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The Future of Pop: Big Questions Facing Popular Music Studies in the 21st Century.

A pre-conference symposium in advance of the American Musicological Society’s annual conference (Oct. 31 – Nov. 3), co-sponsored by the Popular Music Study Group, Amherst College, and Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design. The symposium will take place Oct. 30–31, 2019, at Northeastern University’s campus in Boston, MA.

Click to download the symposium’s abstracts.


Wednesday 10/30:

10:30–11am Introductory remarks

11am–1pm Panel 1:

Chair: Murray Forman

Jack Hamilton, “Across the Great Divide: Popular Music Studies and the Public”

Corrigan Blanchfield, “Who is allowed to remember? Finding and preserving historical records in YouTube’s comment sections”

Eric Hung, “Canon-Adjacent Strategies for Greater Inclusion in Public Popular Musicology”

1–2pm Lunch (on-site)

2–4pm Panel 2:

Chair: Stephanie Shonekan

Shana Redmond, “Unsubscribe: The Stakes of Not Listening”

Christa Bentley, “Reassessing Women’s Voices in the Era of #MeToo”

Daphne Carr, “Can you feel the beat?: Resounding anti-black police brutality in black popular musics”

4–6pm Panel 3:

Chair: Luis-Manuel Garcia

Francesca Royster, “Cruising Musical Futures: Queer Worldmaking and Popular Music in Everyday Life, 2009-2019 and Beyond”

Anthony Kwame Harrison, “‘To The East, My Brother, To the East’: Checking the Bold Blackness of X-Clan’s Fire & Earth

Victor Szabo, “Why Is Ambient So White? Tackling Homogeneous Genre Cultures”


Thursday 10/31:

8:30–9am Breakfast (on-site)

9–11am Panel 4:

Chair: Wayne Marshall

Loren Kajikawa, “Musicology, Hip Hop Studies, and the Challenge of Significant Difference”

Philip Ewell, “The Myth of the Beatles: A Critical-Race Analysis of Popular Music Studies in Music Theory”

K.E. Goldschmitt, “Centering Latin America in Pop Music Curricula and Scholarship”

11am–12pm Closing conversation

Call For Papers

Submission Deadline: March 25, 2019

In the foreword to the first issue of Popular Music and Society, published in 1971, Ray B. Browne recounted a rejection he had received from an academic journal, whose editor stated that “popular songs really had no academic significance.” In 2019, the state of popular music within the academy is far removed from Browne’s experience: there are multiple academic journals and scholarly press book series devoted to the study of this repertoire, papers on popular music topics are regularly presented at academic conferences, and departments across colleges and universities offer an increasingly wide variety of courses—often focusing on and including popular forms—which recognize both student interest in and the intellectual validity of the subject.

Despite the normalization of popular music studies over the last 50 years, complex questions linger about the state of the field and the directions it will take. In the spirit of asking these questions, we are happy to announce “The Future of Pop: Big Questions Facing Popular Music Studies in the 21st Century,” a symposium to be held at Northeastern University in Boston, MA on October 30-31, 2019, prior to the annual American Musicological Society meeting. Sponsored by the AMS Popular Music Study Group, Amherst College, and Northeastern University, “The Future of Pop” aims to foster interdisciplinary collaborations between scholars of different ranks and diverse backgrounds by encouraging conversations about the future of popular music studies.

Inspired by our four keynote speakers, Francesca Royster (DePaul University), Jack Hamilton (University of Virginia), Loren Kajikawa (George Washington University), and Shana Redmond (UCLA), the symposium will be structured around four themes:

  • How can we tell new stories by looking at the past through more deliberately eccentric and queer perspectives?
  • How might we more productively engage with audiences and voices from outside of academia?
  • How can we make popular music studies more inclusive and accessible?
  • How can we better account for the political stakes of listening?

In addition to presentations by these four speakers, we hope to showcase the work of a number of other scholars in the field. We encourage paper submissions that engage with one or more of these questions through the lens of original research. Presentations will be limited to 15 minutes, followed by a generous amount of time for discussion after each panel. Proposals are due March 25, should be no more than 250 words, and should include a short bio. Please email text or word files (no PDFs), along with any questions, to [email protected].

The symposium will award a limited number of travel grants to scholars for whom attending the symposium would be a financial burden. Applicants do not need to be dues-paying members of the AMS or AMS-PMSG to be eligible. To apply for a travel grant, download the application, and submit the completed form along with your proposal by March 25.

Program Committee: Brian F. Wright (University of North Texas), Amy Coddington (Amherst College), Andrew Mall (Northeastern University)