New Approaches to Music and Sound
Guest Editors: David Suisman and Rebecca Tinio McKenna
If new book series and journal special issues are any indication, over the last decade, there has been a surge of interest in the musical and sonic worlds of the past. Scholars of music, sound studies, disability studies, transnational and postcolonial studies, cultural history, history of the senses, and others have been expanding our historical understanding of soundscapes, music cultures, aurality, acoustics, and other aspects of the work sound does in the world. New scholarship is connecting music and sound with politics and social movements, capitalism and commerce, the formation of racial, gender, and class identity and difference, the history of technology and of natural environments, and more.
For historians of music and sound in the U.S. context, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era is an especially important period. The years between 1865 and 1920 saw a great transformation in how Americans experienced music and in the very sounds that populated and punctuated their lives. Tin Pan Alley tunes came to be composed, plugged, and circulated widely, signaling the intensified commercialization of music. Phonographs and player-pianos emitted mechanically reproduced sound, challenging the piano’s parlor empire. Venues for listening and making music ranged from settings for bourgeois music like Carnegie Hall (founded in 1891) to vaudeville theaters and nickelodeons, saloons, churches, and front porches. New soundscapes emerged, defined by railroad whistles, automobiles, assembly lines, sewing machines, department store music counters, and increasingly polyglot voices in American cities and well beyond. These circumstances conditioned the expression of new sounds heard in ragtime, jazz, and what would become known as “old-time” or “hillbilly” music.
This special issue of The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, co-edited by David Suisman (University of Delaware) and Rebecca Tinio McKenna (University of Notre Dame) seeks to present new research on the history of music and sound from 1865 to 1920 and stimulate discussion about what attention to music and sound can illuminate about turn-of-the-century U.S. history. Proposals might concern changes in musical composition or performance practices; the political economy of music; material, environment, or ecological approaches to music or sound; noise abatement and attempts to regulate or police sound; organology; music education; deafness and disability; the “sonic color line”; music in U.S. diplomatic or imperial history; acoustics and the measurement of sound; and music and sound in religious experience. These and other topics may address problems of identity and social belonging, power and control, the economy and environment, among others.
We hope that this special issue will generate conversations that invigorate discussions of music and sound in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. Please send article abstracts (300 words or less) and short 2-page CVs to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 18, 2020.