In this generous collection of book reviews and literary essays, legendary Village Voice rock critic Robert Christgau showcases the passion that made him a critic—his love for the written word. Many selections address music, from blackface minstrelsy to punk and hip-hop, artists from Lead Belly to Patti Smith, and fellow critics from Ellen Willis and Lester Bangs to Nelson George and Jessica Hopper. But Book Reports also teases out the popular in the Bible and 1984 as well as pornography and science fiction, and analyzes at length the cultural theory of Raymond Williams, the detective novels of Walter Mosley, the history of bohemia, and the 2008 financial crisis. It establishes Christgau as not just the Dean of American Rock Critics, but one of America's most insightful cultural critics as well.
Deconstructive Variations was first published in 1995. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
Unique in its focus and its interdisciplinary reach, Rose Rosengard Subotnik's work is among the most original and challenging being done in American musicology. Her concerns are both formal and sociological, firmly linking music to social and cultural context and breaking down the barriers between music and life.
Deconstructive Variations is a sequel to Subotnik's previous collection, Developing Variations. It expands and continues her achievement-the promotion of humanistic criticism as a significant activity in music scholarship and the portrayal of Western art music in relation to the social structures and cultural values of the society that created it.
Bringing to her subject a vast range of philosophical, artistic, and historical knowledge, Subotnik applies the insights of Kant, Adorno, Bakhtin, and Derrida to major works of Mozart and Chopin. Each of these essays functions as an argument between two views: for and against the ideal of structural listening; Enlightenment and Romantic readings of The Magic Flute; high-modernist and postmodernist readings of Chopin's A-Major Prelude; and conceptions of reason put forward by Allan Bloom and Spike Lee.
Rose Rosengard Subotnik is professor emerita in the department of music at Brown University, and is the author of Developing Variations: Style and Ideology in Western Music (Minnesota, 1991).
Roots rock, Americana, alt country: what are they and why do they matter? Americans have been trying to answer these questions for as long as the music bearing these labels has existed. Music can function as an escape from the outside world or as an explanation of that world. Listeners who identify with the music’s message may shape their social understandings accordingly. Rock critics like Greil Marcus and Peter Guralnick, the titans of rock criticism, tap this fluid dichotomy, considering the personal appeal of roots music alongside national ideals of democracy and selfhood. So too do many other critics, novelists, and fans, explaining to themselves and us how music forms our selves and the communities we seek out and build up.
In It’s Just the Normal Noises, Timothy Gray examines a wide array of writing about roots music from the 1960s to the 2000s. In addition to chapters on the genre-defining work of Guralnick and Marcus, he explores the influential writings of Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock, the editors of No Depression magazine, and the writers who contributed to its pages, Bill Friskicks-Warren, Ed Ward, David Cantwell, and Allison Stewart among them. A host of memoirists and novelists, from Patti Smith and Ann Powers to Eleanor Henderson and Dana Spiotta, shed light on the social effects and personal attachments of the music’s many manifestations, from punk to alt country to hardcore. The ambivalent attitudes of rock musicians toward success and failure, the meaning of soul, the formation of alternative communities through magazine readership, and the obsession of Generation X scenes with DIY production values wend through these works.
Taking a personal approach to the subject matter, Gray reads criticism and listens to music as though rock ‘n’ roll not only explains American culture, but also shores up his life. This book is for everyone who’s heard in roots rock the sound of an individual and a nation singing themselves into being.
An award-winning Black feminist music critic takes us on an epic journey through radical sound from Bessie Smith to Beyoncé.
Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a century of music archives to examine the critics, collectors, and listeners who have determined perceptions of Black women on stage and in the recording studio. How is it possible, she asks, that iconic artists such as Aretha Franklin and Beyoncé exist simultaneously at the center and on the fringe of the culture industry?
Liner Notes for the Revolution offers a startling new perspective on these acclaimed figures—a perspective informed by the overlooked contributions of other Black women concerned with the work of their musical peers. Zora Neale Hurston appears as a sound archivist and a performer, Lorraine Hansberry as a queer Black feminist critic of modern culture, and Pauline Hopkins as America’s first Black female cultural commentator. Brooks tackles the complicated racial politics of blues music recording, song collecting, and rock and roll criticism. She makes lyrical forays into the blues pioneers Bessie Smith and Mamie Smith, as well as fans who became critics, like the record-label entrepreneur and writer Rosetta Reitz. In the twenty-first century, pop superstar Janelle Monae’s liner notes are recognized for their innovations, while celebrated singers Cécile McLorin Salvant, Rhiannon Giddens, and Valerie June take their place as cultural historians.
With an innovative perspective on the story of Black women in popular music—and who should rightly tell it—Liner Notes for the Revolution pioneers a long overdue recognition and celebration of Black women musicians as radical intellectuals.
From bell ringing to fireworks, gongs to cannon salutes, a dazzling variety of sounds and soundscapes marked the China encountered by the West around 1800. These sounds were gathered by diplomats, trade officials, missionaries, and other travelers and transmitted back to Europe, where they were reconstructed in the imaginations of writers, philosophers, and music historians such as Jean-Philippe Rameau, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, and Charles Burney. Thomas Irvine gathers these stories in Listening to China, exploring how the sonic encounter with China shaped perceptions of Europe’s own musical development.
Through these stories, Irvine not only investigates how the Sino-Western encounter sounded, but also traces the West’s shifting response to China. As the trading relationships between China and the West broke down, travelers and music theorists abandoned the vision of shared musical approaches, focusing instead on China’s noisiness and sonic disorder and finding less to like in its music. At the same time, Irvine reconsiders the idea of a specifically Western music history, revealing that it was comparison with China, the great “other,” that helped this idea emerge. Ultimately, Irvine draws attention to the ways Western ears were implicated in the colonial and imperial project in China, as well as to China’s importance to the construction of musical knowledge during and after the European Enlightenment. Timely and original, Listening to China is a must-read for music scholars and historians of China alike.
Rolling Stone, Creem, the Village Voice, SPIN, Billboard, Stereogum, Pitchfork. How did the music journalists who write for these popular publications break into the business? How have they honed their writing and interviewing techniques? How have they managed to thrive amid major changes in the industry, as print magazines have declined and digital publications have emerged? What does it take to turn a love of music into a professional writing career?
Bringing together interviews from an impressive roster of over fifty music writers, Mike Hilleary offers up an engaging and wide-reaching examination of the past and potential future of music journalism. This accessible oral history contains professional insights into journalists' craft and purpose, practical advice, and essential life lessons from a diverse cast of music writers—ranging from long-respected veterans of the field such as Rob Sheffield, Jessica Hopper, Ann Powers, and Chuck Klosterman to must-read modern voices including Amanda Petrusich, Hanif Abdurraqib, Lindsay Zoladz, and Jayson Greene. Honest and absorbing, On the Record will educate and enlighten anyone who wants to write about music, or anyone who wants a better understanding about those who do.
Pop Music And The Press
Steve Jones Temple University Press, 2002 Library of Congress ML3880.P67 2002 | Dewey Decimal 781.6409
Since the 1950s, writing about popular music has become a staple of popular culture. Rolling Stone, Vibe, and The Source as well as music columns in major newspapers target consumers who take their music seriously. Rapidly proliferating fanzines, websites, and internet discussion groups enable virtually anyone to engage in popular music criticism. Until now, however, no one has tackled popular music criticism as a genre of journalism with a particular history and evolution.Pop Music and the Press looks at the major publications and journalists who have shaped this criticism, influencing the public's ideas about the music's significance and quality. The contributors to the volume include academics and journalists; several wear both hats, and some are musicians as well. Their essays illuminate the complex relationships of the music industry, print media, critical practice, and rock culture. (And they repeatedly dispel the notion that being a journalist is the next best thing to being a rock star.)
During the mid-1960s, a small group of young journalists made it their mission to write about popular music, especially rock, as something worthy of serious intellectual scrutiny. Their efforts not only transformed the perspective on the era's music but revolutionized how Americans have come to think, talk, and write about popular music ever since.
In Writing the Record, Devon Powers explores this shift by focusing on The Village Voice, a key publication in the rise of rock criticism. Revisiting the work of early pop critics such as Richard Goldstein and Robert Christgau, Powers shows how they stood at the front lines of the mass culture debates, challenging old assumptions and hierarchies and offering pioneering political and social critiques of the music. Part of a college-educated generation of journalists, Voice critics explored connections between rock and contemporary intellectual trends such as postmodernism, identity politics, and critical theory. In so doing, they became important forerunners of the academic study of popular culture that would emerge during the 1970s.
Drawing on archival materials, interviews, and insights from media and cultural studies, Powers not only narrates a story that has been long overlooked but also argues that pop music criticism has been an important channel for the expression of public intellectualism. This is a history that is particularly relevant today, given the challenges faced by criticism of all stripes in our current media environment. Powers makes the case for the value of well-informed cultural criticism in an age when it is often suggested that "everyone is a critic."