Coastal Environments in Popular Song: An Author’s Experience

After many months of waiting, the latest book I’ve contributed to has now hit the stores. Coastal Environments in Popular Song explores how coastal communities around the world use popular music to discuss pressing issues such as climate change, gender inequality, and (post-)colonialism. For more information, previews and ordering, check Routledge’s website.

This is not a book review (it’s bad form to review a book if you’re in it) but I do need to say that this is a cool collection that explores important topics in an accessible way, at least to academic standards. Looking at the table of contents, the variety of subjects immediately struck my eye: there’s a chapter on the coast and eroticism (by Jonathan Day), one on reggae and postcolonial critique (by Justin Patch) and one on postrock (by Gareth Schott). And that’s just scratching the surface. I’ve always been big on interdisciplinary research, which sadly appears to have gone out of fashion in today’s risk-averse academic landscape, so it’s great to see a collection that’s doing it so successfully.

Brief recap of my own contribution: my chapter focuses on representations of the coast in Dutch popular music. When Glenn Fosbraey, the editor, asked me if I would consider submitting an abstract, it was the first subject that sprang to my mind. I am Dutch, although I’ve been based in the UK for many years now, and it seemed like a nice opportunity to explore my own heritage. It was also a nice continuation of work I’ve done on metal music and contemporary popular culture. Yet popular music isn’t, strictly speaking, my field. I’m grateful for the opportunity to expand my intellectual horizon and to have been allowed to have done so in such excellent company.

I’m fully aware that one is supposed to keep scholarly work and personal life separate, but I can’t help but notice how my personal attachment to the subject matter has pushed my essay forward. I researched and wrote it during the pandemic, when visiting my family was not a possibility. Even though The Netherlands and the UK are separated only by a narrow strip of sea, it felt like we were millions of miles apart. Yet I was able to connect with my origins and create something positive during a difficult time. My brother Joe suggested music for me to check out and my dad shared his memories of the Dutch coastal pop scene during the 1960s. It’s fair to say that the final product would have looked very different without their input.

I started a new job around the time the book was off to the printers and haven’t done much writing in the past months, academic or otherwise. I will probably write up my reflections on my career move some other time, as I feel it might be of interest to other scholars who have chosen a non-traditional scholarly path, but I’ll save that for another day. Let’s finish by saying that I’m proud to have this book on my desk and can’t wait to read the other contributions. Not many academic books are “readable” in the traditional sense, but this one certainly is, and I’m pleased to have played a part in its creation.

Image my own (Scheveningen beach, The Netherlands, photgraphed in 2012)

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