To begin, I would like to extend my gratitude to all the editors in chief of American Music before me. It was with this journal that I published my first refereed article, solicited by then-editor Josephine Wright at a conference. Thus began my career as a theorist-musicologist. Over the years, I have continued to be inspired by the excellent scholarship published in these pages and remain in awe of the journal's brilliant and dedicated editors’ endeavors in conceptualizing and redefining the elusive notion of American music. They have hosted scholarship foundational to the field, reaching for subjects at the periphery of American music studies, fostering scholarship in new research areas while shaping important discussions and trajectories.

Just this year, Samantha Ege's article, “Chicago, the ‘City We Love to Call Home!’: Intersectionality, Narrativity, and Locale in the Music of Florence Beatrice Price and Theodora Sturkow Ryder,” published under Todd Decker's editorship (in vol. 39, no. 1 [Spring 2021]), received the recognition of the Irving Lowens Article Award from the Society for American Music. It is with some trepidation that I join this roster of illustrious scholars as editor of the journal. I am humbled by the University of Illinois Press's entrusting me with the custodianship of this venerable journal—an intellectual home for American music studies that has always been interdisciplinary. I treasure the opportunity and enthusiastically embrace the challenge.

For a brilliantly conceived issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of American Music (“Making Forty Years of American Music,” vol. 40, no. 4 [Winter 2022]), our outgoing editor, Todd Decker, invited a diverse group of 22 scholars to “reflect in scholarly, personal, and . . . polemical terms on the current state and future prospects of American scholarship as an intellectual endeavor within and beyond the academy.” The result is breathtaking: a landmark issue filled with incisive analyses of the field (some reflected upon through personal journeys) and astute, polemical essays on issues of race, gender, listening, legibility, equity, analysis, language, appropriation, transnational mobility, archipelago studies, and more.

I joked with Todd that the anniversary issue presents subject matters with such diverse and forward-looking ideas that it effectively provided the roadmap for my editorship. In many ways, it does. Yet it should be noted that diversity has been an important goal of every editor of American Music I have had the pleasure of knowing. To give a few examples: BIPOC diversity characterized vol. 15, no. 3 (Autumn 1997), edited by Josephine Wright, in which all six articles of the issue were written by female authors. Vol. 19, no. 4 (Winter 2001) was an unprecedented issue on “Asian American Music,” comprised of four articles, each a distinctive perspective by a different Asian American author, a feat unsurpassed among music academic journals for the following two decades. In recent years, Gayle Magee and Todd Decker have also overseen many exciting special issues that focus our attention on crucial, paradigm-shifting topics, such as “border-crossing,” “transpacific currents,” “public musicology,” “online listening,” and more. There have been steady endeavors in the advancement of diversity with refreshing energy, perspectives, and strategies, as well as editors who kept their eyes wide open for adventurous ideas and distinctive voices as new issues and challenges become legible.

Still, there is much more work to be done.

The historian Mai Ngai once wrote: “A focus on the transnational, with its emphasis on multiple sites and exchanges, can potentially transform the figure of the ‘other’ from a representational construct to a social actor.”1 This notion of a “social actor” effectively characterizes the special issue before you, “Asian American Jazz Symposium,” with its focus on the little-studied musical currents between the Americas and East Asia, and its aim of illuminating significant social and historical actors who have too often been regarded merely as representational constructs.

On February 17, 2023, Columbia University's Center for Jazz Studies hosted a day-long symposium entitled “Asian/American Jazz: Past, Present, Future.” I had the privilege of attending this remarkable event, which forms the basis of this issue. Here, we present versions of papers from two of the symposium's panels, prefaced by the inspiring remarks of Kevin Fellezs, the symposium organizer. Alex Murphy shows how three American Nisei performers navigated anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States by establishing careers in Japan; Susan Asai explores a “spiritual and cultural renewal” for Japanese American youths; Jon Jang's memoir sheds lights on his formative years during a remarkable, dynamic era; Francis Wong's chapbook excerpts provide glimpses of his ground-floor involvement with the now-legendary Asian Improv Records; and Noah Rosen's astute conference report vividly captures the Columbia symposium's mood and tone, while also aptly conveying the day's shared enthusiasm and queries.

As someone who studies the transpacific history of American music, I am particularly thrilled that American Music's fifth decade will commence with this symposium, as well as two exciting articles from Mary Natvig and April Morris. I am fortunate to have the support of an editorial team with two dedicated and insightful editorial assistants, Rachel Horner and Dane-Michael Harrison, as well as a terrific book review editor, Michael Birenbaum Quintero. I also very much appreciate the ten colleagues who joined the editorial board. Our January kickoff meeting has shaped our plans for the journal in significant ways.

The editorial team has assembled a list of possible topics and themes for submissions to share with the community at large, which we hope will inform the scholarship published in future issues of the journal. We are excited to invite submissions that employ interdisciplinary methodologies in the study of music in the Americas, with a particular emphasis on addressing underrepresented topics and perspectives. We are interested in articles that engage with current debates, primary source materials, and theoretical issues in American music, as well as those that offer fresh perspectives on familiar topics. We welcome works by (ethno)musicologists, (music) theorists, cultural studies scholars, anthropologists, sound studies scholars, and others whose work intersects with the themes and topics outlined below.

  • Music genres and performance traditions in the Americas (concert music, jazz, popular musics, traditional and folk musics)

  • Music and social change in the Americas (political identities, cultural exchange, technology, protest, careers and vocations)

  • American music's global resonances (sociohistorical contexts, globalization, “global culture,” global American identities)

  • Pedagogies of American music (education, methodology, approaches to teaching and studying, inter- and transnational teaching and learning)

  • Relationships between music and other art forms in the Americas (interdisciplinary, comparative, and contextualized analyses of topics including multimedia, festivities, sports and games)

  • Race, class, gender, and sexuality, as they intersect with American musics (through representation, immigration, regional identity, etc.)

  • Theorizing American music (taxonomies and genealogies of sound, vocality, geographical modifiers, etc.)

Proposals for special issues, forums, or unusual formats are welcome. I invite our readers to contact me with any questions regarding submitting to the journal, or ideas about special issues.

I look forward to the journal's exciting trajectories, and welcome everyone to join us in shaping the ever-growing conception of music in the Americas.



Mae M. Ngai, “Promises and Perils of Transnational History,” Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, December 2012. (accessed September 11, 2023).

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