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Welcome to one of the nation's leading research and programming centers devoted to the full study of popular and folk music in the United States and beyond.

Upcoming Events

Dr. Nathan Fleshner Brown BagFebruary 19th - Popular Music Studies Brown Bag with Dr. Nathan Fleshner
Meter as Meaning: Psychological Interpretation in Townes Van Zandt's "High, Low and In Between"


Join us Tuesday, February 19th, 2019 from 11:30 am to 1:00 PM for our first brown bag of the spring semester with Dr. Nathan Fleshner of University of Tennessee Knoxville.

Townes Van Zandt stands prominently on any list of great lyricists in American music history. His lyrics are something with which we can immediately connect and extract meaning. Music has meaning too and can thus add and even enhance the meaning of the lyrics. As such, music serves an interpretive function that can influence a perspective on what those lyrics might mean.
This paper interprets the lyrics in Townes Van Zandt’s album, High, Low and In Between through the lens of the musical rhythm and meter of each song, revealing an important window into Van Zandt’s often-discussed psychological state, including a diagnosis of manic depression. In doing so, it focuses on the album’s titular track, ‘High, Low and In Between.’ Indeed, Van Zandt’s voice throughout the album itself is revealed to be psychologically “high, low, and in between.” After framing the song within the context of the album, this paper addresses metric irregularities within the song that influence lyric meanings. The other songs on the album consist of predictable rhythms and metric regularity, comprised of measures divided into 4 beats with an occasional extra beat inserted during transitions. Both the rhythm and the overall form of the lyrics in the song, ‘High, Low and In Between,’ disrupt this metric regularity, setting it apart from the rest of the album through unequally distributed groups of beats. This irregularity is enhanced by the style of guitar strumming and the melodic and harmonic structure of the song. This paper analyzes these relationships and addresses ways in which these lyric and musical irregularities interact to enhance the psychological perspective Van Zandt portrays behind the text, revealing an awareness of his state of being “high, low, and in between.”

Nathan Fleshner is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Tennessee. He holds a Ph.D. in Music Theory from the Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester. His research focuses on the portrayal of mental illness and trauma in music and similarities between the processes of music analysis and psychoanalysis.


Felipe Perez February 25th - Felipe Perez in Concert

Join us for an evening An Evening of South Texas Conjunto Music with Spring Fed Records recording artist, Felipe Perez at The Blue Note on the campus of MTSU! Accordion player Felipe Perez specializes in traditional South Texas conjunto music. Perez has collaborated extensively with National Medal of Arts recipient and conjunto legend Santiago Jiménez Jr. Perez was inducted into the Conjunto Music Hall of Fame in 2018. He has more than sixty years’ experience as a professional musician, and he works as an accordion tuner and technician.

The group, Cactus Fire will open the show! This event is free and open to the public.

If you require accommodation to participate in this or any event, or have any questions, please contact the CPM in advance at popular.music@mtsu.edu or 615.898.2449. We look forward to seeing you there!

CardiBInvasionofPrivacyMarch 13 - Listening party: Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy

The Center for Popular Music will be hosting its first Listening Party! Join us March 13th at 6pm in the CPM reading room to listen to and discuss Cardi B's Grammy Award winning rap album, Invasion of Privacy. This event is open to everyone. The Center will be providing free pizza and drinks to attendees, so you'll want to get there early and bring a friend!

If you require accommodation to participate in this or any event, or have any questions, please contact the CPM in advance at popular.music@mtsu.edu or 615.898.2449.


Lights, lights baby

The electricians have installed new energy efficient LED lighting on one side of the archive. More will be installed soon before the shelving is added to the other side of the room. The renovation is making good progress every day!New LED lights

Renovation Update

The mezzanine and all of the shelving has been removed from the archive in preparation for the installation of compact shelving. It's hard to believe how much space is back there without all of the shelves in the way. Next, we will be getting new energy-efficient lights installed.

Look, Ma, no shelves!

Please note: As a result of our renovation project, some items will be difficult to access and may require more time to locate. Please let us know in advance if you need to view an item from our archival collections and we will do our best to have them ready for you. Please contact the Center's staff if you need any help. 

Archive Renovation Project Update

Our renovation project is well underway at the Center for Popular Music. The staff has been working hard to move all materials from on top of and out from under the mezzanine and put them into temporary locations throughout the Center. The next step in the process will be removing all shelving and the demolition of the mezzanine.

As a result of our renovation project, some items will be difficult to access and may require more time to locate. Please let us know in advance if you need to view an item from our archival collections and we will do our best to have them ready for you. Please contact the Center's staff if you need any help. Stay tuned for more updates as they happen!
Bare Shelves in the CPM

A rare sight - bare shelves at the Center for Popular Music.

Center for Popular Music Awarded National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

We are excited to announce that the Center for Popular Music has received a $205,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities! The award is part of the NEH's Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections program, and will allow us to make major renovations to the CPM's archival storage room in order to preserve our materials with increased sustainability, security, efficiency, and accessibility. It's going to be a busy year ahead as we ready our space for the continued vibrant growth of one of the nation's largest and most important American vernacular music research collections!

Read the official press release here.National Endowment for the Humanities Poster

Fundraiser to Preserve Work of Late Music Photographer Alan Mayor

Alan Mayor HeadshotThe Center for Popular Music acquired the Alan Mayor Photography Collection in late 2017. Mayor, a beloved photographer who passed away in 2015, documented more than four decades of Nashville’s musical life: the Opry, Fan Fair (now CMA Fest), music industry events, local shows, tours, and a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes photos of country’s biggest stars.

While the University employs two certified archivists who will manage this project, the Center needs to raise $50,000 to purchase materials to preserve the tens of thousands of photographs, negatives and slides. Once the project is completed, Mayor’s photos will be available to the public for reference and, pending his family’s permission, inclusion in publications and other media.

 Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation may text ALAN to 41444 or donate online.

Marvin Hedrick Audio Collection

Brown County JamboreeThe MTSU Center for Popular Music announces the completion of the Marvin Hedrick Audio Collection website, a digitization and cataloging project funded by the GRAMMY Foundation (now part of the GRAMMY Museum). The collection includes historically significant recordings of bluegrass and country music made by influential documentarian Marvin Hedrick in Brown County, Indiana between 1954 and 1973. The Hedrick Collection was donated to the Center for Popular Music by Marvin’s sons, Gary Hedrick and David Hedrick in 2015.

Each item in the collection was evaluated, preserved, and digitized in the Center’s state-of-the-art audio preservation lab, then catalogued with essential data such as song titles, performers, and dates, using CONTENTdm archival management software. A Finding Aid was also created, giving an overview of the collection and its contents. The Marvin Hedrick Audio Collection is searchable through its dedicated website. One audio sample from each tape is provided as streaming audio for educational purposes. The entirety of the collection’s digitized contents is available to researchers on-site at the Center for Popular Music.

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This newsletter will keep you up-to-date with everything happening at the Center, including new events, exhibits, collections, books, projects, Spring Fed Records releases, and more. To sign up, please follow this link or click the subscribe button on the sidebar.

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