On July 1, 2021, we extended invitations to a diverse group of scholars of American music to contribute a short piece for this issue. The invitation read as follows:
We write to invite you to contribute to a special issue of American Music celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the journal.
This special issue will gather a diverse and sizable range of voices to reflect in scholarly, professional, personal, and, if you wish, polemical terms on the current state and future prospects of American music scholarship as an intellectual endeavor within and beyond the academy.
You may write on any topic you wish relating to American music as the journal defines it: “all aspects of American music and music in America.” (“America” in our usage generally means the Western hemisphere but anywhere American music or musicians go is fair game.) The audience is the journal's readership: scholars from across the humanities, but mostly music scholars, who are interested in American music in all its variety.
This is not a remembrance book about the history of the journal American Music. Instead, we invite you to adopt something like the position of an “op-ed” writer pointing the reader toward current issues of promise or concern in our field. Issues on the table include any aspect of our collective endeavor to create permanent new knowledge in the area of American music (a larger project the journal has been at the center of for four decades). In addition, you may wish to consider the texture of our individual lives as scholars, students, teachers, mentors, writers, readers, listeners, musicians, and humans.
Given the upheavals of the recent past and ongoing present, we hope this special issue will serve as both a time capsule and a spur to creative thought and conversation about the future. At this precarious moment, it's crucial to give a wide range of scholars at all career stages the opportunity to voice their opinions in a format that is built to endure: a scholarly journal such as American Music. The group of scholars we are inviting to participate encompasses all scholarly ranks, reaches outside the academy, and reflects the diversity of identities in an aspirationally democratic society.
Contributions should be 1500 to 2500 words in length. This issue will go to press on August 1, 2022. You may submit your contribution any time between now and July 1, 2022 (one year from today).
We are asking you, in particular, because we want to know what you are thinking about the state of our field right now and in the foreseeable future, even as global environmental, social, political, and economic prospects have rendered problematic any solid notion of the “foreseeable.”
On or around July 1, 2022, thoughtful, challenging, and often personal essays by the twenty-two scholars who said yes to our invitation began showing up in our inboxes. (It's always gratifying to meet the submission deadline for an issue and with this one we did.) We are honored to share the words and thoughts of these colleagues with our readership in the permanent form of scholarly publication that is a journal like American Music.
In addition to these essays, this special issue includes three other items. Among the scholars we invited to write for the issue were the graduate student leaders of Project Spectrum. They responded by opening the invitation to the entire graduate student committee of this important group advocating for greater diversity of voices in the music disciplines. A colloquy of nine graduate students in conversation precedes the “op-ed” essays, which are given in alphabetical order by author. Before that, two articles take a systematic look at the forty years of scholarship preserved in the pages of American Music, also with an eye toward issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Eduardo Herrera examines the body of scholarship on Latinx and Latin American music and musicians in the journal. We treat the 701 articles that have been published in these pages to a quantitative analysis drawing on digital humanities methods.
The “we” in the case of this introduction is, specifically, me and my two editorial assistants, Daniel Fister and Rachel Jones. Dan and Rachel are my PhD advisees at Washington University in St. Louis. Daniel's scholarship explores collegiate a cappella and whiteness, and he defended his dissertation in August 2022. Rachel's work centers on the popular music group They Might Be Giants. Daniel, Rachel, and I have worked on the journal together for more than three years now: meeting weekly in person and on Zoom, vetting submissions, choosing outside readers, making decisions large and small together. This shared work has been tremendously satisfying and a constant joy. I thank them both here for their generosity, frankness, research skills, and good humor through the often trying pandemic months.
We want to extend warmest thanks to Jacky Avila, our terrific book review editor, and Jeff McArdle, our production manager at University of Illinois Press.
The larger “we” of the journal includes our authors, of course, but also—and crucially—our outside readers. Drawn with intention from across scholarly ranks and humanities disciplines, and from beyond academia, these fantastic people said yes when we invited them to read articles submitted to the journal. I wish I could name these folks, and I hope they know my sincere gratitude for their (uncompensated) work. Over the last three years, I have been repeatedly stunned by the care and detail our outside readers have brought to the task of reviewing and responding to our authors, especially when reviewing submissions that we declined. This hidden sort of mentoring is crucial to our work as humanists, and I was heartened by how rigorous and humane our reviewers were to the unknown authors whose work they read. The labor of the outside reader makes this journal possible and, as I leave the position of editor, I encourage all who read this to respond in the affirmative when asked by an editor to serve as an outside reviewer. Such work is an essential act of care for others within the shared project that is American music scholarship.