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.