ICYMI: Sally Sommers Smith Wells, “Blurring Categories: Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize”

Remember when the biggest breaking news was about Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature, not tweets? Dylan’s award was, as Sally Sommers Smith Wells tells us in the most recent TAL essay, “one of the biggest news stories of 2016.” It seemed at the time that all of my music scholar and journalist friends facebooked, tweeted, or blogged about the award; they all had opinions! So why was this such a newsworthy story?

Here’s a teaser from Sally’s essay:

“Some critics focused on the meaning of literature in the wake of this award. Others were far more concerned about whether one could separate an artist’s lyrics from themusic that presents them. The award—and the debate over whether Dylan’s lyrics could be considered poetry—prompted heated discussions about the nature of art and celebrity and served as the centerpiece for an amusing short story in The New Yorker.  Although Dylan did not attend the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm in early December, he ultimately acknowledged the award with a ‘warm, humble’ acceptance statement that alluded to the ongoing philosophical conversation that the Swedish Academy’s decision had inspired, without providing any answers on the subject.”

This essay digs into big issues, such as the problematic cultural prestige of “art” music and the relationship between words and music in song. And, of course, there’s plenty about Dylan’s craft. Fans of Dylan’s music (and lyrics) won’t want to miss this essay. Read the entire essay here.

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

 

New at The Avid Listener: Linda Shaver-Gleason, “Beethoven’s Deafness and the Myth of the Isolated Artist”

I’m a little behind in my blogging, but I want to make sure I draw your attention to our most recent post at The Avid Listener, Linda Shaver-Gleason’s essay about the perennial question: Beethoven was deaf, so how did he compose? In line with her excellent blog, Not Another Music History Cliché, Linda starts with a cliché, something we accept as true but is, in fact, more complicated. (In this era of #AlternativeFacts, we need people like Linda who dig deeper.)

Here’s a teaser:

“Beethoven’s deafness has captivated audiences since knowledge about his condition became public. The composer himself was aware of the irony. In an 1802 letter to his brothers, referred to by historians as the Heiligenstadt Testament, the composer lamented, “Ah, how could I possibly admit such an infirmity in the one sense which should have been more perfect in me than in others, a sense which I once possessed in highest perfection, a perfection such as few surely in my profession enjoy or have enjoyed!” Beethoven’s disability forms a large part of our concept of him as the quintessential Romantic Hero, as it is a tragic flaw he must overcome to produce his great Art.”

You can read the entire essay here. Note also how nicely this essay intersects with a previous essay, “Deaf-Blindness and the Avid Musical Touch of Helen Keller,” by Stefan Sunandan Honisch. We’re working on a line up of new essays to last you throughout the spring, so stay tuned!

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

This week on The Avid Listener: Joanna Smolko, “Hard Times Come Again No More”: Springsteen’s Vision of Community

music_girl  This week at The Avid Listener, for our final feature essay of 2016, we bring you the 4th installment of Joanna Smolko’s series about Bruce Springsteen. For this essay, Joanna explores Springsteen’s performance history of the Stephen Foster song “Hard Times Come Again No More” and what the song has symbolized in Springsteen’s career. Here’s a teaser:

“As Bruce Springsteen’s career unfolded, he became increasingly overt about his political framework and his belief that music can be a powerful means both for illuminating issues of social injustice and for bringing people together in community.  Springsteen mined the rich lodes of traditional American music in his 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (2006). Here, he found a treasure trove: traditional songs that glimmered and shone as he gave them roots—rock inspired settings and elements that could also be forged and shaped into new works. Following this album, he continued to explore the ways that traditional songs could be melded together with rock and roll. Springsteen’s performance of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” was part of his 2009 Working on a Dream tour, and his subsequent reworking of the lyrics in new songs shows his process of adaptation. In particular, “Hard Times” can be read as a song of mourning in the aftermath of the “Great Recession” of 2007-2009 and a call to respond with community-based activism and cooperation.”

Read the entire essay here. If you are a Springsteen fan, you won’t want to miss the fabulous videos embedded in this essay, as well as in in Joanna’s three previous essays. (If you missed them, here are links to essay 1, essay 2, and essay 3.)

We’ll be back in the New Year with more feature essay. If you enjoy The Avid Listener, consider submitting an essay for publication consideration. We don’t exist without our authors, and we have lots of open slots on our spring calendar.

 

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

 

IASPM-US elections are upon us! (Deadline: Dec. 9)

iaspm-us_logoFINAL_300dpiFor all IASPM members, present and past (within the past 5 years): please, Please, PLEASE vote in our officer election! We need your input! You can find information about the candidates here. If you haven’t received your ballot, you will need to fill out the membership survey to make sure we have your best contact information.

Voting is easy (we don’t even require photo ID) and takes just a few minutes. You can vote in your pajamas. You can vote by computer, tablet, or phone. There are no grumpy poll workers to fend off, no lines, and no waiting.

VOTE!

 

This week on The Avid Listener: Ann van Allen-Russell, “‘Stop Copying My Music!’: The Emergence of Musical Copyright in England”

Do you ever stop to think about how our modern copyright laws came about? Did you know that music was at the heart of some of the earliest copyright cases? This week, Ann van Allen-Russell gives us a peek into key 18th-century court cases involving the music of Johann Christian Bach. You might be surprised at the twists and turns involved in protecting one’s musical creations!

Here’s a teaser:

“Make up a tune. You can hum it, whistle it, play on an instrument—anything you like. It’s your own tune after all. Or is it? Can you own something that doesn’t physically exist? And could you stop someone from stealing it? In modern times, a whole body of law exists around musical copyright, which protects musicians from having their intellectual property used without permission. However, such protection did not always exist. In fact, the modern-day concept of musical copyright can be traced back to mid-eighteenth century England, when Johann Christian Bach—the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach—started a lawsuit to stop a minor theft. Unbeknownst to him, it would end up changing the way we think about music.”

Read the entire essay here. And for our stalwart TAL fans, we offer this November / December digest, which includes links to all past essays, too. We’ll be back with 1 more essay in two weeks before going on December hiatus.

The Avid Listener: Listen. Write. Discuss. Repeat.

IASPM-US elections: COMING SOON!

iaspm-us_logoFINAL_300dpi

IASPM-US members, past and present, I’m passing on this message from Eric Weisbard, chair of our nominating committee:

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Dear IASPM-US members past and present,

We are due to hold elections for President, Vice President, and three Executive Committee open seats. But we face a challenge: the need to reassemble a true membership list. So please, if you are now an IASPM member, or have been over the past five years, please take a minute ASAP to fill out this survey (click the embedded link, or copy and paste into your browser: https://ung.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_0x18hAbMWcfVoNv), even if you think we have your contact information. (Note: the survey is hosted at the University of North Georgia because that is the home institution of IASPM-US’s Secretary, Esther Morgan-Ellis.) You have until November 28 to complete the survey and make sure that your name is on the list of people who will receive the ballot. Ballots will be sent on December 1.

Here are the nominating statements from those running for office. To see their CVs, please go here.

Thanks very much,
Eric Weisbard

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Full bios of all candidates are available on the Society’s website.
Chair, Nominating Committee