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What, Like It's Hard?
70 minutes | Dec 13, 2020
Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” in Pop Culture.
Emily McConkey is a graduate student in English at the University of Ottawa. Over the last two years, she has served as the student researcher for the Christina Rossetti in Music digital archive and runs the archive’s Twitter account @CGRossettiMusic. Her research interests have always had an interdisciplinary focus. Her MA thesis explores the figure of Medusa in Victorian women’s art and poetry, and she is more broadly interested in Ovidian reception in the Victorian and Modernist eras. She is also a research volunteer in the Library and Archives at the National Gallery of Canada. Emily tells us how in a BBC poll (2008), the world's leading choirmasters and choral experts named Harold Darke’s setting of “In the Bleak Mid-winter” the greatest Christmas carol of all time. This calls on the power that musical settings have in bringing poetry to new audiences: no other poem by Christina Rossetti has become so ingrained in mainstream culture. Emily expresses that the carol initially gained popularity with Gustav Holst and Harold Darke’s sacred settings. Over time, popular arrangements of these settings by artists including Burt Jansch, James Taylor, and Jacob Collier would carry the poem into a secular context. As Emily discusses in her paper, the carol has also experienced new life through its inclusion in television, such as The Crown and Peaky Blinders. Emily runs us through these versions with her festive conversation, proving that while Christina Rossetti’s present-day readership is fairly small, musical settings keep her poetry alive and relevant to the popular consciousness, especially through Christmastime.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
62 minutes | Nov 29, 2020
I've Got A Babe, but Shall I Keep Him: Rhiannon Giddens and Modernist Nightmares of History.
Kevin Farrell is Associate Professor of English at Radford University, where he teaches courses in both composition and literature. His research interests include popular music, modernism, postmodernism, and Irish literature, particularly the fiction of James Joyce. His work has appeared in the James Joyce Quarterly, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, and New Hibernia Review.This study explores the political rhetoric of Rhiannon Giddens’ Freedom Highway, contextualizing Giddens’ narratives of subaltern American experience in reference to high modernist conceptions of history. Released in 2017, Freedom Highway presents a portrait of American history, drawing conscious connections between various modes of white supremacy (slavery, Jim Crow, domestic terrorism, and contemporary police violence) and various modes of black resistance (Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter). As Kevin suggests, while Freedom Highway is not, strictly speaking, a concept album, its overarching theme is the human cost of oppression, manifested most powerfully in its accounts of stolen and murdered children. For Giddens, this theme connects generations of families across centuries, and she uses the past as means to comment upon current events, construing history in personal and familial, rather than abstract, terms. While her approach has roots in both folk and popular music traditions, Giddens, consciously or not, also echoes conceptions of history and memory found in the work of T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, and James Joyce, so that her vision of personalized history, oppression, and resistance offers a Twenty-First century American counterpart to Joyce’s “nightmare of history” from Ulysses. By applying modernist literary ideas to a contemporary work of popular music, I hope to reveal how Giddens writes, rewrites, imagines, and reimagines American history to challenge the American present.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
59 minutes | Nov 15, 2020
Get Up and Go: DC Music, Youth Culture, and Community Formation, 1980-1983.
Alan Parkes is a PhD student in US history at the University of Delaware. He studies the impact of neo-liberalization on late-twentieth-century youth cultures. He is a member of California’s hardcore punk band Empty Eyes. In the early 1980s, Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye, two young Washington DC punks, heard a song that, as Rollins recalls, “was so good that we pulled over just so we could listen to it without having to deal with traffic.” They waited to hear the radio DJ announce the song title after it ended. Rollins remembers, “the lady said that was ‘‘Pump Me Up’ by Trouble Funk,’ and Ian and I looked at each other and instantly came to the same conclusion: that is the beat we’ve been waiting to hear for our entire lives.” The go-go sounds of Trouble Funk and the hardcore punk created by Rollins, as a member of DC band SOA, and MacKaye as a singer of Minor Threat, while at seemingly opposite ends of musical taste, expose a distinctiveness in DC music-making that marked the 1980s and, more significantly, provide a basis for understanding the complexities of community formation in the teeth of rising neoliberal cultural influence. Alan argues that as a consequence of their emphasis on a localized do-it-yourself ethos, go-go and hardcore punk fostered an alternative to neoliberal cultural structures through music-centred community formation. He says, while go-go scene members constructed a community in response to DC’s postindustrial and political climate as well as a history of black suppression in the US, Washington hardcore punk scene members created a community informed largely by its counterparts in cities across the US and abroad but that nonetheless became distinctly identified with DC. Alan expresses that the beat that Rollins and MacKaye had waited to hear and the subculture they helped form exposes both the weaknesses and entrenched influence of prevailing neoliberal thought that defined the 1980s. Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
81 minutes | Nov 1, 2020
Después de mis Nueve Noches: Bullerengue Song as Historical Evidence of the 1940s Maroon Caribbean in Colombia.
Manuel Garcia Orozco is a GRAMMY® and Latin GRAMMY®-award winner who has dedicated his career to producing musical documents that preserve cultures in resistance under his label Chaco World Music. As a composer/performer, he has been featured in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Cannes Film Festival, Lincoln Center, Blue Note, and major TV networks such as Sony Entertainment and MTV. He is the author of two books and a digital educational platform for Afro-Colombian music. He has been granted various international awards by The Recording Academy, Latin GRAMMY® Foundation, ASCAP, and The Colombian Ministry of Culture. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University, and he holds Masters degrees from Columbia GSAS and NYU Steinhardt.Bullerengue is an Afro-Colombian musical tradition, led and preserved by elderly women in Maroon communities across the Colombian Caribbean, a historically marginalized region. In the absence of official documents, bullerengue song itself serves as a historical vehicle for cantadoras (elderly traditional singers) who died in oblivion. Bullerengue song states biographical, local, and cultural information bearing the stamp of an Afro-descendant feminine sensibility; its performance at once encourages communal solidarity, asserts the forms of cantadoral matriarchy, and challenges the patriarchal hegemony of the nation-state. Through studying the intrinsic poetics of “El Cangrejito” as preserved and performed by bullerengue icon Petrona Martinez (b. 1939), Manuel’s paper explores how, in the midst of extreme marginalization, the cantadoras of the 1940s used their voices as a medium to express their own creativity, to poetically resist the oppressive social order, and to transmit their collective consciousness into the future. In other words, it was through song that cantadoras advocated for and left remnants of a type of matriarchy that is almost extinct today.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
68 minutes | Oct 18, 2020
This One Tape Had All These Memories: Pop Music, Mixtapes and Young-Adult Fiction.
Dr Ben Screech is a Lecturer in English and Education at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, UK. His research specializes primarily on YA fiction, as well as pop culture for young people more generally. Prior to his current role, Ben worked as a teacher and latterly, a community support liaison worker for young people with special needs and disabilities. Ben’s Recent publications include: ‘An Interview with Hayley Long’ (VOYA, 2019), ‘Unsilencing the Child’ (PRACTICE, 2019) and ‘Mental Health in YA Literature’ (Paper Lanterns, 2020).‘Sex and drugs and rock and roll’, the British pop musician Ian Dury famously proclaimed, ‘is all my brain and body need’. These three components play such a pivotal role in contemporary young-adult fiction that the lyric could almost be viewed as a mantra for the genre. Young Adult Fiction (YA) is, as Ben describes, a body of literature that deals chiefly with young people’s initial forays into the adult world’s illicit joys and temptations. Pop music has found its way into YA fiction in a variety of ways, including for example, through characters’ creation of mixtapes and iPod playlists.Ben primarily suggests that music acts as a vehicle through which authors are able to reflect upon and underscore the characters’ formative adolescent experiences. Contemporary YA novels that do this particularly effectively include: Hayley Long’s What’s Up With Jody Barton? (2012), David Levithan’s Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008), Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park (2012). Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
46 minutes | Oct 4, 2020
Same Old Thing: The Streets and The Importance of the Everyday
Glenn Fosbraey is the Head of English, Creative Writing, and American Studies at The University of Winchester where he specialises in the academic study of song lyrics. His publications include the book Writing Song Lyrics: Creative and Critical approaches (Palgrave MacMillan 2019), chapters 'Manipulation and truth in The Final Cut' in Pink Floyd. A Multi-disciplinary Understanding of a Global Music Brand. (Routledge 2020) and ‘I’m (not) your man’ 'Songs of Leonard Cohen', as well as the upcoming edited collection Misogyny, Toxic Masculinity, and Heteronormativity in Post-2000 Popular Music (Palgrave Macmillan) due later this year.Glenn expresses that when The Kinks released The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society in 1968, it was perhaps the first album to focus on the everyday aspects of the life of the average person in Britain. As far removed as possible from the psychedelic introspection of the biggest selling bands of the time (led, of course, by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), ...Village Green delighted in detailing the smaller joys of British life, such as strawberry jam, draught beer, custard pies, and Desperate Dan.Glenn describes that this celebration of every day can be traced across pop music ever since, and one of its biggest supporters, The Smiths, chose their band name as an antithesis to the Spandau Ballets and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Darks of the music world. As the 21st Century arrived, the every day continued to be documented in popular music, led by Mike Skinner’s creative outlet The Streets. Skinner’s world is a portrait of everyday British life, with Kebab shops, greasy spoon cafes, cans of lager, London underground travel cards, Nike trainers, mobile phone ring tones, and ‘reeking jeans’.Capturing the zeitgeist doesn’t have to involve the big issues of the day: for Glenn, the most effective way of capturing that moment in time is to chart the every day, the mundane, or the banal. Glenn's discussion circles around the importance of banality in pop music, and how it’s the smaller things in life that make song lyrics so important.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
63 minutes | Sep 20, 2020
Hits for HIIT!
Dr. Sophie Stévance (PhD) and Dr. Serge Lacasse (PhD) are full professors of musicology at Laval University (Quebec City). Dr. Stévance is an athlete, opera singer and violist who has practised professionally. She is also the Canada Research Chair in Research-Creation in Music. Dr. Lacasse is a national archery champion, music composer, director and producer. As researchers, both are interested in popular music and the relationships between music and sport.Sophie & Serge have teamed together for their project “Hits for HIIT”. This project offers free music specifically designed for High-intensity interval training (HIIT). Current research on the relationship between music and sport and the emotional impact of music in sports training has focussed on the relationships between tempo and movements without considering other important parameters that would need further analysis (melody, harmony, but also vocal and instrumental performances, as well as technological parameters such as reverb, echo, timbral modification, etc.). This project enriches existing research—mostly conducted by sports psychologists—by measuring the impact of a musical programme adapted to HIIT on the listener-athlete, but also to offer free playlists of original and truly adapted the music for those who enjoy HIIT workouts.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
45 minutes | Sep 6, 2020
Thoughts on Traditional Music, Performance and Arrangement in Rural Communities.
With a wealth of knowledge in playing and teaching traditional accordion music, Karen Tweed shares her experience and thoughts on traditional music and it's performance and arrangement in rural communities. Karen Tweed started to play the piano accordion at the age of 11 under the guidance of Joe Coll, who came to Wellingborough, Northamptonshire to teach the accordion and also recruit players for his accordion band which was based in Corby. She went on to study with Lawry Eady, Warren Eagle and finally with button accordionist John Whelan who was her biggest inspiration and fired her passion for Irish traditional music.Karen turned professional in 1989, working with singer/songwriter Roger Wilson and then was a founder member of the Poozies. Her playing is known for being mercurial, subtle, lyrical and expressive, and she regularly teaches on the BA and MA courses at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at Limerick University and at the BMus Degree in Folk and Traditional Music at Newcastle University. She has taught at Folkworks Summer School in Durham, Ashokan Northern Week, Darlington Music Weekend, Hovra Music Camp in Sweden, Musikkonservatoriet Odense and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
66 minutes | Aug 9, 2020
A Soundscape Theory of Donkey Kong — A Musical Framework of Beeps.
Barnabas Smith is an Australian musician, teacher, and independent researcher. He holds a PhD from the Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide, with a thesis focusing on the construction and application of a research model to study the music of contemporary open-world video games. A recipient of the Naomi Cumming Prize, Barnabas is also the founder and President of the Ludomusicology Society of Australia. In his paper, Barnabas expresses that the Game & Watch version of Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1982) omits the former’s bass ostinato, Dragnet theme excerpt, and melodically-driven action music that can be found in the arcade game. In an echo of the original Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1981), however, it significantly contains a tonal coherence comprising sound effect ‘beeps’ centred in E minor (or a microtonal approximation thereof). Aeolian tonic triad tones and occasional chromaticism reinforce the disconcerting and frightening affectivity associated conventionally with the minor tonality. As Barnabas suggests, a paramount significance is a persistent rhythmical matrix comprised of metronomic E (I) beeps, yoked to the descending movement of death-bringing barrel obstacles. Exteroceptive inculcation via quartz oscillations supports the player’s timekeeping while controlling ‘Mario’. Linearly navigating the on-screen bi-dimensional Euclidian plane, each JUMP solicits a B (V) beep, and each step a G (iii). It is argued that the fixed minor totality, poco a poco accelerando tempo, and other extant musical characteristics serve to corroborate the a posteriori conclusion that Donkey Kong’s ‘beep’ sound effects constitute a musical framework Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
67 minutes | Jul 26, 2020
The Search For The Blues
Diego Pani is the manager of the musical patrimony of the Istituto Superiore Regionale Etnografico (ISRE) and a Ph.D. candidate in Ethnomusicology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. His research focuses on the dynamics of music performance of young generations of musicians in reference to the use of media as a learning device, as well as the construction of social meaning via audio and audiovisual materials in the vernacular traditions and popular music scenes of Sardinia island, Italy. Additionally, he is engaged in the production of documentary films, web documentaries, and photo reportages. The Search’ which is one of Diego's current documentary projects. Every year, hundreds of blues musicians from all over the world participate in the International Blues Challenge, a contest that takes place in many clubs of Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The festival offers musicians and blues music fans an opportunity to embark on a journey to the deep south of the United States, the land that gave birth to many legendary bluesmen and that has experienced the most crucial season in the history of this music. The Search is the story of a journey made in the Deep South by two Sardinian musicians, the Sardinian duo Don Leone. Travelling between Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana, it portrays a cultural landscape still anchored to the memory of those iconic musicians who inhabited the cities and countryside of this enormous piece of America. In the audiovisual material collected, the experience of two young Sardinian musicians is represented in opposition to one of the musicians, organizers, researchers who live in the deep south of the United States, characters deeply linked to those historical places of music-making. Inside this framework, emerges a contemporary musical context that is both related to local communities of musicians and massive musical tourism. This is the main scenario in which Don Leone travels for the first time, scratching the surface of a complex musical world, in search of the Blues Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
86 minutes | Jul 12, 2020
Why “Political”?: Blackness and Queer Urban Geographies in Toronto and San Diego.
Dr. Sadie Hochman-Ruiz holds a PhD from the University of California, San Diego in the Department of Music’s Integrative Studies program. Her dissertation, “The Social Politics of Queer Drag: A Study of San Diego’s Queer Community and Queercore Subculture,” foregrounds an intersectional approach to womanhood, addressing homeland narratives and diasporic identities within a multiracial drag scene. Researching the project, she performed as the drag queen Sadie Pins and engaged creative research methods such as performance ethnography, public humanities and research justice. Her current research focuses on trans studies and transnational queer communities.In her article, "Why Political?" Sadie unpacks the heavy racial baggage attached to doing queer work as it is currently defined. By including an origin story for queerness within queercore subculture, Sadie uses queercore sound––the soundtrack of queercore co-founder Bruce LaBruce's first feature film No Skin Off My Ass (1991)––to analyze the race and class dynamics of doing queer work. Sadie offers observations from shifts in art-practice as a performance ethnographer in which she responds to the challenges of marrying queer drag with its anti-racist and anti-capitalist intentions. This article brings together music studies, queer of colour critique and critical university studies in a way which centres performance-based work as a privileged site of critical intervention. With this work, Sadie encourages artist-researchers to rethink the relationship between the political intentions of their performance practice and the critical theory with which we isolate and claim those politics Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
55 minutes | Jun 28, 2020
Electro Swing's Place in Today's Popular Music Landscape.
Dr Chris Inglis talks about electro swing, an increasingly prominent genre which fuses the music of the swing era with that of the age of electronic dance music. Largely overlooked throughout the academic world so far, this research examines the genre’s place in today's popular music landscape, asking key questions about what the rise of this style may tell us about contemporary popular music, and society at large.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
55 minutes | Jun 7, 2020
The Irish Folk Music Revival - Culture, History and Perspective.
Brendan Lamb is a musicology PhD candidate at the Conservatorium of Music at the University of Tasmania. Brendan notes in his thesis that the numerous folk music revivals of the twentieth century have been key turning points in popular music, grassroots phenomena that paradoxically drove the industry they often strove to defy. Whilst the North American and English folk revivals were highly popular and influential movements, neither had quite the impact on revitalising culture as the Irish folk music revival in Ireland. Performers such as The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Planxty and The Bothy Band combined old and new, foreign and familiar in their performances in such a way that they drove Irish folk and traditional music into a new evolutionary phase. This evolution, unlike its North American and British counterparts, fundamentally redefined the musical landscape within Ireland and spawned an international phenomenon in the Pub Session.Through studying the origins of this movement, Brendan highlights the complex relationship this period has had within the context of Irish traditional music and also evidenced the fundamental role the tradition played in this music’s performance. In analysing the recorded performances of these key ensembles and comparing their key musical elements to Irish music prior to the period, this thesis has identified the significant innovations and contributions to Irish music that these performers have provided.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
97 minutes | May 28, 2020
ORKNEY SUMMER SESSIONS: Part One.
... with Laurence Tait, Tina Paterson, Louise Bichan, Ivan Drever, and Ingirid Jolly.What, Like It’s Hard? presents the special four-part series, Orkney Sessions. The Orkney Islands is an archipelago in the Northern Isles of Scotland that is rich with musical heritage. Each episode features a collection of Orcadian musicians who are from Orkney, some still here and others away, but undoubtedly Orkney has played a huge part, be it through influence, inspiration or community, for everyone. After each interview, there’s a track from each musician, so take this opportunity to listen to music that you might not have heard before, and support local musicians, here in Orkney, or wherever you are, by buying CDs and merchandise, commissions and supporting them online through social media and their websites. You can stay up to date with the next sessions by subscribing to the mailing list.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
53 minutes | May 24, 2020
“We Gon’ Be Alright": Racial Politics and Kendrick Lamar.
Dilshan Weerasinghe holds an MA in Musicology from Dalhousie University. His research examines popular music, jazz, and hip-hop in relation to social and political topics. Dilshan’s paper “We Gon’ Be Alright”: Racial Politics and Kendrick Lamar explores the expression of the experience of poverty, anti-establishment politics, and the diverse, complex narratives of black identity in Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Such topics are typically associated with what has been labelled as “conscious” rap – characterized not just by its lyrical subject matter of socially relevant topics, but musically through jazz. As Dilshan suggests, historically, jazz in rap has been associated with at east coast, “boom-bap” style sound, whereas west coast hip-hop’s flashy, bass-heavy sound takes more from funk than jazz.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
67 minutes | May 10, 2020
Come Together, Right Now.
Sean Steele is a PhD Candidate in the Humanities at York University (Toronto). He holds a diploma in music from Vancouver Island University, a BA in Philosophy and History from Concordia University, and an MA in the Humanities from York. Sean explores intersections between music, religion and popular culture, with a focus on popular music subcultures as alternative spiritual communities.Through interview material and personal reflection, Sean investigates the extent to which Come Together can be viewed as a site of sacred-secular sonic space. Drawing on Victor Turner's concepts of liminality and communitas, Mikhail Bahktin on festivals, and Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zones, Sean explores the ways in which Come Together provides re-enchanted space for participants to experiment with non-ordinary patterns of behaviour and experiences that some describe as spiritual and/or sacred. Come Together forms a central node of a vibrant Canadian music scene, and as Sean discovers, the festival is fundamental to forms of personal and collective identity for many who gather twice a year to sing, dance and celebrate.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
67 minutes | Apr 26, 2020
Between the Buried and Me.
Calder Hannan from Columbia University in New York City shares his research on progressive metal and topic theory. Hannan examines the ways of hearing genre borrowing in the music of the influential American progressive metal band Between the Buried and Me. This paper takes topic theory as a starting point, arguing that far from being an esoteric music theory tool useful only for expanding listening to the music of Mozart and his contemporaries, it reflects a mode of listening to Between the Buried and Me that is very common and accessible.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
54 minutes | Apr 12, 2020
Sounds of Quarantine.
Welcome back for Season 2 of WLIH! Dr James Deaville from Carleton University (Ontario, Canada) discusses some of his ideas based around the concept of the sound of quarantine based around the nature of lockdown and media coverage of life-altering circumstances like covid-19. For listeners who aren’t familiar with Dr Deaville’s work, he is a Musicologist specializing in music, composers and musical practices and institutions of the 19th and 20th centuries, having published and spoken about such diverse topics as Franz Liszt, music criticism, television news music, African-American entertainers in turn-of-the-century Vienna and “fascist” Nordic composers during the Third Reich.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
71 minutes | Dec 2, 2019
Good Old Bad Boys.
Dr Theodore Trost's paper "When You're In Trouble I Just Turn Away": The American Way and Randy Newman's Good Old Boys (1974) discusses the satire in Newman's songwriting while talking about satire in the 21st century. Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
45 minutes | Nov 25, 2019
Walk It Like Donna Talks It.
Donna is the founder of Bruce Funds, an initiative that helps Springsteen fans get tickets to live performances, and she talks about the global Springsteen community and the importance of giving. Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/user?u=21685169)
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