Sustainable Music


Monday, February 24, 2020

Toward a Sound Ecology: New and Selected Essays

Indiana University Press has announced my new book, Toward a Sound Ecology: New and Selected Essays, to be published in August, 2020. The book gathers together a dozen of my published articles from 1980-2015, along with a new essay that's a summary of my ongoing sound ecology project. The table of contents:

I. Field Work
     1. The Life Story (1980)
     2.  Ethnomusicology as the Study of People Making Music (1989)
     3.  Text (1995)
     4.  Knowing Fieldwork (1994)
     5.  Applied Ethnomusicology: A Descriptive and Historical Account (1995)

II. Cultural and Musical Sustainability
     6. "The Real Thing": Tourism, Authenticity and Pilgrimage among the Old Regular Baptists at the 1997 Smithsonian Folklife Festival (1999)
     7. Music and Sustainability: An Ecological Viewpoint (2009)
     8. Sustainability, Resileience and Adaptive Management for Applied Ethnomusicology (2015)

III. Toward a Sound Ecology
     9. A Sound Commons for All Living Creatures (2012)
    10. The Nature of Ecomusicology (2013)
    11. Thoreau's Ear (2015)
    12. The Sound of Climate Change (2016)
    13. Toward a Sound Ecology (new)

I've discussed aspects of much of this writing in previous blog entries. Here instead it might be of some interest to recap a few of the steps that led to this book. This could be helpful to other scholars thinking of publishing with a university press.

Book publishers are always looking to find good manuscripts to publish, and university presses, which publish scholarly and scientific work, are no exception. But whereas the commercial (trade) presses usually deal with agents that try to sell their authors' books to the highest bidder, academics who publish with university presses very seldom have agents while the presses usually don't give advances on royalties. Younger scholars--that is, those who have not yet published a book or very many essays in scholarly journals--are best advised, when they have book manuscripts in mind, to seek out university presses known to publish heavily in the area of their specialty. For example, in American folk and popular music, these are the presses associated with the universities of Illinois, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana, Wesleyan, Oxford, and California. 

Editors from these and other presses regularly attend the annual conferences of scholarly societies such as the Society for Ethnomusicology, the Society for American Music, the American Folklore Society, the American Musicological Society, and so on. Of course, other academic disciplines have their own societies and conferences: for instance, the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychological Association, the Modern Language Association, and many others. Younger scholars are well advised to travel to these conferences and seek these editors out at the book exhibits and make appointments with them to meet in person at the conference and discuss the book they have in mind. Most often, it's a book that's based on their PhD dissertation. The editors will show varying degrees of interest, usually writing down the details and, if they think the topic fits within the scope of the books they're currently bringing out, asking the scholar to contact them when ready with a book proposal detailing the book's projected contents, and saying something about the market that the author envisions--chiefly for libraries and for students taking courses, or with some appeal to a general audience as well. 

The young scholar then submits the proposal to the press that seems to have the best "fit," the one that is most desirable, and/or with the editor who's shown the most enthusiasm for the book project. The press conducts an in-house review of the proposal, and they may also send it to an external reader. If the proposal generates enthusiasm, the press will offer the scholar an advance contract (though usually without a monetary advance). The contract usually states that the author will submit the manuscript to this press (and no other) when it's ready, and that the press will then give a formal review to the mansucript and let the author know their decision. Such a contract doesn't guarantee the author very much except for a review, but it does provide psychological help to know that a press is interested. 

After the young scholar submits the manuscript, it gets an in-house review and, assuming it's positive, the press then sends it to external readers, usually two of them, for their assessment. This external review is often conducted "blind" -- that is, the reviewer isn't told who is the author, although often it's easy to figure it out if the reviewer so chooses. If the external reviews are negative, the press tells the author that they won't go ahead with publication. If they're positive, they usually come with some suggestions for revision, in which case the press asks the author to respond to the reviews--that is, to write a response--and then to make the revisions that they think will be helpful. Often there's some negotiation here between the author and the press over how much revision is needed or wanted. Regardless whether the reviews are negative or positive, the names of the reviewers are withheld from the authors. With positive reviews, suggestions, and negotiations, the author revises the manuscript and re-submits. Often the revised manuscript is returned to the external reviewers for their approval, but not always. The press then usually decides to go ahead with publication, and the author prepares the manuscript, obtaining necessary permissions, making certain that it conforms to the "style" that the press follows (footnote form, bibliography, citations, references, etc.), and then returns it to the press. Some time later, the press puts it into production and gives it to a copyeditor who may make suggestions for improving the writing (usually for clarity) and will make sure it conforms to the press "style." It's then returned to the author who reviews the copyedits and makes further revisions before sending it back to the press. The press then gives it over to a printer who makes page proofs. These are then sent back to the author who checks the whole manuscript for accuracy. At this stage only very small changes in the form of correction are permitted. Returned once more to the press after the proofs are checked, the printer is given the go-ahead and the book takes its place in line at the printer's, to be published some months later. 

In its entirety this is a time-consuming process. My first book, for example, Early Downhome Blues: A Musical and Cultural Analysis, grew out of my dissertation. I completed the dissertation in 1971 and sent it to the University of Illinois Press. They returned it with an advance contract and some suggestions for revision made by an in-house editor. Because I was also teaching full-time, it took me quite a while to turn it into the book I wanted. In January of 1974 I sent the press my revised manuscript, and they sent it to two external readers. After six months passed, the press sent me back the reports, which were positive. I made some revisions and returned the manuscript at the end of 1974, and they issued me a formal contract. I had no more to do but review the copyedits and page proofs. For reasons having to do with the press' production schedule, and the fact that they wanted to put the book into a new series they were launching (Music in American Life) but not as the first book in the series, publication was delayed until 1977. When it fell out of print about fifteen years later, the University of North Carolina Press asked me if I'd write a new Afterword for a second edition. I agreed, and they published the second edition in 1995.

After an author has published a book or several articles and begins to get a reputation as someone who's knowledgeable in an academic field, it is easier to find a university press. After an author has become an acknowledged expert, press editors may be the ones to initiate contact with authors, asking them if they are working on a book manuscript that would be suitable for them. For example, in 1977 I'd won a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a list of fellowship recipients was made public along with the research subjects the scholars proposed to work on. A month later I received letters from editors at the University of Texas Press and the University of North Carolina Press asking me what I was working on and to keep them in mind when it came time to publish. Nevertheless, even with established scholars the same review process takes place, involving a proposal, review, manuscript submission, further review, etc. It took me another ten years to complete the book for which I'd held that fellowship. Powerhouse for God: Speech, Chant, and Song in an Appalachian Baptist Church was published by the University of Texas Press in 1988. It fell out of print about ten years later, but it was published in a second edition, with a new Afterword, in 2018, by the University of Tennessee Press.

In 2013 an acquisitions editor at Indiana University Press inquired about my work in ecomusicology. Possibly my name had been recommended to her by one of the editors of a new series they were starting, called Music, Nature, Place. It happened in 2012 I'd given a paper at an ecomusicology conference, and in 2013 just before she contacted me I'd  given a keynote address on ecomusicology to the Brazilian Society for Ethnomusicology. A year earlier I'd also published my appeal for a sound commons for all living creatures. I forwarded them to this editor who read them and said that if I were working on a book in this area, she'd like to be able to consider the manuscript for IU Press.

Toward a Sound Ecology was solicited in this way: in 2015 the same IU Press acquisitions editor asked me if I'd have lunch with her and the director of the press, at a folklore conference. At the lunch they asked me whether I'd made any progress on my sound ecology project and I replied yes, but that completion was likely still many years away. I told them I'd been asked to step out of retirement to occupy an endowed chair as a visiting professor, and that one of my duties was to give a series of four public lectures. I intended to explore four aspects of that project, one in each lecture: sound presence, sound community, sound economy, and sound ecology. The project, I said, was still expanding and I kept getting new ideas. They then asked me then whether I'd be willing to propose a different book to them for now, one consisting mainly of my already-published essays on topics that were still current, including a few of my most recent ones on aspects of the sound ecology synthesis that I was seeking, adding one or two new essays to the group. I said that I'd be happy to do so, and that is how this forthcoming book was born. Its third section, "Toward a Sound Ecology," gathers some of my essays related to that topic, and ends with a new one that summarizes my thinking at the time of its completion last summer. 

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