From the pluralist vantage of today's academy, a colloquy on the “middlebrow” might seem like an unfashionable proposition. Coined in the 1920s to describe those who fell between high and low culture, the concept harks back to an era openly invested in cultural hierarchies.1 In response to the rise of mass technology, commentators of that era sorted consumers and products into polarizing categories in an anxious attempt to restore order to a shifting cultural terrain. In one camp were the “lowbrows,” whose imagined desire for mindless entertainment was supposedly exploited by shamelessly commercial companies; in the other, “highbrows,” epitomized by the emerging modernists, were said to shun the offerings of...
Colloquy: Musicology and the Middlebrow
CHRISTOPHER CHOWRIMOOTOO is Assistant Professor of Musicology in the Program of Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Middlebrow Modernism: Britten's Operas and the Great Divide (University of California Press, 2018) and coeditor of The Oxford Handbook of Music and the Middlebrow (forthcoming). He has published articles in the Journal of Musicology, Twentieth-Century Music, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, the Cambridge Opera Journal, and the Opera Quarterly.
KATE GUTHRIE is a Lecturer in Music at the University of Bristol. Her monograph The Art of Appreciation: Music and Middlebrow Culture in Modern Britain (University of California Press, forthcoming) recounts the history of initiatives to create a broader audience for art music in twentieth-century Britain. She is the recipient of the Royal Musical Association's Jerome Roche Prize (2015) and the Music and Letters Westrup Prize (2015).
JOHN HOWLAND is Professor of Music History at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. He is the author of Ellington Uptown: Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, and the Birth of Concert Jazz (University of Michigan Press, 2009), Duke Ellington Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2017), and Hearing Luxe Pop: Glorification, Glamour, and the Middlebrow in American Popular Music (University of California Press, forthcoming), and the former editor and cofounder of the journal Jazz Perspectives.
ANDREW FLORY is Associate Professor of Music at Carleton College. He has published widely on rock and R&B topics and is the author of I Hear a Symphony: Motown and Crossover R&B (University of Michigan Press, 2017). He works as a consultant for Universal Music Enterprises, and has coproduced many Motown-oriented reissues. He is currently writing a book about Marvin Gaye in the 1960s.
CHRIS McDONALD is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at Cape Breton University. He is the author of Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class (Indiana University Press, 2009). He continues to study and publish on music and class, as well as progressive rock and Celtic traditional music.
HEATHER WIEBE is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Music at King's College London. She is the author of Britten's Unquiet Pasts: Sound and Memory in Postwar Reconstruction (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and was the guest editor of a special issue of the Opera Quarterly on the theme “Opera and Obsolescence” (2009). In 2018 she was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship for her project Mobilizing Music in Wartime British Film.
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Christopher Chowrimootoo and Kate Guthrie (Convenors), John Howland, Andrew Flory, Chris McDonald, Heather Wiebe, Richard Taruskin; Colloquy: Musicology and the Middlebrow. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 June 2020; 73 (2): 327–395. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2020.73.2.327
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