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Music and counter-culture(s): Rock, the Sixties, the US and beyond

Special Issue edited by Prof. Sheila Whiteley (University of Brighton)
with an introduction by Prof. Andy Bennett (Griffith University)

This issue is now published – table of contents here.
Submission deadline: October 15th, 2011

Volume! La Revue des musiques populaires, the one and only French peer-reviewed journal exclusively dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of popular music, seeks contributions for a special issue on music and counterculture. Any scholarly essay on popular music and counterculture, with an eye to its link to the "central" period of the sixties and seventies, is welcome. Here are however a few first elements that have generated interest and debate in our editorial discussions:

During the sixties in the U.S. and more globally in the West, a new generation proposed – apparently – a culture radically opposed to the traditional American Way of Life, which expressed itself via a heterogeneous set of cultural references, ideas, lifestyles and, emblematically, of musics – a movement which was baptized "the" counterculture. It marked the generations that lived it and the ones that followed, revolutionizing the political and cultural landscapes as well as the global musical spectrum. Its legacy has constantly been reactivated since by "new" musical subcultures, be it polemically (punk, metal) or not, that claimed for themselves its spirit (Goa trance, Kosmische Musik, alternative hip-hop) and/or its material features (freak folk, neo-hippies, stoner), and appropriated former musical elements, as well as techniques, gestures, identities (style, hexis) or rituals (protests songs, alternative festivals, forms of activism etc.) to use them in new ways with new medias.

A certain progressive hagiography insists on its multicultural, multiracial, feminist, militant and egalitarian aspects. However, many signs suggest that things weren't that homogenous. If we usually identify the movement with rock'n'roll (and its subgenres: blues-rock, pop, psychedelic music, prog rock, hard rock) and folk – which were mainly listened to by white youth – to define exactly which musics were part of the phenomenon is a complex task: how did, for example, previous subcultures, or free jazz and Jamaican music and other "minority" musicians and fans relate to the counterculture? The proud funk and soul music of a champion of individual success and American capitalism like James Brown paradoxically helped cement the protest of the Afro-American youth. The counterculture developed in the heart of the West, but it also triggered a somewhat caricatured passion for the exotic other – what is it that can be said, musically (raga rock, neo-orientalism), politically and culturally of the echo of the "Third World" within this movement? To take a final example of the phenomenon's ambiguity, it was the era of the Summer of Love, of sexual freedom and so forth, but it also glorified its manly heterosexual singers and guitar heroes, while the female and homosexual figures were rare on stage.

For this special issue of Volume!, the editors seek submissions coming from the whole spectrum of social sciences, that will reflect upon the heterogeneity of this/these music(s), its ambiguity, scattered identity, its worldwide circulation, its origins, influence and legacy. How can we define, aesthetically, culturally, politically, historically and chronologically the music of the counterculture? what is it that cements it? "formal" characteristics (musical elements, style), ideology (militancy, lifestyles) or its nemeses (the system, the American values and cultural hierarchies, war, the State, capitalism)?

Other, more general, possible categories:

    • the musical genres ("San Francisco sound", jazz-rock, prog rock, psychedelic music, hard rock, free jazz, soul, funk…);

    • the role of technology (instrumentation, recording technologies, sound systems…);

    • the period's subcultures, their stars, grandiose moments, signification, themes and mythologies;

    • their legacies: permanence and ruptures (punk, techno, free parties, freak folk…) and the contrary: merchant hijacking by the dominant culture;

    • the countercultural circulations between music, arts, politics, social movements;

    • gender, class, race, sexual and identity questions;

    • influence of the "Third World" on the counterculture (orientalism, africanism…), the geopolitics of counterculture and its new centers of gravity;

    • the actual perceptions and representations of the counterculture: celebration and condemnation in the media, intellectual debates, art worlds;

    • the "counter"-countercultures, the "reactionary" subcultures, back then and since (conservative revivals, right-wing skinheads, rock against communism…):

    • the margins of counterculture.

We strongly recommend authors sending us an early 500 word maximum proposal when possible.

Final submissions should be sent by October 15th, 2011, by email,

    • in English or French,

    • with an abstract, a set of key words (including list of musicians / artists studied) and a short biography of the author,

    • 30 000 to 50 000 characters (spaces included),

    • Harvard system of referencing,

    • .doc – Word 2004 format or .rtf;

(detailed instructions: cf. “authors’ guidelines). Respecting these requirements speeds up the editorial process.)

To the following addresses:

editions[at]seteun[dot]net, sheila.whiteley[at]gmail[dot]com & jedediah-sklower[at]hotmail[dot]com

They will first be evaluated by Volume's editorial board before being blindly peer-reviewed by specialists.