Faculty Research: Dr. Karl Hagstrom Miller on “15 Minute History”


Want to learn something fascinating about the history of popular music? Kick your weekend off with one of our favorite podcasts: the UT History Department’s “15 Minute History” has released a quick interview with our own Dr. Karl Hagstrom Miller about his book, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow.

The podcast is available here, and a quick excerpt from the chat is below:

I find three groups are essential to this book and three groups of players or people really started interacting in new ways at this period. Those groups are musicians in the south, who have been there all along of course, a record industry that is new, recordings really started taking off around 1905-1906 and they spread across the north and south and the globe, in fact. And this is a completely fresh and novel way of making music, listening to music, and buying music. It’s this moment where music actually gets separated from the musician for the first time. That has dramatic effects on the way people conceive of the identity of the music as separate from the identity of the musician, because there had never been an opportunity to contemplate that before.

So musicians, music industry, and I also think academics at the time, particularly folklorists were instrumental in this shift. At the same time that record companies were distributing this technology and new records across the south, folklorists were moving into the south looking for particular kinds of music and not others. It is at this moment when records, musicians, are permeating the south that folklorists begin talking about the south as a repository of older styles of music, more authentic, more true, more genuine styles of music as a way of distinguishing them from these commercial ditties that they didn’t like very much.

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