SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

It is with great sadness that we bid farewell to two great friends and scholars of popular music, Charles Hamm and David Sanjek. In different ways, both helped shape the vibrant field of popular music studies as it exists today.

Trained as a composer and musicologist, Charles Hamm began his scholarly career as a specialist in the music of the English and Italian Renaissance. In the early 1970s, however, he turned his energies to popular music, which, until that time, few scholars had taken seriously. With erudition and rigor, his work opened up new terrain for thinking about popular music as a dimension of social and ethnic identity and as a complex cultural form, worthy of critical, interpretative scrutiny as much as any kind of “serious” music. His fecund books Yesterdays: Popular Song in America (1979) and Music in the New World (1983) invited a broad rethinking of where popular music in America came from and how it was important in larger historical narratives of the nation. It was audacious, iconoclastic scholarship that bridged historical musicology with the incipient project of popular music studies—always, however, keeping music at the center of his work. In addition to his interest in American music, he had a deep curiosity about the popular music of other cultures as well, especially South Africa, about which he also wrote extensively. In the early 1980s, he was a cofounder of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) and twice served as its chairperson. He wrote on subjects ranging from John Cage to pop music in China, and his publications include the major entry on “Popular Music” in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. What Simon Frith has written on Charles's essay collection Putting Popular Music in Its Place (1995) might well be said of his work generally: “[It is] a model of what popular music scholarship (all scholarship, actually) should be. It is exemplary not just for the customary academic merits of meticulous research and theoretical acumen, but also for its humanity, for its wonderful sense of decency and detail.” Since the 1970s, he had been a professor of music at Dartmouth College; he died at age 86.

Like Charles, David Sanjek—“Dave” to everyone who knew him—thought about music with an extraordinary openness and humaneness. In other respects, however, his approach differed sharply from Charles's. Dave earned his PhD not in music but in American literature (his dissertation was on William Dean Howells), and his career was shaped as much by the music business as by academia. Following his father, Russell, who worked for Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) for 41 years and authored the three-volume chronicle American Popular Music and Its Business (Dave collaborated with him on the final volume), Dave served as director of the BMI Archives from 1991 until 2007, while concurrently leading a remarkably active career as a scholar. As with Charles, Dave had an abiding concern for issues of race, class, and ethnicity in relation to music, but his interests also encompassed gender, political economy, business, law and copyright, and film and media history. He leaves behind a rich legacy of publications, including scores of articles and book chapters (his first single-authored book is slated to be published by Duke University Press in 2013). He also had a tremendous impact as a tireless presenter and interlocutor at conferences and as a friend and mentor to innumerable graduate students and young scholars at the dawn of their careers. He was extremely active in IASPM's US branch—the parent organization of this journal—including an important tenure as president, in the mid-1990s, during which he helped transform what had been a network of scholars into a firmly established organization, officially incorporated with tax-exempt, nonprofit status. Since 2007, he had been director of the Popular Music Research Centre at the University of Salford in Manchester, England, and professor in its School of Media, Music, and Performance. At the time of his death, he was at work on a review for the journal of The Cambridge Companion to Recorded Music, a far-reaching volume Dave was especially well suited to take on. He died en route to a meeting of the National Recording Preservation Board at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. He was 59.1

Note
  • 1

    For more tributes, see Lutgard Mutsaers et al., “Charles Hamm @80: A Song Well Sung,”Popular Music 24, no. 1 (January 2005): 127–31; “A Tribute to Charles Hamm—Composer, Historian, Educator,” at http://www.newmusicbox.org/articles/a-tribute-to-charles-hamm/ (accessed December 14, 2011); Philip Tagg, “Charles Hamm (1925–2011),” at http://www.tagg.org/articles/ChHammObit.html#Refs (accessed December 14, 2011); “Remembering David Sanjek,” at http://iaspm-us.net/remembering-david-sanjek/ (accessed December 14, 2011); “In Memory of Professor David Sanjek,” at http://davidsanjekrip.wordpress.com/ (accessed December 14, 2011).