Campus Box 1032
About Todd Decker
Professor Decker’s principal area of research is commercial popular music of the United States from 1900 to the present (Broadway, Hollywood film and television, the recorded music industry, and jazz). He teaches courses on American popular music, Hollywood film music and sound, and eighteenth-century European art music.
His first book, Music Makes Me: Fred Astaire and Jazz, received the 2012 Best First Book Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Music Makes Me locates 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 studio-era film musical and variety television. His second book, Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical, uses extensive archival research to consider how performers—both black and white—shaped this landmark work in its original 1927 Broadway production and in subsequent versions produced in New York, London, and Hollywood.
Prof. Decker’s current projects include a short book on the performance history of the song “Ol’ Man River” and a longer study of music and sound in post-1975 Hollywood war films.
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 and staging musical theatre.
- Combat Movie Music and Sound after Vietnam (in preparation)
- Who Should Sing “Ol’ Man River”?: Tales of American Singers Transforming a Classic Song (in preparation)
- 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:
- “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
- Belles Lettres: A Literary Review (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
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