Jeffrey H. Jackson and Stanley C. Pelkey open their collection, Music and History (subtitle ‘Bridging the Disciplines’, 2005) by asking: ‘Why haven’t historians and musicologists been talking to one another?’ They suggest that at the heart of this absence is a problem of communication, concerning the distinct methods, knowledge and skills employed in both disciplines: does one need to be able to read, play or even ‘appreciate’ music for instance in order to make sense of it historically? On the other hand, do musicologists need an understanding of historiography to write histories of music? The issue for scholars in both disciplines is the status of the musical object: how to account for music as music, without losing a sense of its historical specificity. Continue reading
In 1989, a survey of French cultural taste revealed that Serge Gainsbourg was both one of the most popular singers and yet a near outcast in his native country. When he died, two years later, President Mitterrand called him “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire”, claiming he had “elevated chanson to the level of art”. But he might just as well have acknowledged Gainsbourg as the first artist to top the British charts with a single in a foreign language. With the hindsight of almost thirty years, one thing is, in any case, certain: sampled by Beck, De La Soul, Massive Attack and Fatboy Slim, remixed by Howie B. and David Holmes, translated by Mick Harvey and covered by Iggy Pop, Donna Summer, Portishead, Madeleine Peyroux, the Pet Shop Boys and Franz Ferdinand, “the man with the cabbage head” remains the Francophone songwriter whose contribution to the international appeal of French popular music has been the most significant in the post-war era. Continue reading
The first punk bands in the ESSR were established at the end of the 1970s. Punk was blacklisted in the ESSR, after youth riots erupted at a September 1980 concert of the punk band Propeller. During the first half of the 1980s the punk movement was small but steady in size. The punk’s main ways of expression were extravagant behaviour and clothes, organizing illegal concerts and social life in Tallinn’s cafés. Nevertheless, being a punk was socially frowned upon and meant problems with family, in school and in public where the youths were ofter arrested by the militsiya. Continue reading
Nearly half a century after Luciano Berio praised the Beatles in his ‘Commenti al Rock’ (1967), this special issue of Volume! surveys the research carried out on the band that was, according to John Lennon, ‘more popular than Jesus’. In light of an extensive bibliography covering the first 50 years of what we now call ‘Beatles Studies’, one learns, for example, that the British Invasion originated in Paris, that Popular Music Studies began with the musicological study of popular music, that the theory of harmonic vectors can help analyze pop music or that Marshall McLuhan’s concepts shed an interesting light on albums such as Abbey Road.
From September 23 to 26, 2014, over 3000 scholars, teachers and students will convene at the University of Göttingen for the 50th Convention of German Historians, the German Historikertag. The event is one of Europe’s largest humanities conferences. “Winners and Losers” is the motto of next year’s anniversary convention. There will be a panel about the history of popular culture. Here is the concept: Continue reading