Tag Archive | Gayle Wald

Sounding Out! Podcast Episode #8: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop (The Awesomeness)!

Click Phonograph to Download #Blog-O-Versary 3.0 Mix!
(Image by Mafleen; tunes picked by SO! writers & editors!)

There’s a fable that some beats are so contagious that they can transform crowds. “Black magic,” some whisper. Dance magic. The rumors are true – there are some songs so awesome that they simply can’t be stopped. No! As speakers rumble, bodies shake. This is the music of legends, the kind that evokes moods beyond any single person’s control. For Sounding Out!’s third Blog-O-Versary we present a mix so potent that it won’t be stopped. -AT

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD: Blog-O-Versary Mix 3.0: Can’t Stop Won’t Stop (The Awesomeness)!

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The Awesomeness:

“Lonely Boy” – The Black Keys (Wanda Alarcon)
“Alex Chilton” – The Replacements (Aaron Trammell)
“Boquita de Caramelo” – Rodolfo Aicardi (Neil Verma)
“Tightrope” – Janelle Monae (Gustavus Stadler)
“I’m His Girl” – Friends (Gayle Wald)
“Three is the Magic Number” – De La Soul (Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman)
“Todo Tiene Su Final” – Hector Lavoe (Marcia Dawkins)
“Portland Oregon” – Loretta Lynn and Jack White (Bridget Holda)
“Going up the Country” – Kitty, Daisy, and Louis (Andreas Duus Pape)
“I’m His Girl” (Reprise)
“She Don’t Use Jelly” – Flaming Lips (Gina Arnold)
“The White Room” – Cream (Tim Murray)
“Respect (Live at Montery Pop)” – Otis Redding (Damien Keane)
“Electric Relaxation” – A Tribe Called Quest (Ashon Crawley)
“Necessary” – Zule Zoo (David Primus Luta Dodson)
“It Takes Two” – Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock (Maile Colbert)
“Fake Patois” – Das Racist (Osvaldo Oyola Ortega)
“On to the Next One” – Jay-Z (R.N. Bradley)
“Manteca” – Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo (reina alejandra prado saldivar)
“Balcony Beach” – Latryx (Imani Kai Johnson)
“Thanks” – Brave New Girl (Aram Sinnreich)
“I Can’t Do Anything” – X-Ray Spex (Norma Coates)
“These Days” – R.E.M. (Liana Silva)
“Baby” – Caetano Veloso & Gal Costa (Tom McEnaney)

Sound at EMP Pop Con 2012

As our Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman mentioned in her Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Conference Round-Up post from this past Monday, this weekend will be action packed for those interested in media studies and popular music studies. This year is the first year the Experience Music Project Museum (EMP) POP Conference will take place on the East Coast—sponsored by New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. In addition, the EMP POP Conference will be jointly held with the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (US) Conference (IASPM-US for short). With that in mind we have brought two conference round-up posts this week. (Speaking of blogging about conferences, don’t miss IASPM’s blog coverage of EMP POP Conference 2012, where they are previewing several papers that will be read at the conference.) Even though our editorial collective is still working on the technology to enable us to be in several places at once so we don’t miss out on these awesome opportunities, I will be Sounding Out’s eyes and ears at EMP POP Conference. I will also attempt to live-tweet the panels I am attending. You can find me at @literarychica, or you can follow the conference tweet stream at #PopCon

The EMP POP Conference has been bringing together academics and non-academics alike, musicians and non-musicians alike, music writers and non-music-writers to discuss the direction of popular culture–especially popular music. The theme of this year’s POP Conference is Sounds of the City, and what better location for these cross-disciplinary conversations than New York City? From the conference website:

Presenters will pay particular attention to what urban environments have meant for race, gender, and sexuality. Jazz, rock, indie, country, metal, electronic dance music, roots, disco, and Broadway music are but some of the sounds that will be the subject of entire panels.

The city becomes the place to explore how sound is constructed but also how the city helps construct sound—and its counterpart, noise. Detroit, Berlin, and New York City, among others, take certer stage in this year’s program. Many of the panel topics show an interest in thinking about how sound influences our notion of urban space, which brings to my mind the “cities of feeling” that Carlo Rotella talks about in his book October Cities: The Redevelopment of Urban Literature. If, according to Rotella, “literary writers are in the business of imagining cities,” here at the EMP POP Conference there is an impulse to consider how do sound and noise participate in that imagining, and how gender and race play a role (3). The conference offerings illustrate an attempt to think about the sounds of the city in a broader sense, not just limiting it to music. Although the EMP POP Conference stands out for its critical focus on everything related to popular music, this year’s panels are more sound-studies oriented.

Another indication of the sound studies influence at this year’s EMP POP Conference is a focus on listening. There seems to be a an inclination not just to think about the sounds within the city but how we listen to those sounds. Listening is an important factor in how sound is constructed; in other words, an analysis of sound is not limited to the sounds themselves, but how those who listen interpret those sounds, or how listeners themselves are perceived. From the Feminist Working Group‘s Friday panel titled Turn It Up! One: Listening to Difference to Gustavus Stadler’s “Aural Drag: Warhol as Pop Listener” to the Sunday panel Urban Ears, listening is part of the conversation taking place at NYU this weekend about sound and urban space.

Our regular readers will see several familiar names in the program. Gayle Wald is presenting on the Marvelettes Friday morning on the Afro Imaginaries panel. Gustavus Stadler is moderating the Lonely Subcultures panel on Friday and presenting on Andy Warhol in his paper “Aural Drag: Warhol as Pop Listener.” (Insider tip: keep an ear out for Eric Lott, who will be presenting on the same panel as Stadler; you can expect a blog post from Lott in the upcoming months.) Karen Tongson, who blogged for us on The Voice, will be presenting a paper titledDrive and Sounds of the ‘80s Metropolis.” Scott Poulson-Bryant will be participating in the Saturday afternoon roundtable on Whitney Houston titled “Newark’s Finest: Reflections on Whitney Houston.” Last but not least, Regina Bradley, one of our regular writers, and myself will be presenting together on a roundtable on Sunday titled “I Pledge Allegiance to the Block: Cityscapes, Hegemonic Sound, and Blackness.”

The conference will take place at New York University’s Kimmel Center, and is free of charge. To find out more about the presenters or to read about all the other outstanding panels at the conference, please visit the conference website. So if you’re in the New York City area Thursday through Sunday (or if you’re considering hopping on a train from Boston to check out some panels–wink wink), the conference will be well worth your while!

Please comment to let SO! know what you think–both before and after EMP PopCon 2012. If I missed your panel in my round up, please drop me a line: lms@soundingoutblog.com

Liana M. Silva is co-founder and Managing Editor of Sounding Out! She is also a PhD candidate at Binghamton University.

Jump to THURSDAY, March 22
Jump to FRIDAY, March 23
Jump to SATURDAY, March 24
Jump to SUNDAY, March 25

"Music in Central Park, New York City" by Flickr user Creative (Elias) 809 under Creative Commons License

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THURSDAY, March 22

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012 7:00pm-8:30pm

Conference Opening Keynote: The Artist in the City: with Angélique Kidjo, Esperanza Spalding, Santigold, and Himanshu Suri (aka Heems)

Room: Eisner & Lubin Auditorium KC 401

Writing about how jazz in the mid-20th century reflected lived experience in New York city’s tenements, the scholar Shane Vogel quoted Duke Ellington’s description of his swing symphony, “Harlem Air Shaft”: “So much goes on in a Harlem air shaft…You hear fights, you smell dinner, you hear people maing love. You hear intimate gossip floating down. You hear the radio. An air shaft is one great big loudspeaker.” In the crowded city, the musician-composer becomes a living receiver, distilling a static field of sounds and sensations into an evocative whole.

This keynote event gathers together four prominent artists whose work reflects a cosmopolitan worldview, with each artist rooted in his or her particular urban home. Grammy winning Beninoise singer-songwriter Angélique Kidjo has truly had a global career, having recorded albums in a staggering array of languages, styles, genres and cities; her recently-released live album Spirit Rising is a career retrospective featuring diverse guests like Ezra Koenig, Josh Groban and the Kuumba Singers. Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding is about to release her third album, Radio Music Society, a border-crossing blend of jazz, soul, funk and pop that reflects the cities she loves: New York, Barcelona, and her birthplace of Portland, Oregon. Philadelphia-bred, Brooklyn-based Santigold (Santi White) is one of the brightest lights of the East Coast bohemian underground; her upcoming second album, Master of My Make Believe, takes her incendiary blend of hip hop, indie rock and dance music to a new level. On his recent mixtape Nehru Jackets, Himanshu Suri (Heems) of the Queens-identified hip hop group Das Racist drops wit and wisdom about the ups and downs of life in Gotham’s five boroughs. Discussing their new work and how they’ve formed their own sound and vision in relationship to the urban spaces where they thrive, these artists consider what’s changed and what remains consistent in the half-century plus since the Duke found heaven in the clanging multiplicity of the air shaft.

Moderator: Ann Powers

Featuring:

Angélique Kidjo

Esperanza Spalding

Santigold

Himanshu Suri

"Sound The Trumpet" by Flickr user Blacren under Creative Commons License

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FRIDAY, March 23

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012 9:00 am-11:00 am

Afro-Imaginaries

Room: KC 804/5

Moderator:  Banning Eyre

Featuring:

Gayle Wald, “‘Deliver De Letter': ‘Please Mr. Postman,’ the Marvelettes, and the Afro-Caribbean Imaginary”

Emily J. Lordi, “Moving Out: White Flight and Sly and the Family Stone’s ‘Stand!'”

Koushik Banerjea, “Cities of the Dead: Soundscaping Race, Memory and Desire in a Forgotten London”

Wills Glasspiegel & Martin Scherzinger, “Beyoncé’s Afro-Future: Power and Play in “Run the World (Girls)””

Repositioning Urban Pop

Room: KC 808

Moderator:  Barbara Browning

Featuring:

Rustem Ertug Altinay, “‘In Konya she would marry a regular dude, but Serife from Konya is now a Lady': Power, Sexuality and Cities in Gungor Bayrak’s Autobiographic Songs”

Erin MacLeod, “‘Layers and layers of not-so-dope synths': Listening to the Music of Addis Ababa”

Mark Lomanno, “Surfaces and (archi)Textures in Canarian Jazz”

Sonic Contestation

Room: KC 406

Moderator:  John Melillo

Featuring:

Patrick Deer, “‘The Cassette Played Poptones': Punk’s Pop Embrace of the City in Ruins”

Jessica Schwartz, “Conform or Die: Composing the City as National Security Threat, 1945-1962″

John Melillo, “Revenant Frequencies: Destructive Sound from “The Waste Land” to NYC Ghosts and Flowers

J. Martin Daughtry, “Evocative Objects and Provocative Actions on the Acoustic Territory of War”

Friday, March 23, 2012 11:15 am-12:45pm

Turn It Up! One: Listening to Difference

Room: KC 808

This panel is sponsored by the Feminist Working Group. Since 2008, we have organized panels, get-togethers and networking opportunities for all feminists who participate in EMP. For more information about our activities, and to get involved, please visit http://feministworkinggroup.blogspot.com

Moderator:  Lucy O’Brien

Featuring:

Summer Kim Lee, “‘Singin’ Up On You': Queer Intimacies of the Sonorous Body In ‘The New Sound Karaoke'”

Daniel Sander, “Girl. Reverb. Notes on Queer Tactics of Sonorous Difference”

Kyessa L. Moore, “(Sub)Spacialized Urban Sound, Expressive Communion and Identificatory Dislocations”

Cairo and Athens Spring Up

Room: KC 405

Moderator:  Katherine Meizel

Featuring:

Banning Eyre, “Cairo Soundscape: Revolution and Cultural Renaissance”

Maysan Haydar, “Wild in the (Arab) Streets: Songs for the Revolutions”

Hypatia Vourloumis, “Bad Athena: Crises, Syntheses and Sounds of a European Other”

Lonely Subcultures

Room: KC 406

Moderator:  Gustavus Stadler

Featuring:

William Hutson, “Abrasive Nostalgia: A Noisescape of Deindustrialization”

Vivian L. Huang, “Not That Innocent: Britney Spears, Laurel Nakadate and Strangers”

Julia DeLeon, “Dance Through the Dark Night: Distance, Dissonance and Queer

Friday, March 23, 2012 2:15pm-3:45pm

Memory, Music, and the Metropolis

Room: KC 804/5

Moderator:  Charles Kronengold

Featuring:

Tracy McMullen, “In the Beginning, You Are There: Cloning Genesis and the Return of the Urbane”

Tavia Nyong’o, “Shame and Scandal and Zombies”

Karen Tongson, “Drive and Sounds of the ’80s Metropolis

Broadway Bound

Room: KC 808

Moderator:  Caroline Polk O’Meara

Featuring:

Raymond Knapp, “The Sound of Broadway’s Mean Streets”

Jacqueline Warwick, “‘Bigger than Big and Smaller than Small': Child Stars, Street Urchins, and Little Orphan Annie”

Elizabeth L. Wollman & Susan Tenneriello, “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark and the Ambivalence of Spectacle

Turn It Up! Two: Making Community

Room: KC 405

Moderator:  Elizabeth Keenan

Featuring:

Rachel Devitt, “I Love a (Pride) Parade: Queer Community-Building, Temporary Spaces and Politicized Kitsch among LGBT Marching Bands”

Evelyn McDonnell, “The Roads to Ruin”

Matthew Carrillo-Vincent, “Ears to the Streets, Peripheral Beats: The New Social Map of Backpack Rap”

Friday, March 23, 2012 4:00pm-6:00 pm

Roundtable: “Do You Want More?” The Time and Space of Alternative Sonic Blackness

Room: GC 95

The migration of sounds and ideas across time and place encourages synthesis; giving rise to avant garde, radical, and futurist voices. What (other) worlds open up and what (outer) spaces are formed? How do regional sites remix global flows? What factors/forces enable or prohibit certain voices from finding an audience in the national, global or cyber scene? How do we reconcile organicism of sound, as musicians produce out of particular worlds, with the reckless and restless ways music circulates?

Moderator:  Jayna Brown, Daphne Brooks, Tavia Nyong’o

Featuring:

Kyle Dargan

Mendi Obadike

Jace Clayton

The work of Barry Jenkins

 Location Location Location

Room: KC 802

Moderator:  Fabian Holt

Featuring:

Keith Negus, “Making it in the Big City: Small Town Boys, Country Girls and Suburban Dreamers”

Jennifer C. Lena, “The Ground on which the Race was Run: Careers in Pop”

Carl Wilson, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful: The Death and Life of Great North American Scenius”

Kembrew McLeod & Loren Glass, “Killer Apps Play the Sounds of the Cities”

Detroit: Foundation, Eclecticism, and Memory

Room: KC 808

Moderator:  Marlon Bailey

Featuring:

Rebekah Farrugia & Kellie Hay, “‘The Foundation’ in Detroit: Challenging Conventional Ideologies about Sex and Gender in Hip Hop”

Denise Dalphond, “Eclecticism in Detroit: Diverse Dance Party Scenes in Electronic Music”

Carleton S. Gholz, “Remembering Rita: Sound, Sexuality, and Memory”

"New York City." by Flickr user Kyle McCluer under Creative Commons License

Back to menu SATURDAY, March 24

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012 9:00 am to 11:00 am

Metal Studies Rising

Room: KC 808

Moderator:  Jeremy Wallach

Featuring:

Esther Clinton, “The Gothic Menace, Then and Now: Gothic Literature, Heavy Metal Music, and Moral Panics”

Eric Smialek, “How Does Metal Mean? Ways that Musicology Can Contribute to Metal Studies”

Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone, “Hell Bent for Metal: A Study of Queer Fans of Heavy Metal”

Nelson Varas-Diaz & Eliut R. Rivera-Segarra, “Heavy Metal music in the Caribbean Setting: Social Practices and Meanings of Music at the Periphery”

Saturday, March 24, 2012 11:15am-12:45pm

Street Dreams: Blackness on the Move

Room: KC 802

Moderator:  Alexandra T. Vazquez

Featuring:

Adrienne Brown, “Rehearing Hip-Hop Automotivity”

Sonya Posmentier, “City Streets, Country Roads: Zora Neale Hurston’s Moving Sound”

Francisco Robles, “‘This bitter earth may not be so bitter after all': Political Promise and Sonic Geography in Killer of Sheep and We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite”

Sexuality and the City

Room: KC 405

Moderator:  Franklin Bruno

Featuring:

Philip Gentry, “The Erotics of Chance”

Emily Tartanella, “‘A Country Mile Behind the World': A Smithsian Sense of Place “

Elias Krell, “Singing the Contours of the City: Transvocality and Affect in Lucas Silveira’s Toronto”

Preserving Soundscapes

Room: KC 406

Moderator:  Laura Lavernia

Featuring:

Matthew Hayes, “Preserving America’s Endangered Soundscapes: An Emerging Field in Historic Preservation”

Barrett Martin, “Preserving Musical Memory: Physical Space and Socio-Economic-Cultural Identity”

Devon Powers, “Writing Music (Into) History”

Saturday, March 24, 2012 2:15pm-3:45pm

Warhol’s New York

Room: KC 914

Moderator:  Jonathan Flatley

Featuring:

Gustavus Stadler, “Aural Drag: Warhol as Pop Listener”

Eric Lott, “Andy’s Mick: Warhol Builds a Better Jagger”

Bryan Waterman, “‘It’s Too ‘Too Too’ to Put a Finger On': Tom Verlaine’s Lost Lisp and the Secret History of the New York Underground”

 

Losing It in the City

Room: KC 804/5

Moderator:  Ken Wissoker

Featuring:

Carolina González, “DomiNegro turf: Whose Uptown?”

Keith M. Harris, “‘I don’t care anymore': Deep Soul, Doris Duke, and the Allegory of Migration”

Michael B. Gillespie, “We Almost Lost Detroit: Sonic Historiography, 9/11, and Theo Parrish”

Saturday, March 24, 2012 4:00pm-6:00pm

Roundtable: Feminist and Queer Studies of Race in Sound

Room KC 804/5

This roundtable convenes two fields of scholarly inquiry—critical race studies and feminist theory/queer studies—to explore the following interrelated questions: How does sound construct racialized and gendered meaning and/or prompt processes of racial subjection? How might various hermeneutics of sound enrich and/or expand current ethnic and gender studies approaches to the study of racial formation? And how might we collectively forge a feminist, queer analytic for the study of racialized sound and sonic processes of racialization?

Moderator: Kevin Fellezs

Featuring:

Kirstie Dorr

Roshanak Kheshti

Deborah Vargas

Saturday, March 24, 2012 6:15pm-7:30pm
IASPM-US General Membership Meeting

Room: Rosenthal Pavilion, 10th Floor

The general membership meeting of IASPM-US is the organization’s opportunity to gather together and discuss the accomplishments of the past year, any concerns or issues that have arisen, and plans for the coming year. All IASPM members are welcome. We would also like to invite any interested regular EMP participants who might be interested in joining IASPM. Beyond our normal business, the general meeting this year will feature the announcement of the first winner of the Charles Hamm Memorial Award in recognition of lifetime contribution to Popular Music Studies. In addition, the David Sanjek Award for best paper by a graduate student at the meeting will be announced.

"NYU" by Flickr user LEH.nicor under Creative Commons license

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SUNDAY, March 25

SUNDAY, March 25, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012 9:00 am to 11:00 am

‘Silver City Bound': Black Women Musicians & the Urban Avant Garde

Room: KC 905/7

Moderator:  Imani Perry

Featuring:

Daphne A. Brooks, “‘One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up singing': The Secret Black Feminist History of the Gershwins’Porgy and Bess

Farah Jasmine Griffin, “Playing through the Changes: Mary Lou Williams’ Manhattan”

Salamishah Tillet, “Bethlehem, Boardwalks, and the City of Brotherly Love: Nina Simone’s Pre-Civil Rights Aesthetic”

Jayna Brown, “After the End of the World: Afro Diasporan Feminism and Alternative Dimensions of Sound”

Distanced Listening

Room: KC 802

Moderator:  Tom Miller

Featuring:

Jeremy Morris, “Hear, Here: Location-Based Music”

Van Truong, “Distant Sounds”

Mark Katz, “Analog and Digital: A Love Story”

Karl Hagstrom Miller, “I am Sitting in a Room: The Private Pop Experience”

Sunday, March 25, 2012 11:15am-12:45am

Utopian Spaces in an Accelerated Age

Room: KC 802

Moderator:  Eric Lott

Featuring:

Wayne Marshall, “Music as Social Life in an Age of Platform Politricks”

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, “Cunt Music: When Vogue House Dips Meet Dipset”

Max Pearl & Alexis Stephens, “New Jack City: Frenzied Cultures, Transitory Spaces (or, how I learned to stop worrying and embrace the hype cycle)”

 

Sunday, March 25, 2012 2:15pm-3:45pm

Urban Ears

Room: KC 905/7

Moderator:  Greil Marcus

Featuring:

Sonnet Retman, “Muddy the Waters: Other Stories of Love and Theft in the Making of the Delta Blues”

David Suisman, “The Urban Ear of Tony Schwartz”

Franklin Bruno, “Who Put the Arrow in ‘Cupid?': Hugo and Luigi’s Schlock ‘n’ Soul”

 

A Girl’s Guide to the Urban Imaginary

Room: KC 914

Moderated by: Jacqueline Warwick

Featuring:

Elizabeth Keenan, “Out in the Streets: 1960s Girl Groups and the Imagined Urban Space of New York City”

Sarah Dougher, “Making Noise in the Safe Space: How Girls’ Rock Camps Make Place in the City”

Diane Pecknold, “The Spectral Cityscapes of Tween Pop”

“Beat Street”: New York City Hip-Hop

Room: KC 804/5

Moderator:  Oliver Wang

Featuring:

Patrick Rivers, “Rumble in the Concrete Jungle: Beat Battles in NYC and Their Impact on Hip-Hop Production”

Shanté Paradigm Smalls, “‘Voices Carry': Queer Dissonance and the Travel of NYC 1980s Hip-Hop Sound”

Chris Tabron, “‘Boom It in Ya Jeep': Low-end Theories of Black Aurality in 90’s NYC Hip-Hop”

Roundtable – I Pledge Allegiance to the Block: Cityscapes, Hegemonic Sound, and Blackness

Room: KC 808

Whether a homesite for protest and resistance or, as Alain Locke suggests, an escape from the ‘medieval’ south, the city serves as both a muse and haven for black American cultural expression. Although city-scapes are heavily represented in African American music and popular culture, more discussion is needed about how the city is often a hegemonic space of black cultural expression. In other words, how does an urban setting dictate power and blackness in the (African) American community?

Moderator:  Guthrie Ramsey

 Featuring:

Regina Bradley

Fredara Hadley

Matthew D. Morrison

Liana Silva

Sunday, March 25, 2012 4:00pm-6:00pm

Modern English

Room: KC 808

Moderator:  Devin McKinney

Julia Sneeringer, “‘I’d Never Even Been to Manchester': Liverpool Musicians in Hamburg’s Entertainment Economy, 1960-1965″

Leonard Nevarez, “How Joy Division came to sound like Manchester”

Lucy O’Brien, “Can I Have a Taste of Your Ice Cream? (Post punk feminism and the Yorkshire Ripper)”

Gillian Gower, “Riot Culture: Beats, Banksy, and the Bristol Sound”

Sound at ASA 2011

This year’s American Studies Association meeting in Baltimore, Maryland (October 19th-23rd) marks a real tipping point for Sound Studies within the interdisciplinary field of American Studies.  First of all, there was the publication of Kara Keeling and Josh Kun’s co-edited special issue for American Quarterly, Sound Clash: Listening to American Studies, this past September 2011. Packed with 17 cutting-edge essays—culled from a record breaking 80+ submissions—this must-read issue is, according to Keeling and Kun’s introduction, “a sign not only of sound’s quantitative currency but the promise of its future as a field of ongoing inquiry, and its importance and relevance to the future of American Studies itself” (452).  In addition to its vibrant blend of emerging scholars and senior folk, the issue is notable for its head-on engagement of sound and power in multiple, intersecting dimensions: race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and national identity.  The issue’s intervention tracing the aural edge to U.S. citizenship privilege is especially important, and game-changing for both American Studies and Sound Studies. If you have access to Project Muse, you may download the entire issue (or selected essays) through this link here. The issue also kicks off a new audio-visual web interface for American Quarterly, and you can look here to see and hear more from several authors in the issue.

We at Sounding Out! are proud to be mentioned in the introduction to AQ’s Sound Clash and to have five members of Team SO! featured in the issue: yours truly, Editor-in-Chief and Guest Posts Editor Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, and guest authors, D. Inés Casillas, Nina Eidsheim, Tara Rodgers, and Gayle Wald. Look for Sounding Out! posts in 2012 from more of the AQ special issue’s contributors, including Mack Hagood, D. Travers Scott, and Roshanak Kheshti. If you are headed down to B’more and you’d like to hear from many of these folks in person, American Quarterly is sponsoring a roundtable panel on Saturday, October 22nd, bright and early at 8:00 a.m. at the Hilton Baltimore Holiday Room 5.  It will be moderated by Josh Kun (USC) and will feature Kara Keeling (USC), Asma Naeem (University of Maryland, College Park), Dustin Tahmahkera (Southwestern University), and Roshnak Kheshti (UCSD) as panelists.  Look also for unscheduled guests to appear from the issue, such as Gayle Wald (George Washington) and myself (SUNY Binghamton)—ASA rules do not permit formal participation in more than one panel—and know that, despite the early tip-off time, Keeling and Kun will be taking full advantage of the session to give Sound Clash an enthusiastic and proper send off.  Between now and then, I’ll be frantically figuring out how to clone myself, because a couple of the issue’s contributors, Tara Rodgers (University of Maryland) and Barry Shank (Ohio State), are unfortunately scheduled in two excellent competing sound studies panels that very morning (scroll down for full details)!  Hopefully, when the ASA Sound Studies Caucus gets fully up and running, there will be less tortuously tantalizing research pile-ups like this one.

That’s right, I said the ASA Sound Studies Caucus.  If the publication of the AQ special issue wasn’t awesome enough news, the word on the street is that next year, I may not have to do Sounding Out!’s beloved ASA conference pre-game round-up. Sound Studies is in the process of gaining that all-important indexing in the front of the American Studies Association conference program through the brand-new Sound Studies Caucus.  Through ASA, the caucus is hoping to sponsor specific sound-related panels for forthcoming ASA meetings. This year’s reception is a planning session where interested parties can introduce themselves and become more involved in some of the caucus’s administrative tasks.  The official meet up takes place on Saturday, October 22nd from 4-6 p.m. at the upstairs bar area of the Pratt Street Ale House (206 W. Pratt Street) and Team ASA SSC will be selling limited edition T-Shirts to fund raise for the group. Interested folks can join the Sound Studies Caucus Googlegroup in advance of the meeting and catch the latest breaking news.

The ASA Sound Studies Caucus came out of a 2010 working group of UC faculty called “Sounding Race” generously funded by a UC Humanities Research Institute Grant.  The caucus centralizes race, gender, and sexuality to the study of sound and vice versa; in the words of their grant: “A new direction in sound studies suggests that sound, indeed, racializes, queers, and genders both the speaking subject as well as the listener.”  The grant was authored by Deborah Vargas (UC Irvine), Roshanak Kheshti(UC San Diego), D. Inés Casillas (UC Santa Barbara and frequent Sounding Out! blogger), and Kevin Fellezs (formerly at UC Merced, now at Columbia University). We at Sounding Out! are thankful for their scholarship, enthusiasm, and their critical administrative labor; we look forward to hearing more from this collective both at the caucus meeting and at the sure-to-be-excellent roundtable: “ASA Committee on Ethnic Studies: Sounding Race” on Friday October 21st, at 10:00 a.m. in Hilton Baltimore Peale B. It will be moderated by Herman Grey (UC Santa Cruz) and will also include Kirstie Dorr (UC San Diego). Look for me at both events—I will be the one live-Tweeting furiously with a huge grin on my face, excited to be gathering with so many Sound Studies colleagues from across ASA’s many (inter)disciplines.

Recording for the Baltimore Soundscape Project

In addition, I will be representing Sounding Out! on a panel organized by Nicole Hodges Persley (University of Kansas) and sponsored by the American Studies Women’s Committee called “Digital Displays: Women Imagining Blogospheres as Alternative Public Spheres,” on Saturday, October 22nd from 2:00p.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the Hilton Baltimore Holiday Ballroom 4.  I will be joining Tanya Golash-Boza (University of Kansas, author of the blog  Get a Life, Ph.D), Judy Lubin (Howard University, author of the blog Judy Lubin’s Leading Voices) and Jamie Schmidt Wagman (Saint Louis University) in a conversation about the role and power of blogging in contemporary academic careers.  In particular, my paper, “Sounding Off About Sounding Out!: Emerging Scholars in an Emerging Field” will focus on the mission and history of our blog and its interventions in the problem of access for women, junior scholars, and scholars of color.  Sounding Out! will continue the conversation beyond Saturday afternoon by publishing excerpts from my paper post-ASA.  We hope that you will join us, either in person or by contributing your thoughts and comments when that post eventually goes live.

Below you will find Sounding Out!’s picks for panels, papers, and events of interest to Sound Studies scholars at ASA 2011.  We’d like to thank IASPM (the US branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music for compiling the Popular Music Panels a few weeks back and add that our version of course understands “sound” more broadly: you’ll find music panels among work on urban soundscapes, theorizations of listening, research on sound and space, sound and race, sound and citizenship, as well as new research in the digital humanities for those interested in blogging and other audio-visual technologies, methodologies, and pedagogies.  In addition to panels, I have also copiously trolled through the program looking for events of interest to sound studies scholars as well as individual papers housed on panels not ostensibly or exclusively about sound (another important measure of the health, usefulness, and influence of Sound Studies methodology across the board).  If you find that I have missed you—or have placed your paper here in error—drop me a line at jsa@soundingoutblog.com and I will rectify the situation ASAP.

Finally, I want to give a quick shout out to local organizations and research projects in Baltimore that study sound, both as a gambit for Sound Studies scholars at ASA to think about how to foster relationships with site-specific colleagues and professionals at this and future meetings, but also as a way of introduction (or a welcome back) to the city that we will live in and be a part of for a few precious days this week.  Here are links to the Baltimore Soundscape Project, an interactive, collective soundmap facilitated by the private nonprofit group The Hearing and Speech Agency, which began in Baltimore in 1926 and functions as a “direct service provider, information resource center, and advocate for people of all ages and incomes who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech-language disabilities”; Baltimore Sounds, a website run by Joe Vaccarino, a local musician, writer, and restaurateur,  “dedicated to the history of past and present pop musicians throughout the Baltimore regional area” that features an extensive “Big List” of all musicians and groups in the area between 1950 and 2000; and the enjoyable Sounds of the Baltimore Oriole for a ornithological taste of “wild” Baltimore beyond the built environment. Take a good listen and I’ll see you all very soon. For the virtual experience, look for my live tweets via our Facebook and Twitter pages or on the official ASA backchannel: #2011asa.



Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman is co-founder, Editor-in-Chief and Guest Posts Editor for Sounding Out! She is also Assistant Professor of English at Binghamton University and a Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University. 

Jump to THURSDAY, October 20
Jump to FRIDAY, October 21
Jump to SATURDAY, October 22
Jump to SUNDAY, October 23

Baltimore Sounds

THURSDAY, October, 20

THURSDAY PANELS

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

African American Soundscapes and Sound Theory, Hilton Baltimore Tubman B

CHAIR: Alexander Weheliye, Northwestern University (IL)

PAPERS: Anthony Reed, Yale University (CT), “Some Echo of Haunting Melody”: W.E.B. Du Bois’ Musical Modernity

Noelle Morrissette, University of North Carolina, Greensboro (NC), James Weldon Johnson’s Soundscape of Modernity: Black Manhattan

Benjamin S. Glaser, Cornell University (NY), “They require(d) of us a song”: Psalm 137 and the Negro Renaissance

Carter Mathes, Rutgers University, Newark (NJ), Narrative Acoustics: “Free” Writing Black Consciousness

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Towards a Sensual Politics: Nation, Race, and Sense Perception, Hilton Baltimore Peale B

CHAIR: Todd Carmody, University of California, Berkeley (CA)

PAPERS: Britt Rusert, Temple University (PA), Fugitive Senses: Race and Empiricism in the Early Republic

Erica Fretwell, Duke University (NC), Sensitive Citizenship, Passing, and Other Nervous Conditions

Patrick Jagoda, University of Chicago (IL), How Videogames Think

COMMENT: Nihad Farooq, Georgia Institute of Technology (GA)

 

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

Folk, Pop, and Indie Rock: Race and Ethnicity in American Music, Hilton Baltimore Carroll B

CHAIR: Ulrich Adelt, University of Wyoming (WY)

PAPERS: Lorena Alvarado, University of California, Los Angeles (CA), Ambiguous Anthems: Narratives of the Immigrant Subject and Popular Music

Nicholas Francisco Centino, University of California, Santa Barbara (CA), Raza Rockabilly: Reclaimed Space, History, and Identity in Contemporary Los Angeles

Matthew Mace Barbee, Siena Heights University (MI), The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence: How Black Nationalism Created Indie Rock

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Voicing a Riff: The Village Voice Music Section and Its Critical Legacy, Hilton Baltimore Johnson B

CHAIR: Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (AL)

PANELISTS: Joshua Clover, University of California, Davis (CA), Ann Powers, Independent Scholar, Greg Tate, Independent Scholar, Eric Weisbard, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa (AL)

 

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

Nijah N. Cunningham, Columbia University (NY), Strident Light, Radiant Sound: Reparation and Redress in a Flyer for a Forsaken Life, Reparative Justice and the Failures of Government, Hilton Baltimore Brent

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

Patricia Herrera, University of Richmond (VA), Sonic Memorials to Roberto Clemente, The Nuyorican Movement, Aesthetics, and Feminism, Hilton Baltimore Peale B

Invisible Sound Studio in Baltimore

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FRIDAY, October 21

FRIDAY PANELS

10:00 am – 11:45 am

Performative Black Christianity and the Logics of Religious Representation, Hilton Baltimore Holiday Ballroom 4

CHAIR: Daphne A. Brooks, Princeton University (NJ)

PAPERS: Ashon T. Crawley, Duke University (NC), Arthur, Crunch, and the Sound of Blackness in Baldwin’s Just Above My Head

Ronald Neal, Wake Forest University (NC), Spike Lee Can Go to Hell! Tyler Perry, Religion, and Southern Masculinity

Terrion L. Williamson, Michigan State University (MI), Juanita Bynum: Black Religiosity and the Making of a Good Christian Girl

COMMENT: Fred Moten, Duke University (NC)

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Affective Histories, Critical Transformations: A Roundtable Discussion, Hilton Baltimore Latrobe

CHAIR: Jasbir K. Puar, Rutgers University, New Brunswick/Piscataway (NJ)

PANELISTS: Mel Y. Chen, University of California, Berkeley (CA), Dana Luciano, Georgetown University (DC), Robert McRuer, George Washington University (DC), Karen Tongson, University of Southern California (CA)

 

ASA Committee on Ethnic Studies I: Sounding Race, Hilton Baltimore Peale B

CHAIR: Herman S. Gray, University of California, Santa Cruz (CA)

PANELISTS: Deborah R. Vargas, University of California, Irvine (CA), Kirstie A. Dorr, University of California, San Diego (CA), Kevin Fellezs, Columbia University (NY), Dolores InÈs Casillas, University of California, Santa Barbara (CA), Herman S. Gray, University of California, Santa Cruz (CA)

 

12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

Musical Migrations, Political Transformations: Reassembling Caribbean Musics in the Post-War United States, Hilton Baltimore Johnson B

CHAIR:  Brent Hayes Edwards, Columbia University (NY)

PAPERS: Alexandra Vazquez, Princeton University (NJ), Listening in the Cold War Years

Nadia Ellis, University of California, Berkeley (CA), From a Broken Bottle, Traces: Haunt and the Poetics of Diasporic Repair

Shane Vogel, Indiana University–Bloomington (IN), Madam Zajj and U.S. Steel: Duke Ellington’s Calypso Theatre

COMMENT:  Brent Hayes Edwards, Columbia University (NY)

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Transforming Scholarly Research in the Digital Age (Sponsored by the Digital Humanities Caucus), Hilton Baltimore Key Ballroom 09

CHAIR:  Wendy Chun, Brown University (RI)

PANELISTS: A. Joan Saab, University of Rochester (NY), Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, University of Pennsylvania (PA), Tara McPherson, University of Southern California (CA), Mark Williams, Dartmouth College (NH)

 

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

The Musical Imaginary: Race, Class, and Authenticity, Hilton Baltimore Paca A

CHAIR:  Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Pennsylvania State University, University Park Main Campus (PA)

PAPERS: William Fulton, City University of New York, Graduate School (NY), Re-inventing Authenticity: Big Brother and the  Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills as Haight-Ashbury Counterculture Statement

Sonnet Retman, University of Washington, Seattle (WA), Muddy the Waters: Other Stories of Love and Theft in the Making of the Delta Blues

Elizabeth Yeager, University of Kansas (KS), “Find[ing] myself a city to live in”: Middle Class American Imagination and Phish Scene Identity

Jack Hamilton, Harvard University (MA), Being Good Isn’t Always Easy: Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and Janis Joplin in the 1960s

COMMENT:  Danielle Heard, University of California, Davis (CA)

 

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

 2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

Daylanne English, Macalester College (MN), ArchAndroids and Their Antecedents: The Roots of Janelle Monae’s Afrofuturistic Post-human, Afrofuturism, Hilton Baltimore Peale A

 4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

Marisol Negron, University of Massachusetts, Boston (MA), From Mambo to Hip Hop: (Re)Imagining ìNuyoricanî with HÈctor LaVoe and La Bruja, Imagining Latinidad and Citizenship in Popular Cultures, Hilton Baltimore Brent

THE SOUND GARDEN RECORD STORE, FELLS POINT, BALTIMORE MD, FLICKR USER EARL

EVENTS

9:30 p.m.

Book Release Party for Karen Tongson (USC): Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (NYU Press), 9:30 p.m. at Red Maple, 930 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, 21201


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Saturday, October 22

SATURDAY PANELS

8:00 am – 9:45 am

American Quarterly Theme Session I: Sound in American Studies, Hilton Baltimore Holiday Ballroom 5

CHAIR:  Josh Kun, University of Southern California (CA)

PANELISTS: Kara Keeling, University of Southern California (CA), Asma Naeem, University of Maryland, College Park (MD), Dustin Tahmahkera, Southwestern University (TX), Roshanak Kheshti, University of California, San Diego (CA)

**Other scholars appearing in the issue are invited to attend and participate. Confirmed attendance as of this posting: Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, SUNY Binghamton (NY), Gayle Wald, George Washington University (DC)

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Sounds of Response in the Age of Communicative Capitalism, Hilton Baltimore Key Ballroom 07

CHAIR: Travis Jackson, University of Chicago (IL)

PAPERS: Ruby Tapia, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH), Sonic Architectures of Memory: Digital Re-mixes and Structured Mournings at the Virtual WTC

Barry Shank, Ohio State University, Columbus (OH), Imagination and Transformation in Alarm Will Sound’s 1969

Shana Redmond, University of Southern California (CA), Manifold Music: On Markets and the Limits of Racial Exchange

COMMENT: Travis Jackson, University of Chicago (IL)

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Automation or Imagination? Aesthetics and Politics in the History of Electrical Communication, Hilton Baltimore Holiday Ballroom 4

CHAIR:  Patricia Ticineto Clough, City University of New York, Queens College (NY)

PAPERS: Mara Mills, New York University (NY), The Politics of Reading Machines, 1912–1971

Drew Daniel, Johns Hopkins University (MD), What Is a Digital Sound Object?

Tara Rodgers, University of Maryland, College Park (MD), The Liveliness of Synthesized Sound: From Helmholtz and Darwin to the Cybernetic Imagination

Orit Halpern, New School University (NY), The Autonomous Eye: Cybernetics, Perception, and Bio-politics

COMMENT:  Patricia Ticineto Clough, City University of New York, Queens College (NY)

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10:00 am – 11:45 am

Musical Lives and Imaginaries in B’More and the Chocolate City, Hilton Baltimore Carroll B

CHAIR:  Lester Kenyatta Spence, Johns Hopkins University (MD)

PAPERS: Natalie Hopkinson, Independent Scholar, Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City

Al Shipley, Independent Scholar, Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music

Gavin Mueller, George Mason University (VA), The Ecology of Go-Go’s Informal Markets

COMMENT:  Lester Kenyatta Spence, Johns Hopkins University (MD)

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2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

ASA Women’s Committee: Digital Displays: Women Imagining Blogospheres as Alternative Public Spheres, Hilton Baltimore Holiday Ballroom 4

CHAIR:  Nicole Hodges Persley, University of Kansas (KS)

PAPERS: Tanya Golash-Boza, University of Kansas (KS), How Academics Can Benefit from Blogging and How to Get Started

Judy Lubin, Howard University (DC), Reframing Shirley Sherrod: Black Women Bloggers and the Intersection of Race, Class and Gender

Jamie Schmidt Wagman, Saint Louis University (MO), A Woman’s Sphere: The Pill, The Net, and What’s Next

Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman, State University of New York, Binghamton (NY), Sounding off about Sounding Out!: Emerging Scholars in an Emerging Field

COMMENT:  Nicole Hodges Persley, University of Kansas (KS)

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4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

Transforming Sound(s): A Reading and Discussion, Hilton Baltimore Tubman B

CHAIR:  Jonathan Peter Moore, Duke University (NC)

PANELISTS: Mark McMorris, Georgetown University (DC), Nathaniel Mackey, Duke University (NC), Evie Shockley, Rutgers University, New Brunswick (NJ)

INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

8:00 am – 9:45 am

Allison Perlman, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJ),  Regulating the Color Line: Univision, Spanish Language Broadcasting, and Latino Speech Rights, Regulation, Citizenship, and Communication Technologies,Hilton Baltimore Armistead

10:00 am – 11:45 am

Jason William Loviglio, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (MD), Radio Free Baltimore: Neoliberal Transformation on the Local Public Airwaves, Behind The Wire, Hilton Baltimore Holiday Ballroom 6

Fran McDonald, Duke University (NC), Supreme Laughter: The Reparative Function of Laughter in the American Courtroom, Humor Studies Caucus: Humor as Reparation and Representation, Hilton Baltimore Key Ballroom 09

Lerone Martin, Eden Theological Seminary (MO), Play It Again!: The Phonograph and the Re-imagination, Reparation, and Transformation of Black Protestantism, 1925–1941, The Arts of African American Faith: Social Transformation and the Black Religious Imagination, Hilton Baltimore Peale B

12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

Felicidad Bliss Cua Lim, University of California, Irvine (CA), Audible/Visible: Racialized Stardom and Language in Philippine Cinema, American Quarterly Theme Session III: Visuality and Race, Hilton Baltimore Holiday Ballroom 5

2:00 pm – 3:45 pm

Clare Corbould, Monash University, Australia, Performance and the Oral History of Slavery: The WPA Ex-Slave Narratives of the Interwar Years, Imagined Spaces and Reparative Performances: Constructing Public Memory in the Americas, Hilton Baltimore Johnson B

James Deutsch, Smithsonian Institution, Hark the Noisy Streets: The Nineteenth-Century Sounds of Baltimore, The City and Its Spaces, Hilton Baltimore Peale C

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

Hishaam Aidi, Columbia University (NY), Hip Hop, Public Diplomacy and Indigenous Islam, Islamophobia: 10 Years after September 11, 2001, Hilton Baltimore Johnson A

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EVENTS

8:00 am – 9:45 am

Business Meeting of the Science and Technology Caucus, Hilton Baltimore Chase

12:00 pm – 1:45 pm

Business Meeting of the Digital Humanities Caucus, Hilton Baltimore Stone

4:00 pm – 5:45 pm

Business Meeting of the ASA Women’s Committee, Hilton Baltimore Chase

4:00-6:00 p.m.

ASA Sound Studies Caucus MeetingPratt Street Ale House, 206. W. Pratt Street, Baltimore, 21201

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SUNDAY, October, 23

SUNDAY PANELS

10:00 am – 11:45 am

The Golden Years: Fifties TV and Radio, Hilton Baltimore Key Ballroom 07

CHAIR:  Candace Moore, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI)

PAPERS: Benjamin Min Han, New York University (NY), Cold War Talent: Ethnic Performers, Music, and Variety Shows in 50s America

Susan Murray, New York University (NY), Colortown: NBC’s Investment in Color, 1950–1959

Christina Abreu, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (MI), From the Bronx to I Love Lucy: Lived and Televised Latinidad at the Tropicana Club in the 1950s

Patrick Roberts, National-Louis University (IL), Soul Machine: Agency and the Art of the Gimmick on Chicago R&B Radio, 1955–1963

COMMENT:  Joel Dinerstein, Tulane University (LA)

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Reparative Warhol, Hilton Baltimore Peale A

CHAIR:  Eric Lott, University of Virginia (VA)

PAPERS: Jonathan Flatley, Wayne State University (MI), Liking and Likeness: Across the Color Line in Warhol

Homay King, Bryn Mawr College (PA), Moving On: Andy Warhol and the Exploding Plastic Inevitable

Gustavus Stadler, Haverford College in Pennsylvania (PA), Andy’s Wife: Fidelity and Faith in Warhol’s Aural Practices

COMMENT:  Eric Lott, University of Virginia (VA)

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INDIVIDUAL PAPERS

10:00 am – 11:45 am

Albert Sergio Laguna, Columbia College (IL), Listening to Change: Radio, Humor, and the Future of Cuban Miami, Humor Studies Caucus: Ethnic Humor: Pleasures and Problems, Hilton Baltimore Key Ballroom 10

10:00 am – 11:45 am

Grace Wang, University of California, Davis (CA), Tiger Moms and Music Moms: On “Asian” Parenting; and Tamar Barzel, Wellesley College (MA), …pater le Punkeoisie—No Wave’s Queer and Jewish Interventions into Punk Rock’s Semiotic Terrain, Disciplining Gendered Bodies: The Strategic Performance of Ethnic Identity in Musical, Literary, and Visual Culture, Hilton Baltimore Peale C

VISUALIZING THE BALTIMORE SOUND: JASMINE SARP'S SENIOT THESIS, BY FLICKR USER KROOOOOP



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How Svengali Lost His Jewish Accent

Diva as Svengali: Beyoncé by Lucas Lopez

The pop juggernaut Beyoncé recently made headlines when she confessed her plans for world pop domination to an AP reporter.  She said:

 “I am starting my company, my label. I want to create a boy band. I want to continue to produce and do documentaries and music videos. I eventually want to start directing for other artists.”

While Beyoncé’s business ambitions are hardly newsworthy—like many a multitasking pop idol, she helms several successful ventures, including a line of perfumes and a ready-to-wear fashion line—the announcement that she wants to be a musical impresario puts Beyoncé in more relatively selective company, especially as a woman. “Beyoncé as music industry boy band Svengali?” asked Amy Sciaretto, a tad incredulously, on PopCrush, “Yes, it’s true.”

Sunglassed Svengali: Cameron Grey portrait of Phil Spector, photo by Flickr user Lord Jim

In pop music writing, the idea of the Svengali pops up with regularity, usually to describe a man obsessively managing the careers of his younger, often vulnerable, charges. Classic examples include Phil Spector and the Ronettes. Berry Gordy and Diana Ross. Malcolm McLaren and the Sex Pistols. Lou Pearlman and the Backstreet Boys. To call Beyoncé a Svengali is both to insert her into this overwhelmingly male trajectory and to associate her, rather unflatteringly, with a long tradition of the producer-control freak, officiously meddling while passing himself off as his protégé’s protective sponsor.

Both associations, in fact, take us back to the origin of the term Svengali, from Trilby, an 1894 bestseller by the English writer and illustrator George Du Maurier. In that work, Trilby, a young Englishwoman of great likability but dubious honor (she is the daughter of a barmaid, and occasionally works as an artist’s model), is living la vie bohème in Paris, where she encounters Svengali, a sinister but charismatic musical genius who uses his mesmeric powers to turn her into the singing sensation of the European concert stage. Trilby can only sing, however, under Svengali’s spell—she must literally look at him while she performs—and so when one day he expires, mid-performance, of a weak heart, she loses her own vocal powers and later dies. The cause of her death is partly shock, but partly unrequited love. For although Svengali, a rather hideous Jew, had vainly sought Trilby’s affections, which she could only return when in hypnotic thrall to him, Trilby has long been in love with Little Billie, the handsome scion of a wealthy English family, who cannot marry her because she is tragically beneath him in rank.

Trilby, 1894. The cover illustration shows an angel’s heart caught in Svengali’s web.

First serialized in Harper’s, Trilby was a transatlantic sensation, igniting what the press at the time, neatly anticipating Beatlemania, dubbed “Trilbymania.” Trilby’s success—and Svengali’s emergence into our cultural lingua franca—is attributable to its canny marriage of late 19th-century sentimentalism (the plot of a heroine who desires the unattainable good man but succumbs to the ogling bad man) with contemporary anti-Semitism, particularly the Wagnerian stereotype of the cultured Jew as musical parasite. In Das Judenthum in der Musik (Judaism in Music), an 1850 pamphlet, Wagner infamously excoriated Jewish musicians, claiming their inherent artistic inferiority relative to Gentiles.

It is important here that although Wagner was partly responding to the influx of Polish and other Eastern European Jewish peasants in 19th-century Germany, his attack was primarily aimed at the assimilated German-Jewish bourgeoisie. It was those Jews, as Wagner’s contemporary, the German music critic and journalist Franz Brendel put it, who “have fallen into a hopeless contradiction, i.e., of possessing our culture and yet remaining Jews, of wishing to be Jewish and Christian in one person.” Wagner’s Jew makes music in a tainted vernacular. Jews “can only imitate the speech of any European nation,” he wrote, “and because song is an extension of speech, … can never be great singers.”

Du Maurier’s Svengali, Polish-born but culturally German, enters late 19th-century Anglophone culture bearing the marks of the Wagnerian stereotype. In the novel he is introduced as a tall bony individual of any age between thirty and forty-five, of Jewish aspect, well-featured but sinister.

“He was very shabby and dirty… His thick, heavy, languid, lusterless black hair fell down behind his ears on to his shoulders, in that musician-like way that is so offensive to the normal Englishman. He had bold, brilliant black eyes, with long heavy lids, a thin, sallow face, and a beard of burnt-up black, which grew almost from under his eyelids; and over it his moustache, a shade lighter, fell in two long spiral twists. He went by the name of Svengali, and spoke fluent French with a German accent and humorous German twists and idiom, and his voice was very thin and mean and harsh, and often broke into a disagreeable falsetto.”

In short, Svengali is a prototypical Jew of late 19th-century anti-Semitic fantasy: Jewish in “aspect” and Jewish in nature: Jewish in his effeminacy and his indeterminate age and nationality; Jewish despite his ennobling Germanness and cultural accomplishment; Jewish even in his mysterious one-word appellation, Svengali, a name that renders his character both cosmopolitan and menacingly foreign, like the villain of a Donizetti opera. Like all embodiments of stereotype, Svengali exudes an embarrassing surfeit of Jewishness; at one point, Du Maurier’s narrator refers to him as “a dark black Hebrew sweep”; at another, as “an Oriental Israelite Hebrew Jew.” He is a bottom-feeder even in the 19th-century hierarchy of European and English Jews: dark, accented, coarse in his mannerisms and customs, a repellent mixture of East and West. 

Svengali hypnotizing Trilby as she prepares for a performance. Illustration by George Du Maurier, 1894

Although it was not the case in the late 19th century, when parents took to naming their daughters Trilby, ultimately Svengali would prove more culturally durable than Du Maurier’s heroine. Today, the term, if not the memory of its origins in a forgettable 19th-century fiction, persists as a prototype of the charismatic, driven, and authoritative male starmaker. Like Du Maurier’s Svengali, the Svengali of contemporary usage craves money, but is driven by something greater than wealth. Like the fictional character, he is often himself a gifted artist, and yet he can never be the frontman, only the guy behind the scenes. Above all, he excels at playing other performers, especially feminized ones, as his “instruments.” Like the Svengali who mesmerizes Trilby with his eyes, he is creepily alluring, exerting a mysterious power over his musical charges—at least until the spell wears off (which it inevitably does).

Svengali is one of three Jewish characters—the others are Shylock and Fagin—whose names have become archetypes in English. Yet whereas Shakespeare’s and Dickens’s characters name Jewish stereotypes—and one would think before calling, say, Lou Pearlman, impresario of the Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync, now serving a jail sentence at a federal penitentiary in Texarkana for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme, a “Shylock”—Svengali carries little trace of its specifically anti-Semitic provenance.

This isn’t a post-Holocaust occurrence. In the course of a few decades after the serialization of Trilby the figure of Svengali had been almost entirely stripped of his ethnic accent. Whereas an 1897 Viennese stage production of Trilby provoked anti-Semitic agitation—forebodingly, given what was to come, forcing the producers to recode Svengali as a Hungarian Gypsy—by 1902, the Kansas City, Kansas American Citizen records the usage of “Svengali” to name a man who mesmerizes respectable women. Caught up in the late Victorian vogue for hypnosis, early 20th-century Americans attributed to “real-life” Svengalis a range of moral infractions that could not be credited to the women who committed them. No reason save hypnotic enticement could be found to explain the 1905 case of a Michigan woman, the wife of a veterinarian, who ran away with a balding, middle-aged white man, before returning to him when the “hypnotic effect began to wear off.”

John Barrymore as Svengali (1931)

In the 1931 film Svengali, starring John Barrymore, which follows the novel very closely, Svengali is Semiticized (the actor speaks with an accent and wears a nose prosthesis) and yet, quite assiduously, not named as a Jew, although he is associated with the Orient.  By the time of the 1983 made-for-TV movie Svengali, starring Jodi Foster as the pop star Zoe Alexander, not only is the anti-Semitism excised, but also the character Svengali is missing. In this post-Helen Reddy world, moreover, Foster’s character eventually outgrows the need for her old teacher-manager (Peter O’Toole), who in the film’s end must go hunting for new students.

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It’s not particularly remarkable that we still use the term Svengali despite its reprehensible heritage. We still recite the schoolyard rhyme “eenie meenie miney moe,” with its roots in antebellum racial stereotype, and know well the minstrel stage song repertoire.

On the other hand, the fact that “svengali” has shed its associations with Jewish masculinity, all the while retaining something of the ambivalence of anti-Semitic stereotype, is noteworthy. Svengalis are useful in crafting modern pop mythologies. Where money is concerned, they deflect agency away from pop stars—who, notwithstanding the degree of commercialism of their music or the loudness of their boasts, are still not supposed to want wealth more than making art or pleasing their fans.  More generally, the Svengali figure intercedes to “manage” the excess of their desire, otherwise so often unbound in their musical performances and their excessive real-life behavior. In his delightful romp of a book Starmakers and Svengalis, the British music journalist Johnny Rogan recounts how Tam Paton, the manager of the Bay City Rollers, was ultimately unable to contend with the bad-boy shenanigans of the “tartan teen sensations” whose squeaky clean image he had carefully cultivated. It’s perhaps not incidental here that Paton was gay, inhabiting a public sexual identity associated with otherness and indeterminacy, and thus hearkening back to the archetype’s Jewish origins.

Du Maurier’s character drew from the notion of Jewish men as perversely sexually powerful, combining attractiveness and repulsiveness in one body. Sexual titillation in Trilbyis never far from the surface. Ultimately, the figure of the Svengali is a means of containing and deflecting expressions of desire in pop music. Through him, we can personify the larger predations of the music industry, its constant hunger for product and profit. By vilifying the powerful headmaster of the Motown “charm school” or the evil father figure behind the Jackson 5, for example, we can turn our attention away from our own complicity in the objectifying dynamic.

Svengali as spider. Illustration by George Du Maurier. The caption reads: “An Incubus.”

Here Svengali’s power of hypnosis—the quality that attached itself to the Svengali-figure in the early 20th century—is a potent metaphor for what pop music does to us, in making us listen despite (sometimes) our intellectual rejection of it.  In Du Maurier’s original illustration for his novel, Svengali is a spider who entraps Trilby in his web. Pop music is often like that spider and that web: supremely sticky and, once we are hooked, indifferent to our resistance.

Gayle Wald is Professor of English at George Washington University. She is author of Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Beacon, 2007) and working on a book about the TV show Soul!, which brought a black power sensibility to PBS circa 1968-73. Wald’s post is adapted from a “Keyword” talk she gave at the Experience Music Project POP Music Conference in Los Angeles in March 2011, where it caused quite a stir.  Peep these links to read some initial responses from music critic Bob Cristgau and Flavorwire.  

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