On the Politics of Folk Song Theory in Edwardian England

Ethnomusicology, 63/1 (2019): 19–42


The study of folk music, at least in the Anglophone world, has tended to linger on the fringes of academic life. This is due in large part to enduring and at times acrimonious debates over what has been dubbed “fakelore” (Dorson 1976) or “fakesong” (Harker 1985)—disputes motivated by questions concerning authenticity, expropriation, and cultural ventriloquism…

‘Join That Troubled Chorus’: Nick Cave, the Bad Seeds, and the Blues

Mute Records: Artists, Business, History, ed. Zuleika Beaven, Marcus O’Dair, and Richard Osborne (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019)

Google Books / Amazon

In the summer of 1930, young Mississippi bluesman Eddie James ‘Son’ House, Jr. travelled with his friends Charley Patton and Willie Brown to Grafton, Wisconsin for a recording session with Paramount Records. Patton, some eleven years older than House, was already an established recording star in the industry’s all but segregated African-American ‘race’ category…

Vernacular Song and the Folkloric Imagination at the Fin de Siècle

19th-Century Music, 42/2 (2018): 73–95

Full pdf here

In 1893 the polymath, folklorist, and eminent Jewish historian Joseph Jacobs read a paper—as a stopgap—to London’s Folk-lore Society, which he had joined in 1889. Raised in Sydney, Jacobs journeyed to Britain in 1873; after graduating from the University of Cambridge, he studied briefly in Berlin and subsequently under Francis Galton…

Notes on Troubling ‘the Popular’

Popular Music, 37/3 (2018): 392–414

Full pdf here

The study of popular music presupposes a thing called ‘popular music’—but how useful is this rubric, and to what does it refer? The quandary is not new. Indeed, in his editorial for the very first issue of Popular Music, Richard Middleton (1981, p. 3) indicated that the nascent field must confront the question ‘what is  popular music?’…

Mastery and Masquerade in the Transatlantic Blues Revival

Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 143/1 (2018): 173–210

Full pdf here

When Dunbar, the most celebrated African American poet of the Reconstruction era, published his terse commentary on the trauma of racism ‘We Wear the Mask’, he distilled an abiding facet of the relationship of black to white: whether slave or free, African Americans had been forced to perform a veneer of mirth veiling an inner self torn asunder…

Industrial Balladry, Mass Culture, and the Politics of Realism in Cold War Britain

Journal of Musicology, 34/3 (2017): 354–390

Full pdf here

In the late 1950s Ewan MacColl, Charles Parker, and Peggy Seeger embarked on a collaboration that epitomized what would become known as the second British folk revival. Commissioned, funded, and eventually axed by the BBC for financial reasons, this project was unprecedented: a series of feature-length radio programs broadcast on the Home Service that set out to document working-class culture…

‘Sound Effects (O.K., Music)’: Steve Reich and the Visual Arts in New York City, 1966–68

Twentieth-Century Music, 11/2 (2014): 217–244

Full pdf here

On his return to New York in September 1965 after a sojourn on the West Coast, Steve Reich found himself in a creative disjuncture with the city’s polarized cultural landscape. ‘Downtown’, he later recalled, ‘it was basically works by or in imitation of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, and Earle Brown. Uptown it was pieces in imitation of Stockhausen, Boulez, and Berio’…

‘Fun, Yes, but Music?’ Steve Reich and the San Francisco Bay Area’s Cultural Nexus, 1962–65

Journal of the Society for American Music, 6/3 (2012): 315–348

Full pdf here

Long before Steve Reich became known primarily as a New York “minimalist,” he spent a number of years in San Francisco during an idiosyncratic period in the city’s cultural life. This period was the liminal “post-Beat/pre-hip” era of the early 1960s—a cradle for numerous alternative scenes that would eventually come to be labeled a “counterculture”…