Comments on IASPM 2011 conference by Bruce Johnson

During the closing plenary session at IASPM 2011 International conference, six speakers from as many continents were asked to present their summarising comments on the conference. These are Bruce Johnson’s reflections for Australasia.

First, I want once again to thank and congratulate the conference organisers for the logistical triumph they have achieved in getting us all to this relatively inaccessible destination, for looking after us so well and so cheerfully, and for organising not just the conference, but some really memorable excursions. Continue reading

Popular Music Essay Competition

Entrants are invited for the new Popular Music Essay Competition.

Entrants should address the following theme:

Questioning popular music orthodoxies

Essays may engage with any established popular music orthodoxy (whether the assumptions of critics and scholars or the habits of music makers and their audiences). Essays should provoke debate about the established practice and study of popular music, and may propose new approaches and practices.

Popular Music

The winning essay will be published in Popular Music and the winner will receive £500.

The essay should be no longer than 3000 words and must be in the Popular Music house style (see the Popular Music website for details).

It should be submitted by September 15th 2011 to the Popular Music Editorial Group at: PMEssayCompetition@gmail.com

The essays will be judged by the Editorial Group and the International Advisory Board of Popular Music.

Simona Frasca (2001) Birds of passage. I musicisti napoletani a New York

Simona Frasca
Birds of passage. I musicisti napoletani a New York (1895-1940)

(Lucca: LIM 2010; language: Italian)
Review by Giovanni Vacca
Birds of Passage
There is no doubt that Neapolitan Song has been a central genre in the development of what we now call ‘Popular Music’: probably no other urban song has achieved such a world-wide notoriety and certainly Neapolitan Song helped to expand the myth and the appeal of the city of Naples itself pretty much everywhere. How many among us, though, know about that ‘branch’ of Neapolitan Song that happened to find its way up in the United States since the beginning of the 20th century? Continue reading

Bethany Klein (2009) As Heard on TV: Popular Music in Advertising

Bethany Klein
As Heard on TV: Popular Music in Advertising

(Aldershot: Ashgate 2009)
Review by Francesco D’Amato
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The complex whole of ties between music and TV ads has been recently pushed to the foreground by the changes in the music production/commercialization system and correlated shifts from B2C to B2B business models. However it represents a relevant topic also for discourses about music circulation, changes in musical experience and how such processes join the aesthetization of daily life. Continue reading

Stan Hawkins (2009) The British Pop Dandy

Stan Hawkins
The British Pop Dandy: Masculinity, Popular Music and Culture

(Aldershot: Ashgate 2009)
Review by Nathan Wiseman-Trowse

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In 1999 the British pop band The Divine Comedy released one of their most successful singles ‘National Express’. Secreted away as a B-side on the second CD single was a wonderfully wry and affectionate Noël Coward pastiche ‘Overstrand’. ‘Overstrand’ told the story of a Londonite coveting a well-to-do address in the metropolis to such an extent that he is willing to pimp himself to a ‘dirty old man’, murder a young woman in the Thames or even write for the Evening Standard in order to get his ideal, bourgeois home. Neil Hannon’s clever take on Coward marks out a clear link not only to a tradition of British comedy songs that have their roots in music hall, but he also connects himself, if somewhat archly, with a dandified persona that manifests itself throughout British popular culture, and British popular music specifically. Continue reading

Gerd Bayer (2009) Heavy Metal Music in Britain

Gerd Bayer
Heavy Metal Music in Britain

(Surrey: Ashgate 2009)
Review by Michelle Phillipov

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Heavy metal is one of popular music’s most enduring and commercially successful genres. Emerging in the late 1960s, metal has since undergone numerous transformations, from massive arena spectacles to obscure underground subgenres. Despite its longevity and sustained popularity over the past four decades, metal has enjoyed only limited scholarly attention. It was not until the early 1990s — over 20 years after the genre’s inception — that a significant body of scholarship began to emerge. But even then, the critical literature on metal has remained noticeably less than for other major musical genres and, significantly, it has also remained noticeably less favourable. Metal has been too often dismissed as conservative and reactionary; its apparent substitution of escapism for political commitment has contributed to a dominant stereotype of the genre as less empowering, less culturally significant and less worthy of study than other more straightforwardly ‘progressive’ alternatives. Continue reading

Sean Stroud (2008) The Defence of Tradition in Brazilian Popular Music

Sean Stroud
The Defence of Tradition in Brazilian Popular Music

(Hampshire: Ashgate, 2008)
Review by Alvaro Neder
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Stroud’s study “examines how notions of what constitutes Brazilian popular music have been constructed over a period of forty years or so since the mid 1960s” (p. 1). Under the “distinct impression” that “the influence of an essentially conservative group of writers and journalists . . . continues to exert a particular influence on public perceptions of a tradition of national popular music” (ibid.), the author aims to consider the role of these and other actors (the record industry, the broadcasting industry, the state, academics and individual researchers) who have shaped current notions of what is understood as Brazilian popular music, and what isn’t. One of his primary intentions is “to identify the influence of those actors in delineating the parameters of Brazilian popular music, and more particularly the construction of a tradition within the wider sphere of popular music as a whole, that is, Música Popular Brasileira (MPB), the socio/cultural/musical movement that has dominated the artistic scene in Brazil since the mid 1960s” (pp.1-2). Continue reading

Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence

Bruce Johnson and Martin Cloonan
Dark Side of the Tune: Popular Music and Violence

(Adlershot: Ashgate 2008)
Review by Carlo Nardi
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In his book The ragas of North India, Walter Kaufmann reports a conversation he had in 1934 with an eminent classical musician in then Bombay. On the basis that a rāga performed at a wrong time is inauspicious, the old man expressed his sense of frustration in these terms: “Do you know that you people in the West will soon experience a most terrible disaster? And do you know why? […] Because you people in the West abuse music and perform it at wrong times and occasions! You play funeral marches and sing dirges when there is no funeral and no cause for sadness, you sing love songs and spring songs when there is neither love nor spring, you play nocturnes during the day, wedding music when there is no wedding. How long – he roared – will the universe tolerate this abuse of music, music, mind you, a most sacred thing?” (Kaufmann 1968, p. 18). Continue reading