Welcome to our website, the online home of our Australian Research Council (ARC) funded project, Popular Music and Cultural Memory: localised popular music histories and their significance for national music industries. Visit our site regularly for updates on our research's progress, as well as links to our project's outcomes as they appear. Find out more about our project and its aims here.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our international fieldwork concludes

The final two stops on Sarah's international fieldwork trip were Seattle and LA. This enabled us to include in the research two more of America's popular music museums. In Seattle, Sarah visited EMP, a museum dedicated to popular music and science fiction and which is gradually expanding to a broader focus on popular culture more generally. In downtown LA, a trip was made to The Grammy Museum which showcases the history of the Grammy Awards, but also charts a number of key moments in popular music history through the use of interactive displays.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nashville: 'Music City'

Sarah is currently soaking up all things country in Nashville, Tennessee. Given her visit to Tamworth, Australia's 'country music capital', at the start of the year, it was fitting to include 'Music City' into the US leg of the international fieldwork. The popular music heritage industry in embedded in the fabric of Nashville, with its 'Honky Tonk Heroes' guitar artwork:

 and its 'Walk of Fame Park'

But the key focus of this trip was the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which is perhaps the most impressive of America's music museums.

One of the great things about this museum is that it makes overt the connection between the display material and the archive, with visitors able to see into the Frist Library and Archive as they view the other exhibits. Interactive consoles also give visitors the opportunity to access selected images from the archive's photo portfolio as well as an opportunity to explore some of the "rare record spins" to be found in the collection.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The project visits New York, Cleveland and Atlanta

For the last month or so, Sarah has been in the USA chasing interview leads and visiting popular music archives and museums. She began in New York City where she interviewed the folks who collect, catalogue and preserve the massive vinyl collection that is ARChive.

This was followed by a trip to Cleveland, Ohio, for a tour of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and it's special exhibit 'Women who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power'. This visit coincided with the 16th American Music Masters week, meaning Sarah also had an opportunity to attend a series of events honouring the work of Aretha Franklin.

Next stop was Atlanta, where Sarah met with another of the project's partner investigators, Professor Tim Dowd. Unfortunately, some months earlier had seen the closure of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia, a place Sarah had originally planned to visit. The closure of the GMHF is indicative of the serious funding issues faced by many small popular music museums in the US and elsewhere.

While in Atlanta, Sarah caught the Smithsonian's traveling exhibition 'Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment' at the Atlanta History Center, and also visited the  Georgia State University Library where she was given a detailed tour of the Popular Music and Culture Collection which houses many important artefacts relating to the lyricist/composer/performer Johnny Mercer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our project returns to Iceland

Sarah made a brief return trip to Iceland this month to do some follow up interviews at Tonlistarsafn Islands, the Icelandic Music History Museum.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Our project visits The Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision

Still in the Netherlands, from 30 September to 7 October Sarah was based in Amsterdam where she made a trip to Hilversum to visit  Beeld en Geluid, the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision.

Beeld en Geluid houses a massive underground audio-visual archive (reportedly over 70% of the country's audio-visual heritage), and the facilities are rather impressive as the photo below indicates:

In addition to its archival facility, Beeld en Geluid also hosts "The Experience", a range of interactive exhibits including a 'Pop Studio'.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Our project in the Netherlands - Rotterdam, Hoek van Holland and The Hague

For the last couple of weeks Sarah has been in Rotterdam working closely with one of the project's partner investigators, Susanne Janssen and her Dutch HERA team who are involved in the European sister project to 'Popular Music and Cultural Memory', called POPID. While in Rotterdam, Sarah had the opportunity to present a seminar paper at Erasmus University. The paper, 'Memorialisation of country music in an Australian town' was based on research conducted earlier in the year at Tamworth, and was co-written by Alison Huber.

During her time in Rotterdam Sarah made two trips to Hoek van Holland to visit Museum RockArt, a small museum that collects and displays items related to Dutch popular music history, including material related to the key global performers who have influenced the music culture of the Netherlands.

Museum RockArt is an example of what Sarah and Alison term "DIY institutions". They define such institutions as 'places of popular music preservation, archiving and display that exist outside the bounds of "official" or "national" projects of collection and heritage management' and which emerge 'from within communities of music consumption' (Baker & Huber, forthcoming). DIY institutions are staffed primarily by volunteers and Museum RockArt is no exception --- having a core group of volunteers that bring the museum space alive for visitors.

The people at Museum RockArt also had a hand in curating the Golden Earring: Back Home exhibition that Sarah visited  at the Haags Historich Museum in The Hague. The exhibition was a celebration of 50 years of the (arguably) seminal Dutch band Golden Earring.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The "Home of Metal" exhibition in Birmingham, UK

Still in the UK, Sarah traveled to Birmingham last week to view an exhibition at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery called Home of Metal. The focus was the last 40 years of metal music and its relationship to the British midlands.

Sarah was lucky enough to be at the museum at the same time as Noddy Holder, the lead singer of Slade, who was there to produce a story about the exhibition for Sky Arts. Noddy showed Sarah what he considered to be one of the best items on display - the letter from Lars Ulrich (Metallica) to Brian Tatler (Diamond Head), written when Metallica had not yet "made-it".

Noddy's highlight: the letter from Lars to Brian

Sarah made sure she purchased a Home of Metal 'family tree' tea towel at the exhibition shop before heading back to London!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Our project in the UK

After a fruitful month of fieldwork in Israel, Sarah is now in London undertaking the UK leg of the research. So far she has visited commercial record label archives, the British Library sound archive and the archive of public broadcaster, the BBC. Interviews have also been conducted with music journalists and documentary makers, and Sarah was lucky to have the opportunity to talk to a member of the production team of the groundbreaking BBC documentary series from the mid-1990s, Dancing in the Street. There are also a number of museums Sarah will be touring during her visit, including The Beatles Story in Liverpool. Yesterday, for example, Sarah went to the British Music Experience, dubbed "Britain's Museum of Popular Music". This museum is part of the O2 Bubble (Millennium Dome) complex in Greenwich and charts the development of British music since 1945 using interactive technologies.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Our project on Brisbane's 4ZZZ

Quentin Ellison, of 4ZZZ's show, Divers-A-Tea & Talk (Fridays, 9am-12pm), interviewed Andy Bennett about our project this morning.  Were you listening?  We hope you were! 

Participate in our project by sharing your music memories with us.  Find out how here or write to us at musicmemories@griffith.edu.au

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Australian Country Music Hall of Fame, Tamworth

From 2-4 August, Alison made a return visit to Tamworth, NSW, this time to talk to the small team of dedicated folks who work at the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame.  Like the Victorian Jazz Archive she visited back in May, the Hall of Fame is an institution dedicated to preserving an aspect of Australia's music heritage which runs entirely on donations, grant funding, and the tireless work of its volunteers.  The Hall of Fame building (Tamworth's former Mechanics' Institute) houses a public museum space featuring changing displays about some of the many stars of Australia's country music scene, as well as an extensive closed archive of material artefacts related to country music and its cultural heritage.  Sound and visual recordings, costumes, instruments, photographs, magazines, posters -- and even a piece of historic railway track which is the subject of a country music song -- all have a home in the archive.  Alison was treated to the staff's kind hospitality during her visit, and was able to find out lots of detail about the work being done behind the scenes to preserve and display Australia's country music's past.  The archival collection has been recognised as being one of 'national and international signficance', following a Community Heritage Grant from the National Library of Australia in 2006, which enabled a significance assessment.

The Hall of Fame is located at 93 Brisbane Street, Tamworth.  For more information, visit their website, http://www.countrymusichalloffame.com.au

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Our project in Perth

Project Leader Professor Andy Bennett (Griffith Centre for Cultural Research, Griffith University) spent the first three weeks of July in Perth where he conducted interviews with a range of people involved in the Perth music scene. Among those Andy interviewed were personnel from local community radio, the State Library of Western Australia, and a music documentary production company. Andy also spoke to a number of local music fans and musicians and was given a special tour of Fremantle's High Street West End Spray Chalk Star Walk of Fame by organiser Carolyn Bailey. During his visit to Perth, Andy was interviewed about the Popular Music and Cultural Memory project on local radio stations RTR and Curtin FM and gave two seminar presentations at Curtin University (where he was Visiting Fellow for the duration of the trip) and Edith Cowan University.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Our research in Israel

The international component of the project began in earnest this month with Sarah's arrival in Tel Aviv, Israel. Sarah is working closely with one of the project's partner investigators, Professor Motti Regev (The Open University of Israel), and together they will be interviewing a range of people invested in preserving and documenting Israel's popular music heritage. In preparation for the trip Sarah viewed the 12 part documentary series End of the Orange Season, which charts the development of Israeli rock music. In addition to speaking with producers of that series, Sarah also plans to visit The Music Department Collections at The National Library of Israel and the music library at the army radio station Galei Tzahal. Sarah will be based in Tel Aviv until 15 August when the research moves to the UK.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

List-o-mania: send us yours

One of the most public ways in which popular music is remembered is through lists. Journalists love them, and music magazines (and now their online counterparts) have made them a routine way of assessing and representing perceptions of 'value' and 'importance'. Sometimes it's not just journos who compile lists of 'the best' or 'most influential' songs or albums, and consecrate them into the canon of popular music. Think of the annual Triple J Hottest 100 as an example.** In this annual event, listeners are asked to vote for their favourite songs of the year, and a list of one hundred songs is the result, which comes to stand in as an abstracted representation of the 'hottest' songs of that year. The list is then counted down, 100 to 1, on Australia Day each year. It has become something approaching a tradition, as people around the country hold parties to listen in to the broadcast, and debate the contents of the list.

In this annual event, it seems to me that the audience of Triple J is effectively deciding with their votes which songs are worth remembering from a given year; in the logic of this list, you might say that everything else could reasonably stand to be forgotten, or at the very least, are the songs that were not 'hot' enough for enough people. A compilation album is also released each year, which whittles down this list even further, and only a selection of the Top 100 are reproduced for posterity in this format. At present, Triple J is hosting another vote, this time on 'Australia's Hottest 100 Albums of All Time'. These lists are always contentious, and incite a lot of debate about what's in and what's out; this debate is important not least because of the questions such exercises raise about the value judgements that motivate individuals to choose this example over that example. Furthermore, if such lists are going to represent 'the past' to future audiences, then arguing over how they are constructed is essential.

But what about your personal list, one that isn't determined by radio playlists, genres, year of recording, origin or nationality, format, or (and this might be harder) what's deemed 'hot' or, if you'd prefer, 'cool'? What would you nominate to be your favourite, or most important, or most influential albums or songs of all time, the things that find an important place in your life and the way you remember its story? Maybe it's something you don't even like, but which you remember for some reason. I have a particularly strong memory of being trapped at a terrible party, aged 15, when the Red Hot Chili Peppers' song, 'Under the Bridge', was played over and over, literally for hours. CD players were not long on the scene, so someone must have been exploiting the newfound pleasure of the 'repeat' function. I had, and still have, a vehement dislike of that song. It was an incredibly popular song in 1991 and 1992, and hard to avoid at parties like that one. When I think about that song now, I think of it as providing an important moment of differentiation for me -- I didn't want to like what was popular. So for that reason, that song might actually make a list of Top 10 songs that have been important in my life, even though I could do without hearing it ever again, and it reminds me of such a terrible party.

What about you? What might be on your personal list of most important songs, albums, or musical experiences? Write to us and tell us about it at: musicmemories@griffith.edu.au

** For our international readers, Triple J is Australia's 'youth' radio network, run by the public broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and began the 'Hottest 100' tradition in 1989.  The radio countdown has a longer tradition, though: Brisbane community station, 4ZZZ, began counting down a 'Hot 100' on New Year's Day 1977.  See 4ZZZ's website for more information.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Victorian Jazz Archive

On May 31, Alison paid a visit to the Victorian Jazz Archive, which is located in the south-eastern suburb of Wantirna in Melbourne.  The archive has been around since 1996, and collects and preserves a huge range of artefacts pertaining to Australia's jazz history.  Volunteers are the backbone of this organisation, and they put on a very warm welcome, happy to share their passion for the archive's enterprise in generous conversation.  Alison was taken on a tour of the archive's collection which contains an incredible array of material, including recordings of all kinds, photographs, posters, magazines, books, clippings, and all manner of ephemera related to jazz.  While the archive is dedicated to the preservation of this material (and Alison saw lots of evidence of the meticulous work they are doing to preserve the material they are donated), its members and management team are also very keen to make this material accessible to the public, and so aim to operate as a 'living museum'.  They offer a range of outreach activities including archive tours, and they actively encourage members of the public to visit and use the archive.

The Victorian Jazz Archive runs entirely on donations, fundraising and the hundreds of hours of hard work donated by its volunteers.  Learn more about the archive at their website, http://vicjazzarchive.org.au/

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Perth, here we come!

Andy will be conducting fieldwork in Perth from 2-24 July 2011.  He'll be interviewing audience members as well as people involved in the production of historical accounts of popular music's past in Perth and WA.  If you are interested in participating in the research, please send us an email to musicmemories@griffith.edu.au -- we'd love to hear from you!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Listen to Andy talking about our project

Andy Bennett was interviewed on ABC Gold Coast by Bernadette Young during her Drive show (10/3/11).  Listen to the interview here!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sites of Popular Music Heritage Conference

The School of Music at the University of Liverpool, UK, has announced a forthcoming conference on popular music and cultural memory called 'Sites of Popular Music Heritage'. The conference will be held in Liverpool on 8-9 September 2011 and is currently asking for contributions in three thematic areas: popular music heritage in the museum; heritage, place and local identity; digital archives and online practice. Deadline for abstracts is 30 April 2011.

Our project on ABC Radio

Andy Bennett has been talking about our project on ABC Radio, first on Afternoons with Richard Fidler (612 ABC Brisbane, Friday 25/2/11), and more recently on Regional Afternoons with Georgia Stynes (ABC North Queensland, Tuesday 8/3/11), and Breakfast with Eoin Cameron (720 ABC Perth), Thursday 10/3/11.  Thank you to the enthusiastic people who called in and added their personal recollections to the discussions.

Andy and all the research team warmly invite contributions to our project, so get in touch!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Publication: Alison Huber on 'All You Need is Love'

One of the interests of our research is the ways in which the histories of popular music have been represented on screen, and in particular, via the medium of television documentary. Alison's article on Tony Palmer's popular music documentary, All You Need is Love, has been accepted for publication in the journal Television & New Media. An OnlineFirst version appeared on March 10 2011 with the print version due to be published later in the year. The title of the article is 'Remembering popular music, documentary style: Tony Palmer's history in All You Need is Love'. Here's the abstract:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cavalcades and concrete hands

Today we saw the Country Music Cavalcade, one of the last official events on the festival calendar.  This year's theme was 'Legends of Country Music', so we saw lots of floats that paid tribute to the well-loved stars of country music from both here and abroad.  Thousands of people lined Peel Street to watch a forty-minute procession of pipe bands, hotted-up utes, and blinged-out semi-trailers.  Country music stars, old and new, waved from atop their motorised transport, while locals dressed up to honor their idols and represent their local community.  One highlight for us was seeing 2011 Toyota Star Maker winner, Luke Dickens (remember him from Australian Idol 2008?).  We also liked this float:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Big things, wax things, bronze things

Over the last few days in Tamworth we have visited yet more of the Country Music Capital's historical sites, including the Big Golden Guitar, the Country Music Gallery of Stars Wax Museum, the bronze busts in Bicentennial Park, the Hands of Fame, Lindsay Butler Studio's Wall of Fame and memorabilia collection, and the Australian Country Music Foundation's Country Music Hall of Fame.  We were also very lucky to be invited to the Australian Bush Laureate Awards held at the beautiful Town Hall, where we were seated right next to country music's matriarch, Ms Joy McKean!  Throw in a couple of concerts, a few talks by Australian pioneers of country music, a lot of buskers, and the unveiling ceremony of this year's plaque commemorating this year's inductees into the Roll of Renown (Tommy and Phil Emmanuel), and you could say we have been rather busy...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tamworth, here we are!

Sarah and Alison are in Tamworth for the 2011 Country Music Festival.

We have already taken in a range of the historical fare on offer in this memorial town to Australia's country music, including the Walk a Country Mile exhibit, the TSA Songmaker Tribute, the Roll of Renown and the Galaxy of Stars at the TREC (the venue where the Country Music Awards will be held later this week), and the Winners' Walkway in the world-famous Peel Street.  We have also attended the opening concert in Bicentennial Park, and the Roll of Renown Concert at the Town Hall, where the 2011 inductees, the Emmanuel Brothers, were announced to a rapt crowd.