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SIBE - Sociedad de Etnomusicología

Crosstown Traffic: Popular Music Theory and Practice' University of Huddersfield, UK 3rd-5th September 2018

Call for Panel Contributions:

Listening Again to Popular Music as History


Conveners: Nicholas Gebhardt and Paul Long

Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research

Birmingham City University


Papers are invited for a panel that aims to listen again and to (re) consider the relationship of popular music and historical method.

Jeffrey H. Jackson and Stanley C. Pelkey open their collection, Music and History (subtitle ‘Bridging the Disciplines’, 2005) by asking: ‘Why haven’t historians and musicologists been talking to one another?’  They suggest that at the heart of this absence is a problem of communication, concerning the distinct method, knowledge and skills employed in both disciplines: does one need to be able to read, play or even ‘appreciate’ music for instance in order to make sense of it historically? On the other hand, musicology appears to lack a historical sensibility. This perspective is one in which aesthetic objects are afforded transcendence, or are believed to be independent of, their socio-cultural contexts, resulting on the fact that ‘musicologists have often been less interested in music history-as-history than in music history-as-canon formation.’ 

This is not to suggest however that music has been entirely absent from historical research (nor does it need only musicologists to engage with it), particularly as it pertains to popular forms. As discussed by Michael J Kramer in Jackson and Pelkey’s collection, scholars like Sheila Whiteley and Nick Bromell who have studied rock in the context of the 1960s go far beyond simply treating the music as if its sole purpose was to be the background for socially conscious lyrics’ to consider how records and performance mattered as sounds.

In our current work, we’ve been exploring the range of practices concerned with history, heritage and memory in music cultures. We seek to understand what kind of ideas about the past they express and how they might expand our understanding of pop as source for historical understanding – about music and a wider cultural and social world. In particular, we are interested in placing music qua music at the centre of our investigation, exploring the manner in which sounds – and the forms by which they come to us - might be understood as historical sources.

For this panel then, we are particularly interested in papers reflecting on historiographical questions and issues of method around popular music as historical source rather than empirical case studies.

By way of suggestion (but not limited by), papers might cover:

  • Popular music as historical source
  • Time, duration and popular music
  • The materiality of popular music sounds and artefacts
  • Mentalités of modernity and popular music
  • Retrieving historical acts of hearing and listening/historicizing hearing and listening
  • The function of popular music as historical referent
  • Understanding the historical moment(s) of popular music as music
  • Beyond popular music as soundtrack
  • Archival sound
  • Writing histories with music, recordings and performance.
  • Locating music in other historiographies 
 Submissions should be sent FAO: & no later than 31 December 2017 (IASPM deadline is 1 February 2018): include your name, a subject title, abstract (no more than 250 words), 3-5 keywords, institutional affiliation, email address and mobile phone number.

NB: We aim to collect papers for a journal special edition and so if you do not intend to submit a paper to IASPM, ideas and abstracts on the themes set out above are still welcome for further discussion and exchange.

Send on behalf of 
Paul Long, Professor of Media and Cultural History