Research Roundtable session with guest speaker, William Brooks

On Friday, February 8, Syracuse University Library’s Belfer Audio Archive will welcome William Brooks, Professor of Music at the University of York, England, and Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois, who will lead a roundtable discussion entitled They Were There: Quotation in Songs of World War I. The roundtable will be held in the classroom at Belfer from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m.

Among the thousands of contemporary First World War-related publications are many hundreds issued by unknown musicians, many self-published. A surprisingly high number of these use musical quotation to make their points – this in contrast to Tin Pan Alley composers, who used quotation more sparingly. Notably, the emerging recording industry allied itself with Main Street USA: in a significant number of recorded songs, additional quotations are introduced, raising interesting questions about differences in audience, purpose, and aesthetics between the two industries.

This talk presents statistical and demographic information about these musicians’ use of quotation, based on an ongoing inventory of two important Midwestern collections of sheet music and an informal collection of about 250 recordings. The songs quoted, and the ways they are used, tell us something about the shared musical heritage of middle Americans. The evolution of this repertory over the eighteen months of American involvement parallels America’s changing moods, and its abrupt termination signals the country’s postwar shift of attention from international to domestic matters, from historical tradition to modernist innovations.

Brooks, a scholar of American music for many years, has published extensively on experimentalists like Charles Ives and John Cage and also on American popular culture of the early twentieth century.

For more information about the roundtable and Brooks’ research, visit

Due to limited seating, advanced registration is required. To register, contact Barbara Brooker at or at 315.443.9763.

Co-sponsored by the Humanities Center, the Research Roundtable series in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) is designed to connect outside scholars who have used special collections with Syracuse University faculty and students having similar interests.

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