When I was in graduate school, popular music history wasn't taught. That's changing, thank goodness. Popular music studies is a rapidly expanding branch of musicology.

It wasn't until 1999 when Dusty Springfield's photo appeared alongside her obituary that Professor of Music Annie Randall realized her grammar school math teacher looked just like the white queen of soul. "Miss S.," as Randall calls her teacher in her most recent book, Dusty! Queen of the Postmods, was usually clad in '60s fashion — miniskirts, turtlenecks, lengthy necklaces and nails to complement her platinum-blond bouffant, heavy cat makeup eyes, and pink or white lipstick. Somewhat shocking, Randall writes, considering Miss S. taught math at her convent school.

Writing the book about the British singer best known for "Son of a Preacher Man" was a huge departure from Randall's earlier scholarly work on opera and political music. "My previous books (Music, Power and Politics, and Puccini, and 'The Girl': History and Reception of 'Girl of the Golden West) didn't attract nearly as much attention as the book on Dusty. I'm sure that's because Dusty was a pop star and had a huge international fan base. Her hits are still played regularly," says Randall, who obtained her Ph.D. in musicology with cognate in German Literature, from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.

"The book (which won the 2009 American Musicological Society's Philip Brett Award) was also a professional risk in that relatively few traditionally trained musicologists have developed serious research interests in popular music. In fact, when I was in graduate school, popular music history wasn't taught. That's changing, thank goodness," says Randall, adding Bucknell students have a keen interest in the subject. "Popular music studies is a rapidly expanding branch of musicology."

Randall was originally drawn to musicology after completing degrees in music composition and early modern European history. The field, she says, blended serious music study with serious historical study. "That's exactly the path I wanted to follow, as opposed to a strictly performance-based career or one devoted exclusively to history. Musicology requires you to do both," she says.

Like Springfield, who sang across musical genres, Randall also believes in crossing musical boundaries. "There's a lot of variety in what I'm able to teach here, and I've created courses that intersect with my research. By blending research and teaching, I am able to share with students my enthusiasm while deepening my own understanding."

Posted Sept. 13, 2010

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