At times jubilant, at times elegiac, this set of ten essays by music historian Michael Hicks navigates topics that range from the inner musical life of Joseph Smith to the Mormon love of blackface musicals, from endless wrangling over hymnbooks to the compiling of Mormon folk and exotica albums in the 1960s. It also offers a brief memoir of what happened to LDS Church President Spencer Kimball’s record collection and a lengthy, brooding piece on the elegant strife it takes to write about Mormon musical history in the first place. There are surprises and provocations, of course, alongside judicious sifting of sources and weighing of evidence. The prose is fresh, the research smart, and the result a welcome mixture of the careful and the carefree from Mormonism’s best-known scholar of musical life.
Michael Hicks recently retired after thirty-five years as a professor of music at Brigham Young University. He is the author of five books in University of Illinois Press’s Music in American Life series, including Mormonism and Music: A History, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir: A Biography. His historical and analytical articles have appeared in books such as the Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World and the Oxford Handbook of Mormonism as well as journals that include Journal of the American Musicological Society and Journal of Aesthetic Education. He has twice won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award (1994 and 2003) for his writing about music and a third time as editor of the journal American Music, a post he held in 2007–10. He and his wife, Pam, are the parents of four children and grandparents of fourteen.