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Eric Weisbard

Eric Weisbard is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama, author of Top 40 Democracy: The Rival Mainstreams of American Music, and organizer of the EMP Pop Conference since its inception in 2002. 

“A Critical Guide to the Literature of American Popular Music—Keyword Voices” 
A Critical Guide to the Literature of American Popular Music, the book I’m starting to work on, assumes that for nigh on a hundred years pop has been affront enough to taste and category for writers of all sorts to chase it like an interviewer with a pen and no tape recorder, begging, please, slow down. The entries, each on a single work and short enough to recall my days reviewing records for SPIN, will appear in the order the books were published, to evoke commonalities across sound subcultures, folklore to showbiz: the thing and the sentence jotter’s effort at recuperation. There will be keywords at the end of each entry, linking persisting themes.

This reading of a few initial pieces for the book, entries in the keyword of Voice, is a first draft, early days, so structural feedback can really have an impact. Guide me! I’ll look at books covering the pre-rock, rock, and post-rock eras, as well as borderline pop and academic treatments. What standards did traditions of operetta, the merger of theatrical and classical expressivity, bequeath popular music criticism? Did the microphone change singing, and who has captured that shift best? How did more folkloric appreciations of craggier voices change this set of standards? Can we see in the relationship of the diva to a gay listenership a recuperation of previous taste on new terms? What impact has the language of cultural studies made on the framing of interpretations? Why, ultimately, are so few books on music centered on singing, which arguably has more impact on pop’s popularity than anything else?

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