2020 Shaw lecture series

Thanks to Jason E. Roberts!

We are deeply grateful to Dr. Jason E. Roberts for joining the Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center – UNLV director Jonathan Rhodes Lee and an enthusiastic group of graduate students for a virtual seminar tonight. Dr. Roberts was supposed to be lecturing at UNLV in person, until COVID-19 complicated matters. Undeterred, he gathered with us for an invigorating discussion about Contemporary Christian Music, in a session titled “A Blemished Offering: Popular Music as ‘The Unclean’ in Evangelical ‘Worship War’ Polemics.”Dr. Roberts is a lecturer at UT Austin, with a joint appointment in the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies, and the Department of Religious Studies.Thanks to Dr. Roberts, and to all involved!

Robin James at UNLV

COVID-19 might have stopped the Shaw Center from welcoming Professor Robin James (http://www.its-her-factory.com/) on campus, but that doesn’t stop us from learning from her! Since we can’t host our on-campus lecture, we encourage you to attend Professor James’s online lecture, hosted by Music Scholarship at a Distance, on April 8 at 7:00 p.m. It’s free and open to anyone to tune in using the Zoom video conferencing application.

Title: ” ‘You Need To Calm Down!’: The political economy of ‘chill’ in contemporary popular music”

Visit https://musicscholarshipatadistance.com/ for details and to tune in! 

Elizabeth Lindau at UNLV

We are very much looking forward to Professor Lindau’s lecture this coming Monday! More information at this link: click here.

Lecture: Elizabeth Lindau on Andy Warhol/Velvet Underground
February 20, 2020

UNLV, HAM Fine Arts, Room 147
7:00 p.m.


ELIZABETH LINDAU (California State University, Long Beach) – February 24, 2020

“Boring Things”: Drone and Repetition in Andy Warhol’s The Velvet Underground
[Punk and arthouse culture]

Since its rediscovery in 1990, Andy Warhol’s film The Velvet Underground (1966) has utterly disappointed journalists, scholars, and fans of the band it features. That’s probably because it is boring. Even within the context of Warhol’s notoriously tedious cinematic oeuvre, critics concur that this document of an aimless hour-long jam session is almost unwatchable. But boredom was a deliberately cultivated state within the Velvets’ avant-garde artistic milieu, where extremes of repetition or stasis were thought to become fascinating if one only endured them for long enough. In a similar way, my presentation argues for The Velvet Underground’s potential to be interesting, even captivating. The Velvets’ combination of repetition and drone—itself nested within a combination of the supposed opposites of avant-gardism and rock ‘n’ roll—develops an equally paradoxical aesthetic of boredom.

Kimberly Mack at UNLV

KIMBERLY MACK (The University of Toledo) – March 11, 2020

Big Mama and Amy: Autobiographical Fictions and Addictions
[Big Mama Thornton and Amy Winehouse]
Ham Fine Arts, Room 147
7:00 p.m.

Join Dr. Kimberly Mack for a conversation about two transatlantic blueswomen who create works in the mold of the early-20th-century American blues queen. Focusing on mid-20th-century American blues legend Big Mama Thornton, and the late contemporary English singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, this talk considers the ways in which blueswomen talk back to their limiting representations through autobiographical self-expression. In Thornton’s early years, she was dubbed the “New Bessie Smith,” serving as a bridge between the classic blueswomen and contemporary reimaginings of the classic blues queen. Through unconventional autobiographical performances on stage and in interviews, Thornton reclaimed ownership of her work as young white performers such as Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin garnered critical accolades and enjoyed tremendous commercial success covering her songs. The lyrics of Amy Winehouse, too, are part of a tradition of American classic blues expression. In songs such as “You Know I’m No Good” and “Wake Up Alone,” Winehouse’s vocals, lyrics, and performance style engage with music traditionally performed by blacks in the United States and create an alternative autobiography that contests her public persona largely derived from sexist and misogynistic mass-media representations of her life.

Big Mama Thornton (1926–1984)

Announcing our 2020 lecture series

Announcing our 2020 Lecture SeriesThe Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center at UNLV is pleased to announce its 2020 lecture series. From February through April, five scholars will visit Las Vegas to discuss the history and future of pop, rock, punk, jazz, blues, and contemporary Christian music. In the early 1980s, the music executive, composer/arranger, and writer/historian Arnold Shaw founded UNLV’s Popular Music Center. Shaw believed that Las Vegas rested its fame—and indeed its very existence—upon two main pillars: gaming and popular entertainment. He envisioned the Popular Music Center as a foundation that would stand alongside the UNLV Center for Gaming Research as uniquely opportune sites for study, archival work, and exchange in the cultural milieu of our city. It is in this spirit that we now invite an exciting mixture of junior and senior scholars from diverse disciplines (English, Philosophy, Musicology, and Religious Studies) to share their expertise with the university and the Las Vegas public about the varied traditions of popular music making throughout history. These scholars will raise questions about the definition of popular music, the methods for understanding popular music and culture, and the political ramifications of this activity.

All of these events are free and open to the public, and will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the Ham Fine Arts Building, Room 147.

• ELIZABETH LINDAU (California State University, Long Beach) – February 24, 2020 “Boring Things”: Drone and Repetition in Andy Warhol’s The Velvet Underground [Andy Warhol’s The Velvet Underground]

• KIMBERLY MACK (The University of Toledo) – March 11, 2020 “Big Mama and Amy: Autobiographical Fictions and Addictions” [Big Mama Thornton and Amy Winehouse]

• ROBIN JAMES (University of North Carolina, Charlotte) – March 24, 2020 “‘Bad Guy’ and Chill Moods: Resilience and Post-Probablist Neoliberalisms in Pop Music” [Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, KMFDM, Panic! At the Disco, and Lil Nas X]

• MATT SAKAKEENY (Tulane University, New Orleans) – April 6, 2020 “Making Music the New Orleans Way: From the Streets to the Classroom” [Beyoncé, marching band culture, New Orleans jazz traditions]

• JASON ROBERTS (University of Texas at Austin) – April 27, 2020 “A Blemished Offering: Popular Music as ‘The Unclean’ in Evangelical “Worship War” Polemics” [Contemporary Christian Music]