The Avid Listener: "Cutting It Up with Dickie Goodman: Communism, Castro and the Wall"
Joanna: Tim hits us up with another entry on Cold War novelty songs for The Avid Listener. I'm sure all of our Smolkoly readers are wondering why on this green earth is there a vintage picture of Beef Stroganoff in this post? Does it look delectable? Does it perhaps make you want to get up and dance?
If it does, you might just be ready for "The Stroganoff Cha-Cha" and Tim's essay on this and other songs of Dickie Goodman. To stretch out a metaphor, the song's mashup of Cuban, American, and Russian elements perhaps resembles a modern-day fusion restaurant.
The combination of a slow and heavy Russian work song with a light and frisky Cuban dance must have sounded odd in early 1959, since there was little connection at the time between the cultures of the two countries.
If this is making you hungry, here's a recipe for Beef Stroganoff from one of my favorite food bloggers. Dinner, music, dance and an enlightening essay.
Joanna: Tim is at it again with the second in his series on The Avid Listener, Celebrating the Nuclear Apocalypse with Tom Lehrer. Following up on his spec-tic-tic-tac-ular post on Doris Day, Tim once again brings a ludicrous touch to his discussion of novelty songs about the Cold War, one that is absolutely appropriate for the brilliant satire in Lehrer's song "We'll All Go Together When We Go."
Here, Lehrer's wicked sense of humor serves an important cultural purpose:
Like Pez, Peeps, and Pop Rocks, a novelty song is a sugar rush for the ear. The great number of novelty songs about the Cold War attests to the fact that people needed to diffuse their fear of the Soviet Union, and the possibility of nuclear war, with humor and satire.
Go read more at The Avid Listener!
Some wars are good. Most are bad. Some are just plain weird. The Cold War was definitely weird, and one of the best ways to grasp its weirdness is to listen to Cold War novelty songs from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Joanna: Over these past weeks, Tim developed essays for the public musicology site extraordinaire, The Avid Listener. The essays on The Avid Listener hit a rare sweet spot: in-depth musical and historical analysis written without jargon or overly specialized language. They give any interested reader the chance to explore ways that music frames and shapes culture.
Tim's essay gives a sneak peek into the writings for our forthcoming book on popular music and the Cold War. I really appreciate the way that Tim can blend wacky humor with critical analysis, using the novelty song genre as a distinctive window in the the political climate of the Cold War.
Go over there and read his essay “You’ll Tic Tic All Day Long”: The Cold War, Geiger Counters, and Doris Day. Then spend some time perusing some of the other wonderful essays on the site--you won't be disappointed.
Joanna: A few weeks back, Tim and I went to the Society for American Music meeting in Boston. This society has been one of the most mentoring, supportive groups that we’ve encountered in academia. I think this comes in part both from the diversity of topics, as well as the diversity of backgrounds. It’s never been a society just for those on the traditional tenure-track. The variety of voices within the society, I believe, has made it stronger even with the shifts in American academia. But that's a topic for another time!
Tim presented on some of his Cold War music research. He talked about the weird and wacky songs from the early Cold War period about fallout shelters. The songs reflected many people’s attitudes in the late 1950s and early 1960s, that shelters made better party rooms than protective spaces from hydrogen bombs. Here’s an example of one of these songs:
At the business meeting, we were invited up to receive the Hampsong Education Fellowship in American Song for the book that we are coauthoring Atomic Tunes: The Cold War in American and British Popular Music.
We've been offered an advance contract from the good folks at Indiana University Press, who published Tim’s first book on British progressive rock band Jethro Tull.
We’re very excited about this fellowship, especially with our interest in writing for the general public, and more specifically with the work I’ve done in the past with the Voices Across Time project.
Years back, I worked on proofreading Voices Across Time lesson plans, and served as a summer student assistant for one of the NEH-sponsored conferences while working on my PhD at the University of Pittsburgh. Here I saw firsthand the power of musicology in the public sphere as a variety of speakers--musicologists, historians and performers--came in to mentor middle school and high school teachers as they learned how to use songs to teach American history in their classrooms. The vivid demonstrations and discussions shaped the way that I approach the classroom, and the way I think about audience when I'm writing. It's a joy to come full circle as we adapt materials from the book into lesson plans and other educational/public musicology resources.
Joanna & Tim
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