AMS / Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Lecture Series

The American Musicological Society and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (RRHOFM) in Cleveland, Ohio, are collaborating on a new lecture series that brings scholarly work to a broader audience and showcases the musicological work of the top scholars in the field.

Free and open to the public, the lectures are held in Library Reading Room, Rock Hall Library and Archives (2809 Woodland Avenue, Cleveland). Directions and parking

Future Lectures

Fall 2014: 12 November, 7 p.m.: Samantha Bennett (Australian National University), "Rock, Recording and Rebellion: Technology and Process in 1990s Record Production"

Samantha Bennett describes her lecture as follows:

RRHOFM inductees Tom Dowd, Berry Gordy Jr., Les Paul, Sam Phillips and Phil Spector represent a 1950s/ 1960s ‘recordist canon’; pioneers of maverick recording methodologies responsible for shaping the sound of classic rock and roll. Their work not only forms the underpinning of rock music’s sonic characteristics, but also represents an oft-imitated body of audible stylistic, genre and aesthetic recording principles. Some of their radical, experimental and at times rebellious production techniques – Paul’s ‘Sound on Sound’, Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’ and Phillips’ ‘Slap Echo’ for example, have [re]informed a continuum of established rock production standards. Reference to this ‘recordist canon’ and their groundbreaking work is documented throughout rock historiography, particularly in accomplished scholarship by Albin Zak, Mark Cunningham, David Morton and Greg Milner. These are, however, rare retrospective acknowledgements to whom Alan Williams has called ‘the man behind the curtain’.

Less acknowledged in academic discourse is the work carried out by recordists in rock production since; the 1970s and 1980s gave way to increased multitrack recording capabilities and large-scale mixing console classic rock record construction. However, the 1990s marked a significant turning point in pop and rock sound recording. At a time when computer-based DAWs were fast becoming the norm, many sound recordists of the era either rejected this new direction outright or blended technological and processual precursors into unconventional and individualized working practice[s]. Such [re]inventions of technological and processual modes of production mirror those of the 1950s/ 1960s ‘recordist canon’.

This lecture considers the role of understudied, yet key individuals responsible for shaping the sound of some of the decade's most successful popular music releases from later RRHOFM inductees. From Jim Scott and Rick Rubin’s ‘loud and mono’ treatment of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication to William Orbit's vintage analogue synthesis-laden production of Madonna's Ray of Light; from Flood and Howie B's integration of composite sample editing on U2's Pop to Steve Albini's live recording of Nirvana's In Utero. What were the maverick recording techniques and processes implemented by these recordists in order to achieve such instantly recognizable works? And to what extent is a new ‘recordist canon’ formed via 1990s rock recordings? Giving long overdue recognition to the contemporary sound recordist, this lecture illuminates the technologies and processes implemented by rock music’s concealed sonic orchestrators.

Past Lectures

See here for full details and video webcasts

Christopher Doll (Rutgers University), "Nuclear Holocaust, the Kennedy Assassination, and 'Louie Louie': The Unlikely History of Sixties Rock and Roll"

Loren Kajikawa (University of Oregon), September 2013: "Before Rap: DJs, MCs, and Pre-1979 Hip Hop Performances"

Andrew Flory (Carleton College), December 2012: "Reissuing Marvin: Musicology and the Modern Expanded Edition"

David Brackett (McGill University), April 2012: "Fox-Trots, Hillbillies, and the Classic Blues: Categorizing Popular Music in the 1920s"

Albin Zak (University at Albany, SUNY), October 2011: "'A Thoroughly Bad Record': Elvis Presley’s 'Hound Dog' as Rock and Roll Manifesto"

Call for Lecture Proposals

Follow this link for full instructions if you are interested in participating in the AMS/RRHOFM Lecture Series.

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