Noel Lobley Winner of IASPM Book Prize

On Friday, June 30, 2023, during the annual IASPM General Meeting, Noel Lobley was announced as the winner of the 2023 IASPM Book Prize, in the English-language category!

His book, Sound Fragments: From Field Recording to African Electronic Stories is an ethnographic study of sound archives and the processes of creative decolonization that form alternative modes of archiving and curating in the 21st century. It explores the histories and afterlives of sound collections and practices at the International Library of African Music (Rhodes University, South Africa). Sound Fragments follows what happens when a colonial sound archive is repurposed and reimagined by local artists in post-apartheid South Africa. The narrative speaks to larger issues in sound studies, curatorial practices, and the reciprocity and ethics of listening to and reclaiming culture. Sound Fragments interrogates how Xhosa arts activism contributes to an expanding notion of what a sound or cultural archive could be, and where it may resonate now and in the future.

Noel Lobley is an assistant professor of music at the University of Virginia. He is an ethnomusicologist, sound curator, and artist who works across the disciplines of music, anthropology sound art, and composition to develop a series of experiential sound events and international curatorial collaborations. Through extensive fieldwork in sub-Saharan Africa, much of his creative practice takes ethnographic sound and music recordings out of archives for re-purposing back among communities. He has collaborated with musicians, sound artists, DJs, choreographers, and composers in South Africa, the UK, and throughout Europe and the US to develop creative and ethical ways for recordings to be experienced in spaces ranging from art galleries, festivals, and museums, to schools, rainforests, and township street corners. Lobley has published in a range of ethnomusicology, anthropology, and sound studies journals.

In addition to celebrating Lobley’s win, we would like to congratulate Jeff Packman whose book, Living from Music in Salvador: Professional Musicians and the Capital of Afro-Brazil was a finalist for the 2023 IASPM Book Prize.

Living from Music in Salvador examines the labor of musicians in Salvador da Bahia, widely regarded as Brazil’s most African city. Drawing on fieldwork that spans sixteen years, the book explores local musicians’ lives as members of a flexible workforce, emphasizing questions of race, social class, and cultural politics in relation to professional music-making. From clubs and restaurants to Carnaval parades and festival celebrations, to concert stages and recordings, the ability of musicians to earn a living wage is contingent on their navigating industry and societal conditions that are profoundly informed by the entrenched legacies of colonization and slavery.

Jeff Packman is an associate professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto who specializes in Brazilian music, popular music of the Americas, and cultural theory. His other scholarly interests include music and materials culture, music cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean, and Afrodiasporic performance.

The International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) is an international organization that aims to promote an understanding of the different facets underlying Popular Music. The IASPM Book Prize is awarded to an outstanding first book by a single author on popular music. Awards are given for books in English and other languages.

On August 29, 2022, nominations began for the 2023 Book Prize. IASPM members gathered together and nominated 19 books in English and 15 books in other languages. After two rounds of evaluations, the finalists in the category of English were Dan DiPiero, Hannes Liechti, Shanté Paradigm Smalls along with Noel Lobley and Jeff Packman. The finalists in the category of other languages were Nathanel Amar, Anna Cuomo, Chris Kattenbeck, Reinhard Kopanski, Pascal Rudolph, and Gabriel Sampaio Souza Lima Rezende.

This year’s IASPM Conference was centered around the role of popular music within global and individual crises. Topics include how the pandemic/health crisis, ecological/environmental crisis, political/military and humanitarian crisis, economic crisis, the crisis in the flow of media, data, and information, and crises of identity/self affect or influence popular music.

We wanted to congratulate all of the finalists and the winners for their achievements and endeavors. Thank you to IASPM for their work on this conference and for their support of the study of popular music.

A special thank you to Carol Vernallis and everyone else who was involved in making the IASPM Book Table and the raffle a huge success at the conference!

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