8 posts from March 2015

March 30, 2015

Sub Pop

Theo Cateforis (Syracuse University)

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)

Rock4On April 30, 1991, Nirvana signed with Geffen Records, leaving behind the tiny Seattle indie label Sub Pop, who had released their acclaimed 1989 debut LP Bleach. The trio from Aberdeen, Washington, soon released Nevermind in the fall of 1991, an explosive blend of abrasive punk and melodic pop smarts that would knock Michael Jackson’s Dangerous from the top of the charts and help launch the alternative rock movement. Nevermind would become a global phenomenon, eventually selling over 30 million copies worldwide for Geffen. As part of Sub Pop’s contract buyout, however, the label stipulated that their logo be placed alongside Geffen’s on every Nirvana album, a strong reminder of alternative’s underground roots.

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March 23, 2015

Selma’s Music: The Politics of Commemorating Bloody Sunday

Felicia Miyakawa (Round Rock, TX)

In 1965, documentary filmmaker Stefan Sharff captured the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sharff’s style is sonically sparse: in the entire 17-minute film, we hear only the chopping of helicopter blades; the voice of Dr. King, taken from a recording of his speech in Montgomery; and the communal singing of Civil Rights songs. The music is nondiegetic, meaning that the people in the film do not hear what we hear. And although the documentary captures the sight of marchers singing, we do not hear what they actually sing. Instead, we hear four songs common to Civil Rights marches, protests, and meetings—“This Little Light of Mine,” “I’m So Glad,” “We Are Soldiers,” and “We Shall Overcome”—as performed by the Montgomery Gospel Trio, Nashville Quartet, and Guy Carawan, preserved for history on We Shall Overcome: Songs of the Freedom Riders and the Sit-ins, a recording by Smithsonian Folkways.

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March 19, 2015

The Avid Listener Digest, March-April 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 March-April 2015

March 18, 2015

Integrating The Avid Listener into the Classroom: College Edition

Dedicated to the idea that music criticism can be both literate and fun to read, The Avid Listener features weekly essays about popular, world, and Western art music written by rising scholars from all over the United States. This ever-updating accompaniment to Norton’s renowned music list gives readers the skills to analyze and discuss some of their favorite tunes while learning about practicing musicians, the industry, and new trends. With The Avid Listener, students discover how to listen broadly and deeply, to approach music with a curious spirit and a sense of adventure. Current topics include modes of listening (avid, structural, spiritual, and distracted); hip-hop and cultural diplomacy; Ruth Crawford Seeger and the question of gendered music; film music; musical notation; authenticity and interpretation; and the musical canon. We will post frequent digests to facilitate site navigation by topic. Each digest will also include a list of upcoming essays so instructors can plan lessons and assignments in advance.

Instructors can integrate The Avid Listener into their music history and appreciation courses in a variety of ways. Click here to download Integrating The Avid Listener into the Classroom: College Edition, and click here to learn how to use the site with Common Core English Language Arts Standards.

Integrating The Avid Listener into the Classroom: Common Core English Language Arts Standards

Feature essays at The Avid Listener (TAL) can serve two primary functions in the classroom: as informational texts about music history and music in culture, and as exemplars of good writing for general audiences. TAL texts are brief, well crafted, and carefully edited. They introduce new ideas (such as hip-hop diplomacy) alongside creative takes on more traditional musico-historical narratives (such as the history of music notation, or the politics behind G. F. Handel’s oratorios). Each essay concludes with discussion questions; asking students to read the essays and engage with these questions is perhaps the easiest way to integrate TAL essays into the classroom. But we also recognize that (1) classroom activities are more likely to appeal to school administrators if they can be linked to current educational standards, and (2) music educators are under increasing pressure to support language arts and math educational standards in music classrooms.

To facilitate the integration of TAL into high-school level curricula, we have developed a brief list of suggested exercises that use TAL essays to meet specific Common Core English Language Arts standards. We have chosen standards from grade levels 9/10 and 11/12 that can be adjusted to meet grade-level expectations. The activities can easily be adapted to a number of Common Core standards.

The handout is available for download here. Let us know what you think!

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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