5 posts from February 2015

February 23, 2015

Becoming an American B(r)and: Pre-Existing Popular Music in Television Commercials

Joanna Love (University of Richmond)

From What’s That Sound? An Introduction to Rock and its History, Fourth Edition, by John Covach and Andrew Flory (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015)

WHAT4Relationships between the American advertising and popular music industries date back to the turn of the twentieth century. Songs like “In My Merry Oldsmobile” were composed in the popular Tin Pan Alley idioms of time and circulated as sheet music for families to perform around their living room pianos. In the 1930s, radio variety shows featuring popular music idioms were sponsored by household corporate brands, and when stand-alone radio jingles (short tunes composed specifically to advertise a brand) gained prominence, they often emulated the forms, instrumentation, vocal timbres, and rhythms and even sampled melodies from then-popular genres like country and western, barbershop, and Tin Pan Alley. After World War II, the rise of the baby boomer generation and their love for rock and roll not only changed the sounds of the American music industry but also eventually infiltrated the business of advertising. As musical audiences grew increasingly fragmented, corporate marketers realized that they too could cater to specific age ranges and regional interests. With the rise of the television culture in the late-1950s, marketers not only sought to emulate the sounds of popular genres but also began to incorporate famous musicians and their pre-existing songs (those created outside a commercial’s context) into television commercials. 

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February 17, 2015

Sweet Torment over Four Centuries

Andrew Dell’Antonio (The University of Texas at Austin)

In 1623 Carlo Milanuzzi, a Venetian musician, released a “greatest hits” songbook—or at least a book of songs he hoped would be recognized as popular, since this was long before broadcasters established Top 10 lists. A highlight of the collection was a tune attributed to one of the best-known songwriters of the time, Claudio Monteverdi.

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February 9, 2015

American Idol

Norma Coates (University of Western Ontario)

WTF4From What’s That Sound? An Introduction to Rock and its History, Fourth Edition, by John Covach and Andrew Flory (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015)

Media scholar Henry Jenkins calls American Idol “the first killer app of media convergence.” It may also be the first killer app of media globalization, as the program that originated in the UK as Pop Idol in 2001 now has local versions in forty countries. Worldwide votes for Idol competitors exceed 3 billion. At the same time, American Idol is the last killer app of old media during a time when digital technologies and the increasingly global economy rapidly undermine entrenched entertainment industry business models.

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February 5, 2015

The Avid Listener Digest, February 2015

To help readers navigate the growing list of essays published on The Avid Listener, we've created a downloadable "digest." In it, you'll find links to all our content—organized by category—as well as information on upcoming features. Check it out, and keep coming back for more!

Download The Avid Listener Digest February 2015

February 2, 2015

Does Music Evolve?

Sara Haefeli (Ithaca College)

The founding fathers of musicology had a tremendous impact on the shape of Western music history. The “victors” craft the historical narrative in order to make their victory seem inevitable. But how has our traditional study of music history made it seem like Western classical music is inevitably the most valuable or important? And why, as avid listeners, should we care?

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The Society Pages Community Blogs


For media inquiries and information about how to submit work to The Avid Listener, please contact Julie Kocsis, managing editor.

Norton Music

A History of Western Music

J. Peter Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca

The Enjoyment of Music

Kristine Forney, Andrew Dell’Antonio, and Joseph Machlis

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