Kembrew McLeod

Kembrew McLeod is a writer, filmmaker, and Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He has published several books on music, copyright, and culture, and is finishing a book on media pranks for NYU Press. McLeod’s co-produced documentary Copyright Criminals aired in 2010 on PBS’s Emmy Award-winning series Independent Lens.



"Killer Apps Play the Sounds of the Cities"

Take an aural tour of musical cities with the Killer Apps, Iowa City’s Best All Mobile Phone Cover Band! RoboProfessor and Dr. G will perform a multimedia lecture that draws on some of the key insights in Charlie Gillett’s The Sound of the City; specifically, how the unique characteristics of urban spaces shaped the sound of certain musical genres.

For instance, the rural blues musicians who moved to Chicago in the 1940s needed amplification to be heard in crowded clubs, especially compared to a small Mississippi juke joint—a constraint that helped produce the electric blues. In the 1960s, Motown recording engineers set up car speakers in the studio because Berry Gordy assumed much of his audience would first hear those songs while cruising in an automobile. That way, the tracks were mixed so that they sounded best on the road (in Motor City and beyond). In the early-1990s, Chuck D observed that the sonic qualities of Los Angeles, Miami, and New York hip-hop production styles evolved differently because of the kinds of playback systems used by fans (booming car speakers that blasted West Coast gangsta rap and Miami Bass, versus the darker, more trebly New York City productions often consumed on headphones in subways).

Using the extensive “Playlist” offered at the end of Gillett’s book as a starting point, the Killer Apps will perform songs that embody the traits of the cities that spawned them.