Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Just Like Watching Brazil

I have just returned from Campinas in Brazil, where I was attending the 18th biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM). I heard some great papers there, covering a wide range of subjects (from Astrid Gliberto to Metallica, from modernism to the Musicians’ Union). I also gave my own paper, ‘Sounds Revolting’, which was drawn largely from my recent blog entries about big data and new music. I introduced it by asking the delegates if they knew the current number one single, either in the UK, the US or Brazil. The fact that I didn’t receive a single correct reply confirmed my thesis and is a reflection of the lack of centrality that the charts play in people’s lives. Or is it just indicative of IASPM? One of the curious things about the international association of popular music is that it doesn't pay much attention to the most popular popular music. I attended plenty of talks, but none of the papers addressed music that is currently in the charts.
            While I was at the conference I met with Olivier Julien, who lectures in music at the Sorbonne. He has recently written a great review of my book in the French journal Volume, in which he describes its structure as a ‘truly brilliant idea’. He sums up:

Given this clever and engaging formal scheme, and considering it helps organize an argument that is particularly well researched and documented while providing an overall pleasant and stimulating reading experience, I believe Osborne’s book to be one of the best recent contributions to what Amanda Bayley described, back in 2009, as “the increasingly diverse research currently being undertaken in the field of recorded music” (2009: 2). For these reasons, I am certain Vinyl: A History of the Analogue Record will soon feature prominently on many bookshelves, alongside such classics as Andre Millard’s America on Record (1995) or Mark Katz’s Capturing Sound (2004).

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