Devon Powers

Devon Powers, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Culture and Communication, Drexel University. Her research interests include popular music, promotional culture, and music journalism. She is currently completing a book about the rock criticism of the Village Voice, to be published in 2013 by University of Massachusetts Press.



"Writing Music (Into) History"

Journalism is often referred to as the first draft of history, responsible for chronicling life’s vicissitudes as they unfold. This is as true for criticism as it is for other kinds of journalistic work. Though focused on aesthetics rather than other topics and variously practiced, criticism’s aim is, at bottom, to consider music as an emblem of its time and place. This makes for a criticism that is doubly historical, an artifact as well as, often, an argument that situates the popular in a historical context.

As a result, music criticism deserves a central station in how we think about music history, as it can both relay evidence of historical circumstances as well as determine what deserves to be considered a part of history. Against this backdrop, this paper will theorize music criticism as a tool of music preservation, playing a role in both what we remember about music history and what we forget. This suggests that a critical aspect of developing local music scenes—in addition to the various kinds of events and musical mediation—is their writing. Given this, this paper will also explore the implications of the changing realities of music criticism, recording, and technological change as they threaten music criticism’s historical function.

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