David Brackett’s research focuses on the relationship between categories of music and categories of people, and how the perception and analysis of musical genres are bound up with issues of cultural value and prestige. His book on the history and social meaning of twentieth-century popular music, Interpreting Popular Music (Cambridge University Press, 1995; reprint University of California Press, 2000) was a finalist for an ARSC book award. The third edition of his collection of annotated source readings, The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Documents, was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. He is currently finishing a book on the history of popular music categories in 20th-century popular music, titled Categorizing Sound: A Generic History of Popular Music, which will be published by the University of California Press. He has published articles and reviews in the Black Music Research Journal, American Music, Musical Quarterly, Popular Music, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Popular Music & Society, several other journals, as well as in numerous edited volumes and encyclopedias. He has served, or is currently serving, on the editorial boards of The Journal for the Society of American Music, Music Theory Spectrum, Popular Music, and others. His research has been funded by both the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) of the United States. He teaches undergraduate courses on popular music, jazz, ethnomusicology, and contemporary art music, while his graduate seminars explore conjunctions between contemporary music, historiography, the sociology of culture, and music analysis.
Before he was categorized as a musicologist, Professor Brackett identified as a composer and worked as a freelance guitarist, playing jazz, popular music, and classical music. His composition teachers included Karel Husa, Steven Stucky, Yehudi Wyner, Robert Ceely, and David Cope. His works have been widely performed, including performances at meetings of the Society of Composers, the Pittsburgh New Music Festival, the Syracuse Society for New Music, the Cornell Contemporary Chamber Players, and Chiron New Music. Awards include fellowships to the Yaddo Artist’s Colony and the Pittsburgh New Music Festival, a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, two grants from the Cornell Council for the Performing Arts, three grants from Meet the Composer, and the New Music Delaware Award (2000); he was also nominated for one of the annual awards granted by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1996.
Brackett has been involved in a number of academic organizations. From 1998 to 2000, he served as President of the U. S. branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), following a turn as Secretary-Treasurer from 1995 to 1998. He has participated on a number of committees for the American Musicological Society and the Society for American Music, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the latter group.