| home | authors | calendar colophon | links | newsgroups | newsfeed | new | printer version |  
volume 3
november 2000

Letter from the editor

Index of the journal Tracking  

  by Steve Jones
(Editor) Winter, 1990
  At their 1987 meeting in Pittsburgh, the U.S. branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) decided to begin publication of a journal. That journal's title was Tracking: Popular Music Studies. From 1988 up to 1992 four volumes were published. In the Winter issue of 1990 Steve Jones took the opportunity to address the issue of censorship in rock music in a special editorial.

  Welcome to the new issue of Tracking: Popular Music Studies. I could not let another issue go by without addressing the issue of censorship, however briefly. Popular music has become embattled, and perhaps embittered, by the ongoing debate over censorship in the arts. When I think about this issue, I am reminded of a passage from Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Kundera writes,
  "the struggle of man against power is
the struggle of memory against forgetting.
  The words, ideas and values embedded in popular music are, by virtue of recording and the menmonic qualities of music, unforgettable. But, as is particularly the case with rap music, the content of the lyrics is based around many things we would much rather forget about — crack addiction, AIDS, gang violence, rape, to mention a few. The struggle over censorship assumes far greater dimensions when considered as the struggle of one culture, or group of cultures, to maintain itself in the face of threats by another culture. Popular music is, I believe, headed for quite a showdown some day soon. Any medium whose credo is "Turn it up!" will have a hard time of it in the 1990s, it seems, and rock 'n' roll, in particular, is based on the idea that the loudest voice prevails. It'll be interesting to see just how loud or silent the voice of rock 'n' roll is on these issues.
  But what is most interesting to me is that popular music is being silenced because it is outspoken. Its very frankness is doing it in. But if the problems sung about in 2 Live Crew, NWA, Public Enemy, Judas Priest, etc., lyrics exist, silencing these voices will not bring a solution. As a good friend used to point out often, the truth is not the problem, the problem is the problem.
  I get worried when I hear that a record store owner, for selling a 2 Live Crew recording, is convicted of selling harmful material to a minor. I get worried as a musician, a recording engineer, a former record store employee, a scholar, and a citizen. I wonder what the cause is of our society's preoccupation with forcibly silencing voices. I get worried when I hear about censorship attempts in Florida, Cincinnatti, Westport, and other areas of the U.S.A. And I am reminded of a lyric from R.E.M.'s Green album, that sums up my thoughts and feelings:
  "Sometimes I feel like I can't even sing
I'm very scared for this world, I'm very scared for me ...
  Steve Jones, Editor
  This editorial was published in: Tracking: Popular Music Studies,
vol. 3, no. 1 (Winter, 1990)
  1997 © IASPM / USA