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Special Issue of Rock Music Studies: Authenticity as Process

Posted: March 22nd, 2024 | Filed under: Calls for Papers | Comments Off on Special Issue of Rock Music Studies: Authenticity as Process

Guest-edited by Matthew Bannister (Wintec) and Nick Braae (Wintec) 

Submissions are invited for a special issue of Rock Music Studies on the topic of Authenticity as Process. Authenticity is never a fully accomplished fact—it depends on legitimating processes and is prey to time and change, to the assessments of different audiences, often arising out of a movement or oscillation between or via polarities, a journey of becoming. We are looking for contributions that examine various articulations of authenticating processes in the context of popular music. Authors may choose to engage with the prompts below or with any other perspective on authenticity.

Rock or beyond—While authenticity has long been held up as a key criterion of value in the domain of rock music (Grayck), the term has also been associated with “popular music” discourse more broadly (Desler) as well as being applied to specific “pop” contexts (Leach).

What are the relationships between these understandings of value across genres? How are these values transferred from one genre to another?

Individual/community, innovation/tradition—Originally, authenticity meant the maintenance of individual integrity in the face of social conformity (Rousseau; Heidegger; Sartre). In popular music, the term can apply to both (modernist) individual authorship and (Romantic) identification with a community (Keightley; Frith; Landau; Marcus; Moore). How can it be both?

Freedom/constraint—To be authentically “free,” a system of constraints is necessary. “The impulse to articulate categories with clear boundaries arises from an awareness of the impermanence of a particular way of life” (Weiss 510). Is policing arequirement of authenticity? To what degree is authenticity a “negation” of normality (Weisethaunet and Lindberg; Azerrad; Haenfler)?

Hip/camp—Andrew Ross distinguished two ways intellectuals could identify with popular culture—by identifying with a”hip” culture or via camp irony, a strategy also suggested by Grossberg’s “inauthentic authenticity” (Steinhoff). Can irony become a kind of superior awareness, and thus in some sense authentic?

High/low fidelity, clean/dirty, pure/impure, raw/cooked—Authenticity is located at both extremes of the spectrum offaithful reproduction, high quality, and digital perfection vs. the “honest” patina of analogue hiss and crackle, the dirt of distortion, and background noise (Grajeda, Supper).

Creation/interpretation—Conventionally, creation precedes interpretation, the author precedes the performer, the music precedes the commentary, but to what degree is creation reinterpretation, is the author shaped by performance, do the comments anticipate the music (Lordi; Wilde; Gendron; Lindberg et al; van Venrooij and Wilderom)? This may be of special relevance to the mediation of new or underground scenes.

Text/performance—Recent copyright cases have highlighted the question of the constitution of a musical work—can it bereduced to a text? At what point does arrangement become text? What is the “original” text (Bania; Demers; Morrison; O’Connor, Mtima and Rosario)?

Youth/age—”L’enfance est plus authentique” (Gane and Sadler). The Romantic identifications of popular music havealways been biased toward youth. Is it time to reconsider this (Bennett, Music)?

Straight/queer—Gender and authenticity have a long history, from subcultural studies and the pop/rock dichotomy onward(Bannister; Coates; Downes; McRobbie). Now, cis gender is itself under the microscope. Is queer the new authenticity (Evans)?

Center/periphery, roots/routes—Are some types of geographical locations privileged when it comes to certain kinds ofmusic (Cohen; Kruse; Peterson)? Or are musics located on the lines between destinations (Gilroy)?

Live/recorded—The shifting history of investments in live and recorded music— complementary opposites? The recordingis the ontological basis of rock music (Gracyk)—or merely a reaction to the hegemony of “liveness” (Auslander; Holt; Thornton). How have the priorities shifted historically between these binaries, or are they mutually reinforcing?

Love the art/hate the artist—The recent emphasis on historic and contemporary gendered and ethnic violence and discrimination in the music industry, along with “cancel culture,” causes reconsideration of how some performers/authors relate to their work in the public eye—rather than legitimating the work, are they instead becoming a liability (Dederer; Ng; Nussbaum; Raine and Strong)?

Digital/analogue—Democracy of access vs. exclusivity. Music and the Internet are shot through with questions about access and exclusivity, public and private, participation and ownership, a technology discourse that goes back to Benjamin’s “Work of Art” (RiP!; Lessig; Demers; Williams). With AI as emerging technology, how do we make decisions about what counts as “original”?

Subcultures/neo-tribes—How can we understand relations between music and audiences, historically and today? (Bennett, “Subcultures”; Muggleton).

Send proposals of up to 500 words by 30 June 2024 to Matthew Bannister and Nick Braae at [email protected] and [email protected]. Indicate the name under which you would wish to be published, your professional/academic affiliations, a postal address, and preferred email contact. Proposals will be reviewed for potential inclusion in the journal, with authors of selected papers being informed by 15 September 2024.

Authors to be included in the volume should expect to have their full, final manuscripts prepared by 1 February 2025. These submissions should be between 6,000 and 8,000 words (inclusive of everything) and should use MLA style. (For guidance on MLAstyle, see the “MLA Guide” at Purdue OWL, https://owl.purdue.edu/index.html). All affiliations, emails, and snail- mail contact information should be supplied in the first submission; however, for purposes of blind peer review, names of authors should not appear in the body of the manuscript. All papers will be peer-reviewed by at least two peers as well as the two guest editors of the special issue. We are happy to receive inquiries about prospective submissions. Please send all queries to [email protected] or [email protected]. It is expected that the special issue will be published in hard copy in October 2026 (with electronic publication occurring earlier).


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Leach, Elizabeth Eva. “Vicars of ‘Wannabe’: Authenticity and the Spice Girls.” Popular Music, vol. 20, no. 2, May 2001, pp. 143–67.

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