Faculty Reading Recommendations
Steve Waksman, Associate Professor of Music and American Studies
Steve Waksman is associate professor of music and American studies, having joined the Smith faculty in the fall of 2001. His research and teaching interests are in the history of U.S. popular culture-especially music, but also film, television and literature-during the 19th and 20th centuries, and in the intersection of race, gender and sexuality. He is the author of two books: Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience (Harvard University Press, 1999) and This Ain't the Summer of Love: Conflict and Crossover in Heavy Metal and Punk (University of California, 2009). Currently, Waksman is researching a new project on the history of live music in the U.S. from the 19th century to the present. For more information, see Professor Waksman's web page.
Here are Professor Waksman's responses to our questions:
I like to think that I read more about music than 99.9% of the population (unfortunately, I often find myself reading more about music than listening to it). That may or may not be true, but I am never without a book to read, and most of what I read is music-related. Here are three recent titles I’ve read that should satisfy readers with a general curiosity about music.
- Robin Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of An American Original. One of the most preeminent current historians of African American life and culture writes a biography about one of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Kelley had unprecedented access to Monk family archives and the evidence shows throughout this impressive work.
- Jon Savage, The England’s Dreaming Tapes. One of England’s best music journalists, in the early 1990s Savage wrote England’s Dreaming, the near-definitive account of the Sex Pistols and British punk rock in the 1970s. This book presents transcripts of many of the original interviews that Savage did for his earlier work. As much an oral history of 1970s England as a book about punk, it is full of great stories and details you won’t find anywhere else.
- Elijah Wald, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music. Don’t be dissuaded by the deliberately provocative title. The subtitle is more accurate: this is an effort to rethink the history of pop from the late 19th century to the present, by a journalist and historian who has remarkable command of such a broad subject.