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John Cline

A term coined by the radio DJ and author Irwin Chusid in 1996 to describe a loosely related set of recordings that do not fit well within any pre-existing generic framework. The art critic Roger Cardinal first used the term “outsider” in 1972 in relation to visual art. His usage translated into English the French artist Jean Dubuffet’s term art brut, which arose from Dubuffet’s interest in the artwork of criminals and the mentally ill. The term “outsider art” was in wide circulation during the 1970s and 80s, when many examples of what became now known, after Chusid, as “outsider music” were first being analyzed by collectors of outré records; Lester Bangs mentioned two key outsider musicians, Wild Man Fischer and Jad Fair, in his essay “A Reasonable Guide to Horrible Noise” (1981). V. Vale explored similar terrain in the early 1990s. Outsider music does not involve any definite stylistic qualities; criteria for inclusion are generally either negational or relational. Much outsider music exhibits idiomatic characteristics of established genres, ranging from opera (Florence Foster Jenkins) to country music (the Legendary Stardust Cowboy), although in an idiosyncratic fashion. Other examples defy precedent, leaving the critical listener understanding initially only what the music is not (as with Fischer’s a cappella compositions). The term “outsider” is, almost by definition, controversial. From Dubuffet to Chusid, it has concurrently carried connotations of both psychological pathologies and an assumption of a purity of expression at the boundaries of culture....


Mark Clague and Dan Archdeacon

Growing out of the Detroit Artists Workshop (founded 1964), Trans-Love Energies (TLE, formally, Trans-Love Energies Unlimited, Inc.) was an anti-establishment commune founded in Detroit in February 1967. Its mission was to “produce, promote, manage, and otherwise represent musical and other artists, in recordings, concerts, tours, media, and related fields of culture and entertainment, including films, books, posters, light and sound environments—all on a cooperative, non-profit basis, for the purpose of educating and informing the general public in terms of contemporary art forms and cultural patterns.”

An umbrella corporation, TLE included a production company, a light show and poster company, the Artists’ Workshop Press (distributor and publisher of underground newspapers, including the Warren-Forest Sun), and many side enterprises that helped fund commune operations. Inspired by rock music’s potential to catalyze social change, TLE managed musical acts including the Up, Iggy and the Stooges, and most notably the MC5. The activist leader John Sinclair (...


Colette Simonot

A style of popular music in which the synthesizer dominates. The precursors to synthpop include Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Gary Numan, and Giorgio Moroder, who experimented with synthesized sounds in the 1970s and earlier. Synthesizers soon became inexpensive enough to be widely used, and in the late 1970s and the 1980s several bands adopted the synthesizer as the basis of their musical style, which came to be known as synthpop. The style promotes artificiality, or synthetic sounds. Artists do not use synthesizers to imitate acoustic instruments, but instead exploit unique electronic sounds. Vocals may be void of emotion to complement the machine-made sounds. Rhythms tend to be mechanical and ostinato patterns are common. Synthpop was dominated by such British artists as Soft Cell, OMD, Ultravox, the Human League, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Talk Talk, the Thompson Twins, Bronski Beat, Howard Jones, and the Eurythmics. Synthpop artists are usually linked to the New wave...



Meredith Oyen

Cantopop, Cantonese-language popular music, and Mandopop, Mandarin-language popular music, are the products of encounters and exchanges between Chinese, Japanese, and American music traditions. Both can be heard in Chinese communities and businesses in the United States today.

Mandopop dates back to the 1920s in the dance halls of jazz-age Shanghai. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the industry moved to Hong Kong, but by the 1960s, the growth of the Mandarin language movement in Taiwan helped Taipei become the new capital of Mandopop. The American military presence in Taiwan in the 1950s and 60s introduced new genres of American popular music to local artists, including rock and R&B.

While Mandopop moved to Taipei, Cantopop emerged in Hong Kong in the 1970s as a localized response to popular American, Japanese, and Mandarin-language music. As the date for the British handover of the colony to China neared, increasing numbers of Hong Kong residents immigrated to Canada and the United States, bringing along their musical practices and tastes. The growth of the Hong Kong film industry and the internationalization of its audience also contributed to the spread of both Mandopop and Cantopop to North America and around the world....



Noriko Manabe

A form of popular music that has been dominant in Japan and features catchy melodies with Japanese lyrics sung over Western-pop accompaniments. The term was coined by foreign-owned record chains such as Tower Records in the 1980s and was picked up in 1988 by the radio station J-Wave; it came into general parlance in the 1990s. The genre was partly the product of the mainstreaming of rock and the blending of that style with kayōkyoku (Japanese-language pop music in Western style). Musical tracks may draw from a number of styles, including pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop, and Okinawan music, and “world music” catchy melodies that can be used as hooks for jingles or sung in a karaoke bar are highly prized. Notable artists include the female pop idols Ayumi Hamasaki, Utada Hikaru, and Koda Kumi; boy bands, such as SMAP and Arashi, from the artist management company Johnny’s; and rock bands such as the B’z....


Charles Garrett


Marc Rice

[Kansas City jazz]

A style of jazz developed in the 1920s and 30s unique to Kansas City and the Southwest. It grew from the ragtime traditions of Missouri, the blues of the Southwest, and the fierce musical and economic competition that was a fact of life for the territory bands working in the region. Features of the mature Southwest style include a heavy emphasis on improvisation, a driving 4/4 beat, and the influence of blues forms and harmonies.

Kansas City was the focal point of jazz in the Midwest and Southwest, due to its vibrant African American communities, and a political climate that enabled the presence of alcohol and vice in venues where the music was performed. The city was home to dozens of musicians and several bands, the most important of which were the Bennie Moten and George E. Lee Orchestras. There were dance halls and many jazz clubs where local and visiting musicians were allowed to experiment, and to challenge each other through “cutting contests” that demonstrated their improvisation skills. (...


Christopher Wilkinson

[sweet jazz]

The term “sweet dance music” is used to define both a repertory and a performance practice. It appeared in print for the first time in the late 1920s and continued to be used regularly until the 1950s, often as a pejorative label for a style that was in many respects the antithesis of jazz. In addition to American popular songs, the repertory included genres of European origin: waltzes, polkas, and “light classics,” among others. The style was frequently characterized by music that was fully arranged with little if any improvisation played by bands having an instrumentation similar to that of jazz bands of the 1930s: reeds, brass, and a rhythm section supplemented in some instances by strings. The musicians use a straight tone, not individualized sonorities characteristic of hot jazz. Arrangements typically use symmetrical rhythms with little or no swing in slow to moderate tempos. Singers also employ a straight tone and equally symmetrical rhythms rather than jazz-based vocalisms....


Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Jason Stanyek, Melissa Gonzalez, Jorge Arévalo Mateus, Mario Rey, Sydney Hutchinson, Lois Wilcken, Roberto Avant-Mier, John Koegel and Edgardo Díaz Díaz

Latinos comprise the largest ethnic minority in the United States, including both new arrivals and communities that predate the nation itself. Latinos’ various musical forms and practices have had profound, if understudied, repercussions on music in the United States. Both the breadth of Latino music and the difficulties of generalizing about it are reflected in the ambiguities of the term “Latino music” itself, which can include the musics performed or consumed by native or immigrant populations from a variety of racial, class, and national backgrounds, or even stylistic elements independent of Latino participation at all.

The term “Latino music” tends to refer to either the musics of the US–Mexican borderlands from Texas to California which is consumed by the overwhelming majority of US Latinos who are of Mexican descent, or the music of Latinos of primarily Caribbean origin on the East Coast which, under the confusing rubric “Latin music,” has also been influential on mainstream US popular music. “Latino music” can also include Argentine tango, various Brazilian genres, styles brought by more recent Latino immigrants such as Dominicans and Colombians, and even music from Spain, Portugal, or the Francophone Caribbean....