David Brackett

Academic title(s): 

Professor, Canada Research Chair in Popular Music Studies (Sabbatical leave, Fall '24)

David Brackett
Music Research
Music History/Musicology
Contact Information
514-398-4535 Ext. 00328
Email address: 
david.brackett [at] mcgill.ca

David Brackett’s research focuses on the relationship between categories of music and categories of people, a topic that is at the heart of his most recent book, Categorizing Sound: Genre and Twentieth-Century Popular Music (University of California Press, 2016), winner of the Society for American Music’s annual Lowens Award for book of the year. His earlier publications include Interpreting Popular Music (Cambridge University Press, 1995; reprint University of California Press, 2000), which was a finalist for an ARSC book award; and a collection of annotated source readings, The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Documents, published by Oxford University Press, the fourth edition of which appeared in 2020. A special issue devoted to his work on genre, co-edited with Vanessa Blais-Tremblay, will appear in Spring 2024 in Volume! The French Journal of Popular Music Studies. Current projects include a volume that he is co-editing with Georgina Born for Duke University Press, titled Genre and Music: New Directions; and a book—with the working title 1966: The Year in Music—that extends the approach to genre developed in Categorizing Sound. He has published articles and reviews in the Journal of the Society for American Music, Black Music Research Journal, American Music, Musical Quarterly, Popular Music, Journal of the American Musicological Society, Popular Music & Society, and 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. Brackett is currently working on a SSHRC-funded study with Lisa Barg (PI) and Richard King (CI) on “Collaborative Creativity: Sound Recording and Music Making.” In 2019 he was appointed a Tier One Canada Research Chair, which will be funded by SSHRC for a seven-year term.

Brackett teaches undergraduate courses on popular music, jazz, ethnomusicology, and contemporary art music, while his graduate seminars explore conjunctions between historiography, the sociology of culture, and music analysis. He has supervised many Master’s theses and PhD dissertations. Titles of PhD dissertations he has supervised include Mimi Haddon, “What is Post-Punk?” (2015); Eric Smialek, “Expression in Extreme Metal Music, ca. 1980-2012 (2015); Laura Risk, “Transatlantic Trajectories in the Traditional Instrumental Music of Québec” (2016); Melvin Backstrom, “The Grateful Dead and Their World: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1965-1975” (2017); Sean Lorre, “British R&B: A Study of Black Popular Music Revivalism in the United Kingdom between 1960–1964” (2017); Farley Miller, “Popular Music and Instrument Technology in an Electronic Age, 1960-1969’” (2018); Claire McLeish, “'All Samples Cleared!': An Investigation into the Aesthetic Consequences of Grand Upright v. Warner" (2020); Jennifer Messelink, “Strange Echoes: A Genre Study of Exotica” (2022); Émmanuelle Majeau-Bettez, “Through Time and Space: Éliane Radigue’s Relationship to Sound” (2022).

Before he was categorized as a musicologist, Professor Brackett identified as a composer. 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, following a turn as Secretary-Treasurer from 1995 to 1998. He has also participated on a number of committees for the American Musicological Society and the Society for American Music.

Brackett is currently active as a guitarist and mandolinist, playing a variety of genres that he will not name.

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