Announcing our 2022–2023 Lecture Series

The Arnold Shaw Popular Music Research Center at UNLV is excited to announce our 2022–2023 lecture series. This season, we are joined by four well-known scholars and musical practitioners from around the United States. They will share with us their research on jazz, blues, film music, and Japanese popular music. Their work draws broadly on multiple disciplines, including African American Studies, Asian Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Philosophy, Cultural Studies, and more.

All lectures take place on Wednesdays at 5:30 in the Alta Ham Fine Arts Building (HFA), room 147. They are free and open to the public.

Our first event is on October 12, 2022. We will be joined by Damani Phillips, Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Iowa, who will give a talk titled “Lost Soul: Issues in Teaching Ethnically Derived Arts in Academia.” Exploring the topic of what has happened as a result of the academic embrace of jazz within schools of departments of music, his lecture will engage questions of race, appropriation, cultural transformation, and cultural displacement.

Our subsequent events will be held on October 26, February 1, and March 1. Visit https://asc.unlv.edu/ for further details.

We hope to see you at our lectures this season!

Robert Fink at UNLV – May 3, 2022, 5:00 p.m.

The Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center presents a lecture by Robert Fink, musicologist at the Herb Alpert School of Music, UCLA. The event is free and open to the public.

Playlist Culture and the Art of Transition

When and Where:
May 3, 2022
5:00 p.m.
Harmon Auxiliary Building, UNLV
Room 110
1325 E. Harmon Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89119

The phrase “playlist culture” conjures up a musical world dominated by algorithms, one whose rise spells the death of the record album and the ecosystem of creativity it once enabled. But playlist culture, balanced between opposing aesthetics of mashup and flow, encourages us to explore new structures of feeling rooted in second-order music making. While genre-busting collages of heterogenous elements — mashups — get a lot of attention, it is equally suggestive to investigate the pragmatics of flow. What techniques are available for organizing a playlist of pre-existing musical elements so that they flow seamlessly into each other, creating a single, overwhelming experience? How can radically heterogenous elements be mixed into a homogenous flow?In electronic dance music, the DJ set is an exceptionally sophisticated form of playlist culture dominated by a rigorous art of transition, developed by pioneering dance DJs like Paul Oakenfold. A close reading of Oakenfold’s 1994 “Goa” Mix — still the single most requested DJ set ever broadcast by the BBC — discloses (1) elaborate preparation and execution of key transitional moments and (2) their marshaling into a single large-scale structure of dramatic yet orderly flow.


Robert Fink is a past chair of the UCLA Musicology department, and currently Chair of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s Minor in the Music Industry. He also currently serves as President of the US Branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM-US). His research focus is on music and culture after 1950, with special interests in the history and analysis of African-American popular music and the politics of contemporary art music.

His book, Repeating Ourselves, a study of American minimal music as a cultural practice, appeared in 2005 from the University of California. More recent published work appears in The Journal of the American Musicological Society (an essay on analyzing Motown’s rhythms, which was honored by the Popular Music Interest Group of the Society for Music Theory), The Oxford Handbook of Opera, and Cambridge Opera Journal.

Before coming to UCLA, Fink taught at the Eastman School of Music (1992-1997), and has been a visiting professor at Yale University (2006) and a Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center (1998-99). His ongoing projects include Declassified, a study of art music, urban space, and politics; and The Relentless Pursuit of Tone, an edited collection of essays on “sound” in popular music.

Fink’s UCLA lecture course on “The History and Practice of Electronic Dance Music” was the first of its kind at a major university; it was named the “Best College Pop Music Class” of 2002 by Spin Magazine. He also teaches on Motown and Soul, the History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and on pop music and politics in UCLA’s long-running interdisciplinary Freshman Cluster on America in the 1960s. His dissertation advisees have won tenure-track positions at the University of Texas at Austin, UC Irvine, University of Richmond, and the Southern Methodist University, among others.

Fink has been a frequent public speaker on contemporary art music in Los Angeles, presenting lectures at Disney Hall, the Getty Center, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. He has presented numerous “On the Road” programs for Bruin alumni, and has been a featured speaker on popular music during UCLA’s on-campus Parent’s Weekend. He comments on contemporary trends at the American Musicological Society’s “Musicology Now” blog. More information and unpublished work.

Chris Washburne at UNLV – April 11, 7:00 p.m.

The Arnold Shaw Popular Music Center presents a lecture by Chris Washburne, Professor of Music at Columbia University. The event is free and open to the public.

Latin Jazz: The Other Jazz

When and Where:
April 11, 2022
7:00 p.m.
Harmon Auxiliary Building, UNLV
Room 110
1325 E. Harmon Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Jazz has always been a genre built on the blending of disparate musical cultures. Latin jazz illustrates this perhaps better than any other style in this rich tradition, yet its cultural heritage has been all but erased from narratives of jazz history. The talk will focus on Professor Washburne’s recently published book Latin Jazz: The Other Jazz (Oxford University Press 2020) which corrects the record, providing a historical account that embraces the genre’s international nature and explores the dynamic interplay of economics, race, ethnicity, and nationalism that shaped it.

Chris Washburne is Professor and Chair of the Music Department at Columbia University and the Founder of Columbia’s Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program. Chris Washburne has published numerous articles on jazz, Latin jazz, and salsa. His books include Bad Music: the Music We Love to Hate (Routledge, 2004), Sounding Salsa: Performing Latin Music in New York (Temple University Press, 2008), and Latin Jazz: the Other Jazz (Oxford University Press, 2020). As a trombonist has performed on over 150 recordings, two Grammy winners and seven Grammy nominated. He has been hailed as “One of the best trombonists in New York…” by Peter Watrous of The New York Times and “one of the most important trombonists performing today” by Brad Walseth of www.jazzchicago.net. He was voted as “Rising Star of the Trombone” numerous times in the annual Downbeat Critics Poll. He has performed with Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Muhal Richard Abrams, Ruben Blades, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan, Justin Timberlake, Marc Anthony, Björk, They Might Be Giants, Roscoe Mitchell, Grady Tate, Jaki Byard, and Duke Ellington Orchestra. He is the leader of the highly acclaimed SYOTOS Latin jazz band, FFEAR, and the Rags and Roots jazz band.

Announcing our 2022 lectures!

The Arnold Shaw Popular Music Research Center is proud to announce its spring 2022 lectures — back in person on the UNLV campus! The Shaw Center’s mission is to preserve items related to popular music studies and to serve as a platform for current research about popular music. Our lecture series fulfills this second goal, welcoming popular music scholars from outside of UNLV to share their work and perspectives. All events are free and open to the public. Please join us!

April 11, 5:00: Chris Washburne (Columbia University) on Latin Jazz

May 3: Robert Fink (UCLA) on playlist culture and electronic dance music

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]