29 episodes

What, Like It’s Hard? is the digital initiative and podcast that celebrates and explores the academic study of popular music. Conferences can be expensive to attend, especially for students, so this platform allows for a digital space to be created for students to discuss and share their research topics and interests while building a digital network of like-minded people. The podcast opens with a keynote series from professors in different faculties, from different universities around the world. The podcast is available for streaming over Spotify, ApplePodcasts, Anchor, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

What, Like It's Hard‪?‬ WLIH

    • Education
    • 4.2 • 5 Ratings

What, Like It’s Hard? is the digital initiative and podcast that celebrates and explores the academic study of popular music. Conferences can be expensive to attend, especially for students, so this platform allows for a digital space to be created for students to discuss and share their research topics and interests while building a digital network of like-minded people. The podcast opens with a keynote series from professors in different faculties, from different universities around the world. The podcast is available for streaming over Spotify, ApplePodcasts, Anchor, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

    Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” in Pop Culture.

    Christina Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” in Pop Culture.

    Emily McConkey is a graduate student in English at the University of Ottawa. Over the last two years, she has served as the student researcher for the Christina Rossetti in Music digital archive and runs the archive’s Twitter account @CGRossettiMusic. Her research interests have always had an interdisciplinary focus. Her MA thesis explores the figure of Medusa in Victorian women’s art and poetry, and she is more broadly interested in Ovidian reception in the Victorian and Modernist eras. She is also a research volunteer in the Library and Archives at the National Gallery of Canada. 

    Emily tells us how in a BBC poll (2008), the world's leading choirmasters and choral experts named Harold Darke’s setting of “In the Bleak Mid-winter” the greatest Christmas carol of all time. This calls on the power that musical settings have in bringing poetry to new audiences: no other poem by Christina Rossetti has become so ingrained in mainstream culture.  Emily expresses that the carol initially gained popularity with Gustav Holst and Harold Darke’s sacred settings. Over time, popular arrangements of these settings by artists including Burt Jansch, James Taylor, and Jacob Collier would carry the poem into a secular context.  As Emily discusses in her paper, the carol has also experienced new life through its inclusion in television, such as The Crown and Peaky Blinders. Emily runs us through these versions with her festive conversation, proving that while Christina Rossetti’s present-day readership is fairly small, musical settings keep her poetry alive and relevant to the popular consciousness, especially through Christmastime.
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    • 1 hr 10 min
    I've Got A Babe, but Shall I Keep Him: Rhiannon Giddens and Modernist Nightmares of History.

    I've Got A Babe, but Shall I Keep Him: Rhiannon Giddens and Modernist Nightmares of History.

    Kevin Farrell is Associate Professor of English at Radford University, where he teaches courses in both composition and literature. His research interests include popular music, modernism, postmodernism, and Irish literature, particularly the fiction of James Joyce. His work has appeared in the James Joyce Quarterly, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, and New Hibernia Review.

    This study explores the political rhetoric of Rhiannon Giddens’ Freedom Highway, contextualizing Giddens’ narratives of subaltern American experience in reference to high modernist conceptions of history. Released in 2017, Freedom Highway presents a portrait of American history, drawing conscious connections between various modes of white supremacy (slavery, Jim Crow, domestic terrorism, and contemporary police violence) and various modes of black resistance (Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter). As Kevin suggests, while Freedom Highway is not, strictly speaking, a concept album, its overarching theme is the human cost of oppression, manifested most powerfully in its accounts of stolen and murdered children. For Giddens, this theme connects generations of families across centuries, and she uses the past as means to comment upon current events, construing history in personal and familial, rather than abstract, terms. While her approach has roots in both folk and popular music traditions, Giddens, consciously or not, also echoes conceptions of history and memory found in the work of T.S. Eliot, William Faulkner, and James Joyce, so that her vision of personalized history, oppression, and resistance offers a Twenty-First century American counterpart to Joyce’s “nightmare of history” from Ulysses. By applying modernist literary ideas to a contemporary work of popular music, I hope to reveal how Giddens writes, rewrites, imagines, and reimagines American history to challenge the American present.
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    • 1 hr 2 min
    Get Up and Go: DC Music, Youth Culture, and Community Formation, 1980-1983.

    Get Up and Go: DC Music, Youth Culture, and Community Formation, 1980-1983.

    Alan Parkes is a PhD student in US history at the University of Delaware. He studies the impact of neo-liberalization on late-twentieth-century youth cultures. He is a member of California’s hardcore punk band Empty Eyes.

    In the early 1980s, Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye, two young Washington DC punks, heard a song that, as Rollins recalls, “was so good that we pulled over just so we could listen to it without having to deal with traffic.” They waited to hear the radio DJ announce the song title after it ended. Rollins remembers, “the lady said that was ‘‘Pump Me Up’ by Trouble Funk,’ and Ian and I looked at each other and instantly came to the same conclusion: that is the beat we’ve been waiting to hear for our entire lives.” The go-go sounds of Trouble Funk and the hardcore punk created by Rollins, as a member of DC band SOA, and MacKaye as a singer of Minor Threat, while at seemingly opposite ends of musical taste, expose a distinctiveness in DC music-making that marked the 1980s and, more significantly, provide a basis for understanding the complexities of community formation in the teeth of rising neoliberal cultural influence.  Alan argues that as a consequence of their emphasis on a localized do-it-yourself ethos, go-go and hardcore punk fostered an alternative to neoliberal cultural structures through music-centred community formation. He says, while go-go scene members constructed a community in response to DC’s postindustrial and political climate as well as a history of black suppression in the US, Washington hardcore punk scene members created a community informed largely by its counterparts in cities across the US and abroad but that nonetheless became distinctly identified with DC. Alan expresses that the beat that Rollins and MacKaye had waited to hear and the subculture they helped form exposes both the weaknesses and entrenched influence of prevailing neoliberal thought that defined the 1980s. 
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    • 59 min
    Después de mis Nueve Noches: Bullerengue Song as Historical Evidence of the 1940s Maroon Caribbean in Colombia.

    Después de mis Nueve Noches: Bullerengue Song as Historical Evidence of the 1940s Maroon Caribbean in Colombia.

    Manuel Garcia Orozco is a GRAMMY® and Latin GRAMMY®-award winner who has dedicated his career to producing musical documents that preserve cultures in resistance under his label Chaco World Music. As a composer/performer, he has been featured in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Cannes Film Festival, Lincoln Center, Blue Note, and major TV networks such as Sony Entertainment and MTV. He is the author of two books and a digital educational platform for Afro-Colombian music. He has been granted various international awards by The Recording Academy, Latin GRAMMY® Foundation, ASCAP, and The Colombian Ministry of Culture. Currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at Columbia University, and he holds Masters degrees from Columbia GSAS and NYU Steinhardt.

    Bullerengue is an Afro-Colombian musical tradition, led and preserved by elderly women in Maroon communities across the Colombian Caribbean, a historically marginalized region. In the absence of official documents, bullerengue song itself serves as a historical vehicle for cantadoras (elderly traditional singers) who died in oblivion. Bullerengue song states biographical, local, and cultural information bearing the stamp of an Afro-descendant feminine sensibility; its performance at once encourages communal solidarity, asserts the forms of cantadoral matriarchy, and challenges the patriarchal hegemony of the nation-state. Through studying the intrinsic poetics of “El Cangrejito” as preserved and performed by bullerengue icon Petrona Martinez (b. 1939), Manuel’s paper explores how, in the midst of extreme marginalization, the cantadoras of the 1940s used their voices as a medium to express their own creativity, to poetically resist the oppressive social order, and to transmit their collective consciousness into the future. In other words, it was through song that cantadoras advocated for and left remnants of a type of matriarchy that is almost extinct today.


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    • 1 hr 20 min
    This One Tape Had All These Memories: Pop Music, Mixtapes and Young-Adult Fiction.

    This One Tape Had All These Memories: Pop Music, Mixtapes and Young-Adult Fiction.

    Young Adult Fiction (YA) is, as Dr Ben Screech describes, a body of literature that deals chiefly with young people’s initial forays into the adult world’s illicit joys and temptations. Pop music has found its way into YA fiction in a variety of ways, including for example, through characters’ creation of mixtapes and iPod playlists.

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Same Old Thing: The Streets and The Importance of the Everyday

    Same Old Thing: The Streets and The Importance of the Everyday

    Glenn Fosbraey is the Head of English, Creative Writing, and American Studies at The University of Winchester where he specialises in the academic study of song lyrics. His publications include the book Writing Song Lyrics: Creative and Critical approaches (Palgrave MacMillan 2019), chapters 'Manipulation and truth in The Final Cut' in Pink Floyd. A Multi-disciplinary Understanding of a Global Music Brand. (Routledge 2020) and ‘I’m (not) your man’ 'Songs of Leonard Cohen', as well as the upcoming edited collection Misogyny, Toxic Masculinity, and Heteronormativity in Post-2000 Popular Music (Palgrave Macmillan) due later this year.

    Glenn expresses that when The Kinks released The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society in 1968, it was perhaps the first album to focus on the everyday aspects of the life of the average person in Britain. As far removed as possible from the psychedelic introspection of the biggest selling bands of the time (led, of course, by The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band), ...Village Green delighted in detailing the smaller joys of British life, such as strawberry jam, draught beer, custard pies, and Desperate Dan.

    Glenn describes that this celebration of every day can be traced across pop music ever since, and one of its biggest supporters, The Smiths, chose their band name as an antithesis to the Spandau Ballets and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Darks of the music world. As the 21st Century arrived, the every day continued to be documented in popular music, led by Mike Skinner’s creative outlet The Streets. Skinner’s world is a portrait of everyday British life, with Kebab shops, greasy spoon cafes, cans of lager, London underground travel cards, Nike trainers, mobile phone ring tones, and ‘reeking jeans’.

    Capturing the zeitgeist doesn’t have to involve the big issues of the day: for Glenn, the most effective way of capturing that moment in time is to chart the every day, the mundane, or the banal. Glenn's discussion circles around the importance of banality in pop music, and how it’s the smaller things in life that make song lyrics so important.
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    • 45 min

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The Love Behind Bruce Funds

What a wonderful interview. A chat between friends about Bruce Funds, the one woman organization that harnesses the love for Bruce Springsteen to help fans, who otherwise couldn’t afford to see a concert, get a ticket to show. Take a listen to how it all began and hear other insights from Donna at Bruce Funds.

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