Story/Time’s Bill T. Jones to Receive a 2013 National Medal of Arts

Bill T. JonesWhat an incredible accomplishment – Princeton University Press Story/Time author Bill T. Jones is to be honored with a 2013 National Medal of Arts for his “contributions as a dancer and choreographer” and for his “provocative performances that blend an eclectic mix of modern and traditional dance” which “challenge us to confront tough subjects and inspire us to greater heights.”

The National Medal of Arts is “the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals or groups who are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support, and availability of the arts in the United States.”

President Barack Obama will present the National Medals of Arts in conjunction with the National Humanities Medals on Monday, July 28, 2014, at 3:00 p.m. ET, in an East Room ceremony at the White House. You can watch the event live, here.

This is a truly momentous day for Mr. Jones, and we at the Princeton University Press are thrilled to have the privilege of publishing his book.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bill T. Jones is the author of:

7-23 StoryTime Story/Time: The Life of an Idea by Bill T. Jones
Hardcover | September 2014 | $24.95 / £16.95 | ISBN: 9780691162706 | 104 pp. | 10 x 7 1/2 |eBook | ISBN: 9781400851881 | Reviews  Table of Contents  Preface[PDF]

Q&A with Damon Phillips, Author of “Shaping Jazz”

Damon Phillips, author of Shaping Jazz: Cities, Labels, and the Global Emergence of an Art Form, recently sat down with Princeton University Press’ Eric Schwartz to discuss his new book and some of the topics it covers.

There are over a million jazz recordings, but only a few hundred tunes have been recorded repeatedly. Why did a minority of songs become jazz standards? Why do some songs–and not others–get rerecorded by many musicians? Shaping Jazz answers this question and more, exploring the underappreciated yet crucial roles played by initial production and markets–in particular, organizations and geography–in the development of early twentieth-century jazz.

Damon Phillips considers why places like New York played more important roles as engines of diffusion than as the sources of standards. He demonstrates why and when certain geographical references in tune and group titles were considered more desirable. He also explains why a place like Berlin, which produced jazz abundantly from the 1920s to early 1930s, is now on jazz’s historical sidelines. Phillips shows the key influences of firms in the recording industry, including how record companies and their executives affected what music was recorded, and why major companies would rerelease recordings under artistic pseudonyms. He indicates how a recording’s appeal was related to the narrative around its creation, and how the identities of its firm and musicians influenced the tune’s long-run popularity.

Applying fascinating ideas about market emergence to a music’s commercialization, Shaping Jazz offers a unique look at the origins of a groundbreaking art form.

Damon J. Phillips is the James P. Gorman Professor of Business Strategy at Columbia University and a faculty affiliate of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies and the Center for Organizational Innovation.

String Theory On a Whole New Level

When Steven S. Gubser wrote The Little Book of String Theory, he probably never imagined anything like what this guy came up with: a cover of Queen’s infamous “Bohemian Rhapsody” that explains the complicated mysteries of string theory.

Perhaps I should repeat that.

Timothy Blais, a graduate student at McGill University, submitted a YouTube video along with his thesis paper. This video was a homemade cover of Bohemian Rhapsody with altered lyrics to talk about string theory, a highly debated theory in theoretical physics.

With lyrics like:

“Is string theory right?
Is it just fantasy?
Caught in the landscape,
Out of touch with reality
Compactified
On S5 or T*S3″

The Little Book of String TheoryBlais’ song might be a bit of a struggle to fully understand, which is why we’re suggesting you might want to read The Little Book of String Theory, which offers a short, accessible, and entertaining introduction to one of the most talked-about areas of physics today. String theory has been called the “theory of everything.” It seeks to describe all the fundamental forces of nature. It encompasses gravity and quantum mechanics in one unifying theory. But it is unproven and fraught with controversy. After reading this book, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions about string theory.

Whether you’re pro string theory, or you’re just trying to tie your shoelaces, check out this incredibly unique take on quantum physics:

Why You Hear What You Hear

Why You Hear What You Hear by Eric J. Heller Why You Hear What You Hear . . . has much to interest physicists and physics students. . . . This book contains a lot of physical insight, and I think it will be the rare acoustician who does not enjoy reading it. I particularly liked the use of color coding to introduce (with a minimum of math) a graphical algorithm to represent autocorrelation. Also interesting are the author’s diversions into history, including a story in which John William Strutt (Lord Rayleigh) and William Henry Bragg seem to have been mistaken about an echo transposed in pitch. . . . Acousticians will enjoy its interesting perspectives, and physicists and engineers outside of acoustics will find it an attractive introduction to some important parts of the discipline.”–Joe Wolfe, Physics Today

Why You Hear What You Hear:
An Experiential Approach to Sound, Music, and Psychoacoustics
by Eric J. Heller

Why You Hear What You Hear is the first book on the physics of sound for the nonspecialist to empower readers with a hands-on, ears-open approach that includes production, analysis, and perception of sound. The book makes possible a deep intuitive understanding of many aspects of sound, as opposed to the usual approach of mere description. This goal is aided by hundreds of original illustrations and examples, many of which the reader can reproduce and adjust using the same tools used by the author.

  • The first book on sound to offer interactive tools, building conceptual understanding via an experiential approach
  • Supplementary website (http://www.whyyouhearwhatyouhear.com) will provide Java, MAX, and other free, multiplatform, interactive graphical and sound applets
  • Extensive selection of original exercises available on the web with solutions
  • Nearly 400 full-color illustrations, many of simulations that students can do

Endorsements

Watch Prof. Eric Heller during “Alex Dalgarno Celebratory Symposium”, held at The Institute for Theoretical, Atomic and Molecular and Optical Physics (ITAMP), Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CFA), Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Table of Contents

Web resource for the book that provides Java, MAX, and other free, multiplatform, interactive graphical and sound applets

Sample this book:

Preface [PDF]

Request an examination copy.

 

Two for Tuesday – The Musical Mind & Shaping Jazz

Music is universal but what makes it so special? Why do some jazz songs become standards and others not? We are pleased to announce the publication of two new books to explore these questions and more. We invite you to read sample chapters online.

j10027reflections
Reflections on the Musical Mind:
An Evolutionary Perspective
by Jay Schulkin
With a foreword by Robert O. Gjerdingen

Read the introduction online:
http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10027.pdf

What’s so special about music? We experience it internally, yet at the same time it is highly social. Music engages our cognitive/affective and sensory systems. We use music to communicate with one another–and even with other species–the things that we cannot express through language. Music is both ancient and ever evolving. Without music, our world is missing something essential. In Reflections on the Musical Mind, Jay Schulkin offers a social and behavioral neuroscientific explanation of why music matters. His aim is not to provide a grand, unifying theory. Instead, the book guides the reader through the relevant scientific evidence that links neuroscience, music, and meaning.

Jay Schulkin is Research Professor in the Department of Neuroscience and member at the Center for the Brain Basis of Cognition, both at Georgetown University. He is the author of numerous books, including Roots of Social Sensibility and Neural Function, Bodily Sensibility: Intelligent Action, Cognitive Adaptation: A Pragmatist Perspective, and Adaptation and Well-Being: Social Allostasis.

 
j10026jazzShaping Jazz:
Cities, Labels, and the Global Emergence of an Art Form
by Damon J. Phillips

Read the introduction online:
http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i10026.pdf

There are over a million jazz recordings, but only a few hundred tunes have been recorded repeatedly. Why did a minority of songs become jazz standards? Why do some songs–and not others–get rerecorded by many musicians? Shaping Jazz answers this question and more, exploring the underappreciated yet crucial roles played by initial production and markets–in particular, organizations and geography–in the development of early twentieth-century jazz.

Damon J. Phillips is the James P. Gorman Professor of Business Strategy at Columbia University and a faculty affiliate of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies and the Center for Organizational Innovation.

 

Country/Rap Song on Race Relations

Brad Paisley and LL Cool J on the same track? That’s equally as strange as the Tim McGraw and Nelly duet in 2004′s “Over and Over”. Unlike that smooth song about heartbreak, however, Paisley and LL’s song has a much different topic. The new song is titled “Accidental Racist” and is causing quite a stir.

The song is supposed to be interpreted as a song about overcoming racial tensions caused by past events in American history. However, as is everything that exists, its message is subject to interpretation. Race relations has never been an easy topic to discuss and many are calling the song an epic fail. The duo calls the song “a conversation starter.”

While the two may have had good intentions in writing this song, to get a better picture of race relations and how they are evolving, check out some of these PUP books.

Creating a New Racial Order: How Immigration, Multiracialism, Genomics, and the Young Can Remake Race in America by Jennifer L. Hochschild, Vesla M. Weaver & Traci R. Burch

The American racial order–the beliefs, institutions, and practices that organize relationships among the nation’s races and ethnicities–is undergoing its greatest transformation since the 1960s. Creating a New Racial Order takes a groundbreaking look at the reasons behind this dramatic change, and considers how different groups of Americans are being affected. Through revealing narrative and striking research, the authors show that the personal and political choices of Americans will be critical to how, and how much, racial hierarchy is redefined in decades to come.

The authors outline the components that make up a racial order and examine the specific mechanisms influencing group dynamics in the United States: immigration, multiracialism, genomic science, and generational change. Cumulatively, these mechanisms increase heterogeneity within each racial or ethnic group, and decrease the distance separating groups from each other. The authors show that individuals are moving across group boundaries, that genomic science is challenging the whole concept of race, and that economic variation within groups is increasing. Above all, young adults understand and practice race differently from their elders: their formative memories are 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Obama’s election–not civil rights marches, riots, or the early stages of immigration. Blockages could stymie or distort these changes, however, so the authors point to essential policy and political choices.

Portraying a vision, not of a postracial America, but of a different racial America, Creating a New Racial Order examines how the structures of race and ethnicity are altering a nation.

Jennifer L. Hochschild is the Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government, professor of African and African American studies, and Harvard College Professor at Harvard University. Vesla M. Weaver is an assistant professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. Traci R. Burch is assistant professor of political science at Northwestern University and research professor at the American Bar Foundation.

What Is Your Race? The Census and Our Flawed Efforts to Classify Americans by Kenneth Prewitt

America is preoccupied with race statistics–perhaps more than any other nation. Do these statistics illuminate social reality and produce coherent social policy, or cloud that reality and confuse social policy? Does America still have a color line? Who is on which side? Does it have a different “race” line–the nativity line–separating the native born from the foreign born? You might expect to answer these and similar questions with the government’s “statistical races.” Not likely, observes Kenneth Prewitt, who shows why the way we count by race is flawed.

Prewitt calls for radical change. The nation needs to move beyond a race classification whose origins are in discredited eighteenth-century race-is-biology science, a classification that once defined Japanese and Chinese as separate races, but now combines them as a statistical “Asian race.” One that once tried to divide the “white race” into “good whites” and “bad whites,” and that today cannot distinguish descendants of Africans brought in chains four hundred years ago from children of Ethiopian parents who eagerly immigrated twenty years ago. Contrary to common sense, the classification says there are only two ethnicities in America–Hispanics and non-Hispanics. But if the old classification is cast aside, is there something better?

What Is Your Race? clearly lays out the steps that can take the nation from where it is to where it needs to be. It’s not an overnight task–particularly the explosive step of dropping today’s race question from the census–but Prewitt argues persuasively that radical change is technically and politically achievable, and morally necessary.

Kenneth Prewitt is the Carnegie Professor of Public Affairs at Columbia University. His books include The Hard Count: The Political and Social Challenges of Census Mobilization. He served as director of the U.S. Census Bureau from 1998 to 2001.

Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race by Thomas J. Sugrue

Barack Obama, in his acclaimed campaign speech discussing the troubling complexities of race in America today, quoted William Faulkner’s famous remark “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” In Not Even Past, award-winning historian Thomas Sugrue examines the paradox of race in Obama’s America and how President Obama intends to deal with it.

Obama’s journey to the White House undoubtedly marks a watershed in the history of race in America. Yet even in what is being hailed as the post-civil rights era, racial divisions–particularly between blacks and whites–remain deeply entrenched in American life. Sugrue traces Obama’s evolving understanding of race and racial inequality throughout his career, from his early days as a community organizer in Chicago, to his time as an attorney and scholar, to his spectacular rise to power as a charismatic and savvy politician, to his dramatic presidential campaign. Sugrue looks at Obama’s place in the contested history of the civil rights struggle; his views about the root causes of black poverty in America; and the incredible challenges confronting his historic presidency.

Does Obama’s presidency signal the end of race in American life? In Not Even Past, a leading historian of civil rights, race, and urban America offers a revealing and unflinchingly honest assessment of the culture and politics of race in the age of Obama, and of our prospects for a postracial America.

Thomas J. Sugrue is the David Boies Professor of History and Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. His books include Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North and The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton).

Jennifer Lena Interview about book Banding Together

Banding Together coverWhat makes country music so popular in the South? Why does heavy metal only gain traction in certain communities? Why are tweeny bop tunes the go-to music for the middle school girl population? By examining the common economic, organizational, ideological, and aesthetic traits among contemporary genres, Jennifer Lena’s book Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music reveals the attributes that together explain the growth of twentieth-century American popular music.

Sudhir Venkatesh interviewed Lena about the book and her work. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Q. You are interested in factors that determine whether particular musical styles, genres, etc., will gain mass appeal — or remain circumscribed to a small niche. Have you discovered something about the process of “influence” or “contagion” that the social network scholars have ignored or underemphasized? What does your work tell us about the role of networks in shaping popular tastes?

A. The most common way for music to blow up from a small scene into global pop is for a controversy to erupt. Music history is littered with examples of “moral panics”: be-bop jazz was blamed for white-on-black race riots in the mid-1940s, just as rap music was blamed when riots erupted in Los Angeles following the Rodney King trial. In both cases, sensationalized news reports and especially a focus on the “dangerous” elements in the music attracted young people in droves. Moral panics, like magnets, repel and attract. This is also true when disputes involve dueling scenes, like the fights between “mods” and “rockers” in the U.K. in the early 1960s or the battles between fans of heavy metal and punk that played out on the pages of Creem magazine in the early 1980s. It is equally true when outsiders attack: the Parents’ Music Resource Center’s efforts to ban heavy metal and rap music resulted in those Parental Advisory stickers. When rock fans staged the infamous Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park they may have kept disco in the limelight for an extra year.

In my book, I try to understand popular tastes, but also niche communities. By looking at how the communities that support music grow and change (or wither and die), I realized that people’s tastes depend as much on the characteristics of the community as the music being played. Some people are into local music scenes because they like to interact with the musicians and other fans on a regular basis. They like that ticket prices are low and that the music is relatively unknown outside of their core group. They’re so invested in this kind of relationship with music that they’re open to different styles.

In contrast, the global pop music experience is almost totally mediated by screens—blogs and music videos, for example—and most Pop fans have no unmediated interaction with the performers. Even concerts rely on screens to make the performance visible. In other words, the fan who prefers local, “underground,” or “independent” rap music has different tastes than the fan of pop rap, and that difference doesn’t reside only in the songs.

On the face of it, this is counter-intuitive. We tend to think about taste as being all about aesthetic style, but ask someone what kind of music they like and they are likely to say, “Oh, I like a little of everything.” Of course, we don’t actually like all music, indiscriminately. Instead we choose what bluegrass we like, or what kind of rock appeals to us based on our preference for one kind of music community over another.

Check out the full interview here.

A Mix-tape for Our President

An Election wrap-up from Jennifer Lena, author of Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music


“A wise man once said, “never discuss philosophy or politics in a disco environment.”” Frank Zappa interview with Grace Slick on Rockplace (11 February 1984)

In celebration of the end of a long election season, I created this mixtape for our returning President, Barack Obama. For those who have never heard of a mixtape, they are compilations of songs designed for a particular purpose (e.g., as a romantic gesture, to celebrate an accomplishment). The term derives from the 1980s when cassette tapes were the medium in use, although music fans now create mixtapes on CDs and on social media platforms like Spotify.  The thematic link between the songs listed below are the issues our new (and returning) President is likely to consider during his next term in office. The list isn’t exhaustive, and I’ve balanced the thematic relevance of each song with its aesthetic quality and my desire to highlight examples of excellent pop music. Where possible, I’ve included a recording of the song, but readers should note that some songs include profanity and should listen to them before playing the songs around children.

 

1. “Letter to my countrymen,” Brother Ali (Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color, 2012).

 

“I used to think I hated this place/Couldn’t wait to tell the president straight to his face.” Brother Ali, and many other Americans, enter Obama’s second term feeling as if the American Dream has slipped through their fingers in recent years, or never thought it was their dream to have. Ali’s song is a hopeful and mature response to the disappointments of life in America—eight lines in, he admits: “I wanna make this country what it says it is.” He’s concerned about the corrosive effects of two myths: that of American exceptionalism, and of meritocracy and individual achievement. In the lingering wake of the Occupy movement, and while we are still in what some call America’s “Second Gilded Age,” the President need to lead us in a conversation about privilege—whether it comes from the color of your skin or the class of your parents, and criticize this still-popular notion that we get up on our own.

 

2. “Reagan,” Killer Mike (R.A.P. Music, 2012).

 

Obama faces a crisis of legitimacy in some parts of our country. You might argue this is a problem that Nixon created, but this particular president continues to face challenges from Birthers, those who doubt his Christian faith, despair from his handling of the economy (and from a rogue’s gallery of conspiracy theorists with some truly odd ideas).  Rapper Killer Mike lost his faith in the presidency in the 1980s, a transformation he describes in a song titled “Reagan.” Using two audio samples from Regan’s denial and later acceptance of his administration’s exchange of arms-for-hostages, the song’s lyrics chart the political development of a young man watching the Iran-Contra affair and then the war on drugs, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…and at each step, his distrust of, and anger against, the government grow stronger. The lyrics speak to a number of issues the new president must consider, but it’s strongest and longest attack is reserved for the culture of incarceration: “thanks to Reaganomics, prisons turned to profits/Cause free labor is the cornerstone of US economics.” America leads the world in incarcerating its citizens. According to one estimate, we had 5% of the world’s population in 2008, but a full quarter of its prisoners.  One in 100 American adults is in prison, and that number jumps to about 5 of every 100 adult African-American men (and 9 of every 100 black men between 25-40).   The incarceration of citizens affects not only the criminal and his family, but also taxpayers: the costs of incarcerating so many Americans are enormous. By one estimate, California spent $4 billion more on prisons than on the state college systems in 2011. It costs that state less than $10,000 a year to educate a student, while housing, policing, and (hopefully) reforming a prisoner costs over $45,000 per inmate.

 

3. “Watching the Detectives,” Elvis Costello and the Attractions (My Aim is True, 1977)*.

 

Privacy laws have arguably not kept up with technology, and the post-9/11 era has been one in which politicians must balance citizens’ civil liberties against the value of new police technologies designed to keep us safe.  In recent months, the ACLU is among those organizations and citizen’s groups that have appeared before government panels to take a stand against these threats, including warrantless wiretapping, domestic drones, and face recognition technology. The new President should consider these issues while listening to Elvis Costello and the Attractions, 1977 hit song “Watching the Detectives.”

 

*“Watching the Detectives” was released as a UK single in October 1977, but wasn’t on the album; in the U.S. version of the album, it was the last track on the A-side.

 

4. “Price Tag,” Jesse J (Who You Are, 2011); “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Bob Dylan (Bringing It All Back Home, 1965).

 

One of the more controversial legal decisions in recent years was “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.” The new president will consider campaign finance reform and challenges to the notion of corporate “personhood” from those who think money is not speech. For a soundtrack to this discussion, I recommend Jesse J’s huge hit song “Price Tag:” “Seems like everybody’s got a price/ I wonder how they sleep at night/ When the sale comes first and the truth comes second.” Or, if he’s in a more mellow mood, Bob Dylan’s just the thing to remind him that “money doesn’t talk, it swears.”

 

5. “The City Consumes Us,” The Delgados (Universal Audio, 2004)

According to the U.S. Census, eight out of every 10 people lived in a metropolitan area in 2010, and more than one in 10 lived in either New York or Los Angeles.  We might think America’s culture is defined by its heartland, it’s “breadbaskets,” or its “prairies,” but most of us live in concrete jungles. “Watch how the city consumes us,” sing the Delgados, “Watch how the city destroys us,” and yet, it is a “cost I am happy to pay.” The list of great songs about cities is too long to share, but here are some of my runners-up: (1) the live version of Mano Negra’s “Guayakill City,” (2) Brazilian Girls, “Internacional,” (3) “Chocolate City,” Parliament, (4) almost the entire Jay Z catalog including “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love),” and, of course, “Empire State of Mind,” (5) “Living for the City” (Stevie Wonder), (6) “Every Ghetto, Every City,” Lauryn Hill, (7) “Detroit Rock City” (Kiss), and (8) “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns n’ Roses, perhaps the best song ever written about Los Angeles.

 

6. “Disparate Youth,” Santigold (Master of My Make-Believe, 2012)

 

Although Santigold’s 2012 single “Disparate Youth” is not a commentary on climate change, it is one of the changes she despairs in this tremendously good song. “Don’t look ahead, there’s stormy weather/ Another roadblock in our way/But if we go, we go together/Our hands are tied here if we stay.” According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, we can expect temperature rises, more frequent heavy rainfall events, more serious summer-drying and drought, less snow and sea-ice, and the retreat of glaciers and ice-caps.  Our hands are tied if we stay.

 

7. “All Falls Down,” Kanye West (The College Dropout, 2004)

 

Remember when George Bush told us that the best response to 9/11 was to fly and go on vacations? Now that millions of Americans have found themselves unable to afford their mortgages, the time is right to have a national discussion about consumer spending and debt. America’s consumer debt rose to $13 trillion in the second quarter of 2012, just $2 trillion shy of our country’s total yearly economic output.  Kanye West has a message for our new president, in his 2004 song “All Falls Down:” “It seems we living the American dream/But the people highest up got the lowest self esteem/The prettiest people do the ugliest things/For the road to riches and diamond rings/We shine because they hate us, floss cause they degrade us/We trying to buy back our 40 acres/And for that paper, look how low we a’stoop”

 

8. “Fire Fire,” M.I.A. (Arular, 2005)

 

The U.S. Census Bureau set the official poverty rate in America at 15.1% in 2010, with over 46 million of our nation’s citizens falling below that threshold. Our president might heed the concerns of British-Sri Lankan-American pop artist M.I.A., who has developed a reputation as a voice of the poor and oppressed. Any one of the songs from her chart-topping 2005 album Arular, 2007’s effort Kala or 2010’s Maya would provide our new president with a frank examination of poverty and its consequences on political activity, daily life, gender relations, and family. “Fire Fire” is one song that warns of the dark side of poverty: the militarization of the poor—a theme that reflects M.I.A.’s concern about the persecution of her native Tamil people, and echoes themes in contemporary Americans’ concern about Islamic fundamentalism: “You shoulda been good to me,” M.I.A. sings, in the persona of a young rebel, “Then I wouldn’t get so rowdy rowdy/ You shoulda kept ya eye on me/ Then I wouldn’t get so baddy baddy.”

 

9. “Once in a Lifetime,” Talking Heads (Remain in the Light, 1981)

 

The Baby Boomer generation is aging, and the Census estimates the dependency ratio (the number of people 65 and older to every 100 people under 65) will climb rapidly in these two decades (from 22 to 35).  By 2030, one in five Americans will be over 65. David Byrne fronts the Talking Heads in their classic song about change, and time, and getting older: “Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us/Time isn’t holding us, time doesn’t hold you back.” If you prefer something with more…jazz fingers…try Tom Lehrer’s “When You Are Old and Grey.” The president will, of course, consider the impact of our rapidly aging baby boom generation on health care policy, and for this, I suggest Loudon Wainwright III’s “My Meds.”

 

I’ve considered adding a song to speak to the issues faced by Hispanic-Americans; only Mexico (112 million) has a larger Hispanic population than the United States (50.5 million in 2010) and that population is expected to grow to over 130 million by July 2050.  Of course, our education system is perennially the subject of public discussion, along with our financial and immigration systems, and the problem of bullying and self-inflicted harm in the LGBTQ community (especially among the young), to name a few of many issues.

 

Our second term President faces an extraordinary number of challenges, which I’ve only started to address in the above. I need at least another five songs to finish my playlist—what should they be?

 

This post was inspired by Dorian Warren and includes suggestions from R. L’Heureux Lewis, and Daniel Radosh.

A Fresh Look at a French Composer and Virtuoso – Camille Saint-Saëns

The Bard Music Festival’s second weekend featuring Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921) starts on August 17th.  The concerts, lectures, and panel discussions of the festival are complemented by a book of related articles, essays, and letters edited by a prominent music scholar.  Princeton University Press is pleased to announce:

Camille Saint-Saëns and His World
Edited by Jann Pasler

Camille Saint-Saëns–perhaps the foremost French musical figure of the late nineteenth century and a composer who wrote in nearly every musical genre, from opera and the symphony to film music–is now being rediscovered after a century of modernism overshadowed his earlier importance. In a wide-ranging and trenchant series of essays, articles, and documents, Camille Saint-Saëns and His World deconstructs the multiple realities behind the man and his music. Topics range from intimate glimpses of the private and playful Saint-Saëns, to the composer’s interest in astronomy and republican politics, his performances of Mozart and Rameau over eight decades, and his extensive travels around the world. This collection also analyzes the role he played in various musical societies and his complicated relationship with such composers as Liszt, Massenet, Wagner, and Ravel. Featuring the best contemporary scholarship on this crucial, formative period in French music, Camille Saint-Saëns and His World restores the composer to his vital role as innovator and curator of Western music.

 

You can find more information about the Bard Music Festival and activities this weekend at:
http://fishercenter.bard.edu/bmf/2012/

For more information on the Bard Music Festival Book Series, check out:
http://press.princeton.edu/catalogs/series/bfs.html

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major overhaul of telecom law since 1934. Most of the Telecom Act is about promoting competition between cable and phone companies in the markets for voice communications, television entertainment, and broadband Internet service. In a provision that was little noted at the time, the act also eliminated the cap of 20 AM and 20 FM stations at the national level and considerably relaxed ownership caps at the local level.”

Climbing the Charts: What Radio Airplay Tells Us about the Diffusion of Innovation
by Gabriel Rossman

Despite the growth of digital media, traditional FM radio airplay still remains the essential way for musicians to achieve commercial success. Climbing the Charts examines how songs rise, or fail to rise, up the radio airplay charts. Looking at the relationships between record labels, tastemakers, and the public, Gabriel Rossman develops a clear picture of the roles of key players and the gatekeeping mechanisms in the commercial music industry. Along the way, he explores its massive inequalities, debunks many popular misconceptions about radio stations’ abilities to dictate hits, and shows how a song diffuses throughout the nation to become a massive success.

Climbing the Charts provides a fresh take on the music industry and a model for understanding the diffusion of innovation.

Climbing the Charts gives an eye-opening view of the front and back of radio broadcasting. It shows that the music industry has even more influence on radio airplay than we might imagine, but broadcasters and listeners also matter. Surprisingly, the greatest role of broadcasters is in their choice of radio formats, which structure the market for the music industry and the listeners. The important topic, careful analysis, and clear writing make this book broadly appealing.”—Henrich Greve, INSEAD

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/i9740.pdf

BOOK FACT FRIDAY

FACT: “Frédéric Chopin was a freelance artist throughout his career. After being provided an excellent musical education by his upper middle-class Warsaw family, he presented a series of freelance concert performances in Berlin, Dresden, Prague, Vienna, Munich, and Stuttgart between 1828 and 1831. Continuing on to Paris, he achieved only limited financial success performing his compositions at public concerts. But his introduction by a Warsaw acquaintance into the salons of wealthy Parisians provided a network of contacts, through which he became the most sought-after and best-paid independent piano teacher in Paris. His earnings were augmented through honoraria from music publishers. When his health deteriorated, he could no longer continue his strenuous teaching schedule. A concert trip to England failed to solve his financial problems, and he died in poverty at age thirty-nine.”

Quarter Notes and Bank Notes: The Economics of Music Composition in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
by F. M. Scherer

In 1700, most composers were employees of noble courts or the church. But by the nineteenth century, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Verdi, and many others functioned as freelance artists teaching, performing, and selling their compositions in the private marketplace. While some believe that Mozart’s career marks a clean break between these two periods, this book tells the story of a more complex and interesting transition.

F. M. Scherer first examines the political, intellectual, and economic roots of the shift from patronage to a freelance market. He describes the eighteenth-century cultural “arms race” among noble courts, the spread of private concert halls and opera houses, the increasing attendance of middle-class music lovers, and the founding of conservatories. He analyzes changing trends in how composers acquired their skills and earned their living, examining such impacts as demographic developments and new modes of transportation. The book offers insight into the diversity of composers’ economic aspirations, the strategies through which they pursued success, the burgeoning music publishing industry, and the emergence of copyright protection. Scherer concludes by drawing some parallels to the economic state of music composition in our own times.

Written by a leading economist with an unusually broad knowledge of music, this fascinating account is directed toward individuals intrigued by the world of classical composers as well as those interested in economic history or the role of money in art.

“In a bold interdisciplinary foray, Dr. Scherer has used his highly regarded economist’s skills to explore how leading European composers managed to support themselves during the 18th and 19th centuries. The result is an absorbing study of how creative artists adapted to the vast economic and social changes that occurred around them during the greatest era of musical composition.”—Derek Bok, Harvard University

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s7612.pdf

The Ancient Problem of Unruly Music–more from Jenn Lena on music and the election

This week, sociologist Jennifer Lena was kind enough to provide Election 101 with a third and final installment to her series of posts on music in presidential campaigns. Check out her new book, Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music and her conversation with the philosopher and expert on both music and law, Jonathan Neufeld, on why the relationship between musicians and politicians is so fraught with difficulty:

 

The Ancient Problem of Unruly Music

Jennifer Lena

 

In my last two posts, I’ve detailed the ways in which politicians (and campaign staff) secure music for use on the campaign trail, and some of the controversies that have resulted when they did not secure permission to use those songs. Along the way, I’ve illuminated two other pathways for the match of politicians and musicians. First, political parties could make greater efforts to include musicians as active participants and contributors. It should particularly be the case that political actors working outside the mainstream—in small districts, in local politics, in radical or third party politics—should share many things in common with local musicians, including a point of view. Second, I’ve suggested that politicians engage in smarter strategic action around issues of intellectual property, by seeking approval for using copyrighted works, and finding fair use opportunities (like Obama’s Spotify playlist) to employ the power of music in their campaigns. In this final post, I sought out a colleague whom I thought might be able to shed some light on why the relationship between musicians and politicians is so fraught with difficulty.

 

Jonathan A. Neufeld is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at College of Charleston and an expert in both music and law. In his forthcoming book, Music in Public: How Performances Shape Democracy (Oxford UP), Neufeld tackles the connections between musical and political deliberation. Here is an excerpt from our conversation about politics and music:

 

JL: Are the questions I’m asking at all relevant to philosophers of aesthetics?

 

JN: Yes, your posts touch on an ancient problem. “[T]he modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling of the most fundamental political and social conventions,” Plato writes in the Republic. Aristotle devotes a hefty chunk of his Politics to a discussion of music education; the conflict about what music is appropriately played in church was a hot topic of debate and political maneuvering in the Catholic church stretching back to Augustine. It is easy to multiply examples of music and politics colliding, and philosophers trying to find some way of making sense of it. In most of these cases, philosophers end up focusing on the emotional and sensuous potential of music–we are moved by music. You would think this would be good news for politics! “We are in the business of moving people, too!” But toward what exactly, does music move us? In the ancient controversies, a lot of ink was spilled over the untrustworthiness of music and musicians. Music can make us do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do (dance like idiots, sing lyrics joyously that we might completely disagree with, etc.), and musicians seem to revel in this. Artists were seen to be without a moral core, rudderless.

 

JL: This seems to differ from how we think about artists in contemporary society: I can think of a number of examples when we revere musical artists as the most principled people. In sociology, we often describe these artists as “disinterested” or “autonomous,” meaning that they do not allow other people (politicians, audiences, producers) to dictate the art (or music) they create.

 

JN: That’s right. We often characterize artists as being interested in art for art’s sake. Insofar as they focus on particular political messages, they are often accused of doing something other than art. The thought that a consistent message would dictate artistic expression (Plato’s dream!) sits uncomfortably with a modern picture of artistic creativity.  The political demand to stay on message, then, seems to be a violation of the artistic autonomy at the heart of the art for art’s sake norm. Staying on political message is to allow a preset message to dictate what goes into the work. Moreover, when it comes to a campaign, it is to allow the campaign’s message to dictate the work. [And] even if the artist shaped the message, the demand to stay on message seems to be an imposition on the artist’s autonomous creativity. That the artist imposes it on herself doesn’t matter. What matters is the imposition of the wrong kind of norm–an extra-artistic norm–on artistic creativity.

 

JL: So, do you see an inevitable conflict between the logic of music (the value placed on autonomy) and the logic of democracy?

 

JN: No. The opposition is not between democracy and music, or even between music with messages and music without. Take Woody Guthrie, the Asian Dub Foundation, or Public Enemy, for example. Here we have artists whose songs are shaped by a message. But is this what it is to be on message in a way that would be compatible with the branding of a campaign? It seems to me not. There is an unruliness at the heart of artistic creation (or, if you prefer, there is a systematic expectation that artistic creation be unruly) that would make any disciplined campaigner nervous.  So the problem for artists is not the politics or the democracy, it’s the on-message requirement of contemporary campaigns. While obeying this requirement might not be an in-principle problem for contemporary politicians, I wonder if it shouldn’t be. Democratic discourse just is unruly–this was Plato’s deep worry about it. I wonder if the artist’s unruly resistance to staying on message could be seen as democratic impulse we might wish contemporary candidates shared.

 

I really like Jonathan’s last point—that the “unruliness” of musicians might be a better model for democracy than the slavish fidelity to a brand message. It was Benjamin Disraeli who claimed that “The world is wearied of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.” Let me add more to the arsenal of reasons that politicians and musicians should take long-term collaborations more seriously:

 

1.Given the enormously large number of un- and under-employed artists in America, and rallying cries for job-creators on both sides of the aisle, why don’t presidential campaigns hire or contract with more artists? A recent survey by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (full disclosure: I am a Research Fellow on the project) reveals that 51% of art school graduates who intended to become an artist did not do so because work was not available.

 

2. Furthermore, given the enormous need for paid work, why aren’t more musicians approaching campaigns to write original material? Billboard Magazine reports that Obama’s 10-second performance of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” sent sales of the singer’s album through the roof (a 490% weekly sales increase). Logic dictates that many struggling artists would benefit from the national attention garnered through association with a candidate, so why isn’t it more common?

 

3. Democrats and Republicans rely on an extremely small set of performers to provide campaign songs. What would presidential candidates do without Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty? Why aren’t we seeing more pandering to the large and growing Hispanic vote, or to women? And most shocking of all: why are Republican candidates overlooking the massive market power of contemporary Christian rock? According to Neilsen, Christian/Gospel accounted for 9.5 million album sales in 2011, a nearly 7% increase from the year before. The Republican base, particularly the younger generation, consumes a lot of Christian rock, and the songs are on-issue for most of the GOP candidates.

 

I hope I’ve convinced you that long-term collaborations between musicians and politicians are possible, potentially mutually beneficial and could potentially spark a more vibrant and diverse set of arguments in the public sphere.

 

Jennifer C. Lena is visiting assistant professor of sociology at Barnard College.