Reminder: Studies in Symbolic Interaction Vol.42 – Revisiting Symbolic Interaction in Music Studies and New Interpretive Works

I want to reiterate the mention of volume 42 of Studies in Symbolic Interaction.  The four music articles make an important theoretical point: symbolic interaction is increasingly seen by ethnomusicologists as a powerful tool in crafting contemporary ethnomusicology.  This strikes me as a nice blending of ideas from two otherwise disparate disciplines.

Please take a glance at them when you can.  The Table of Content is here.

Joe Kotarba

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Music Book wins Cooley Award 2014 – Rock ‘n Roll Joe Kotarba! #sssi

We congratulate Joe Kotarba for winning the 2014 Charles Horton Cooley Award for Best Book: Baby Boomer Rock ‘n’ Roll Fans. The award is annually presented by the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.


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Open Mic Nights and Symbolic Interaction #sssi

Open Mic Nights are incredibly popular at the moment. They can be found in most cities where they offer new, up-and-coming as well as hobby musicians an opportunity to play to an audience and maybe develop a fan-base. Recently, these events have been criticized for ‘killing live-music’ because they degrade live-music to mere background noise et al.

In Symbolic Interaction there has been a long-standing interest in live-music events, not at least since Howard S. Becker’s famous studies of dance musicians, published in Outsiders – Thaddeus Müller just published a paper on the origins and development of Outsiders in the journal.

Save for Becker’s studies and Müller’s article the 2006 Special Issue on ‘Interaction and Popular Music‘ has Marcus Aldrege’s article ‘Negotiating and Practicing Performance: An Ethnographic Study of a Musical Open Mic in Brooklyn, New York’ and related articles demonstrating the interactionist tradition in research on music.

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#SSSI Music Blog Needs Help!

If one of your research areas is the sociology of music, please consider becoming a blogger for our SI Music Blog ( We are looking for someone who is willing to post news and announcements, reports of events, book tips and reviews, or anything else that might be of interest to others working in this area. If interested, please contact Dirk Vom Lehn at

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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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