Book for Review? “Revisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music”

One of the books that I have been sent to review by a publisher is the latest edition of Studies in Symbolic Interaction that has a focus on ‘Music’. 

If you are interested in reviewing the book and are not an author in the volume, please send me an email at:


Here are a few of the volumes but do not hesitate to suggest other books you would like to review for the journal:


Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Volume 42 – Revisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music Studies and New Interpretive Works edited by Jeffrey van den Scott. Emerald 2014


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Reflections on Couch-Stone 2014 by William Ryan Force

When I learned that Couch-Stone 2014 would take place within about 60 hours between a Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon in San Marcos, Texas, my first concern was that I would have no time to indulge in the local culture in an area I’d wanted to visit for so long. Too often conferences are confined to up-tight spaces cloistered away in a sterile university conference room or corporate hotel—totally separate from the food, art, and (let’s be real) bars that characterize the social life of a city. Anyone who participated in Couch-Stone this April will testify that we experienced an amazing array of the local flavors and sounds thanks to the incredible planning of Joe Kotarba and his crew.


((Rob Gardner (guitar), Maggie Cobb (guitar), Gene Halton (harmonica)                                    and Lori Holyfield (guitar))

Couch-Stone 2014 was a full-immersion experience: eating smoked BBQ and digging the sounds a of a live band made up of Sociologists, drinking Lone Star and listening to master-of-space-and-time Leon Russell at Gruene Hall, and being serenaded by roving tejano guitarists in the beautiful University of Texas library. Texan culture, with its vibrancy, complexity, irony, and deliciousness was the main act all weekend long. And there were papers, too.


(Gene Halton and Joe Kotarba)

Really good ones, at that… From the guys we’ve all cited like John Johnson and Rob Gardner, self-described “honorary” Interactionists like Timothy Dowd, and the new guard of music Sociologists like Maggie Cobb and Thaddeus Atzmon. Christian hip-hop, the Velvet Underground, a capella singing, porn soundtracks, Inuit folk music, jam bands, and the four lads from Liverpool all got their 15 minutes in an awesomely rich and varied set of talks across two days. As always, I left Couch-Stone excited to go home and write after listening to everyone else’s insightful projects and clever ideas.

See ya’ll at the next one. Don’t forget your rage sticks.

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From what sources do young people learn about new music?

I am teaching my soc of pop music course this summer online.  I want to
dedicate a forum discussion to the following question:  From what sources
do young people learn about new music?  Back in the early days of rock ‘n’
roll, it seems new music was pretty mush presented to young people via
limited sources such as Top 40 radio.  We generally chose our favorite
from a limited pool of songs.  We seemed to be much more of a passive
audience than music listeners today.  The advent of MTV ironically seemed
to provide an even more limited playlist to choose from–or absorb.
Nowadays, kids are expected to assemble their tastes in music at an early
age, in a much more complex way.  Anyone’s thoughts on this?

Joe Kotarba


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Fellow Rock ‘n’ Rollers–and techno , and pop, and folk, and Tejano, and…

Dirk vom Lehn, the Internet guru for SSSI, has assembled a music blog.  It can be accessed from the SSI home page, etc.  What he really needs now is material.  It strikes me that we now have a pretty sophisticated and motivated core group of interactionist music buffs who could/should post ideas, experiences, topics, threads, questions, research summaries, and all the other good stuff that makes a blog work.  I have a few things posted, and Maggie just posted a marvelous piece on the Couch-Stone.  Once I make the stack of student papers in front of me disappear, I will post a piece on my current project: a sociological model of the pop music song.)  Dirk is really helpful in getting started.  He is moderator for the music blog, so send items to him directly (<  Please join the blog and let’s discourse!!  (Isn’t that an old Gloria Gaynor disco song?)
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Maggie Cobb’s report of the Couch-Stone Symposium

Maggie Cobb (University of South Florida) who attended the Couch-Stone Symposium at Texas State University in San Marcos in March (27th – 29th), wrote an excellent report of her experience of the event. 

The pictures have been sent to me by Lori Holyfield.

More soon!



If ever there was a celebration of symbolic interaction, music, and community, it was to be found at the 2014 Couch-Stone Symposium: “Symbolic Interactionist Takes on Music.” Offering us an opportunity to share our love of symbolic interaction and music as scholars and friends, this year’s symposium was a tremendous and revitalizing success. As a cultural object and activity, music represents an important vehicle through which individuals create, shape, and apply meaning to their experiences, identities, and communities. As fans of Lou Reed, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Matisyahu, hip hop, and rap; as songwriters, barbershop quartet singers, and festival goers; as creators and participants in music scenes, communities, and urban organizations; as Christians, Quakers, Canadians, and Hispanics; as baby boomers, adolescent youth, women and men; for musicians and listeners alike, music shapes and is shaped by how people make sense out of their social worlds and the worlds of others.


In addition to sharing our acknowledgement and appreciation for the roles that symbolic interaction and music play in our lives, in the lives of others, and in our broad and colorful research endeavors, Couch-Stone was also a time to share music and good ‘ole fashioned fun with one another. Whether we were jamming, enjoying performances by Leon Russell and Telo Trio, or chatting over famous Texas barbeque and a cold beer, Couch-Stone was a time of musical communion with friends old and new. The symposium represented an experience where we could share our research and tap our toes, swap ideas and create music. We enjoyed an engaging keynote address by Tim Dowd, dished over authentic Mexican food to the tune of live mariachi music, explored Texas State University’s lovely campus, and forged new paths for future collaborations. Truly a refreshing, fun, and rewarding tribute to symbolic interaction, our community, and our love of music, the question remains: When is the next one and who’s bringing their instrument?


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Symbolic Interactionists take on Music

Thanks to Dirk for reminding me to start posting some of the details on
the Couch-Stone Symposium, held on March 27-29, 2014 at Texas State
University. “Symbolic Interactionist Takes on Music” was a big hit.
There were 41 presenters on the program, and approximately 195 attendees for the 7 sessions. The Thursday evening BBQ and jam was a lot of fun, as was the Friday evening dinner and Leon Russell concert. We are now assembling abstracts from presenters for four publishers who are interested in considering them for a book or special
journal issue. Overall, we clearly demonstrated the wide range of rich
topics comprising a symbolic interactionist approach to music. But, we
also clarified real and potential collaborations with friends in other
disciplines. I am also attaching the primary symposium poster, designed
by an undergraduate sociology major at Texas State. On the next post, I
will attach the program.

Attendees: Please post your two cents on the C-S!

Joe Kotarba


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Couch-Stone Symposium 2014 Updated Information!

Couch-Stone Symposium: “Symbolic Interactionist Takes on Music”

March 27-29, 2014


Texas State University

San Marcos, Texas

The Center for Social Inquiry and the Department of Sociology at Texas State University are hosting an intimate symposium focused specifically on music.  There is a long history of symbolic interactionist interest in music, ranging from Howard Becker’s seminal work on jazz musicians to contemporary studies of music festivals, music scenes, and other exciting topics.  With the generous support from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, the Couch Family and the Center for the Study of the Southwest, our symposium will be both intellectually and musically exciting.


Confirmed attendees will come from Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and the U.S.

The symposium will be conducted on the beautiful campus of Texas State University, in San Marcos, Texas.  Texas State is located in the magnificent Hill Country of Central Texas, approximately 25 miles south of Austin and 45 miles north of San Antonio.

 Schedule of Events (tentative)


Thursday afternoon:  Attendees arrive at Austin airport (ABIA) in the afternoon, to be lodged at the Country Inn Hotel in San Marcos.

Thursday evening:  The bus picks up everyone and takes them to a local music landmark, The Cheatham Street Warehouse, home of George Strait and Stevie Ray Vaughan, for a bar-b-que dinner, a beer, some great live music—and an SI jam (bring your instruments!).  Then, back to the Country Inn.


Friday:  After breakfast at the hotel, the bus will take all to TxSt for three sessions/panels before Tex-Mex lunch with Tejano music.  There will be one afternoon session and keynote address after lunch.  Friday’s sessions will take place in the elegant Wittliff Collections on campus.



9:00 – 10:30 a.m.        Music and Self-Identity: Audience and Artist


10:45 – 12:00 p.m. The Social Organization of Music


12:00 – 1:30 p.m. Lunch

1:30 – 2:30 p.m.          Keynote Address: “The Contributions of Symbolic Interaction to

the Sociology of Music”

Dr. Timothy Dowd, Emory University


2:45 – 4:00 p.m.           The Social Organization of Music



Friday evening:  The bus will take all to the hotel for an evening trip to Gruene, Texas for dinner on the banks of the scenic Guadalupe River, at the Gruene River Grill, and then a concert featuring Leon Russell at the historic Gruene Hall.





9:00 – 10:15 a.m.        Mundane music experience in everyday life


10:30 – 11:45 a.m.      Interdisciplinary Studies of Music


11:45 – 12:00 noon Closing discussion



Timothy J. Dowd is professor of sociology at Emory University (Atlanta). He specializes in cultural sociology, focusing on such issues as the evolving orchestral canon, the evolution of the recording industry, musician careers, underground music festivals, and the state of music sociology. He was the Erasmus Chair for the Humanities (Rotterdam, 2007) and Fulbright Specialist at the University of Amsterdam (2013). He currently is Chair-Elect of the Sociology of Culture Section of the American Sociological Association, and he is Editor-in-Chief of Poetics: Journal of Empirical Research on Culture, Media, and the Arts.

Please let me know ASAP if you are interested in participating.  Please forward all responses, comments, questions and concerns to:

Joseph A. Kotarba, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology

Director, Center for Social Inquiry

Texas State University

UAC 466

601 University Drive

San Marcos, TX 78666

T:  512-245-8905

F:  512-245-4422

C:  512-618-3552

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