Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger: “This Land Is Your Land”

By: Joanna Smolko (Athens, Georgia) // On January 18, 2009, Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen sang together at We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial, accompanied by Seeger’s grandson Tao Rodríquez-Seeger and a choir. Seeger invited the crowd to sing along, reflecting his lifelong commitment to group singing; even in staid … Continue reading Bruce Springsteen, Woody Guthrie, and Pete Seeger: “This Land Is Your Land”

What’s a Girl Gotta Do to Get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

By: Alexandra Apolloni (UCLA Center for the Study of Women, Los Angeles, CA) // Each year, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (henceforth Rock Hall) announces a new list of inductees: artists that are deemed worthy of commemoration—and canonization—as rock greats. And in 2016, none of the inductees were women. The underrepresentation of women … Continue reading What’s a Girl Gotta Do to Get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

Hearing with Your Eyes: Science Fiction Television and Hearing the Unseen

By: Reba A. Wissner (Montclair State University) // Hearing the unseen through non-diegetic music is nothing new to film. Although John Williams made the technique famous in his scores for Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977), it dates back to horror films of the 1930s and radio dramas of the 1940s. Early radio plays were … Continue reading Hearing with Your Eyes: Science Fiction Television and Hearing the Unseen

Silly Songs about the Space Race

The Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, on October 4, 1957, triggering the space race with the United States. Although the satellite was only the size of a beach ball and emitted nothing more than radio beeps, many Americans feared it, supposing that it had some sort of militaristic purpose. This fear can be tracked through three novelty songs from the late 1950s: “Russia, Russia (Lay That Missile Down),” “Sputniks and Mutniks,” and “A Russian Love Song.”

Cutting It Up with Dickie Goodman: Communism, Castro and the Wall

By: Tim Smolko (Athens, Georgia) // American record producer Dickie Goodman made a career out of writing novelty songs. From the mid-1950s to the 1980s, his songs poked fun at current events, politicians, dance crazes, films, and especially the Russians. He is best known for creating and popularizing the “break-in,” a technique of inserting brief … Continue reading Cutting It Up with Dickie Goodman: Communism, Castro and the Wall

Celebrating the Nuclear Apocalypse with Tom Lehrer

By: Tim Smolko (Athens, Georgia) // Like Pez, Peeps, and Pop Rocks, a novelty song is a sugar rush for the ear. The great number of novelty songs about the Cold War attests to the fact that people needed to diffuse their fear of the Soviet Union, and the possibility of nuclear war, with humor … Continue reading Celebrating the Nuclear Apocalypse with Tom Lehrer

“You’ll Tic Tic All Day Long”: The Cold War, Geiger Counters, and Doris Day

By: Tim Smolko (Athens, Georgia) // Some wars are good. Most are bad. Some are just plain weird. The Cold War was definitely weird, and one of the best ways to grasp its weirdness is to listen to Cold War novelty songs from the 1940s to the 1960s. The oddest of them all may be … Continue reading “You’ll Tic Tic All Day Long”: The Cold War, Geiger Counters, and Doris Day

Temperamental Differences

By: Blake Howe (Louisiana State University) // In their lessons, violinists must train very hard to play “in tune.” Singers face the same challenge; some, fearful of sounding “pitchy,” might even use Auto-Tune to prevent mistakes in live performance. The slightest change in temperature and humidity can knock a piano “out of tune,” so concert … Continue reading Temperamental Differences

America Goes to the Opera

By: Kristen M. Turner (North Carolina State University) // To many people, opera means expensive productions of long, melodramatic works composed more than a century ago and sung in a language other than English. The genre conjures up images of formally dressed, older audiences who have spent a small fortune on tickets to attend a … Continue reading America Goes to the Opera

The Power of Sound: The 2016 Presidential Campaign

By: Justin Patch (Vassar College) // The modern political campaign is an emotional and sensory affair. It is not rational or reasonable, nor is it concerned with presenting best policies and practices for governance, fostering the greatest good for all, or sensibly managing the world’s largest economy. Instead, campaigns appeal to pathos, optimism, nationalism, and … Continue reading The Power of Sound: The 2016 Presidential Campaign