Selected Publications


Robert Edgar, Fraser Mann & Helen Pleasance (eds). Music, Memory and Memoir

Music, Memory and Memoir provides a unique look at the contemporary cultural phenomenon of the music memoir and, leading from this, the way that music is used to construct memory. Via analyses of memoirs that consider punk and pop, indie and dance, this text examines the nature of memory for musicians and the function of music in creating personal and cultural narratives. This book includes innovative and multidisciplinary approaches from a range of contributors consisting of academics, critics and musicians, evaluating this phenomenon from multiple academic and creative practices, and examines the contemporary music memoir in its cultural and literary contexts.

Sam V. H. Reese (ed.) The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollins is one of the towering masters of American music, a virtuoso of the saxophone, and an unequaled improviser whose live performances are legendary and who has reshaped modern jazz time and time again over the course of a career lasting more than sixty years. A turning point in that legendary career came in 1959, when Rollins stepped back from performing and recording to begin a new regime of musical exploration, which saw him practicing for hours, sometimes all through the night, on the Williamsburg Bridge. This was also the moment when he started the notebook that would become a trusted companion in years to come—not a diary so much as a place to ponder art and life and his own search for meaning in words and in images.

At once quotidian and aphoristic, the notebooks mingle lists of chores and rehearsal routines with ruminations on nightclub culture, racism, and the conundrums of the inner life. And always there is the music—questions of embouchure, fingering, and technique; of harmony and dissonance; of his own and others’ art and the art of jazz. “Any definition,” Rollins insists, “which seeks to separate Johann Sebastian Bach from Miles Davis is defeating its own purpose of clarification. . . .The Musings of Miles is then the Bouncing of Bach both played against each other.”

Edited and introduced by the critic and jazz scholar Sam V.H. Reese, The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins provides an unequalled glimpse into the mind and workshop of a musical titan, as well as a wealth of insight and inspiration to readers.

The Notebooks of Sonny Rollins – New York Review Books (

Fraser Mann, Robert Edgar & Helen Pleasance (eds.) Venue Stories: Narratives, Memories, and Histories from Britain’s Independent Music Spaces

Venue Stories is an anthology of creative non-fiction that remembers, celebrates and reinvigorates our complex and plural relationship with small and independent music spaces. Written by musicians, promoters, fans and academics who have a shared passion for small music venues and musical cultures in all their splendid variety, this anthology features memoir, essays, life writing, historiography and autoethnography. Each chapter is united by a focus on the personal, the sensory and half-remembered. These are stories that cross disciplinary lines and blur distinctions between creativity, reportage and critical analysis.

Venue Stories pays a visit to the toilet venues, back rooms and ad-hoc club nights that make up so much of our musical landscape. It spends time in small and local venues and asks what they mean in personal and cultural terms. Writers visit celebrated spots, long-forgotten spaces and emergent venues. Whatever the lineage, they are independent, original and wonderfully weird. The stories are memories of seismic gigs and life-altering raves. They are mosaic remembrances and recollections; funny, heart-breaking, rage induced and sometimes a combination of all of these things. This is a collection of stories by and for fans, band members, merch sellers, pint pullers, journalists with a freebie, roadies with a backache and sound techs with an earache.

Venue Stories; Narratives, Memories, and Histories from Britain’s Independent Music Spaces; Mann; Edgar; Pleasance – Equinox Publishing

Fraser Mann, Robert Edgar & Helen Pleasance (eds.), Turntable Stories: Narratives, Memories and Histories from In-Between the Grooves

Cover design coming soon …

Turntable Stories is an anthology of stories, memories and histories. It explores global turntable and vinyl record cultures through creative non-fiction forms such as memoir, essays, autoethnography, personal histories and reflection. It explores experiences of club culture and of bedroom mixing. It investigates niche scenes and subcultures and how they manifest in global spaces and contexts. It also features the magic of our first turntables or the decks we learnt to mix on. Chapters are broad and cultural as well as specific and personal. These stories are funny, heart-breaking and weird (or all of these things at once). Contributors are DJs, collectors, researchers, scholars and lovers of musical culture. What’s important is the foregrounding of narratives that explore our relationship with our decks, what we use them for and how they shape our musical and cultural selfhood.

Turntable Stories; Narratives, Memories and Histories from In-between the Grooves; Mann; Edgar; Pleasance – Equinox Publishing

Sam V. H. Reese, Blue Notes: Jazz, Literature and Loneliness

Jazz can be uplifting, stimulating, sensual, and spiritual. Yet when writers turn to this form of music, they almost always imagine it in terms of loneliness. In Blue Notes: Jazz, Literature, and Loneliness, Sam V. H. Reese investigates literary representations of jazz and the cultural narratives often associated with it, noting how they have, in turn, shaped readers’ judgments and assumptions about the music.

This illuminating critical study contemplates the relationship between jazz and literature from a perspective that musicians themselves regularly call upon to characterize their performances: that of the conversation. Reese traces the tradition of literary appropriations of jazz, both as subject matter and as aesthetic structure, in order to show how writers turn to this genre of music as an avenue for exploring aspects of human loneliness. In turn, jazz musicians have often looked to literature—sometimes obliquely, sometimes centrally—for inspiration. Reese devotes particular attention to how several revolutionary jazz artists used the written word as a way to express, in concrete terms, something their music could only allude to or affectively evoke. By analyzing these exchanges between music and literature, Blue Notes refines and expands the cultural meaning of being alone, stressing how loneliness can create beauty, empathy, and understanding.

Reese analyzes a body of prose writings that includes Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and midcentury short fiction by James Baldwin, Julio Cortázar, Langston Hughes, and Eudora Welty. Alongside this vibrant tradition of jazz literature, Reese considers the autobiographies of Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus, as well as works by a range of contemporary writers including Geoff Dyer, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, and Zadie Smith. Throughout, Blue Notes offers original perspectives on the disparate ways in which writers acknowledge the expansive side of loneliness, reimagining solitude through narratives of connected isolation.

Blue Notes (

Benjamin Halligan, Kirsty Fairclough, Robert Edgar and Nicola Spelman (eds.), The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment

The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment is the first sustained engagement with what might said to be – in its melding of concert and gathering, in its evolving relationship with digital and social media, in its delivery of event, experience, technology and star – the art form of the 21st century.

This volume offers interviews with key designers, discussions of the practicalities of mounting arena concerts, mixing and performing live to a mass audience, recollections of the giants of late twentieth century music in performance, and critiques of latter-day pretenders to the throne. The authors track the evolution of the arena concert, consider design and architecture, celebrity and fashion, and turn to feminism, ethnographic research, and ideas of humour, liveness and authenticity, in order to explore and frame the arena concert.

The arena concert becomes the “real time” centre of a global digital network, and the gig-goer pays not only for an immersion in (and, indeed, role in) its spectacular nature, but also for a close encounter with the performers, in this contained and exalted space. The spectacular nature of the arena concert raises challenges that have yet to be fully technologically overcome, and has given rise to a reinvention of what live music actually means.

The Arena Concert: Music, Media and Mass Entertainment: Benjamin Halligan: Bloomsbury Academic

Benjamin Halligan, Robert Edgar & Kirsty Fairclough (eds.) The Music Documentary: Acid Rock to Electropop

The Music Documentary offers a wide-range of approaches, across key moments in the history of popular music, in order to define and interrogate this prominent genre of film-making. The writers in this volume argue persuasively that the music documentary must be considered as an essential cultural artefact in documenting stars and icons, and musicians and their times – particularly for those figures whose fame was achieved posthumously.

In this collection of fifteen essays, the reader will find comprehensive discussions of the history of music documentaries, insights in their production and promotion, close studies of documentaries relating to favourite bands or performers, and approaches to questions of music documentary and form, from the celluloid to the digital age.

The Music Documentary | Acid Rock to Electropop | Benjamin Halligan, R (

Book Sections/Journals

Amy McCarthy (2023) Playing rockstars in movies: St Vincent’s The Nowhere Inn and the meta-music documentary. In: Fairclough, Kirsty, (ed.) This is Me: Interrogating the Female Pop Star Documentary. Bloomsbury (In Press)

Amy, McCarthy (2023) Glitter, rubber ducks, and dinghies: A retrospective look at the Georgian Theatre and the Teesside gigging community during the early-2010s. In: Mann, Fraser, Edgar, Robert  and Pleasance, Helen, (eds.) Venue Stories. Equinox Publishing, pp. 231-237

Amy McCarthy (2023) The Punk, the Rebel, and the Cowboy: Queering Masculine Spaces in Patti Smith’s memoirs. In: Garrigós, Cristina and Ahonen, Marika, (eds.) Women in Rock Memoirs. Oxford University Press

Amy McCarthy (2023) Meet Me in the Bathroom: documentary shows how 9/11 shaped New York’s indie music scene. The Conversation.

Robert Edgar (2023) Chatting with Jarvis in Edgar, R, Mann, F, & Pleasance, H, (eds.) Venue Stories, Equinox Books: Sheffield

Robert Edgar, Fraser Mann, and Helen Pleasance (2019) ‘Music, Memory and Memoir: Critical and creative engagement with an emerging genre’. Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, 12 (1-2). pp. 181-199

Robert Edgar (2019) Hiatus: Music, Memory and Liminal Authenticity in Edgar, R, Mann, F, Pleasance, H. Music, Memory and Memoir, Bloomsbury: New York

Robert Edgar, (2017) The Aesthetics of the Arena: Live and Recorded in Monteiro, S. The Screen Media Reader: Culture, Theory and Practice, Bloomsbury, New York, 421-434