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Elizabeth Engelhardt, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Karl Hagstrom Miller

Professor Ph.D., 2002, New York University

Associate Professor
Karl Hagstrom Miller



I am a United States cultural historian. I use popular music to explore the cultural, economic, legal, and intellectual history of the United States.  I am particularly interested in how transformations in commercial markets and music technology changed the ways people used music to forge their conceptions of race and region, to imagine their relationship to the wider world, to comprehend the past, and to dream about the future.

To this end, I have examined middle-class women’s piano practice regimens in the nineteenth century, the artistic and economic negotiations of Tejano street singers in San Antonio’s Market Square during the 1930s, the struggles of postwar jazz artists to start their own independent record labels, and the confluence of political activism and grassroots entrepreneurship within the New York Latin music scene in the 1960s and 1970s.

My book Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow (Duke, 2010) rethinks the origins of blues and country music.  It charts the changes in ideas about music and race that occurred as academic folklorists and commercial phonograph companies became interested in southern music between the 1880s and the 1920s.  Blues and country music emerged as identifiable music genres because of the ways intellectuals, music companies and musicians accommodated or contested the new political and social landscape of Jim Crow segregation.

I am currently working on a book titled, Sound Investments: A History of Music Ownership and Theft.  It examines recent debates about illegal music filesharing over the internet within the context of the long historical struggles over the meaning and control of music as property.



United States cultural and intellectual history, comparative race and ethnicity, African-American history, ethnomusicology, corporate and cultural globalization, folk culture, the history of anthropology and folkloric studies, tourism, recording technology, intellectual property, labor and business history

AMS 370 • What Happened To The Music Biz

31195 • Spring 2014
Meets W 300pm-600pm WAG 208
(also listed as HIS 350R )
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This undergraduate seminar is a writing- and reading-intensive course centered around the question “What happened to the music business?”   Recent years have seen the veritable crumbling of the music industry model that predominated in the United States for about a century.  Filesharing is rampant.  Record stores have closed.  Musicians are searching for new ways to make ends meet.  Students have been sued.  At the same time, listeners have more music available to them than ever before.  Music remains wildly popular, an essential part of how people feel pleasure, find meaning in their lives, build friendships with others, and express who they are to themselves and to the wider world.  Pop music media still matters even as everyone scurries to find out how the business, the technology, and the music itself are changing.  How did we get here?  What were the major events and decisions that led us to where we are?  What exactly is new about the current state of pop music?  And what aspects of the current scene display continuity with the past?

We will launch a collaborative research project examining the historical roots of the current pop music conundrum.  After some initial shared reading, together we will decide upon the aspects of the current situation we consider to be the most important to understand.  We will then divide the class into different Subject Research Groups to investigate each of these issues.  Every week, each Subject Research Group, together and in collaboration with the class as a whole, will develop a specific set of research questions that it will strive to answer before the following class session.  We will work together to develop the syllabus for each student week by week.  Before each class session, you will post your findings to a course blog.  Everyone will benefit from your insights into your particular part of the larger puzzle.  And you will be able to pull on every other student’s insights to help you in your own research.

At the end of the semester, we will have accomplished two things.  Each student will have developed the skills to identify an important question, execute a research plan, and write up the results.  We will also have created a blog brimming with information and analysis about the current music industry and its history.  Pitchfork hasn’t done that!



Class participation: 25%

Weekly posts to the course blog: 35%

Peer comments on course blog posts: 10%

Research Progress Self-Assessment (3 pages): 10%

Final Essay (8-10 pages): 20%


Possible Texts

Steve Knopper, Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age


Upper-division standing required. Partially fulfills legislative requirement in American History.  Students may not enroll in more than two AMS 370 courses in one semester.

Flag(s): Writing, Independent Inquiry


AMS 390 • Designing History's Future

30901 • Fall 2013
Meets F 200pm-500pm GAR 0.132
(also listed as HIS 392 )
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This is a unique graduate history course.  It is not about acquiring and displaying historiographical competence or archival chops.  It is about leveraging participants’ collective intelligence and creativity to build a better mousetrap.  In this graduate research seminar, students collectively will explore, imagine, and design possible futures of teaching history in United States colleges and universities.  From the cognitive science of learning to the use of digital technology in the classroom; from debates over the cost and funding of higher education to debates about student learning and assessment:  history and humanities faculty face a number of new challenges and opportunities that encourage us to articulate or re-conceptualize what and how we teach.  This seminar is designed as a collaborative research project exploring the potentials of history pedagogy in the 21st century.  Students—as individuals and as subject area research groups—will research the state of the field in different areas of history, humanities, and higher education pedagogy literature.  They will then design specific syllabi, classroom activities, or assessment tools for the undergraduate classroom.  Some of the curriculum designed in the class will be implemented and beta-tested in a US History survey taught the following semester by Dr. Miller in collaboration with its creators.  This class will not teach you what established experts already know.  It will make you a new kind of expert.


Clayton Christensen, The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out

James Gee, Situated Language and Learning: A Critique of Traditional Schooling

Sam Wineberg, Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past


Students will write two book reviews, conducted two collaborative research reports, and design an undergraduate teaching tool.  

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