)

Latin American Music as American Music
   by Eduardo Herrera

The Journal of the Society for American Music specifies in the front matter of every issue that its concern is to explore “all aspects of American music and music in the Americas.” Recognizing the contested nature of the label “American,” this slightly awkward phrase tries to reconcile that the word might be referring to the United States or the Americas, since both places share an adjectival form and a demonym—i.e. a word used to denote the people of a particular place. It also underlines the constructed nature of our geographical divisions. In contemporary U.S. English, “American” in its adjectival form is frequently used to mean “of or relating to the United States.” However, this usage is challenged by others who acknowledge that people, things, and practices hailing from other countries in the Americas are also American. The root of this issue is that “America” is often the name given to the entire landmass of the so-called New World, a politically contested notion beautifully explored in Edmundo O’Gorman’s The Invention of America: An Inquiry into the Historical Nature of the New World and the Meaning of Its History (1961). And while it has become common within the United States to call the country “America,” outside the U.S. and in almost every official international setting from the U.N. to the Olympics, the name used is “United States.” In Spanish and Portuguese this duality is often avoided with a different demonym denoting association to the United States which roughly translates into “United-Statesian” (estadounidense or estadunidense respectively). English speakers have experimented with words like “Usonian,” most famously used by Frank Lloyd Wright, but the most common alternative is to say the slightly longer “U.S. American.” Our own JSAM asks its contributors to not use “America” as a synonym for the “United States,” but instead use “U.S.” as an adjective and “United States” as a noun, a practice that, incidentally, has not yet made its way into our national conference.

Studies in toponymy have long taken into consideration the politics of place-naming practices and highlighted that these names are not real geographical entities, but the products of human imagination and convention based on arbitrary foundations. As shown by Lewis and Wigen in The Myth of Continents (1997), the notion of a single American continent was fairly common in the United States at least until World War II. However, during the 1950s, most U.S. geographers begaun considering and teaching North and South America as two separate landmasses. Even today, in much of Europe and South America, a six-continent scheme with a unified American continent among them is much more prevalent that the seven-continent U.S. model.

Whenever I refer to “American Music” I mean to include practices of the “Americas”—a clunky but workable solution to the labeling problem. But, even if we focus on the United States, I argue for an understanding of Latin American music as (U.S.) American Music, and propose that whether we choose to use the words “American music” to refer solely to the United States or to the Americas, in both cases Latin American music is part of it. This is not an argument against the locality of many musical practices within Latin American countries, or in favor of a blindly globalizing discourse. My point is much more concrete: We imagine Latin Americanness to reside outside of the United States, and this is not necessarily true. While one could argue that Latin American countries are indeed all outside the United States (countries where Spanish or Portuguese languages prevail, perhaps with the key exception of Puerto Rico), we cannot ignore the significance of Latin American practices that originate and circulate within the United States. This is framed by what we mean when we say “Latin America.” Latin America is not a geographical or political reality. It is a grouping of peoples, of shared ideas and behaviors, that cut across national boundaries, and build upon a shared heritage. It is also an immensely diverse and heterogeneous grouping.

The idea of Latin America, as Walter Mignolo has called it, is the result of a discourse meant to generate a transnational identification that originated from post-independence creoles and has most frequently involved the middle and upper classes. Like any other discourse, it is highly contested and has been only partially successful. Identifying as Latin American is not obvious for everybody in Latin American countries. People in Caribbean nations like Cuba or the Dominican Republic are likely to identify as coming from their home city, as Cuban or Dominican, and as Caribbean, but they might not immediately identify culturally with other Latin Americans and doing so is usually treated with hesitation. Although not common, I have met Argentinians who talk about Latin America as if it was elsewhere, telling me they would like to visit it, or that they like the music made there. Many indigenous groups in Latin American countries do not identify with this regional term either. Instead, they identify locally, often at the sub-national or para-national level, without particular care for international borders—e.g. Aymara, Mayan, or even more broadly, Amazonian or Andean. Moreover, citizens of many non-Spanish or Portuguese-speaking countries in the Caribbean and Central and South America do not see themselves as Latin American, such as Belize, Suriname, Guyana, Saint Kitts and Nevis, or Jamaica.

When we equate countries that identify as Latin American with the general concept “Latin America” we are allowing our imagination to be limited by the boundaries of nationalist discourses. Since the United States is not yet conceptualized as a Latin American nation, the peoples that identify or are identified as Latinos/as or Hispanics do so based on notions of heritage and place of origin in connection to some of these countries. Today 17% of the U.S. population identifies as Hispanic or Latino/a. Several authors have proposed Latino/a American as a neologism to foreground the sometimes intersectional, sometimes complementary relation between both Latino/a and Latin American peoples, practices, habits and material culture. My own students in New Jersey are often surprised when we discuss the birth of salsa, or the history of reggaeton, and they realize that key aspects of this music emerged fewer than fifty miles from where they live. U.S. Latinos/as and Latin Americans are and have been active music makers for a long time in the United States. By the end of a course I have offered twice now, called “Latin Music USA”—a title I shamelessly lifted from an excellent PBS documentary—students realize that Latino/a American music is an intrinsic part of our contemporary U.S. musical practices, from nortec to the Latin Grammys, from Tex-Mex to the Miami Latin rock scene, from Immortal Technique to Gustavo Dudamel.

Debora Pacini-Hernandez has explored how a biracial imagination still guides much of the language used to describe music in the United States. The tendency to see genres as racialized “white” (rock, country) or “black” (R&B, blues, hip-hop) hamper our understanding of these practices as the results of hybridity, and cultural mixing. It silences the multiple voices—not just Latino/a—that participate in them. However, the issue of Latinidad in the music of the United States might appear to be much more recent than it really is. When the thirteen colonies—often the focus of the U.S. historical imagination on its origins—decided to expand West and add new territories through colonization, war, and purchases, what was gained was not just resources and exploitable land. They also incorporated peoples, histories, habits, and heritages. Even today, the stories we tell about music in the United States give unique preeminence to the practices of the thirteen colonies at the expense of those of the acquired territories These narratives maintain a particular power regime with strong racialized components, one that perpetuates founding stories as the domain of white men. As scholars we must account for the legacy of the United States’ imperial expansion. Its history and musical heritage must also involve the history of its natives, the acquired territories from Spain, from France, from Denmark, the results of the Spanish- U.S. American war, the Maritime expansion into the Pacific, and many more. We cannot afford to ignore that much of the United States was also a colony of Spain. Florida, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, the city of New Orleans, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming were at some point Spanish territories. We must incorporate their stories into our country’s history and its prevailing narrative of British origin. The colonial music of the United States equally includes practices from New England or the South Carolina, and those from missions in California or New Mexico.

So why bring this up in a column geared towards early career professionals? Because we play a role, a significant one, in the discursive creation of what “American music” means. As much as musicology has questioned the discourse of nationalism in the practices we study, it has failed to be self-reflective, and realize how much nationalism still shapes the way our discipline is practiced. We tend to privilege the geographical boundaries provided by national narratives, and we struggle to identify and foreground the intrinsic transnational and postnational linkages present in music making. Through teaching and scholarship, we have clear agency to shape the stories we tell about American music. And how we tell these stories matters, and it matters most to those who are usually not mentioned in them.

Eduardo Herrera is an assistant professor in ethnomusicology and music history at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

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Student Forum

Editor’s note: I am pleased to print the inaugural Graduate Student Forum column, spearheaded by co-chairs Jamie Blake and Kate Sutton, along with Sarah England and Megan Murph. This column will feature short scholarly or reflective pieces showcasing the views, interests, and concerns of our graduate student members. The first contribution comes from H. Meg Orita is a Ph.D. student at UNC Chapel Hill. If you are a graduate student who would like a short essay printed in this column, please contact co-chairs Kate Sutton and Jamie Blake.

H. Meg Orita, “At Odds: Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ Music Video and Body Positivity”
In an action-movie universe, Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” music video opens with a fight scene in which Swift’s character, Catastrophe, is betrayed by her once-ally, Arsyn (played by Selena Gomez). Arsyn kicks Catastrophe through a window before fleeing the scene. Directly following is a stream of two-to-three-second character introductions of team Catastrophe, comprising the fictional personae of Swift’s in-real-life “who’s who” of celebrity friends. These characters display strength, confidence, and fearlessness, but they also index status, respect, and power. On and off screen, the squad members’ strengths are derived from their bodies and their physical performance.

“Bad Blood” became the subject of debates about whether Swift had written pop music’s next great feminist anthem. On May 17, 2015, the day of the video’s release, Teen Vogue labeled “Bad Blood” “The Girl Power Video We Were All Waiting For.”1 Days later, The Huffington Post published a blog entry by Zainub Amir, who praised the video and Swift’s squad: "They’re not your average female celebrities . . . they’re also letting other females out there know that a woman can be successful without having to fit in the norm of stereotypes.”2 That same week, beauty magazine Allure described the song as a “cool way to celebrate female empowerment.”3 Members of Swift’s squad corroborated this interpretation of the video and Swift’s persona as a champion of women. Gigi Hadid, one of the many models featured in the “Bad Blood” music video, told People magazine that Swift loves to empower other people, and I think that that's what this [video] is about.”4 On Instagram, Selena Gomez thanked Swift for “making us and all women feel beautiful.”5

While Swift’s all-female-superhero-blockbuster-music-video was widely received as a rousing call to feminist solidarity, “Bad Blood’s” interaction with body positivity and body image is troubling. The video’s portrayal of Lena Dunham is an example. Dunham, who, on social media, has self-identified as the odd one out in Swift’s squad, is positioned on the fringes of the body/power/importance dynamic set up in “Bad Blood.” Dunham’s character, Lucky Fiori, is depicted as a mob boss rather than a superhero. She is dressed in androgynous attire, sitting in a chair smoking a cigar. Fiori’s intro frames are integrated into a cameo rap by Kendrick Lamar (the only male in the video), a portion of the video where Swift is absent. Dunham’s character seems out of the loop with regard to Swift’s allegiance (pledged to the rest of the squad via Swift’s vocal or physical presence in their introductory frames), and does not appear again until the end of the video, where she is seen again in the same seated position. She is the only one of the eighteen cameos to be treated as such, and is presented as “other” from the rest of the “Bad Blood” music video cast.

In a July 2015 conversation with Judd Apatow at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Dunham refers to her “Bad Blood” co-stars as “those women,” and reports that she felt “chubby” in comparison to the rest of Swift’s squad.6 Dunham posted a self-deprecating Instagram caption of her onstage appearance at one of Swift’s concerts in which she joked that she looked like a “drug addicted secretary,” “a runaway cellist,” or a “7th grade boy who is into tech theater.”7 This uncomfortably consistent real-life and on-screen othering of Dunham, however undeliberate or even accidental, brings the feminist reading of “Bad Blood” into question.

The body type featured in the “Bad Blood” music video — tall, slender, and able — is aspirational to many women, considering the kind of cultural capital and privilege that beholders of those traits enjoy. Taking that into consideration, the “Bad Blood” music video is, indeed, a veritable collection of these aspirational bodies. So much so that the video has taken on a role of prominence in pro-eating disorder online communities.

The “Bad Blood” music video’s online reception in body-conscious communities problematizes the empowerment narrative that has been read onto Swift’s video in its reception. On pro-eating disorder sites such as, the “Bad Blood” music video is touted as “serious thinspo”8 (an abbreviation of a portmanteau of thin and inspiration) and “triggering”9 to those struggling with eating disorders. Swift is a controversial figure in eating disorder community online forums when it comes to discussion regarding “normal” body types and Swift’s own eating behaviors. While there are many threads of discussion in these online communities about Swift herself, there is no other artistic product of hers that has attracted as much concentrated attention as has “Bad Blood.” One myproana user posted upon the video’s release: “It just came out like 20hrs ago and I can’t stop watching it. Her body is PERFECT in that video. She’s so skinny and toned… She looks skinnier than all the celebs and models in the video. The part where you can see each of her spines is so triggering… Anyone else agree with me?” 10 Another user, who tagged their post with #thin, #weight, #loss, and #ana (an abbreviation often used for Anorexia Nervosa), wrote: “I watch the music video for thinspiration! A couple of things stand out, like the defined chest bones at the start where she gets out of the chair, and her really thin back and visible spine right before she is pushed out of the window… Oh! And when she is laying on that table thing in the white skimpy outfit her hip bones protrude…. blisssss. So just wondering if anyone else watched it and they couldn’t stop looking at her body?!!!! Or maybe just me :/ ”11

Eating disorders and disordered eating are feminist issues: women are impacted more highly than men, and the men who do struggle are less likely to ask for help.12 The role that the “Bad Blood” music video has taken on in pro-eating disorder online communities is symptomatic of the music video’s counter-feminist, problematic commentary on “good” and “bad” bodies, and which kinds of bodies are “appropriate” for which genders.

Does Swift have a responsibility to be feminist? Does Swift have a responsibility to be body-positive? Should this be a recruiting criterion for future squad members? There is no way to demand this of Swift without falling into the trap of the issue at hand: as much as Swift’s work should not have the capacity to police others’ body image perceptions, Swift’s body is equally deserving to be free of policing. It is not Swift, but discussions in popular media that proposed that “Bad Blood” may (or may not) be popular music’s next big feminist music video. It is thus in the reception of artistic products that an intervention needs to be made: if “Bad Blood” is to be even debated as feminist, it is the responsibility of those engaging in this discussion to do so in a feminist frame, thinking about how Swift, her collaborators, and her fans interact with bodies and body image in the music video. While perhaps well-intentioned, foisting the label “feminist” onto a body-exclusive product such as the “Bad Blood” music video is ultimately dangerous to women inhabiting bodies of all kinds.

1 Casey Lewis, “Taylor Swift's ‘Bad Blood’ Is the Girl Power Video We Were All Waiting For,” Teen Vogue, May 17, 2015,
2 Zainub Amir, “The Powerful Message Behind the ‘Bad Blood’ Music Video,” Huffington Post, May 26, 2015,
3 Sophia Panych, “The Best Beauty Moments From Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood,’” Allure, May 18, 2015,
4 Jeff Nelson, “Gigi Hadid Spills on Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ Music Video: ‘It's Gonna Be Epic,’” People Magazine, May 15, 2015,
5 @selenagomez. Instagram Post. September 2, 2015.
6 “Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow. Judd Apatow + Lena Dunham.” The Close Up. Podcast audio, November 11, 2015.
7 @lenadunham. Instagram Post. July 11, 2015.
8 fear_of_failure, “Taylor Swift in Bad Blood is serious thinspo!,” My Pro Ana, June 9, 2015,
9 Guest_yellow_*, “Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’ triggering,” My Pro Ana, May 26, 2015,
10 Guest_yellow_*, 2015. (Post since deleted by user). 11 fear_of_failure, 2015.
12 National Eating Disorders Association, “Research on Males and Eating Disorders,” 2016.

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Journal of the Society for American Music

Volume 10, Number 4 (November 2016)

Practical Idealism: The Musical Patronage of Phoebe Apperson Hearst
   Leta E. Miller

“Enough of Being Basely Tearful”: “Glitter and Be Gay” and the Camp Politics of Queer Resistance
   Matthew J. Jones

Binder’s Volumes as Musical Commonplace Books: The Transmission of Cultural Codes in the Antebellum South
   Candace Bailey

Assembly Lines and Contra Dance Lines: The Ford Motor Company Music Department and Leisure Reform
Katherine Brucher


Michael V. Pisani, Music for Melodramatic Theatre in Nineteenth-Century London & New York
   Peter Franklin

Mitchell Morris, The Persistence of Sentiment: Display and Feeling in Popular Music of the 1970s    Emily Margot Gale

Phil Ford, Dig: Sound & Music in Hip Culture
   Dale Chapman

Katherine Spring, Saying It With Songs: Popular Music and the Coming of Sound to Hollywood Cinema
   Jennifer Fleeger

Jennifer Fleeger, Sounding American: Hollywood, Opera, and Jazz
   Katherine Spring

Melissa J. de Graaf, The New York Composers’ Forum Concerts, 1935–1940
   John D. Spilker

Michael J. Kramer, The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture
   Patrick Burke

Genius (formerly Rap Genius),
   Lauron Kehrer

Lukas Foss, Lukas Foss: Complete Symphonies. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose, Conductor.
   Lars Erik Helgert

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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 the review editors, Christina Baade (JSAM, and/or Esther Morgan-Ellis (Bulletin,

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 the multi-media editors, Trudi Wright (JSAM, and/or Elizabeth Ozmet (Bulletin, for more information.

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New Members

The Society for American Music is pleased to welcome these new members:

Susan Hurley, Mesa, AZ

Ambre Dromgoole, Nashville, TN

John Bagnato, Pittsburgh, PA

Laura Emmery, Atlanta, GA

Aja Wood, New York, NY

Fredara Hadley, Brooklyn, NY

Oluwafunmilayo Okiji, Hastings, East Sussex, United Kingdom

Justin Patch, Poughkeepsie, NY

Michael Chikinda, Midvale, UT

Benjamin Coghan, Lusby, MD

Flor Reyes, Toppenish, WA

Amber Ridinton, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Irene Monteverde, Presto, PA

Cory Hunter, Charlottesville, VA

Stephanie Gunst, Charlottesville, VA

Sarah Messbauer, Davis, CA

Joanna Helms, Carrboro, NC

Peter A. Olson, Greenville, NC

Matthew Leslie, Cambridge, MA

Liza Sapir Flood, Charlottesville, VA

Kelsey McGinnis, Iowa City, IA

Kevin Whitman, Eugene, OR

Ali Memarian, Los Angeles, CA

April P. Morris, London, ON, Canada

Catherine Lefrancois, Quebec, QC, Canada

Paul Anderson, Indianapolis, IN

Samuel Reenan, Rochester, NY

Colette Simonot, Brandon, MB, Canada

Elizabeth Navarra Varnado, Lexington, KY

Siel Agugliaro, Philadelphia, PA

Taylor Greer, State College, PA

Kira Dralle, Ben Lomond, CA

Margaret Hogan, Montreal, QC, Canada

Matthew Mendez, Ossining, NY

Daniel Anez, Montreal, QC, Canada

Alberto Munarriz, Toronto, ON, Canada

Paul Bazin, Montreal, QC, Canada

Theodore Gordon, Chicago, IL

Austin McCabe Juhnke, Columbus, OH

Crystal Peebles, Ithaca, NY

Heather L. Sparling, Sydney, NS, Canada

Kip Pegley, Kingston, ON, Canada

Megan Steigerwald, Apex, NC

Ditlev Rindom, London, United Kingdom

Sophie Kabbash, Montreal, QC, Canada

Sarah Town, Princeton, NJ

Amy Fleming, Rochester, NY

Marida Rizzuti, Torino, Italy

Giacomo Albert, Torino, Italy

Ben Duinker, Montreal, QC, Canada

Lucy Caplan, New Haven, CT

Claire McLeish, Montreal, QC, Canada

Anna Reguero, Farmingville, NY

Kathryn Caton, Lexington, KY

Bryan Christian, Fort Collins, CO

Paul Bertagnolli, Houston, TX

Alexa Woloshyn, Kitchener, ON, Canada

Sophie Benn, Cleveland, OH

Rachel Short, Goleta, CA

Andrea Moore, Los Angeles, CA

Matthew Timmermans, Wasaga Beach, ON, Canada

Ellen Waterman, St. John's, NL, Canada

Ann Warde, Ithaca, NY

Kiersten van Vliet, Montreal, QC, Canada

Angharad Davis, New Haven, CT

Kristin-Marie Franseen, Montreal, QC, Canada

Marc Lussier, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Thomas W. Posen, Albuquerque, NM

Nathaniel Lew, Burlington, VT

Rebecca Draisey-Collisha, Dublin, Ireland

Anne Briggs, Wichita, KS

Joshua Gailey, Cambridge, MA

Véronique Audet, Quebec, QC, Canada

Alisha L. Jones, Bloomington, IN

Sam Fouts, Eagan, MN

Craig Doolin, Cincinnati, OH

Jonathan Verbeten, Lubbock, TX

Patrick Hazell, Washington, IA

George Blake, Santa Barbara, CA

Michael Levine, Brooklyn, NY

Nathan Ruechel, Tallahassee, FL

Heather Buchanan, Detroit, MI

Kimberly Hannon Teal, Fayetteville, AR

William Buckingham, New Orleans, LA

Brenda Ravenscroft, Kingston, ON, Canada

Laurel Parsons, North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Lisa A. Kozenko, New York, NY

David O'Fallon, Venice, FL

Kira Alvarez, Chicago, IL

Austin DiPietro, Windsor, ON, Canada

Jody Diamond, Medford, MA

Cody Norling, Iowa City, IA

Mark Sciuchetti, Tallahassee, FL

Paraclete Recordings, Orleans, MA

Katherina Uhde, Valparaiso, IN

Mitchell Glover, Tecumseh, ON, Canada

Bill Doggett, Oakland, CA

Victor Szabo, Charlottesville, VA

Emily Millius, Nacogdoches, TX

Mylene Gioffredo, Montreal, QC, Canada

Emilie B. Hurst, Toronto, ON, Canada

Hicham Chami, Cinnaminson, NJ

R. Larry Todd, Durham, NC

Reeves Shulstad, Collettsville, NC

Roxane Prevost, Ottawa, ON, Canada

David Carter, Chicago, IL

Amy Skjerseth, Bettendorf, IA

Arathi Govind, Berkeley, CA

Hannah Rogers, Chicago, IL

William Scott, Petoskey, MI

Mark McCorkle, Chatham, ON, Canada

Jessica Turner, Brantford, ON, Canada

Daniel Walzer, Loveland, OH

Stephen Valdez, Athens, GA

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Book Reviews

Are you a graduate advisor with the perfect student (or group of students) to review selections from our list of currently available titles? The mentored book review process 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. 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 Bulletin Reviews Editor Esther Morgan-Ellis ( for a list of currently available books.

Gestures of Music Theater: The Performativity of Song and Dance. Dominic Symonds and Millie Taylor, Eds. Oxford University Press, 2013. 297pp. ISBN 978-0-19-999715-2. Paper.
   Meredith Juergens
, University of Michigan

Throughout the 31st Summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the international community joined together in a two-week-long celebration of athletic prowess and friendly competition. The pageant-like spectacle of the opening and closing ceremonies that bookended this Olympic games sought to project a celebratory rhetoric of national pride on a shared international stage. Breathtaking displays incorporating elements of live sound, choreographed movement, and video projections showcased Brazil’s unique heritage as teams from each represented country proudly processed into the Olympic Stadium wearing distinctive and colorful uniforms, smiling as they waved their respective nation’s flag. This expressive “commitment” to the ideology of the Olympic games engaged the bodies of the athletes and those performing in the opening and closing ceremonies with a larger spectating community in what we might refer to as a performative context (2). Here, the international alignment of performers (athletes) and audiences (spectators) substantiated, as it always does, the Olympics as a performance of ideals at the level of both the national and international.

This example of the Olympics provides an apt (and timely) entry into Dominic Symonds and Millie Taylor’s edited collection Gestures of Music Theater: The Performativity of Song and Dance (2013). Although the term “international stage” operates here as an appropriate stand-in for the smaller, physical stages one might typically associate with more traditional notions of performance, the specific examples of the 2012 and 2008 Summer Olympic Games in London and Beijing, respectively, allow the editors to establish the scope of the terms “performative” and “performativity” to extend beyond a discrete event like a play or concert to include those utterances that in and of themselves perform something, much in the way the Olympic ceremonies “perform beyond [themselves] to make important statements about community, nostalgia, and national identity” (4). Symonds and Taylor echo works by the pioneering scholars in the field of performance studies such as J.L. Austen, Richard Schechner, Judith Butler, and Peggy Phelan as they assert that performance(s) and performative acts work as a vital form of cultural discourse by reflecting and proposing new ways of living and being in the world.1

Despite the highly diverse and interdisciplinary nature of performance studies as a field, Symonds and Taylor wisely limit their focus in this collection to the conceptual notion of “song and dance.” This widely applicable set of terms provides an opportunity to attend to the widely circulated images and opinions as to what symbolizes performance. But as the authors state, their broad use of performance-oriented vocabulary “shifts [the] study of song and dance away from actual forms or artifacts that we call ‘songs’ and ‘dances’ ... and adjusts it to focus on the physical and vocal expression of the human body and voice, particularly when it is used in excess and resonates in performative ways” (5).

The term “music theater,” the other main constituent of the collection’s title, proves in its application to be somewhat confusing, given its close relationship to the more specific field of musical theater. Perhaps the editors adopted this term in an effort to accommodate a broad range of topics reaching beyond the generic confines of musical theater to include less traditionally bounded displays such as performance art or sound installations. Yet to position music theater, as Symonds and Taylor do, “somewhere between opera and the musical ... between ideological assumptions (high versus low, the classical versus the popular, Europe versus America, for example),” may leave some readers confused as to whether the term refers to a genre with its own repertoire of exemplary works (like musical theater or opera) or whether it is purely a conceptual catch all for the diverse array of performative utterances encompassed by the edition (5). Nevertheless, the editors’ commitment to exploring the “expressive potency of the voice in the body or the body in the voice” as each operates “fluidly through the whole performance landscape” offers readers a valuable primer of scholarly approaches to song and dance that may ultimately challenge the ways we conceive of performances and moments of performativity (5).

Given the wide swath of perspectives and topics represented within Gestures of Musical Theater, the collection’s editors faced a challenge in putting together a coherent assembly of chapters. Symonds and Taylor, in their use of seven main thematic groupings—“Singing the Dance, Dancing the Song,” “Performativity as Dramaturgy,” “Performativity as Transition,” “Performativity as Identity,” “Performativity as Context,” “Performativity as Practice,” and “Performativity as Community”—succeed in constructing a clear sequence of chapters through which each theme lays a strong groundwork for the next. Such careful organization results in a collection whose value lies not only in the strength of its individual chapters but also rewards the reader who completes the book from beginning to end, thus benefitting from a deft progression from the material functions of song and dance all the way through to their role in shaping identity at the levels of the individual and the communal.

The first two chapters, with their focus on song in particular, each provide a careful exploration of song as it is manifest through performance. This investigation includes what happens in the transition from the ephemeral act of singing to the commoditization of the “song object,” or what Symonds refers to as “capturing the intangible and sedimenting it onto the paraphernalia of literacy (the songsheet, the wax cylinder) (19).” Carlo Zuccarini’s chapter takes an alternate approach as he examines song not as a fixed object but as a series of sounds that are ultimately detached from the performer’s body to produce a profound effect on the listener. Although it would have been useful in this section to include a chapter devoted to the material aspects of dance—for example, its ability to arouse a kinesthetic response in its viewers—this discussion of song leads effectively into the next section concerning dramaturgy. Here, conceptions of song and dance as material acts expand to include the associations we carry as listener/viewers. Chapters 3 and 4, for instance, acknowledge that when we hear a Beatles song taken out of its original context and fit into the narrative dramaturgy of the movie musical Across the Universe (2007), or witness the diverse styles of song and dance used to distinguish each character in the hit musical Cats, we also draw upon our own network of memories and associations to lend these performances meaning. This “ghosting” of our own experiences lends a necessary dimension to the intended dramaturgy (i.e. the “structure” or “meaning making”) of a work (37, 39).

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects associated with performance are the moments of transition into performative excess, such as when a character breaks into song or an extended dance sequence. A shift, for example, from the realism of natural speech to the hyperrealistic or fantasy-like sequences of song and dance often produces feelings of discomfort in viewers especially when it is unclear to them why a character would suddenly break out into song. Yet, as the chapters in part three illustrate, these moments constitute what might be considered the most distinctive and magical aspects of musical theater; that is, those moments of transitional, or unbounded space where “the liminal can become performative, flowing between spaces through porous boundaries, and enabling transition (affect) rather than stasis (complacency)” (72). Laurey’s famous “Dream Ballet” from Oklahoma! (1943) supplies an apt example in Mary Jo Lodge’s chapter of how a character within the unconfined, liminal space of a dream can transform Laurey’s character “both physically … and psychologically, as she reveals her true feelings both to herself and to the audience” (76). As successful works like Oklahoma! rely on the careful negotiation of these liminal spaces by its creators, this section of Gestures of Music Theater may prove particularly useful to those interested or engaged in the art of crafting dramatic works themselves.

The following two sections of the collection carry the reader through the necessary consideration of identity, or more specifically, how the gestures of song and dance work through performance to reify, challenge, or construct new modes of self-presentation. The authors in chapters seven through nine draw on specific instances from the realm of musical theater, including the musical Jelly’s Last Jam (1992) and the popular television series Glee. The historically anachronistic conflation of early jazz music and tap dance in Jelly’s Last Jam functions as an acknowledgement of the largely erased legacy of African American identity in performance histories of the United States. Ainhoa Kaiero Claver’s study of the performance artist Laurie Anderson’s work Home of the Brave (1986) illustrates how Anderson utilizes technology within the context of performance itself to “deconstruct the illusion of a genuine lyrical voice and reveal the mediatized nature of her pop star identity” (165).

In returning to the example of the Olympics in their final section, “Performativity as Community,” Symonds and Taylor bring their collection (and this review) back to where it began, but this time taking care to highlight both the dramaturgical and political dimensions of performance at the communal level. This might, for instance, take the form of a chorus or ensemble that functions as an omniscient “manifestation of community” in a play or musical (263). More broadly though, the editors’ return to the example of the Olympics illustrates how the performative “can represent a contemporary politics, forcing contemplation of the wider world” (262), thus opening up countless avenues of inquiry into the potential power of performativity as a concept. For instance, one need look no further than Lin Manuel Miranda’s immensely popular hip-hop musical Hamilton (2015) to see how inversions of race and identity—signified by the use of musical idioms typically excluded from the Broadway stagecan enact change by challenging deeply entrenched historical narratives to propose something altogether new and more inclusive in the process.

1 J.L. Austen’s seminal work, How to Do Things with Words, establishes his speech act theory that defines a performative statement as an act or utterance that achieves or performs something as opposed to merely describing it. J.L. Austen, How to Do Things with Words, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975). This theory forms a basis for the development of the field of performance studies in the 1990s. See also Richard Schechner, Performance Theory, rev. ed. (New York: Routledge, 1988); Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” in Performing Feminisms: Feminist Critical Theory and Theatre, ed. Sue-Ellen Case (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1990); Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (London: Routledge, 1993).

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Women Music Educators in the United States: A History. Sondra Wieland Howe. Scarecrow Press, 2014. 380pp. ISBN 9780810888470. Hardback.
   Sarah Tomlinson
, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sondra Wieland Howe counters scholarly trends that have previously left many women music educators in the United States in historical obscurity. She introduces hundreds of influential educators over two centuries and across far distances, from Mary Webster, founder of a juvenile singing school in 1838 in Ohio, to Phyllis Young, the first woman president of the American String Teachers Association and long-time director of the University of Texas String Project that continues successfully educating young string players today. Despite the active role of women in education and in music throughout the history of the United States, their individual contributions have been insufficiently recognized. Likewise, accounts of music education in the United States have tended to emphasize major male figures and their roles in the history of institutions, the development of national music organizations, and the teaching of Western music—particularly band music—in public schools.1 Howe purposefully defines the history of music education more broadly to amplify the stories of the women who have slipped between the cracks. In reference to the publication of music education textbooks, for example, she writes that, “although women are invisible on the title pages, they were often involved in editing and translating behind the scenes” (78). To Howe, women music educators range from mothers teaching their children nursery rhymes in the home to editors of textbooks and journals, board members of teaching organizations, and composers of children’s songs.

Howe’s detailed accounts of women’s activities are based on extensive archival research, making the book a helpful reference tool for historians of education and scholars in the field of women’s studies as well as musicologists. The short, somewhat encyclopedic entries and thorough index make the book userfriendly for fact-finding and information inquiries. Indeed, reading the book cover to cover is not essential: researchers will find it useful to focus on particular parts or chapters. Furthermore, Howe never loses sight of readers with more general interests. Her four-part study moves chronologically from the colonial era to the twenty-first century: “Early American Music Education (to 1860)”; “Civil War and the Late Nineteenth Century (1860–1900)”; “Twentieth Century Through World War II (1900–1945)”; and “Since World War II (1945–today).” She prefaces each of the four parts with a discussion of relevant political and cultural contexts, followed by straightforward chapters that engage only lightly with cultural critique. Howe cites feminist scholars such as Joan Scott and Susan McClary in her introduction, but largely leaves open various questions of gender bias and cultural conditioning (xviii, xxi).

As she pursues the documentation of a comprehensive history of women music educators in the U.S., Howe weaves familiar stories together with those surprising and lesser known. In Part I, we discover how the poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” written in 1830 by poet, editor, and feminist Sarah Hale, became the text of an enduring children’s song. Yet Hale has been little known because her contribution receives no credit in publications of the music. As music publishing developed in the U.S., music-oriented periodicals became prolific during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In Part II, Howe introduces pianist, singer, and elementary-school teacher Amelia L. Tilghman who became the first black publisher and editor of a monthly music magazine, The Musical Messenger. Howe also mentions the famous composer Amy Beach for her composition of teaching pieces, which were so popular that piano teachers founded “Mrs. Beach” clubs for their students. Another well-known musician, current music director of the Baltimore Symphony Marin Alsop, makes an appearance in the final chapter. Howe argues that Alsop’s founding of OrchKids, an after-school program for youth in Baltimore’s low-income neighborhoods, makes her not just a major conductor but also an important music educator.

Along with her discussion of notable individuals, Howe explains how women have impacted music education institutions and pedagogical methods. Part IV includes an especially valuable chapter on women who have been instrumental to the development and popularization of four canonic methods of music education. These methods are typically credited solely to their male name-bearers: Dalcroze, Kodály, Orff, and Suzuki. For example, while music historians and music educators alike are familiar with Carl Orff for his orchestral compositions and well-known method of music learning, Howe points out Dorothee Günther’s influence on the Orff method. In 1924, Günther and Orff opened the Güntherschule in Munich to combine the study of music with that of dance and gymnastics. The Orff method is now one of the most important methods of music education in the U.S., and Günther played an important role in its popularization. Women have also been prominent in the dissemination of the Dalcroze, Kodály, and Suzuki methods despite infrequent acknowledgement. As such, Howe encourages her readers to reevaluate familiar territory in search of gender bias and historical blind spots.

Yet Howe’s ambitious attempt at a comprehensive history does not come without its pitfalls and blind spots, especially with respect to racial and cultural inclusion. Although she affirms the importance of diversity in her introduction, Howe’s book is implicitly centered on the history of Anglo-American women educators firmly rooted in the Western canon. She does include several sections on black and Native American women’s music making and teaching, but only as appendages to a discussion that prioritizes the work of white women in a manner much criticized by black feminist theorist bell hooks: “In Women’s Studies…individuals will often focus on women of color at the very end of the semester or lump everything about race and difference together in one section. This kind of tokenism is not multicultural transformation, but it is familiar to us as the change individuals are most likely to make.”2 Likewise, Howe treats white experience as universal while the experiences of women of color are exceptions and afterthoughts. Howe’s voiced effort to include everyone makes her exclusions even more pronounced. Along with the dearth of women of color in the book, a notable absence in Howe’s literature review of scholarship on the history of music education is Ruth Iana Gustafson’s Race and Curriculum: Music in Childhood Education. Gustafson’s 2009 publication examines the near total attrition rate of African American students from public school music programs.3 Because Howe focuses narrowly on gender bias, she misses how other forms of bias are present in educational institutions and in her historical revision. Clearly no book can be comprehensive, but Howe might have been more open and honest about the cultural position and boundaries of her study.

Nevertheless, Howe’s broad focus successfully reveals complexities in the gender dynamics of teaching music across changing times. While the gendering of teaching as a feminine activity solidified in the mid-nineteenth century and implied that educational roles were considered to be more suitable for women rather than men, at the same time, women piano teachers were less respected than men and sometimes had trouble collecting lesson fees. Today, band teachers and directors are overwhelmingly male and the College Band Directors National Association has never had a female president. Yet other institutions with strong music-education components, such as the National Federation of Music Clubs, have had strong female leadership for decades. Meanwhile, elementary schools have distinct problems recruiting male music teachers. Howe shows how gender functions with respect to music teaching are varied and in constant flux. She also encourages readers to take a second look not only at the history of music education, but also about the ways in which gender shapes history and historiography writ large.

1 Edward Bailey Birge, History of Public School Music in the United States (Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1928, 1939); Lloyd Frederick Suderman, Historical Foundations of Music Education in the United States (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1971); A. Theodore Tellstrom, Music in American Education: Past and Present (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971).
2 bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom (New York: Routledge, 1994), 38.
3 Ruth Iana Gustafson, Race and Curriculum: Music in Childhood Education (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

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Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora. Shana L. Redmond. New York University Press, 2013. 356pp. ISBN 9780814770412. Paper.
   Danielle Maggio
, University of Pittsburgh

Music of the African diaspora has long been recognized and often fetishized for its unique ability to express black identity through time and space. In her book, Anthem: Social Movements and the Sound of Solidarity in the African Diaspora, Shana L. Redmond utilizes a variety of musical case studies to examine how the black diaspora informs transnational political responses to systems of racism and colonialism. As a former musician and labor organizer, Redmond is exceptionally qualified to analyze the artistic-activist genre of the anthem as a vital musical form within the creation and contestation of modern black identities. Redmond offers a consistent methodological thread that pays homage to both those who have received credit in the annals of history and those who have been silenced by the masculinist institutions of patriarchy and white privilege. Her book traces black history in the twentieth century through key compositions and performances that construct an “audible global public” (2).

Redmond frames her case studies in order to reveal how black anthems construct a “sound franchise” (4). The franchise model, which is “composed of a series of alternative performance practices developed and executed to counteract the violent exclusions and techniques of silencing contained within the governing structures of white supremacy,” works as a vehicle for the duplication and mobilization of sonic texts (5). These sonic texts are included into and authorized by black cultural production, which in return include and authorize the cultural knowledge and practice of the bodies performing those texts. Through this foundational theory, Redmond meticulously researches specific social movements and their sounds of solidarity. The result is six case studies organically organized by chronological shifts in black diaspora performance.

The first chapter establishes the intrinsic relationship between performance and politics through a close reading of the 1918 composition, “Ethiopia (Thou Land of Our Fathers),” and its official affiliation with Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Redmond suggests that in performance amongst UNIA members, “Ethiopia” established itself as “a method to build citizens” during a time where racial pride was met with violent opposition (28). It was through the collective singing of “Ethiopia,” which “functioned as a welcome and a parting call to arms” during UNIA meetings, that the politicized community members within the Black Arts Renaissance of 1920s Harlem could safely articulate racial pride through a song that reflected the ethos of transnational black solidarity (41). Yet Redmond, whose careful attention to the gender politics of music is evident throughout the book, also describes how “Ethiopia” worked in service of normalizing strict gender hierarchies within the movement and its vision of black nationalism.

Chapter two turns attention to the NAACP’s use of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which it eventually adopted as the National Black Anthem. Originally written as a poem by James Weldon Johnson and later adapted to music by his brother John Rosamond, the transformation of “Lift” from a written text to a sonic one exemplifies what Redmond calls the “necessity and power of collective performance” (70). Redmond’s analysis of “Lift,” like her case studies throughout the whole of the book, is highly accessible to both musically trained and untrained readers, and effectively describes the sound structure of the anthem in relationship to its social function. Redmond also adds a new layer of meaning to the song’s place in black history by telling the lesser-known story of Yasuichi Hikida, a Japanese immigrant who translated the song into Japanese as an act of communication and solidarity. This work of musical and political translation, Redmond argues, shows how both the authorship and ownership of an anthem can be transformed and contested across space and time.

Shifting the focus from political collectives to the role of the solo artist and his or her labor of sound migrations, chapter three charts Paul Robeson’s iconic rendition of “Ol’ Man River”—a show tune from the 1927 musical Show Boat—as a “signature performance text” that successfully conjoined race, labor and internationality within the political culture of the 1940s and 1950s (100). Addressing Robeson’s voice as a developed technology of dissent allows Redmond to analyze how the “detained voice” can deconstruct and subvert imperial systems of power within the African diaspora (130). By tracing Robeson’s personal adaptation of the song’s lyrics and performance context, Redmond accounts for how “Ol’ Man River” became the “clarion call” in the fight for civil rights (100).

Drawing parallels between musical labor of the individual and the collective, chapter four’s analysis of “We Shall Overcome” offers the most historically in-depth documentation of the process by which a musical text becomes a social movement anthem. “We Shall” has its roots in the 1945-46 tobacco strike in Charleston, NC, where black female laborers operated as the central actors. Redmond describes how the song was originally composed as “I Will Overcome,” but transformed by an individual black female tobacco worker on the picket line who changed the singular “I” to the plural “We” (148).1 Beyond this meaningful shift in lyrics, Redmond shows how changes made to the meter of the song–adapting it to the 4/4 time, or “common time”–allowed for “greater participation from new learners or the musically untrained” and created a tempo that more naturally lent itself to use in marches, picket lines, and in worker education programs, where it became a pedagogical tool (150). Perhaps the most fascinating musico-political genealogy of “We Shall” is how the song was canonized within the freedom movement through the articulation of white male performers such as Pete Seeger, who learned the song and changed the words from “We Will Overcome” to “We Shall Overcome” (173). By focusing on Seeger’s authorship, Redmond highlights the dismissal and disarticulation of black women’s voices and labor from the “multiauthored sound text” (176).

Shifting to popular music, chapter five’s case study on Nina Simone shows how the activist-artist utilized “radical methods of sound and performance” that effectively reflect the larger structural transition from Civil Rights to Black Power (183). Redmond’s analysis of the anthem, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” highlights Simone’s “transgressive identity performance” in relation to “her politics, body, and voice”–all of which stirred the listening public due to her combative break with the traditionally accepted and expected norms of female performance (206). Redmond uses Simone’s engagement with African countries and cultures as a means to showcase the development of Afro-conscious, anti-colonial identities and aesthetics that she explores in the final chapter.

The concluding case study discusses exiled South African singer Miriam Makeba and the performance of the Xhosa hymn “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika.” The most prominent theme in this chapter is the voice and the singing body, and how each maps identity in order to create and maintain pan-African solidarity. The comparison between audible female voices in the ANC (African National Congress) anthem and inaudible female voices in the UNIA anthem, provides a wonderful moment that converges both sonic and social comparison (234). This approach provides an insightful form of comparative analysis that would have been nice to see implemented in the book’s previous chapters. The attention paid to individual exiled artists such as Makeba and Robeson works to highlight the migration of voice(s) in spite of exile and censorship. For Makeba, “music and its performance were her refuge and location of effective citizenship” (238). Here, Redmond vividly analyzes performance as a direct response to the “symbiotic nature of culture and violence,” in order to further the project of reorganizing and sounding citizenship (257).

The book’s conclusion focuses on the social and sonic resonance of each anthem and their “multitextual legacy” within a post-Civil Rights culture (269). This moment of resonance would perhaps be more effective if Redmond had not attempted to add one more case study at the beginning of the conclusion. Briefly analyzing Public Enemy’s 1990 song, “Fight the Power,” Redmond asserts that it is “perhaps the last Black anthem of the twentieth century”—a bold claim to say the least (261). What should not be overlooked in her attempt to round out the twentieth century by incorporating 1990s hip-hop, is her transcendent definition of diaspora. She forwards a “pan-urban public” and the “diaspora of the dispossessed”: a direct challenge to the binary conception of the African diaspora as existing on opposite sides of the Atlantic (267).

Although Redmond’s book will be a welcomed addition to scholars of popular music and both African American and African histories, Anthem will undoubtedly resonate with a host of interdisciplinary researchers and musicians interested in how the sounds of solidarity become canonized, anthologized, and worked into expressions of black collective identity.

1 The modern gospel version of “I Will Overcome” is a derivative of Charles Albert Tindley’s spiritual hymn, “I’ll Overcome Someday,” published in 1900. See Horace Clarence Boyer, “Charles Albert Tindley: Progenitor of Black-American Gospel Music,” Black Perspective in Music 11/2 (Autumn 1983), 103-132.

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Composing Ambiguity: The Early Music of Morton Feldman. Alistair Noble. Ashgate, 2013. 215pp. ISBN: 978-1-4094-5164-8. Hardback.
   Megan Elizabeth Murph
, University of Kentucky

Morton Feldman (1926-1987) is considered one of America’s greatest experimental composers and a pioneer of graphic notation. Associated with the New York School, he was profoundly influenced by abstract expressionism, creating a compositional system involving timbral and non-rhythmic relationships.1 In Composing Ambiguity: The Early Music of Morton Feldman (2013), Alistair Noble sets out to explain Feldman’s deep connection to the visual arts through his compositional systems of the early 1950s. Noble addresses four piano works composed between 1952-1953: Intermission 5 (1952), Piano Piece 1952, Intermission 6 (1953), and Intersection 3 (1953). Each work is analyzed in its own chapter with heavy reliance on primary source materials and musical sketches. Noble questions areas involving Feldman scholarship (such as the frustrations with defining ambiguity), and Feldman’s wavering ideas on systems in general (such as how composer should not reveal their compositional devices [7-8]). Noble also addresses how other composers (like Cage, Cowell, Wolff, Boulez, and beyond) positively or negatively viewed Feldman’s musical structures, how Feldman’s mentors and contemporaries influenced his compositional approaches, and how Feldman’s compositional systems may be seen in his own performances of the works.

Noble, a performer of these pieces, began writing his book while sitting at the piano. Surprised by the overwhelming feeling that Feldman’s early piano music, which seemed ambiguous and uncontrolled, was actually carefully designed and constructed, Noble set off to find commonalities in the works through examination of their manuscript sketches. He discovered that Feldman had created a system of pitches (or timbres) positioned over a system of elapsed time, which Noble calls the “two-dimensional” canvas or frame. The first chapter, “Listening to Process, Playing the System,” deals primarily with explaining this two-dimensional frame, which is based on Feldman’s “Structure and the Structural Cell” (1950-51) diagram and notes.2 Feldman wrote about his structure: “I consider the basic material in a crystallized structural situation a purely sound experience divorced from harmony as well as counterpoint and melody” (133-134). The pitches are set within a 12-tone chromatic field, avoiding any connection to traditional harmonies or time, “floating” or “suspending” through a new sense of space. In this concept, time becomes a theoretical canvas where pitches are allowed to exist in a non-linear way. Throughout the book, Noble frequently turns to cultural theorists such as Pierre Bourdieu. Here he builds upon thoughts about Feldman’s consideration of space as illusionary versus our reading or hearing of space; that the reader must understand the analyses not as mechanical, but as fluid. In addition, the organization of pitch/timbre over the canvas-like time reflects visual ideals. The tales of Feldman placing music manuscripts on the wall so that he could look at them in the way a painter looks at a canvas, became Feldman’s direct musical analogy to the visual artist’s workspace. Noble points out the proportional, visual similarities between Feldman’s “Structure and the Structural Cell” diagram and Jackson Pollock’s large canvases during the same years. Both Feldman’s two-dimensional diagram and Pollock’s canvases are rectangular, flat picture planes.

Chapter two, “‘to create music as if on canvas’: Intermission 5 (1952),” discusses how Feldman’s chromatic pitches are organized and how this is “meshed” across a determined space of time. Noble begins by considering the “in-between-ness” of Feldman’s life and how this may have influenced the sounds of the Intermission pieces, conveniently titled after this state of being “in-between” (31). He analyzes Feldman’s selection of pitches, use of cluster chords, the use of extreme dynamics, and the holding down of the damper pedal throughout the work. The changing dynamics contrast with the idea that most of Feldman’s music is quiet. The holding down of the damper pedal blurs the idea of time, suggesting there is no silence in the piece since the marked rests cannot be understood as silence.

Noble examines the unpublished companion to Piano Piece 1952 in chapter three. He reveals new information about the score’s dating and unravels the internal structure of the work, which primarily deals with Feldman’s use of pitch-class repetition. Noble recognizes motivic figures throughout Feldman’s piece, despite their camouflage beneath an abstract surface. Further, he compares these figures to Jackson Pollock’s “all-over” paintings. His analysis reveals which significant musical shape, such as the highest or lowest note of the piece, occurs during which division of time. Chapter four, “Intermission 6 (1953): ‘the outlines of becoming,’” demonstrates how all the structures from chapters two and three may be found in the Intermission 6 score. The score stands out in comparison to the other Intermission pieces because it is a mobile or open form work for one or two pieces.3

Intersection 3’s graphic or grid-notated score is compared to the previously analyzed works in chapter five. Noble observes how Feldman worked with an aggregate of twelve densities instead of the chromatic twelve-tone aggregations he used in the previously analyzed pieces. In addition, Noble reveals how these density aggregate fields connect to levels of the work’s partitions and the patterns that emerge within them while discussing the degree to which the work is indeterminate within performance. In the final chapter, “Playing Feldman,” Noble proves Feldman was “a sophisticated, informed composer, who on his own account, resisted giving up control of musical processes and materials.” By tracing Feldman’s steps in his early sketches, Noble also considers how Feldman began to conceal some of his processes in preparing these works for publication by the 1960s; keeping the sounds and the structures ambiguous to the listener’s ear (173).

Noble makes a highly informative and convincing argument that Feldman left very little to “chance” when it came to his compositions. Accordingly, this book is extremely useful for music theorists or musicologists interested in the work and life of Feldman, the New York School, as well as non-traditional notation analysis in general. On the very first page of the book, however, Noble addresses the “recent rise of online fan sites, blogs and discussions” that “document the rise of Feldman’s global cult” (1). He admits scholarship has not kept up with the pace of this expanding audience, yet offers a book that may not be the most accessible for Feldman’s non-specialist followers. Therefore, the depth of Noble’s research is well-suited for upper level theory or musicology seminars on Feldman, non-traditional notation, or The New York School. In the end, Noble is to be commended for his thorough analyses and knowledge of the subject. His book is a significant contribution to Feldman literature that will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for future research on the composer, non-traditional notation, and beyond.

1 Thomas DeLio, The Music of Morton Feldman (Excelsior Music Publishing Company, 1996), xiii-xiv.
2 “Structure and the Structural Cell” (1950-51) diagram and notes may be seen among sketches from the Projection series found in the Morton Feldman Collection Papers at the Paul Sacher Foundation.
3 This work was written around the same time as Earle Brown’s first mobile scores. Brown and Feldman had a falling out in 1953 and did not reconcile until 1963, leaving Feldman to abandon mobile scores in subsequent pieces.

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Between Nostalgia and Apocalypse: Popular Music and the Staging of Brazil. Daniel B. Sharp. Wesleyan University Press, 2014. 192pp. ISBN 9780819575029. Paper.
   Sarah Tyrrell
, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Daniel Sharp’s book thoughtfully approachesa narrow, historical segment of Brazilian popular culture known as samba de coco. Coco is a music and dance form with ties to the Northeastern coast and Afro-Brazilian population; samba de coco is a “specific variety of coco” and “one of many Afro-Brazilian round dances commonly understood to have preceded samba” which are played in Arcoverde—a place not necessarily characterized by black influences (ix). Via this one specific musical genre, he explores where past met present (and perhaps forecasted the future), where folk met popular, and where regional met commercial. The book explores what happens when a traditional form helps “put a city on the map” and turns “the locality into a destination for commerce and visitors” (138). Throughout, Sharp also defines what are common Brazilian terms, in endnotes or within the text, which aids in accessibility for the uninitiated reader.

At the heart of the genre’s perpetuity are two engines: competition and commodification, where opposing recollections of the music’s heritage and media “re-interpretation” cloud issues of origin and ownership. The Calixto family of Arcoverde, on the one hand, considered themselves the “bearers of tradition,” and claimed family member and street musician Lula Calixto (d. 1999) as the most direct “link to an older generation of samba de coco musicians”(6). Lula’s artistic endeavors would eventually intersect with public sponsorship, and such a merger sometimes prompts negative consequences: Sharp examines how in a post-dictatorship Brazil, fresh socio-political platforms pushed multiculturalism, which in turn directly influenced cultural output.

Competition (and energy and focus) came via the efforts of another Arcoverde resident José Paes de Lira Filho (or Lirinha) and his band, Cordel do Fogo Encantado (or Cordel). Sharp contends that Lirinha “feverishy bent music marked as regional and traditional, such as samba de coco and reisado, so that its performances would stand up to the strident intensity and volume of a heavy metal or punk rock show” (xi).The fight was on between the Calixto family and the Cordel contingent over “symbolic capital” related to the “founding of a musical lineage” (24). Race manages to creep into the conversation, since the Calixto family’s darker skin was perceived as more authentically Afro-Brazilian and thus better aligned with samba de coco’s ethnic origins.

Sharp intently crafts asense of past versus present in post-modern Brazil, tracking the trajectory of samba de coco and “what happens when people and commodities move between disparate institutions for support as their music circulates beyond their hometown” (xviii). Ultimately, he studies how artists and consumers adjust once a genre moves to the public domain via municipal support, federal funding, and commercial distribution. In this discussion, the word “nostalgia” of Sharp’s titles resonates, marking the binary of “tradition lost” alongside a “globalization celebrated,” which occurs once a music is deployed to define the who, what, and why of a region.

Sharp’s concern with constructing regional versus national, and private versus public, binaries could prove useful in any ethnomusicological case study. He uses the story of samba de coco and the competition that embroiled Arcoverde residents, honestly chronicling the drama surrounding how competitors claimed credit for the origin and maintenance of the form as it converted from local fare to mass-media disseminated art. The crux of the matter, however, goes beyond who contributed what to the genre’s development. A series of vignettes explains how the band Coco Raízes functioned both as an emblem of history and a symbol of cultural progress, carefully “calibrated their old-fashionedness” (39). Sharp considers the “imperative of cultural preservation” and efforts to secure the origin and longevity of a form as it traipses beyond rural borders to face national or global consequences (15).

Across two parts and seven chapters, the author tracks samba de coco from the 1990s into the late 2000s. In Part I comes a survey of the form’s rise in Arcoverde (inside Pernambuco state) and other “interior” towns of Pernambuco and Paraíba states, which can be delineated as particularly white or mestiço towns. Chapter 4, for example, describes ways in which the regional samba de coco achieved national distribution through broadcast television outlets such as the Globo network and MTV. This mass media “bump” transferred both genre and practitioners beyond their origins, where working-class laborers/amateur musicians began to define themselves alternatively as songwriters, performers, and media entrepreneurs. Along the way they raised contentious questions around issues of nativism, dislocation, “selling out,” and authorship: does a song, perceived as folk, remain the property of a named artist or move into the public domain? How do artists maintain control once this transfer is initiated?

In Part II, Sharp uses ethnographic data to survey the “events that followed the entrance of samba de coco into the circuits of state sponsorship,” exploring where and how samba de coco was created and disseminated (xxii). He focuses squarely on the São João Festival to investigate where the genrefit within the broader music industry. Chapter 5 thoroughly describes the festival phenomenon, a vital setting for the presentation and evolution of the genrein Arcoverde. Chapter 6 targets where samba de coco intersects with the public via cultural tourism, then Chapter 7 brings full circle the narrative threads of the book through updates and summaries about featured characters.

Sharp’s work was an ethnomusicological endeavor. He denied locals any chance to deem him an intruder by choosing deliberately to reject Hood’s notion of bimusicality (requiring a scholar to embed into a community and bond with a teacher) and instead adopting “a posture closer to that of a tourist or … journalist” (xviii). Sharp also relied on personal information collected from direct communication with artists and practitioners (or their relatives), so that he could weave personal stories from a variety of subjects. One inquiry that Sharp applies to this narrow segment of Brazilian popular culture is: from whom and where do the most valuable pieces of ethnomusicological research come? Ultimately, he questions whether academic observer or regional practitioner is a better resource—or at least suggests that there exists a useful synergy between the data one can collect from either. Sharp challenges the reader to consider that, in certain regions of the globe, we rely on what “leftovers” remain in place in residential attics and crude museums—or wherever artifacts have “shored up families’ claims to repertoires of nebulous authorship” (138).

Sharp is attracted to evocative passages and crafts rich prose paragraphs to detailhis experiences: “A dusty coconut painted black was grinning at the viewer, its facial features attached Mr. Potato Head style. Behind it lurked a lizard-like coconut creature colored umbanda red and black. The creepy duo were housed inside the plastic casing of an old CRT computer monitor…” (133).This tends to bog things down and mayseem self-indulgent, but the book offers little in the way of visual resources (the pictures included are small, grainy, black-and-whites), so perhaps the elaborate sketches stand in place of those ancillaries. Overall, the language is dense, requiring a reader to bring a critical mind and a willingness to work through layers of commentary that take into account cultural, political, historical, and social patterns; the reward is a comprehensive portrait of how a single musical form functions within these paradigms.There is adequate analysis to bring to life the music Sharp treats, but again, descriptive prose stands in place of musical examples. Sharp’s penchant for vivid description illustrates verbally the Brazilian landscapeitself, ideal for both those who know the regions discussed and for those who have yet to visit in person.

Sharp provides only superficial references back to the ethnomusicological work initiated in the 1920s by Mário de Andrade; for historical perspective, he mentions that the esteemed scholar did recognize coco as an Afro-Brazilian form replete with brasilidade. Those who have studied Andrade’s legacy may crave a more thorough consideration of connection to Andrade’s work—or at least a determined statement about how this effortis or is not an extension of the earlier movement. For those interested in the broader sphere of post-1960s Brazilian pop, however, Sharp’s book is immensely valuable in that he situates samba de coco at the core of other relevant movements like Mangue Beat, MPB, and rock. The book is also carefully indexed and boasts an adequate bibliography for further research.

This is a singular, limited casestudy, but the broader value of Sharp’s analysis comes in its application to other cultural products of Brazil. Within Sharp’s assertion that samba de coco actually transformed from “heritage” to “popular culture” dwells the groundwork for research into any number of folk genres which have taken similar paths. No doubt his intentional approach could prove relevant beyond Arcoverde’s city limits, and arguably even beyond Brazil’s borders. In fact, this model of a finite peering into one specific musical form, as it was defined, practiced, maintained, and perpetuated by identified artists, could certainly be taken to other genres, other towns, and other eras—anywhere and anytime there proves an “urgency … to register traditional music before it was eclipsed by television, internet, and shopping mall consumerism” (xiii).

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Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical. Judith E. Smith. University of Texas Press, 2014. 352pp. ISBN 978-0-292-72914-8. Cloth.
   Nicole Winger
, Western University

Known as the “King of Calypso” throughout the American cultural industries from 1956 forward, Harry Belafonte has been continually memorialized along brief and limited characterizations in American popular culture: the singer of “Day-O,” the first black mainstream matinee idol, and an integrationalist during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s (1). These characterizations, however, have obscured a much more complex and layered history surrounding Harry Belafonte as a multitalented artist, deeply attuned left-wing intellectual, and political dissident. Academics and non-academics have only recently begun to inquire into the life and stardom of Belafonte.1 Recently, two accounts of Belafonte’s personal narrative have surfaced: his 2011 memoir, My Song, co-written with Vanity Fair biographer, Michael Shnayerson, and a film documentary released the same year titled, Sing Your Song, produced by his daughter Gina Belafonte.2 Both sources provide invaluable insight into delicately chosen aspects of Belafonte’s life. Following this line of inquiry, yet divergent in its aim as an academic history, Judith E. Smith’s 2014 book, Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical, offers the first full-length historicized exploration of Belafonte’s life and career from 1927 to 1970, reintroducing him in all his facets: artistically, politically, personally, and professionally. Smith underscores how long-rooted activism in the left-wing politics of the 1940s steadily guided and shaped his “becoming,” from the late 1940s to late 1960s, into the internationally recognized cultural producer, pubic intellectual, and relentless political provocateur he came to be in 1970 and on.

In Becoming Belafonte, Smith presents a thoroughly researched interpretative study of Harry Belafonte, focusing on his origins as a working-class black artist and determined radical from his early musical and theatrical performances in the mid-to-late 1940s, through his ascension to commercial stardom in the 1950s, and his “uses of celebrity” on matters of racial and social justice from 1960 to 1970 (2). As Smith foregrounds in the Introduction, honing in on Belafonte’s “becoming” is, by definition, limited as his artistic and political endeavours span far beyond the scope of the book’s historical analysis (6). Smith hopes, however, to deepen our understanding of Belafonte’s cultural and political contributions within this era. She resituates him within the political and cultural vibrancy of New York’s 1940s radical black circles from which his performative origins hailed, within the changing media landscapes of mid-twentieth century theatre, music, television and film, and also within discussions of race, representation, and social justice, both nationally and internationally. She spotlights Belafonte’s ability to deftly construct a public persona at the intersection of art and politics, a position not crafted and inhabited by many black performers within the 1950s and early 1960s. This hybrid postionality, resultantly, allowed him to maneuver around issues of racial discrimination, anticommunism blacklisting in the late 1940s and 1950s, racial tokenism, and the expectations of white, mainstream stardom, while still advocating for civil rights, black pride and power, and broader social justice issues. Conceptualizing Belafonte within this artist-activist paradigm, she contends that Becoming Belafonte offers an “archaeology” of the period when Belafonte began amassing cultural capital as a popular folk singer and actor (3). Smith provides insight into how he redirected his cultural clout into pressing racial and socio-political issues in the post-war period; for example, towards the efforts of his close confidant, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the evolving Civil Rights Movement, towards equitable and fluid representations of black life in the cultural industries, and also towards fostering awareness of the interconnected black diaspora and more generally, the shared experiences of world citizenry.

Each of Smith’s four chapters provides well-researched accounts of Belafonte’s cultural and political endeavours. In the first chapter, “From Harlem, Jamaica, and the Segregated Navy to New York City’s Interracial Left-Wing Culture, 1927-1948,” Smith documents Belafonte’s early life, growing up as a precarious working-class black immigrant in Harlem and in his mother’s homeland of Jamaica. Throughout his childhood and teenage years, his direct experiences with discriminatory race relations, and particularly his transformative experience in the segregated navy during WWII–where he was exposed to then radical ideas on racial equality, black power and pride–culminated in his interest at the intersection of black culture and politics upon his return from the war. From 1946-1948, Belafonte became involved with the socially conscious American Negro Theatre and other left-wing cultural-political organizations in Harlem and Greenwich Village. Belafonte’s exposure there to experimental theatre, the emancipatory power of folk music, and his engagement with leading progressive performers, such as Paul Robeson and Josh White, drew him to pursue a professional musical career in New York café society.

In the second chapter, “Black Left, White Stage, Cold War: Moving into the Spotlight, 1949-1954,” Smith traces Belafonte’s evolution as a hopeful jazz and pop singer, and still-steady participant in the left-wing musical circles of New York, to his breakthrough as a folk performer in established nightclubs, on national television, and as a Hollywood actor. Throughout, Smith explores the complex balancing act Belafonte faced as a politically-oriented performer during the height of anti-communist blacklisting in the cultural industries during this Cold War period. Gravitating towards the eclectic and political music from his left-wing experiences in the late 1940s, Belafonte began collecting and performing folk songs throughout the early 1950s, finding strength and vigor in music that crossed genres and national boundaries, and was representative of the black diaspora.

The third chapter, “Multimedia Stardom and the Struggle for Racial Equality, 1955-1960,” details the evolution of Belafonte’s public persona from acclaimed mainstream performer to internationally recognized cultural activist and human rights proponent. This examination falls within the changing political landscape of the Civil Rights Movement domestically, and within the decolonizing African liberation struggles internationally. Tired of conforming to the multitude of white-dictated internal pressures of commercial television and film, and from grappling with the lack of black performers and unfair representations within the cultural industries, Belafonte embarked on a quest for substantive cultural-political change. In 1956, Belafonte became the manager of his self-created organisational and financial agency, Belafonte Enterprises. One year later, he established his own film production company, Harbel–the first independent, black owned unit in Hollywood. With these firms, he was able to bring the left-wing ideas for interracial social change from the late 1940s back into play, as well as to hire a number of individuals from the movement such as Robert DeCormier, Leon Bibb, and Brock Peters. Smith also explores how Belafonte funnelled his efforts towards the causes of the Civil Rights Movement, the youth movements and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the liberation movements of many African countries in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Chapter four, “Storming the Gates: Producing Film and Television, 1957-1970,” chronicles Belafonte’s use of his music and film celebrity to undertake projects expounding his visions of interracial politics and world citizenry, in lauding the foundational contributions of black culture, and in rejecting race-based confinement in public life. Smith explores the trajectory of Belafonte’s television and filmic engagement and production, and the often uncertain commercial press reception of his forays into the historical and contemporary dimensions of black subjectivity and culture with these mediums. In tracing artistic continuities with Belafonte’s past, Smith asserts that Belafonte’s ideas for television and film coextended his folk musical repertoire in representing “black people as resisting world citizens who trespassed racial and national boundaries” (180). Smith’s Afterword concludes by offering insight into Belafonte’s cultural activism post-1970. She details how his involvement in the late 1940s interracial left proved foundational to his “becoming” a towering cultural activist in the mid-twentieth century. She explores how Belafonte has continued to engage with projects to-date, stemming from his early career activism of the 1940s and 1950s, on a host of issues on black arts, black world citizenship, and social justice.

Smith must be commended for her compelling and meticulously researched period biography on Belafonte. Her archival research is second to none, unearthing the vibrancy of Belafonte’s life in all of its rich dimensionality from 1927-1970. Smith’s methods, in particular her deft discursive analyses on the reception histories of Belafonte’s artistic endeavours must be applauded. From mainstream, white press and black press reviews, to insight from personal and news/trade press interviews with Belafonte on his cultural projects, Smith’s analysis proffers new insights into Belafonte’s complex, politically-inflected cultural works. Becoming Belafonte is an engaging and accessible read for cultural historians of varying disciplinary backgrounds and also for individuals interested, more generally, in the intersection of stardom and activism during the post-WWII era.

The product of an activist and scholar of American cultural history and critical race studies, Judith Smith’s Becoming Belafonte sprouts from her personal involvement with numerous liberation and anti-war movements during the post-WWII years, as well as from existing research on cultural representations of multiracial citizenship during the post-war period. Becoming Belafonte masterfully documents how Belafonte was able to challenge white supremacy within the cultural industries and beyond, nationally and internationally, building on his interracial left-wing past in questing for multiracial democracy in the mid-twentieth century. Smith’s revisionist book fills a much-needed void as a comprehensive exploration into Belafonte’s formative cultural-activist years, and as a whole, into the under-examined area of the commercial artist/activist.

1 See Mark Hayward, “Harry Belafonte, Race and the Politics of Success,” M.A. Thesis, McGill University, 2000; Michelle Stephens, “The First Negro Matinee: Harry Belafonte and American Culture in the 1950s,” in Left of the Color Line: Race, Radicalism, and Twentieth-Century Literature of the United States, ed. Bill Mullen and James Smethurst (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2013).
2 Harry Belafonte and Michael Shnayerson, My Song: A Memoir (New York: Knopf Publishing, 2011); Sing Your Song: The Music, Hope and Vision of a Man and an Era, directed by Susanne Rostock (2012; Belafonte Enterprises, S2BN Entertainment Production and Julius R. Nasso Productions, 2011), DVD.

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Media Reviews

University of California at Santa Barbara. “Mexican Wax Cylinders: Of National Identity and Sound Recordings.” Last modified November 2015.
   Amanda Black
, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

On November 15, 2015, the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Cylinder Audio Archive released the playlist “Mexican Cylinders: Of National Identity and Sound Recordings,” a critically curated list of eleven songs exploring the roots of regional music’s elevation to national symbol during the ultranationalist period of the Porfiriato (the dictatorship of General Porfirio Díaz). A valuable pedagogical tool, the Mexican cylinder page is part of a larger project at the Audio Archive introducing online users to their formidable collection through thematic playlists, which include “Early Hillbilly & Old Time Music,” Central European Mix Tape,” “Tahitian Field Recordings,” “Cakewalks and Rags,” and “American Vaudeville.”

The recordings on the Mexican list, originally released between 1904-1911, are available as digitized, downloadable tracks for students, researchers, or the general public. The first mass producible phonograph cylinder, the Gold moulded Edison cylinder, is the main medium of the Mexican recordings. Mostly recorded and released pre-Revolution (Columbia, Edison, and Victor ceased recording during the upheaval), the tracks feature military bands playing popular dance songs, mariachi groups, and guitar ballads. The collection boasts some rare gems, like one of the earliest recordings of mariachi group Cuarteto Coculense, playing “Las Campanitas.” Octaviano Yáñez, one of the first recorded guitarists and an important composer, plays “Anita.” “Macario Romero” by Herrera Robinson and Picazo is yet another standout track, imminently useful for teaching the history of the corrido poetic form.

The deliberate nature of a curated list lends to its easy use as a didactic tool. Originally part of different special collections, including the Todd and Frederick P. Williams Collections, the archivists have brought together these recordings to illustrate some of the major trends in Mexican recording in the early twentieth century. By organizing the recordings this way, the archivists have simplified the otherwise laborious task of parsing through the collections by keyword and time period. This makes the collection a useful pedagogical tool, or would serve as a jumping off point for the more experienced researcher interested in early Mexican recordings. However, the researcher may be surprised to find that these eleven recordings are but a few of tens of recordings found when searching the archive database with the keyword “Mexican.” Therefore, the list is representative but by no means exhaustive. The thoughtful essay accompanying the crisp recordings is a solid example of how public musicology can effectively challenge assumptions about “national” musics and the ideological underpinnings of nationalist narratives.

Jones, Randye. “The Spirituals Database.” Accessed July 1, 2016.
   Kaylina Madison
, University of Kentucky

Expressions of jubilation are in order for the growing interest in this music repertoire! The Spirituals Database highlights histories, composers, and quality recordings of Negro spiritual arrangements. Randye Jones, soprano and researcher, founded this project with an intention to assist vocalists and vocal coaches in their study of art song. Scholars of music and African-American studies will appreciate the “NATS Hall Johnson Spirituals Competition Repertoire Recordings,” recommended for the selected spirituals of the Hall Johnson Spirituals Competition. Supplementing each recording are details about the creators, contributors, vocal ranges, mediums, alternative titles, publishers, and recording locations.

The “Afrocentric Voices in ‘Classical’ Music: Historic & Contemporary African American Singers & Composers of Classical Vocal Music,” section is tremendously useful for finding accessible biographies of black composers, performers, and arrangers, including Marian Anderson and Harry T. Burleigh. The ambitious yet currently incomplete “chronology” segment is slated to span Negro spirituals from the first Fisk Jubilee Singers tour in 1871 to the Lost Sounds 2007 Grammy Award. Other resources in this database include a bibliographic catalog, compilations of black music collections in the United States (including the William Grant Still Collection at Duke University and the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College), a portrait gallery that connects to the Pinterest social media platform, and a historical overview of Negro song that is excerpted from The Gospel Truth about the Negro Spiritual, a lecture-recital by Ms. Jones. Materials featured throughout this accessible database would aid vocalists and students alike who seek foundational information about the composers within this repertory.

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Vandagriff Receives ACLS/Mellon Public Fellowship

SAM member Rachel S. Vandagriff recently received a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellowship. Here she tells us a little more about it:

Rachel Vandagriff
Rachel Vandagriff
The Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program is designed for recent Ph.D.s in the humanities and social sciences who want to apply the skills they learned in graduate school and writing a dissertation to jobs in the public sector. The ACLS partners with nonprofit and government organizations to serve as “host” organizations, which then design a specific job for a prospective public fellow to serve in for two years. As applicants, recent Ph.D.s apply through the ACLS website to a specific organization/job. The application materials include a formal resume (not an academic CV), a personal statement, and a cover letter to the host organization. The host organizations vary from year to year. Each of the past few years, however, have included government hosts (such as the Smithsonian), museums, as well as nonprofit organizations working in areas ranging from public media, cultural preservation, and social justice. Each Public Fellow serves their host organization for two years, and they are folded into the work community and life of their host organization. In other words, they are treated much like a regular employee. One of the wonderful things about this program is that applicants are not necessarily expected to have the perfect skill set for the job, but rather this is an opportunity for them to use the skills they do have, particularly their ability to acquire new knowledge and skills, and learn how to do a new job.

In September I will be starting my two-year public fellowship as the membership engagement manager for the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) in Emeryville, California. CIR is the nation‘s first nonprofit, independent, nonpartisan media organization dedicated to preserving democracy through fact-based investigative journalism. In this job, I will be using some of the knowledge and insight into private foundation funding I gained writing my dissertation “The History and Impact of the Fromm Music Foundation, 1952-1983” as I work to develop a membership program for CIR and their podcast, Reveal. I will also be using my numerous research skills and ability to work independently as I help create this new program, in a new job, for this organization. In this job, I will also use the qualitative and quantitative research skills I developed while writing my dissertation. Additionally, I will use experiences I gained teaching and writing to help synthesize extensive research and data into clear writing and oral presentations for non-academic stakeholders. I am very much looking forward to using the skills I have honed as a graduate student and teacher in the public arena, working for an organization in whose mission and work I deeply believe.

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Bulletin Board

Greetings from the American Council of Learned Societies! We are very pleased to have announced the 2016 cohort of ACLS fellowship recipients. Below please find a list of those awardees who identified themselves as members of the Society for American Music:

Sara Balance - Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship
Doctoral Candidate, Music, University of California, Santa Barbara, Learning to Listen: Musical Hearing and the Construction of Musicality in the Nineteenth Century
Carol J. Oja - ACLS Fellowship program
Professor, Music and American Studies, Harvard University, Black Virtuosos and Civil Rights: Racial Desegregation of the Concert Hall and Opera Stage after World War II
Samuel Parler - Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship
Doctoral Candidate, Music, Harvard University, Musical Racialism and Racial Nationalism in Commercial Country Music, 1915-1953

Brian Christopher Thompson recently published a critical edition of Calixa Lavallée’s solo piano music. Lavallée was born in Canada (and composed that country’s national anthem, O Canada) but spent the larger part of his career in the United States. He began his professional life as a minstrel show musician and went on to compose operettas, lead the Music Teachers’ National Association, and serve as music director at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross. This collection of Lavallée’s piano music is published by The Avondale Press. Of the sixteen pieces contained in it, nine were originally published in the US, four in Canada, and three in France. The pieces first appeared between 1859 and 1888 and illustrate the changing tastes in piano music of the mid-to-late nineteenth century.

The Newsletter of American Band History Research is going paperless. We can now be found at, and Articles based on primary research will be considered first. Articles based on secondary sources will also be considered for publication. Please send articles, news, events, stories, audio, photos, and video related to American band history to Thank you and we look forward to receiving your contributions! - Dianna Eiland, Founding Editor

Did you know that your Society can assist you in obtaining funding for American-music publishing projects? Here's a recent example. For some years now, Nym Cooke has been preparing a large anthology of shape-note music, American Harmony, for publication. (The book is now expected to roll off the presses of David R. Godine in Boston late next spring.) With 176 pieces in shape notation, 100 high-quality illustrations, and a ton of scholarly-edition text, American Harmony will be one of the most expensive books Godine has ever produced. So there was a real need for funds. Godine approached Furthermore Grants in Publication—“a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund [that] supports publication of nonfiction books that concern the arts, history, and the natural and built environment,” according to their website. Furthermore required any applicant to be sponsored by a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, which David R. Godine is not but the Society for American Music iss. So after some email correspondence with SAM Executive Director Mariana Whitmer and Present Charles Hiroshi Garrett, and assurance from Godine that they would take care of all the application paperwork, the case for American Harmony and a Furthermore grant with SAM's sponsorship was put to the Society's Board, and approved. Several months later, a happy outcome: Furthermore awarded American Harmony through its sponsor, the Society for American Music) the sum of $7,000!

Online Collection of Ozark Folk Music Celebrates One Year of Access This August marked one year since the University of Arkansas Libraries celebrated the formal opening of the digital Ozark Folksong Collection, honoring the legacy of the original collector, Mary Celestia Parler. The Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association selected the Ozark Folksong Collection for its 2016 Best Electronic Reference Site Award, recognizing the growth and importance of new academic formats that contribute significantly to the study of Popular and American Culture.

Mary Parler Tapes
Mary Parler Folk Music Tapes
The award was presented to Lora Lennertz, Director of Academic and Research Services at the University of Arkansas Libraries, at the PCA/ACA annual conference in Seattle in March. Lennertz began participating in the project while serving as Head of the Performing Arts and Media department. The Ozark Folksong Collection is the largest and most complete collection of traditional music and associated materials from Arkansas and the Ozarks in the nation. Lennertz directed the preservation and digitization project, providing unprecedented access to Parler’s original legwork. Between 1949 and 1965, Parler, along with her students and field assistant Merlin Mitchell, traveled across the Ozarks – from southern Missouri, into Arkansas, and across northeastern Oklahoma – to make the field recordings on reel-to-reel audio tapes. Researchers will find nearly 4500 audio recordings from over 700 performers, and approximately 4000 fully searchable transcriptions of the lyrics. The contents illustrate a rich diversity of cultures, economic classes, and occupations.

Lora Lennertz at the opening of the Ozark Folksong Collection last August, guiding a guest through a virtual tour of the collection.
Virtual tours were just one part of the daylong celebration that included live performances, lectures, and a panel discussion.

Items in the collection can be identified and retrieved through many access points, like the first line of the song or chorus, the name of a performer, the city, county, and state of a recording, the names of collectors and transcribers of a recording, plus genre, instrumentation, Library of Congress and Ethnographic Thesaurus subjects, and more. View a Short Takes video online, “Preserving Ozark Voices,” to hear more about the collection from Lennertz and Dr. Robert Cochran, director of the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies. And visit the June 2016 Choice “Ask an Archivist” feature, “Ozark Folksong Collection: A Conversation with Angela Fritz and Lora Lennertz” for an interview with Lennertz and Angela Fritz, Interim Head of the Special Collections department at the University of Arkansas Libraries where the physical collection is housed. The University of Arkansas Libraries encourages you to visit this award winning collection, get caught up in the recordings, and allow the past to come alive. Enjoy!

(Photos by Russell Cothren and Matt Reynolds, University Relations, University of Arkansas.)

Period Music Concert at Highland, Home of President James Monroe
Location: 2050 James Monroe Parkway | Charlottesville, VA 22902; held in the Event Barn

Sponsored by Highland and the Papers of George Washington, the program title is “Washington & Monroe & the Revolution.”  In 18th-century attire, David & Ginger Hildebrand will perform music appropriate to both presidents, upon harpsichord, Spanish and English guitars, violin, hammered dulcimer, and voices.  Spoken commentary will put each selection into historical context in this anniversary year, 2016 being the 200th anniversary of Monroe's election.

This is the culminating event within a day-long series of speakers and other activities, entitled “George Washington & James Monroe: A Friendship Forged in War, A Nation Formed in Difference.” The overall schedule is being finalized. For details regarding reservations and ticket info please visit

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Remembering Samuel A. Floyd, Jr. (1937-2016)

Samuel A. Floyd, Jr.
Samuel A. Floyd, Jr.
The academic study of African American music lost a strong and resourceful leader with the death of Samuel A. Floyd, Jr., who with uncommon vision founded and directed the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College in Chicago (CBMR). Through CBMR, Floyd conceived of scholarship as a multi-dimensional activity. He built an archive of primary sources about African American music, issued a newsletter and journals (CBMR Digest, Black Music Research Journal, and, in the 1990s, Lenox Avenue: A Journal of Interarts Inquiry), published the CBMR Monograph Series, edited a book series at the University of California Press (“Music of the African Diaspora”), offered professional development workshops for public school teachers, hosted research fellowships, and founded performance ensembles. At one point CBMR sponsored Ensemble Kalinda Chicago, Ensemble Stop-Time, and the Black Music Repertory Ensemble; subsequently, there was the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble.

Floyd’s agenda was ambitious, and it was beautifully realized. In tandem with his entrepreneurial talent, Floyd was also an influential scholar. Some of his titles, such as International Dictionary of Black Composers (London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1999), delivered fundamental information for a relatively new field of study. Others, notably The Power of Black Music: Interpreting its History from Africa to the United States (Oxford University Press, 1995), devised a theoretical framework for exploring African American traditions. Building on The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Floyd sought an interpretative stance for black music that was in harmony with black culture, and he had the courage to take intellectual risks. In many ways his goal was integrationist, aiming to articulate the essence of an aesthetic that grew out of a multi-racial heritage, with roots in Africa and cultivation in a mixed-race culture. In The Power of Black Music, he gave special consideration to black composers of concert music, including T. J. Anderson, Adolphus Hailstork, Talib Rasul Hakim, Alvin Singleton, Hale Smith, and William Grant Still. “I have tried to debunk the kind of thinking,” Floyd wrote in the book’s conclusion, “that denies high-culture value to African-American concert-hall music and seeks to deny blacks the fact of the capacity to excel in the high-culture arena.”

Courtly, with a delicious sense of humor, Sam Floyd also spoke out forcefully about racial issues in the academy, arguing that black scholars and black music deserved a place within the European-dominated field of historical musicology. To put it another way: Floyd aimed to secure a seat at the High Table for African Americans and their music. Emerging as a young musician in a racially segregated Florida during the late 1950s and 1960s, Floyd’s own career unfolded in real time alongside the Civil Rights Movement, paralleling the rise of African American Studies in U.S. universities. Floyd’s generation was on the front lines in confronting historic exclusions in American higher education. Earning a bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee – a preeminent historically black college – Floyd began his career as a band director, becoming a leading scholar of black bandsmen such as Frank Johnson and Alton Augustus Adams, Sr. When he earned a Ph.D., Floyd turned to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, with its strong history of admitting black students. He went on to teach at Fisk University, where he founded the Institute for Research in Black American Music. Then in 1983, he and his institute moved to Columbia College Chicago, where he started CBMR. Further details about his career appear in a loving obituary by former CBMR colleagues, including Suzanne Flandreau, Morris Phibbs, and Rosita Sands.

In 1990, Floyd published a call to arms in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and his words continue to resonate. Titled “The Failure of Academic Institutions to Nurture Black Musical Talent Is Shameful,” he confronted the whiteness of scholarship in music. CBMR was then keeping track of black scholars, and the numbers were dismal. “We have discovered fewer than 10 active black musicologists in all of American higher education and only five Afro-American music librarians,” he reported with dismay. Floyd attributed this state of affairs to the long-term impact of racial segregation. He wrote frankly of an entrenched European bias in music departments and about “the well-meaning” but stereotyped “assumptions of some professors who approached all black students as if they were ‘underprivileged’ or ‘culturally disadvantaged.’” Floyd described an academic environment in which “courses on European concert music predominate,” often making students and faculty of color feel like outsiders. “The academic establishment’s ignorance of the music of black Americans and its refusal to embrace and accommodate such knowledge,” Floyd wrote, “was seen as—and did constitute, in my opinion—hostility to black musical values and to the black presence in academe.”

Thanks to Floyd’s courageous leadership, the racial integration of music scholarship has come a long way since 1990. Yet the drive to diversify curricula, faculty, and graduate-student populations continues to demand steady vigilance and fervent advocacy. Policy revisions are most often implemented campus–by–campus, requiring grassroots activism from us all. Doing so will offer a living memorial to the ecumenical dreams of Sam A. Floyd, Jr., who deserves to be recognized as one of the great figures in the history of American musicology.

Carol J. Oja

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The Bulletin of the Society for American Music

The Bulletin is published in the Winter (January), Spring (May), and Fall (September) by the Society for American Music. Copyright 2016 by the Society for American Music, ISSN 0196-7967.

Editorial Board
Editor: Elizabeth Ann Lindau (
Reviews Editor: Esther Morgan-Ellis (
Media Editor: Elizabeth Ozment (
Design and Layout: John McCluskey (

Items for submission should be submitted to Elizabeth Ann Lindau 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.

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Awards, Fellowships, and Subventions of the Society

Further information is available at the website ( or by contacting the SAM office (

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.

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.

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.

Paul Charosh Independent Scholar Fellowship
The Paul Charosh Independent Scholar Fellowship is intended to foster research by independent scholars, and to encourage their participation in Society conferences. For purposes of this award, an “independent scholar” is someone who does not teach at an institution of higher learning, or who does so with a non-renewable contract of one year or less.

John and Roberta Graziano Fellowship
This fellowship shall be given to support scholarly research in all genres of music that originated in the United States in the nineteenth century, as well as other music performed in North America during that historical period.

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.

Judith McCulloh Fellowship
The fellowship is given annually to support a short-term research residency at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Awarded competitively to scholars at any phase of their careers, the fellowship may be used to support expenses associated with the residency, such as travel expenses, lodging, and duplication expenses at the center.

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.

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.

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