AMSGNY Meetings

Winter Meeting--January 23, 2010 "Popular Music--Then and Now"

The meeting on January 23rd will take place at Montclair State University. Directions can be found here: The AMSGNY is happy to be part of the inaugural festivities at Montclair's new recital hall which is inside Chapin Hall. Park in the Red Hawk Parking Deck.

In addition to six papers on popular music, Dean Drummond, Director of the Harry Partch Institute at Montclair State University, will give a workshop/demonstration.

12 - 1:30 First three papers
1:30 - 2 Refreshments and walk to Harry Partch Center
2 - 2:45 Workshop at the Harry Partch Center by Dean Drummond and his students
2:45 - 3 Return to Recital Hall
3 - 4:30 Final three papers

For futher information about the Harry Partch Institute, go to

These are the abstracts for the January 23rd meeting:

"The Compass Always Points to Terrapin": Harmonic and Geographic Ambiguity in the Grateful Dead's Terrapin Station
Jacob A. Cohen, CUNY Graduate Center
This paper will first show that the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” is based on a principle of tonal ambiguity and circular harmonic language. Although these compositional methods are found throughout the Grateful Dead catalog, what is unique about “Terrapin” is that the lyrical content and subject matter mirrors this ambiguity. Terrapin is essentially a place, a station, whose very name implies a distinct geographic location, yet ultimately Terrapin is an idea interwoven into the larger audience imagination. The geographic ambiguity of Terrapin as a place, presented in the song’s lyrics, is reflected by the tonal ambiguity of the song’s harmony.
“You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you”: Stevie Nicks Haunts Fleetwood Mac
Wayne Heisler Jr., College of New Jersey

In this paper, I argue that authenticity in rock emerges or fails through performance, rather than traditional authorship. My focus is on Stevie Nicks’s performances of her song “Silver Springs” at three moments: 1977, when it was recorded in sessions for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album; 1997, when the band reunited; and 2007, when it was included on Nick’s career retrospective CD Crystal Visions. By showcasing Nick’s partially recovered, albeit aging, singing voice, the 1997 and later performances of “Silver Springs” foreground the centrality of performance to authorship and agency, and shuffle the gendered hierarchies that inform the ideology of authenticity.

“From the Top of the Pole, I Watch Her Go Down”: The Appropriation, Heterosexualization, and Masculinization of Dead or Alive's “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)”
Rachael C. Brungard, CUNY Graduate Center
When a popular music artist records a new version of a song, what motivates them to keep certain aspects while abandoning or altering others? The rhythmic, formal, and stylistic differences between the 1984 song “You Spin Me Round” by Dead or Alive and the 2009 rap version “Right Round” by Flo Rida are explored, the correlating music videos undergo a comparison, and attempts to draw visual connections between them are uncovered. Changes made to the original song and video are found to expose Flo Rida’s power-assertion and hetero-masculinization. A multivalent approach to undertaking an original-version comparison emerges as a byproduct of isolating these modifications, which will be useful to those interested in tracing popular music trends.

Peggy Sue Got Updated? Intertextuality, Reworking, and the Present in Paul Simon’s “Old”
Anna Stephan-Robinson, New York University

Like many artists, Paul Simon refers to earlier music in his recordings. Following Spicer and Hatten, we may characterize reference to generalized musical features as stylistic intertextuality, and specific allusions or quotations as strategic intertextuality. The lyrics of Simon’s “Old” (2000) situate its persona in 1957 and then 1965, by mentioning songs released in those years. One song, Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue,” also serves as a source of musical allusions. “Old,” however, is no cover of “Peggy Sue,” containing unmistakably contemporary elements. These engage with stylistic and strategic intertextual connections, imbuing “Old” with richer meaning than its lighthearted surface suggests.

Getting Over the Rainbow: Crossing Boundaries in the Reception and Performance of a Queer Anthem
Ryan Bunch, Holy Family University

When "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz is used as an anthem of the queer community, different performances of the song may suggest competing strategies of queer identity and political action. The aesthetic style of camp--an important mode of expression in gay culture--plays a role in the reception and performance of "Over the Rainbow," allowing bodily and spatial boundaries to be crossed in enacting queer identity. A state of liminality suggested by the song is heightened by bodily transformation and camp elements in performances by Judy Garland, Patti LaBelle, Sam Harris, Rufus Wainwright, and others.

“Move On”: Representations of Early Rock’n’Roll in Post-Sixties Popular Music
Christopher Doll, Rutgers University

The rock’n’roll recordings from the 1950s and 1960s are so central to the definition of popular music itself that we are justified in calling popular music from the ensuing decades “post-sixties.” Moreover, a trend of consciously looking back to early rock’n’roll, whether with nostalgia or disgust or a mix of both, characterizes much popular music from the seventies onward. This paper will identify some of popular music’s most significant and interesting post-sixties representations of early rock’n’roll. Hermeneutical readings of several songs will explore the aesthetical and political implications of these post-sixties tropes.

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