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Popular Music and Society: Special Issue on Woodstock University

Posted: February 17th, 2018 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | No Comments »

Guest-edited by Oliver Lovesey

Popular Music and Society invites article proposals for a special issue of Popular Music and Society that examines the idea of Woodstock and related festivals (such as Altamont and the Isle of Wight) and the question of what Woodstock has taught or how it has influenced us. It will address Woodstock on its fiftieth anniversary as a significant paradigm shift in cultural, intellectual, and musicological history.

Many participants (in some cases performers) were university students and some eventually would become professors “with a touch of grey”: How did the Woodstock experience and its cultural memory influence a societal understanding of popular music, youth culture, and education? Was it an experience full of collective outrage and utopian promise; a long, lost, psychedelic weekend; or the beginning of an education in disillusionment? Was music and its often incendiary performance central or merely the soundtrack to the moment of Woodstock? In hindsight, was this festival the model for an ideal society, a holiday for a pampered elite, or an embodiment of “Lord of the Flies”-style near disaster? Did Woodstock challenge or merely reinforce—camouflaging in tie-dye clothing—entrenched norms regarding gender relations, xenophobia, socioeconomic success, the search for meaning, and the relative importance of popular music?

To what extent was Woodstock grounded in the promise of previous festivals or nostalgia for a return to an impossible, prelapsarian rural innocence or a re-visioning of the idea of America itself? To what extent is the memory of Woodstock overlaid or drowned out by the movie and its afterlives in soundtrack recordings and spin-off festivals? Did Woodstock embody the idea of late 1960s popular music in its energy, joyfulness, experimentation, and radicalism or hasten the entrenchment of the forces of institutionalization, celebrity obsession, and commercialization?

Questions and issues to be explored within this context may include:

  • What was the idea of Woodstock and what has been its influence over the last 50 years? What in your opinion has been omitted or underemphasized in subsequent accounts of Woodstock?
  • Is the reputation of Woodstock and related festivals informed by an understanding of the history of popular music festivals in America and their purpose of preserving and celebrating old and new music? To what extent did Woodstock begin the aggressive corporate awareness of a new youth market for music and/or a recognition of the counterculture as a cash cow?
  • What was the role of Woodstock in advancing a particular idea of popular music and its performance? How important was music at Woodstock? While apparently designed partly to gesture to the roots of popular music as well as international voices, did the festival mainly serve to homogenize, sanitize, and whitewash popular music?
  • Has the cultural memory of Woodstock and related festivals been altered by the film and subsequent recordings, books, and restagings?
  • Did Woodstock unfurl the banner—or the “freak flag”—of a new, youthful radical consensus or signify a retreat from real life, obtaining qualifications, and making money? If the festival represented a radical consensus, did confidence in its longevity contribute to a certain blindness to coming turns to the right in cultural, economic, and political terms?
  • How has the idea of Woodstock and its afterlives affected popular perceptions of youth culture and education? In addition to the “Woodstock Nation,” is there a “Woodstock University”? Are post-Woodstock, post-Vietnam War, Internet-savvy generations empowered by the idea of Woodstock or slightly embarrassed by and contemptuous of its self-indulgence, narcissism, myopia, and hippie silliness?
  • To what extent has Woodstock become, however unfairly, an interpretative site or a fetishized shorthand for a range of countercultural verities? Can the historical reality support the weight of attributed significance? Does the reputation of Woodstock exemplify the invention of tradition?

Potential contributors are asked to submit proposals of up to 500 words and a brief CV by November 15, 2018. Those selected for inclusion will then be invited to submit articles (6,000-8,000 words) by July 15, 2019. Articles will be peer-reviewed. Inquiries regarding potential essay topics and their suitability for inclusion are welcome. Please include your professional/academic affiliation, a postal address, and a preferred e-mail contact with your essay. For purposes of blind peer-review, please do not include your name within the body of the essay. Please address all correspondence and submit all documents to [email protected]. It is expected that the special issue will be published in hard copy in May 2020 (with electronic publication occurring earlier). For more information and step-by-step publishing guidance, visit the journal’s Author Services Support page. For further information on the journal, please visit http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rpms20.

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