Northeastern University’s Andrew Mall, Assistant Professor in the Department of Music, has been engaging other scholars in popular music studies in an open conversation to address several challenges that they have encountered in their teaching, researching, and writing. Recently, that work has resulted in three separate but related initiatives, including a symposium, a co-authored report in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, and a co-edited forum in the journal Twentieth-Century Music.
Mall and his collaborators observed that many important themes pertaining to their line of work were not discussed in professional settings. In an effort to bring transparency to the conversation, Mall joined Amy Coodington of Amherst College and Brian F. Wright of University of North Texas to organize a two-day event, for the American Musicological Society (AMS) pre-conference symposium at Northeastern University in October 2019. “The Future of Pop: Big Questions Facing Popular Music Studies in the 21st Century,” which was co-sponsored by Amherst and the AMS Popular Music Study Group, featured four keynote speakers and eight additional presenters.
Mall, Wright, and Coddington later reflected on the symposium in “Conference Report: ‘The Future of Pop: Big Questions Facing Popular Music Studies in the 21st Century,’ AMS Pre-Conference Symposium,” in the Journal of Popular Music Studies, the official journal of the United States branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-US). They reported that the symposium was a great success allowing for thoughtful conversation and celebration of pop music within a collegial and diverse group of interdisciplinary scholars. As Professor Mall stated, “Personally, I’m very glad to see Northeastern linked to popular music scholarship so publicly.”
Most recently, Mall, Wright, and Coddington published a “forum” in Twentieth-Century Music that collected articles from three keynote speakers as well as an afterward from a supplementary contributor. Their hope is that this forum sparks a timely and larger conversation among popular music scholars, improving the field of study and prompting reflections on how to serve students and research collaborators better.