Campus Box 1032
About Todd Decker
Prof. Decker has published three books on commercial popular music in the United States from the 1920s to the present (Broadway, Hollywood film and television, the recorded music industry, and jazz).
- Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz (University of California Press, 2011) received the Best First Book Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Music Makes Me locates Fred Astaire’s film and television career in the histories of popular song and jazz and explores Astaire’s dances accompanied by African American musicians in the segregated world of the film musical.
- Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical (Oxford University Press, 2013) uses extensive archival research to consider how performers—both black and white—shaped this landmark work in its original 1927 Broadway version and in subsequent versions produced in New York, London, and Hollywood.
- Who Should Sing “Ol’ Man River”?: The Lives of an American Song (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2014) traces the performance history of this very well-known song across eight decades and a wide array of genres—jazz to rock, opera to gospel, doo wop to reggae—with an ear to how the history of race relations in the U.S. has played out in the realm of popular music.
His current book project, Hymns for the Fallen: Combat Movie Music and Sound after Vietnam (under contract with University of California Press) examines how a signal Hollywood film genre—the war film—deployed music and sound in the creation of narrative feature films centered on the experience of American soldiers on foreign battlefields after the debacle of the Vietnam War.
Prof. Decker received his Ph.D. in historical musicology at the University of Michigan in 2007 and was selected for an Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Fellowship by the American Musicological Society in 2006-07. He joined the faculty of Washington University in fall 2007—after a one-year visiting professor position at UCLA—and teaches courses on twentieth-century American popular music, film music, and eighteenth-century European art music. He has given numerous scholarly presentations nationally and internationally, including at the Library of Congress, the University of Texas at Austin, and Northwestern University.
Outside his work on American music, Prof. Decker has published articles on eighteenth-century keyboard composer Domenico Scarlatti and holds a Master of Music in harpsichord performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has many years of experience performing on harpsichord, piano, and organ, as well as conducting, directing, choreographing, and performing musical theatre. He frequently accompanies his wife, soprano Kelly Daniel-Decker, in cabaret shows of classic American popular songs.
- Combat Movie Music and Sound after Vietnam (under contract with University of California Press)
- Who Should Sing “Ol’ Man River”?: The Lives of an American Song (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2014)
- Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical (Oxford University Press, 2013)
- Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz (University of California Press, 2011)
Articles and Book Chapters:
- “Fancy Meeting You Here: Pioneers of the Concept Album.” Daedalus 142/4, Fall 2013.
- Entries in The Grove Dictionary of American Music 2nd edition (Charles Hiroshi Garrett, ed., Oxford University Press, 2013): “Fred Astaire,” “Josephine Baker,” “Jack Benny,” “Bing Crosby,” “Todd Duncan,” “Judy Garland,” “Jackie Gleason,” “Gene Kelly,” “Lonette McKee,” “Helen Morgan,” “Musical Theater, 1918-1930,” “Bill (Bojangles) Robinson,” “Ginger Rogers,” “Saint Louis, Missouri,” “Shirley Temple (Black),” “Ethel Waters”
- “The Musical Mr. Ripley: Closeting a Character in the 1950s and a Film in the 1990s” in Music, Sound and the Moving Image 6/2, Fall 2012.
- "On the Scenic Route to Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn (1942)" in Journal of Musicology 28/4, Fall 2011
- "Race, Ethnicity, Performance" in The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical, edited by Raymond Knapp, Mitchell Morris and Stacy Wolf (Oxford University Press, 2011)
- “‘Do You Want to Hear a Mammy Song?’: A Historiography of Show Boat” in Contemporary Theatre Review 19/1, February 2009.
- “The Essercizi and the Editors: Visual Virtuosity, Large-Scale Form and Editorial Reception” in Domenico Scarlatti Adventures: Essays to Commemorate the 250th Anniversary of his Death (Ad Parnassum Studies 3), edited by W. Dean Sutcliffe and Massimiliano Sala (Ut Orpheus Edizioni, 2008).
- “‘Scarlattino, the wonder of his time’: Domenico Scarlatti’s Absent Presence in Eighteenth-Century England” in Eighteenth-Century Music 2/2, September 2005.
- American Music
- The Figure in the Carpet (Center for the Humanities, WUSTL)
- Journal of Popular Music Studies
- Theatre Journal
- Best First Book Award for Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz, Society for Cinema and Media Studies. 2012
- Faculty Fellowship, Spring 2011, Center for the Humanities, Washington University in St. Louis
- Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Fellow, 2006-07, American Musicological Society
Combat Movie Music and Sound after Vietnam
Bruce Springsteen's USA
Popular Music in American Culture
History of the Film Score
The American Musical Film
Introduction to Musicological Research
Introduction to Popular Music Studies
American Musical Biography
Music in the Eighteenth Century
Soundtrack Studies: Music, Noise, Voices