Category Archives: Music Studies

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Moshe Morad talks about Music and Gay Identity in Special Period Cuba

Posted by Laura Macy, Senior Commissioning Editor

Fiesta de diez pesosMoshe Morad first visited Cuba in 1994. There he discovered a rich and thriving underground gay music scene. Multiple research trips over the next 12 years resulted in Fiesta de diez pesos: Music and Gay Identity in Special Period Cuba, published in the SOAS Musicology series in December 2014.

In an announcement about the book on the SOAS website, Series Editor Professor Keith Howard said: ‘We’re delighted to announce Moshe’s fantastic work as the 53rd title in our Series. It’s a very strong piece and its inclusion demonstrates how the Series is going from strength to strength, showcasing cutting-edge research, including titles from many of the School’s music academics and alumni.’

Watch Dr Morad discuss his book on the Israeli news channel i24 News

About the Author: Moshe Morad is an ethnomusicologist, journalist and radio broadcaster, who has also presented ‘on location’ world music programmes on BBC Radio. His vast experience in the music industry includes managing the ‘Hemisphere’ world music label at EMI. He completed his PhD at SOAS, London, in 2013, following longitudinal fieldwork in Cuba.

In Praise of a Virtuous Woman – Louise Talma

This is a guest post from Kendra Leonard, author of Louise Talma: A Life in Composition

Louise TalmaAmerican composer Louise Talma (c.1906–1996), herself a strong-willed and independent woman, often celebrated those qualities in others, dedicating many of her pieces to the women who had made a difference in her life and in the lives of other artists. Recipients of such dedications included music pedagogue Nadia Boulanger, MacDowell Colony co-founder Marian MacDowell, and singer Geraldine Marwick. One of Talma’s last works was a setting for female voices and piano of Proverbs 31:10–30, “In Praise of a Virtuous Woman,” which was composed in the autumn of 1990 at the MacDowell Colony. While the piece is dedicated to Virginia Davidson and  the Treble Singers, it celebrates all women.

“Who can find a virtuous woman?” asks the text. “Her price is above rubies.” Beginning with simple melodic lines  in the two vocal parts—a soprano and alto—and a spare and elegant counterpoint in the piano, Talma’s music becomes increasingly more complex and densely textured as the four-minute piece progresses. The two voices sometimes declaim together, in unison, and sometimes engage in dialogue, mirroring one another’s lines, or offering supporting harmonies to each other. As the soprano sings of the word women do—“She layeth her hands to the spindle…she layeth her hands to the needy…she worketh willingly with her hands,”—the alto recites the names of hard-working and strong women from the Bible: Martha, Ann, Mary, and Elizabeth.

At the end of the piece, Talma sets the text “she shall rejoice in time to come” at the very top of the soprano’s singing range, an exultation bolstered by the altos, who for the first time split from singing together as a single voice as if to show that two melodic lines aren’t enough for all of the praise a virtuous woman is due, and sing in parallel fourths, creating the sound of an organ. As the singers call for the praise of the virtuous woman, Talma gives the piano a fast and chromatic passage that suggests that while women should and will be praised, their work and lives are more difficult and complicated than the words would have the listener believe. Talma’s setting of “In Praise of a Virtuous Woman” is itself a challenging work, apt praise for the women of Talma’s life who met and exceeded the boundaries and roadblocks presented to them because of their sex.

Kendra Preston LeonardAbout the Author: Kendra Preston Leonard is a musicologist whose work focuses on women and music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; music and screen history; and music and disability. She is the author of The Conservatoire Américain: a History and received the inaugural Judith Tick Fellowship from the Society for American Music for her work on Louise Talma

Women, Ageing, Popular Music, and Madonna – a guest post from Abigail Gardner

Abigail GardnerIn celebration of International Women’s Day, we are taking the time to acknowledge the women who ‘made it happen’ in music. Dr. Abigail Gardner, co-editor of ‘Rock On’: Women, Ageing and Popular Music, responds to the current media debate circulating Madonna and her significance in today’s music industry…

The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen

It’s odd because Britain usually loves an old Queen. But Madonna, ‘Her Madgesty’, the ‘pop empress’ herself has been spurned by Britain’s Public Service broadcaster, the BBC. Its premiere youth station; Radio 1 has banned her latest single ‘Living for Love’ from its playlist on the grounds that it is irrelevant; it just doesn’t reach out to the 15—29 year olds that constitute its audience. They also say it’s not that good, citing ‘musical merit’ as their defense for ditching it. It has though, been played on BBC Radio 2, home to those over 35. Meanwhile, in pop and dance charts across Europe and Japan, the single has charted, coming in at No.12 in Hungary. But the BBC seems to have fallen out of love with this particular Rock Royal.

And so the social media storm erupts. On Facebook and Twitter, fans from all over the world rage against the ageism of the BBC, claiming her as icon and innovator. Madonna detractors call her tired and past her sell by date, irrelevant now. But in moving Madonna away from the Radio 1 playlist, the BBC has inadvertently highlighted exactly how relevant she is. Age matters now. It’s where feminism is focused and The Material Girl can’t help it but be caught up in this debate. The album, Rebel Heart has tracks like ’Unapologetic Bitch’, ‘Joan of Arc’, ‘Iconic’, ‘Holy Water’ and ‘S.E.X’ on it. Religion and sex, power and control remain part of her shtick. That these be housed within a 56-year-old body that refuses to fade gently into the night is what causes BBC brows to furrow. Emily Judd of The Independent (17/2/15) likens her Grammy performance to ‘a demented grandma at a school disco’, whilst noting that her ‘sculpted behind [means that] she’s fit enough to put on a spectacular show’ for the upcoming tour. Madonna is both a figure of embarrassment (the mad granny) and aspiration (the sculpted bottom). Her continuing relevance is that she confuses and upsets. Her presence within the pop arena, that space configured by and predominantly for, youth is problematic. But we don’t expect Keith Richards to stop being Keith Richards, Paul McCartney to disappear gracefully behind the mixing desk. So let’s not expect Madonna to be anything but Madonna and stop commenting on her old hands, her old arms, her old age. Let’s make that part of her irrelevant.

Rock On Women ageing and pop musicRead more about ‘Rock On’: Women, Ageing and Popular Music, including reviews and excerpts on the Ashgate Website. Details of more titles focusing on women and gender in music can be found on our Women and Gender in Music page.

‘Loading the Silence’ is joint winner of the Rebecca Coyle Prize

Posted by Maxine Cook, Marketing Assistant

Loading the silenceMany congratulations to Linda Ioanna Kouvaras, whose title, Loading the Silence: Australian Sound Art in the Post-Digital Age, has been awarded joint winner of the 2014 Rebecca Coyle Prize. This year the judges decided there were two titles worthy of the prize, resulting in a second 2014 publication prize being awarded to Loading the Silence. The panel described Loading the Silence as “a highly accomplished piece of scholarship – extensive, rich, complex, well written, and thorough.”

The prize is awarded annually, by the IASPM ANZ, to the best paper on popular music in Australasia. The prize is named in honour of long time IASPM ANZ member, Rebecca Coyle, to commemorate her work advancing popular music studies and mentoring emerging academic talent.

The book has previously received high praise in reviews:

“… Kouvaras has created a reference of vital importance, a book of international significance that is likely to be considered a seminal work in the study of sound art.”   Music Forum

“In Loading the Silence Linda Kouvaras does a real favour for those seeking to learn about and from the political sonicities of the avant garde of the 1970s and since. That she does so in the context of Australian musical practices makes the stories she tells all the more fascinating for those of us regrettably less familiar with that continent’s (sometimes “un-Australian”) experimentality. Refreshingly, Kouvaras’s critical curiosity embraces musical practices and places: the leaky sounds and voicings of women’s bodies, the hospital, the unwatery landscape itself… A convincing critical compendium is the result.”   George McKay, University of Salford, UK

Dr Linda Kouvaras is a Senior Lecturer at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, The University of Melbourne, Australia.

Lucy Green’s “Music, Informal Learning and the School: A New Classroom Pedagogy”

‘If you want to teach popular music in schools then find out how successful popular musicians learn and apply these methods in the classroom. This blindingly simple insight has eluded much pedagogic practice to date. By innovatively theorising, demonstrating, and assessing the practical implementation of this, Lucy Green may have provided a manifesto for rebalancing classroom music teaching and setting it on a new and more fruitful track.’   John Sloboda, FBA. Keele University. Author of The Musical Mind

Music informal learning and the schoolLucy Green’s pioneering book, Music, Informal Learning and the School, reveals how the music classroom can draw upon the world of popular musicians’ informal learning practices, so as to recognize and foster a range of musical skills and knowledge that have long been overlooked within music education.

It investigates how far informal learning practices are possible and desirable in a classroom context; how they can affect young teenagers’ musical skill and knowledge acquisition; and how they can change the ways students listen to, understand and appreciate music as critical listeners, not only in relation to what they already know, but beyond.

It examines students’ motivations towards music education, their autonomy as learners, and their capacity to work co-operatively in groups without instructional guidance from teachers.

It suggests how we can awaken students’ awareness of their own musicality, particularly those who might not otherwise be reached by music education, putting the potential for musical development and participation into their own hands.

Bringing informal learning practices into a school environment is challenging for teachers. It can appear to conflict with their views of professionalism, and may at times seem to run against official educational discourses, pedagogic methods and curricular requirements. But any conflict is more apparent than real, for this book shows how informal learning practices can introduce fresh, constructive ways for music teachers to understand and approach their work. It offers a critical pedagogy for music, not as mere theory, but as an analytical account of practices which have fundamentally influenced the perspectives of the teachers involved.

Through its grounded examples and discussions of alternative approaches to classroom work and classroom relations, the book reaches out beyond music to other curriculum subjects, and wider debates about pedagogy and curriculum.

‘… this is a very important music education book, not only challenging established views and prejudices of music teaching, but also demonstrating how teachers could act to make a difference and work for change. Reading this book is a must for every music educator, not necessarily with the aim of copying every detail of the project, but to relate to, reflect and act upon in his/her ongoing music teaching. This project is also a very good example of praxis-based research. The thick descriptions and the sharp, well-structured analyses offer a great amount of valuable knowledge to researchers as well as educators.’ Music Education Research

‘Viewed altogether, the Musical Futures initiative, the empirical authority and depth of this project, and finally this compelling and excellent book, make a major contribution to music education. Music, Informal Learning and the School should be on the reading list of everyone who believes in the power of music to transform the lives of young people everywhere.’ Classroom Music Magazine

‘… an important book that chronicles the realities of taking seriously the values and views of adolescents as to their music and the ways in which they prefer to know it better. It gives pause for putting into practice what has been discussed and debated for some time in music education, and in education at large, and paves the way for further developments in making music reasonable and relevant for students in secondary schools.’ British Journal of Music Education

‘Apart from the teaching strategies and learning approaches demonstrated by Green, there is much here that music educators can use. … Music, Informal Learning and the School opens a discourse about music education that can only benefit music education as a whole. Books such as this rarely appear. If you have any passion for music education, this one will be for immediate consumption. Agreement is not compulsory; entering into the debate is.’ Research Studies in Music Education

About the Author: Lucy Green is Professor of Music Education in The Institute of Education, University of London, UK.

What can teachers learn from popular musicians? Watch Lucy Green in conversation with doctoral student Flávia Narita on Youtube

Music and Material Culture – a call for proposals

We are pleased to invite proposals for a new series from Ashgate.

Music and Material Culture provides a platform for methodological innovations in research on the relationship between music and its objects.

In a sense, musicology has always dealt with material culture; the study of manuscripts, print sources, instruments and other physical media associated with the production and reception of music is central to its understanding. Recent scholarship within the humanities has increasingly shifted its focus onto the objects themselves and there is now a particular need for musicology to be part of this broader ‘material turn’.

A growing reliance on digital and online media as sources for the creation and consumption of music is changing the way we experience music by increasingly divorcing it from tangible matter. This is rejuvenating discussion of our relationship with music’s objects and the importance of such objects both as a means of understanding past cultures and negotiating current needs and social practices.

Broadly interdisciplinary in nature, this series seeks to examine critically the materiality of music and its artefacts as an explicit part of culture rather than simply an accepted means of music-making.

Proposals are welcomed on the material culture of music from any period and genre, particularly on topics within the fields of cultural theory, source studies, organology, ritual, anthropology, collecting, archiving, media archaeology, new media and aesthetics.

Guidelines for proposals can be found on our website

Please send proposals to Laura Macy (on topics before 1900) or Emma Gallon (on topics since 1900)