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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.


Upcoming Lecture



  • Spring 2019 (date TBA):

Alexander Reed (Ithaca College), “There Is No Pilot: How Laurie Anderson’s Big Science Diagnosed a World Beyond Control

The 1982 LP Big Science helped establish Laurie Anderson as the decade’s premier art/pop crossover.  The album dazzled and bewildered audiences with its uneasy staging of individual facelessness amid corporate familiarity, its dry humor, its aesthetics both icy and quaint, and its vital engagement with gender, geography, technology, and embodiment.


This lecture highlights that ways Anderson’s breakthrough speaks persistently to our experience of a world where, media, governments, and corporations operate seemingly with a mind of their own.  Through this lens, Big Science asks what happens when power wields itself—when our systematic enterprises become so recursive and mediated that they no longer serve us, but instead we serve them.  Historically, it is among the first western documents to recognize this state of affairs, newly emergent in the early 1980s—no surprise, given that stylistically, the album collides new wave, new age, and “new music,” opening a whole discourse of what “new” meant just before the “end of history.”


Investigating musical examples from across the album (bolstered by the context of Anderson’s other work), this talk engages with music, lyrics, and production to illuminate how Anderson raises questions that are downright metascientific.  What kind of knowledge is communicated in a poem, a proof, a plan, or a pickup line?  Who gets to decide which is which?  How is that authority granted?


Unpacking the questions Big Science raises reveals it as not merely a document of the 1980s, but a work that the 21st century renders more troublingly relevant every day.

Past Lectures

See here for full details and video webcasts

Sara Gulgas (University of Arizona), fall 2018: "Baroque Rock: An Embarrassing Stain on Rock’s Harder Image?"

Joshua Duchan (Wayne State University), spring 2018: "Billy Joel and the American Musical Landscape"

Tammy Kernodle (Miami University of Ohio), fall 2017: "Hope for a New Tomorrow: Transcendence and Resistance in the Gospel Blues of Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples and Roberta Flack"

Daniel Goldmark (Case Western Reserve University), spring 2017: "Anthologizing Rock and Roll: Rhino Records and the Repackaging of Rock History"

Steven Baur (Dalhousie University), fall 2016: "Toward a Cultural History of the Backbeat"

Jacqueline Warwick (Dalhousie University), spring 2016: "Dad Rock and Child Stars"

Stephanie Vander Wel (University at Buffalo (SUNY)), fall 2015: "Rose Maddox's Roadhouse Vocality and the California Sound of 1950s Rockabilly and Honky-Tonk"

Mark Clague (University of Michigan), spring 2015: "'This Is America': Jimi Hendrix's Reimaginings of the 'The Star-Spangled Banner' as Social Comment for Woodstock and Beyond"

Samantha Bennett (Australian National University), fall 2014: "Rock, Recording and Rebellion: Technology and Process in 1990s Record Production"

Christopher Doll (Rutgers University), spring 2014: "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"

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