Present Tense

Rock & Roll and Culture

Present Tense

Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 12 illustrations Published: September 1992

American Studies, Music > Popular Music

The most compelling art form to emerge from the United States in the second half of the twentieth century, rock & roll stands in an edgy relationship with its own mythology, its own musicological history and the broader culture in which it plays a part. In Present Tense, Anthony DeCurtis brings together writers from a wide variety of fields to explore how rock & roll is made, consumed, and experienced in our time.
In this collection, Greil Marcus creates a collage of words and pictures that evokes and explores Elvis Presley's grisly fate as an American cultural image, while Robert Palmer tells the gripping tale of the origins and meanings of the electric guitar. Rap music, MTV, and the issue of gender identity in the work of Bruce Springsteen all undergo thorough examination; rock & roll's complex relationship with the forces of censorship gets a remarkably fresh reading; and the mainstreaming of rock & roll in the 1980s is detailed and analyzed. And, in an interview with Laurie Anderson and an essay by Atlanta musician Jeff Calder, the artists speak for themselves.

Contributors. Jeff Calder, Anthony DeCurtis, Mark Dery, Paul Evans, Glenn Gass, Trent Hill, Michael Jarrett, Alan Light, Greil Marcus, Robert Palmer, Robert B. Ray, Dan Rubey, David R. Shumway, Martha Nell Smith, Paul Smith


Present Tense is compelling and vital; not simply as a literate take on rock culture, but as a document of the struggle to come to terms with rock’n’roll’s technologies and an attempt to capture the essence of those forms by forging unique styles of criticism.” — Sydney Pokorny, ArtForum

“If you aspire to a career in music, there are plenty of how-to books on the subject. But perhaps the sagest advice on the subject can be found in an unlikely place — David Menconi, News & Observer

"Ever since people started writing about rock, other people have made fun of them. Anthony DeCurtis's anthology, with its clutch of academics, rock writers and musicians, will strike cynics as inherently pretentious. They will be wrong: This is a smart, witty, ingeniously balanced assortment of rock commentary, with a healthy number of pieces that seem prescient and, even, moving." — John Rockwell, European Cultural Correspondent, New York Times

"This collection brings together two of the cultural right's favorite targets—mass culture and high theory—and demonstrates brilliantly how mutually illuminating they can be as a way of understanding the American scene." — Stanley Fish, Duke University

"This collection is a useful and provocative addition to rock literature. Its collage of forms—scholarship, journalism, interviews, and fiction—allows access to a variety of readers, and provides a diverse forum for addressing the current consciousness about rock." — Andrew Ross, Princeton University

"This shit rocks! To wit: Exhibiting a wide range of critical music writing, this collection speaks volumes about how music, and our varied perceptions of it, are intrinsically woven into the social and ideological web of end-of-the-century thought." — Michael Stipe, R.E.M.


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

The Eighties / Anthony DeCurtis 1

The Church of the Sonic Guitar / Robert Palmer 13

The Enemy Within: Censorship in Rock Music in the 1950s / Trent Hill 39

A Corpse in Your Mouth: Adventures of a Metaphor, or Modern Cannibalism / Greil Marcus 73

Why Don't We Do It in the Classroom? / Glenn Gass 93

Playing for England / Paul Smith 101

Rock & Roll as a Cultural Practice / David R. Shumway 117

Tracking / Robert B. Ray 135

Signposts on the Road to Nowhere: Laurie Anderson's Crisis of Meaning / Mark Dery 149

Concerning the Progress of Rock & Roll / Michael Jarrett 167

Los Angeles, 1999 / Paul Evans 183

Sexual Mobilities in Bruce Springsteen: Performance as Commentary / Martha Nell Smith 197

About a Salary or Reality?- Rap's Recurrent Conflict / Alan Light 219

Voguing at the Carnival: Desire and Pleasure on MTV / Dan Rubey 235

Living by Night in the Land of Opportunity: Observations on Life in a Rock & Roll Band / Jeff Calder 271

Index 303

Notes on Contributors 315
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1265-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1261-1
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