5 posts from April 2015

April 29, 2015

The Avid Listener Digest, May 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 May 2015

April 27, 2015

Top 40: More Hits More Often

Ben Fong-Torres (San Francisco Chronicle)

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)

Rock4It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time, not long ago, when radio was declared dead. In the early 1950s, television was taking over as the most popular form of entertainment for Americans. Radio’s network stars fled for the greener pastures of TV land—even if it was still black and white. Goodbye, Red Skelton; hello, red ink.

Radio networks indeed had problems, but independent stations—the great majority of license holders—fought back by focusing on local listeners and advertisers. They hired announcers who could relate to listeners in ways that a Jack Benny or Marshall Matt Dillon never could. Market research showed that music was a major reason listeners used the radio, and stations began to program records. Radio survived. But it didn’t really explode until rock and roll and the Top 40 format came along.

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April 20, 2015

Recording: A Team Process

Travis D. Stimeling (West Virginia University)

Much of the music we encounter in our daily lives comes to us through recordings, whether we stream it over our phones, pull it out of the ether on our car radio, or passively hear it over the public address system at the local supermarket. But despite recorded music’s pervasiveness in our everyday lives, we seldom stop to think about the team of people who create the recordings that have become so important to our musical lives.

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April 13, 2015

DJ Kool Herc: The Man with the Master Plan

Jeff Chang (Stanford 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)

Rock4When Cindy Campbell and her brother Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell threw a party in 1973, they had no idea what they were about to launch. At the end of the summer, they invited a hundred kids and kin to the modest rec room in their apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx.

Kool Herc started off playing some reggae dancehall tunes on his turntables, similar to the music he had heard at sound system parties in Kingston, Jamaica, where he had lived until the age of twelve. But this was the Bronx. The crowd, at first, wasn’t very happy; they wanted the breaks, the kind of beats that they could move and groove to. So, like any good DJ, Herc gave the people what they wanted, and dropped some soul and funk bombs, songs like James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose,” Mandrill’s “Fencewalk,” and Rare Earth’s “Get Ready.”

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April 6, 2015

The Problem with Geniuses

Sara Haefeli (Ithaca College)

Our monolithic history of Western classical music is largely a story about the great composers, many of whom are described as geniuses. The label has convinced many that we can’t enter the inner circle of musicians and composers. It is an elite cadre, and the chances that a new member will be admitted seem slim. For trained musicians, this focus on the genius reinforces a vague notion that they can’t (or shouldn’t) compose, but the construct is powerful for non-musicians as well. It makes the act of composition seem impossible and blocks many from moving beyond the practice of distracted listening. We don’t think we know enough to be structural listeners.  

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The Society Pages Community Blogs


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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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