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IASPM Canada 2018 Book Prize Winner



Congratulations to Sophie Stevance and Serge Lacasse on winning the IASPM Canada 2018 Book Prize with their book, Research Creation in Music and the Arts. 

The following are comments from the prize committee. 

Stevance and Serge Lacasse’s new book Research Creation in Music and the Arts struck the adjudicators as a very unusual submission and a very valuable one. It is unusual because it is not a case study or a genre study, it does not make popular music practices or texts its main concern. The book focuses instead on institutionalized aspects of the academic study of popular music. It is a book about disciplinary and pedagogical concerns that are pivotal and indeed urgent in some particular contexts—like music departments and other departments where research and creation coexist—but that are also of fundamental importance across a much wider range of contexts. And this is where we find its extraordinary value.

The book tackles a very current development in arts-based disciplines, thinking very carefully through the categories of research and creative work, and what they mean in their respective academic contexts. This current development is this: various sets of accumulating forces inside and outside of the north American academy are pressing students, faculty, administrators, and funding bodies to engage in, sell, and support “research-creation” projects. As anyone who has had anything to do with such projects and programs knows, they are a mare’s nest of problems. I and my colleagues deal with these problems continually.

Perhaps even more consequentially, federal and provincial funding bodies offer support for “research-creation” projects, and for the same kind of “black-box” problems, their adjudication and criteria are obscure, irrational, and unpredictable. This may seem like “inside baseball”—arcana that could only possibly be of interest to a tiny handful of people who are already aware of and invested in these issues. And perhaps in the hands of other scholars, that’s exactly what this book would be. But this is definitely NOT the case here. In fact, I’ve already had cause to talk this book up to people not in music or the arts because of its extraordinary practical usefulness.

The book offers a comparative analysis of “research” and “creation” as two distinct epistemologies; it offers a fascinating contextual account of the integration of non-PhD bearing artists into universities in the 1970s, and a careful explanation of the many perverse outcomes of largely well-intentioned move; and it lays out a framework for enabling the productive interrelation of research and creation epistemologies and addressing the various perversities encountered by people working in affected areas.

This first chapter is a standout because, in identifying and explaining the basic differences between “research” and “creation,” the book offers a model of research that would benefit any incoming graduate student or any creative person interested in turning their attention to doing research. As someone who has struggled to find texts that help students understand what exactly they’re signing up for when they begin their program, I am very excited to assign this chapter. Not because I teach artists, but because the book’s characterization of creation’s solipsism will be an extraordinary help in making students aware of their of the status of their undisciplined knowledge and opinion.

Stevance and Lacasse write that

the ideas contained within the artistic practice, as well as the results of that practice, need to be extracted, interpreted, and compared to other interpretations in order to become knowledge. Knowledge can only be born of comparison, a challenging of ideas. It cannot simply emanate from one subjectivity and address other subjectivities.

To me, this aspect of the book will be useful in teaching because it helps define research and knowledge-generation not only by talking about what it is, but what it isn’t.

Suffice it to say that the rest of the book is equally rigorous, provocative, and useful. One more quotation should help sum it up:

Creative projects…are neither research nor research-creation because the objective remains focused on producing artistic work. … A research-creation project does not study the creation alone: on the contrary, research and creation are interdependent, and the goal is to observe and study their interactions when both processes are in operation. The difference between these two approaches lies in the impact that research-creation has on artistic creation; in this situation, the creative process is dependent on and influenced by research, and research needs this artistic practice in order to produce results (86).

At times the book’s approach is strident and shows exasperation, at other times it is deeply optimistic and generous. The book has the potential to significantly influence research-creation projects, and how they are taught, and also may affect how granting agencies understand research-creation projects (and how they define both objectives and outcomes). We adjudicators have seen projects confusingly/murkily calling themselves “research-creation” in our own disciplinary backyards, and the book does a lot to clear up what such projects really entail. We expect to refer to this text again in the future, both for the benefit of our own work, and as we serve on SSHRC committees where such projects surface.

Thank you Sophie and Serge!

Brittany Greening: IASPM Narvaez Prize Winner 2018


 Brittany Greening and Matt Stahl

Brittany Greening and Matt Stahl

Congratulations to Brittany Greening on winning the IASPM Narvaez Prize for best graduate student paper at IASPM Canada 2018 in Regina, Saskatchewan! 

The following are comments from the prize committee. 

Brittany Greening’s paper on Goldie and the Gingerbreads aims to retrieve this path-breaking all-female group from what she convincingly demonstrates is an undeserved obscurity. Confronted by existing categories—particularly a ruling binary of “girl group” versus “rock’n’roll band” and the value-laden and gendered definitions associated with each side of that binary—Goldie and the Gingerbreads appear kind of stranded, historically, because they don’t fit easily into either category. Greening’s work tackles this binary in a way that helps us appreciate the diversity of gendered and genre-d voices of the early 1960s.

Greening’s examination of the failure of popular music scholarship to accord much significance to Goldie and the Gingerbreads illuminates how gendered assumptions and prejudices still devalue and obscure certain practices because they are the practices of women. Thus much of the paper brings evidence to bear showing that Goldie and the Gingerbreads were at least as much a rock’n’roll band as they were a girl group. One of Greening’s primary arguments is that, indeed, they were a rock’n’roll band who were pressured on all sides to act like a girl group. Producers, for example, put gendered limits on their ability to determine their own sound and to choose the tunes they would prioritize. But at the same time, Greening shows, the leader of the group exercised relatively rigorous control over their image, crafting it to suit dominant gender stereotypes of the early 60s; a pregnant member was, it appears, fired, and the leader reveals anxiety about any of the band’s members appearing too butch. These matters can be read as evidence both of their autonomy and their struggles with heteronymous forces.

The committee found that this paper was an admirably solid piece of work, about a clearly defined object, that sets out to actually map and intervene in the field. That is, this paper not only adds to our knowledge of the diversity of gendered experiences in early 1960s popular music, it helps us to understand blind spots in our field, and it reveals some of what has been hidden to us through our own limitations.

New Series: Auto-Musicologies


French Follows...

We all have that album, concert, song, music video, and so forth, which has stuck with us. Perhaps this moment/text shaped your career, your music tastes, your relationships, or your musicianship. This new series, published on the IASPM Canada website, is a space to share those moments. Share your strong reactions while critically engaging with the musical outputs that have strongly impacted you. Situate texts in space, place, and time, in relationship to your own experiences.

In revealing the personal, we strengthen our camaraderie through humour, knowledge exchange, and debate. There is no such thing as a “guilty pleasure,” as we are all champions for the popular!

The format a post takes is intentionally open; interpret these prompts are you see fit. A maximum of 1200 words is preferred. The inclusion of media is encouraged.

Please contact Melissa Avdeeff at for submissions, idea discussions, media inclusion questions, or any other queries.


Nous avons tous un album, une chanson, une vidéo de musique, etc. qui nous a marqué. Peut-être même que ce moment/texte a façonné votre carrière, vos goûts musicaux, vos relations ou encore votre musicalité. Cette nouvelle série qui sera publiée sur le site web de l’IASPM Canada vous permettra de partager ces moments. Nous vous invitons à partager ces fortes réactions tout en vous engageant de manière critique avec ces influences musicales qui vont ont grandement marqués. Situez vos textes dans un espace, un lieu et un temps en relation avec vos propres expériences.

Lorsque l’on dĂ©voile des expĂ©riences personnelles, nos liens mutuels deviennent plus forts avec l’aide d’humour, de connaissances, d’échanges et de dĂ©bats.  Il n’existe pas de « plaisir coupable », puisque nous sommes tous champions du populaire!

Le format de vos publications est ouvert, de manière intentionnelle : interprétez vos impressions de la manière qui vous semble la plus logique. Un maximum de 1200 mots est tout de fois préférable et l’inclusion d’un média est encouragé.

Veuille contacter Melissa Avdeeff à l’adresse suivante pour soumettre vos publications, idées de discussions, questions sur l’ajout d’un média ainsi que toute autre demande:

An Interview with Susan Fast, IASPM Canada President


IASPM Canada is starting a new interview series in order to find out more about our members and to share news about new, ongoing, or completed projects. If you have some news that you would like to share, please email Melissa Avdeeff

We thought it would be fitting that our first interview be with our current IASPM Canada President, Susan Fast. 

Susan Oslo Symposium.jpg

Susan Fast is Professor in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada and Director of the Graduate Program in Gender Studies & Feminist Research. She is a musicologist whose primary area of research is popular music since World War II.  Her areas of expertise include representations of gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, constructions of self and other, performance and performativity, and geopolitical violence/conflict in contemporary popular music. She is author of In the Houses of the Holy:  Led Zeppelin and the Power of Rock Music (Oxford, 2001), Michael Jackson:  Dangerous (Bloomsbury, 33 1/3 series, 2014), co-editor (with Kip Pegley) of Music, Violence and Politics (Welselyan, 2012) and co-editor (with Craig Jennex) of the forthcoming Hearing the Political: Queer & Feminist Interventions in Popular Music Performance (Routledge, 2018)

As the current president of IASPM Canada, what originally drew you to joining the organization?

My first IASPM CA meeting was at Western--going way back to the 90's--but I really became involved when Charity Marsh was elected to the Executive and encouraged more of us to run for office (Charity was, by the way, the first woman to sit on the IASPM CA exec!).  Charity brought a considerable amount of energy and enthusiasm to the organization, especially during her term as President; the two annual meetings she hosted in Regina were among the best I've attended (and that's taking nothing away from the outstanding meetings hosted elsewhere, many of which have been fantastic). Hoping for a repeat in 2018!!

Considering Canada’s history of attempting to establish both institutional and cultural boundaries between Canada and US, including its music, do you think IASPM Canada has an obligation to uphold these distinctions?

This is a difficult question, but I lean towards yes.  There are a number of scholars who work in the US but regularly attend IASPM CA meetings; they're an important part of the organization.  And many of us also go to the IASPM US meetings.  But I really think it's important to maintain two separate branches of IASPM.  Aside from the crucially important function of the annual meeting of IASPM CA bringing together Canadian scholars of popular music, I believe we should work to highlight the research of these Canadian scholars, to focus on Canadian popular musics, and to try to offer a forum in which grad students and young Canadian scholars can be mentored. They (or we) shouldn't have to go to the U.S. for this.  

What does the future of IASPM Canada look like to you? What do you see as your role in shaping that future?

Right now I'm working with the Executive to establish (or re-establish) a working infrastructure for IASPM CA.  We've reconstructed the website and have instituted a way of maintaining it and keeping it up to date; we're working on rewriting the bylaws; we've been working with CSTM on sharing their journal MusiCultures between the two organizations.  I'd like to do a bit more of this infrastructure work:  naming the book prize, for example, making sure that we have at least one professionalization session for grad students at every annual meeting.  This may sound hum ho, but having a sound infrastructure is pretty important!  Beyond that, I'm keen to expand our membership, both through reaching out to scholars of pop music that don't currently participate in IASPM CA, and to journalists and others in the Canadian music scene who might want to become involved in the organization.  I'm interested in figuring out how we might raise money to support things like bursaries, scholarships and further prizes for our members, especially students.  I want IASPM CA to be the go-to place for Canadian scholars working on popular music.

You have a history of researching artists who transgress expectations of gender, race, and other socially constructed identity expressions, such as Michael Jackson and Led Zeppelin. What draws you to these figures?

My scholarship has always been profoundly linked to my own experiences with popular music; I've essentially been trying to figure out my deep musical investments through writing about them for about 30 years.  Of course this extends to trying to figure out other people's investments in certain kinds of popular music too.  Artists who transgress normative socio-cultural boundaries--and manage to become commercially successful while doing so--are incredibly powerful figures and I want to understand something about how they do it, and why, and why we end up caring and what difference it makes in people's lives and possibly the larger culture(s).  Their transgressions are inevitably made in large part through incredibly compelling music, which is why I've focused so much on musical sound in my work.

With the resurgence of identity politics we are seeing, especially in the US, how do you see this impacting the producers and consumers of popular music?

I think we have to stop saying that identity politics don't matter.  I understand the arguments that focusing on identity politics might keep conversations too small, but we only have to look at what's going on everywhere--not only the US--to understand that so much of what's being referred to as "tribalism" (hugely problematic term, but it's being thrown around on the news every day) is, exactly, identity politics.  I'm not sure how it's affecting popular music:  despite artists, scholars and journalists wanting to talk about the breakdown of generic boundaries in music (and there are certainly great examples of that), they seem to be more or less intact and they continue to be defined by race and gender.

What project(s) are you working on at the moment? 

Craig Jennex and I are editing a collection of essays for Routledge called Hearing the Political:  Queer and Feminist Interventions in Popular Music Performance.  Nineteen scholars are contributing to the project; we're hoping it will be published in 2018.

Thanks Susan! Looking forward to seeing the development of IASPM Canada over the course of your term as President.


IASPM Canada Website Update

Kris Ohlendorf

Welcome to the new official website for IASPM Canada!

The site features English and French content for members to learn about the organization, key members, past conferences, and handle all membership and mailing list sign-ups. 

If you come across any issues, please contact the webmaster at