My scholarly interests concern the relationship between different forms of cultural and economic power, particularly in relation to the development of modern consumer capitalist society. More precisely, these interests crystallize around subjects related to citizenship, critiques of capitalism, intellectual property, advertising, photography, film, literature, and music. These also encompass a concern for the broader historiographic challenge of cultural history itself and the problems inherent in writing histories of “experience.” This has led me into a deep interest as well in sensory experience—seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling—and consideration of the senses as social constructions, whose historical significance can vary over time and space.
Recently, my research has focused particularly on music and the rise of the global culture industry. In the spring of 2009, Harvard University Press will publish Selling Sounds: The Commercial Revolution in American Music, my study of the rise of music as big business in the early twentieth century, and the University of Pennsylvania Press will publish Sound in the Era of Mechanical Reproduction, a collection of essays co-edited with Susan Strasser. In March 2004, my essay “Co-workers in the Kingdom of Culture: Black Swan Records and the Political Economy of African American Music” appeared in the Journal of American History.