We live full-time in San Francisco but it doesn’t feel like it because we spend three to four months a year in Europe, mostly in France, mostly in Paris, but with visits to some other places from time to time.
We’re back in the 5th arrondisement as of September 1, 2015. We’re trying to stay in Paris, or at least in France, most of the time. I will receive an honorary degree from Goldsmith's College, London in early September. (Les Back of Goldsmith's recorded a long conversation with me, now available on Mark Carrigan's very interesting blog called "The Sociological Imagination.") And I'll deliver a paper on "Musical Language" at a conference in Vienna celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Institute of Music Sociology in September.
Jean Peneff's biography of me is now available from L'Harmattan in Paris: Howard S. Becker, sociologue et musicien dans l'ecole du Chicago. You'll have to read it in French. I have and I think it's pretty good.
We’ve been involved in some interesting events related to Do You Know . . . ? The Jazz Repertoire in Action, the book about the music business Rob Faulkner and I published in 2009. Here’s what’s happened since. In 2010 (this seems like a distraction but really isn’t), Dianne and I met Franck Leibovici, a conceptual artist and poet who lives in Paris. He was organizing a project in which he asked artists and others to make something which showed the “form of life” which supported the work they did. He invited us to participate and we did. The results of this project were published in a “Panini,” or “Sticker book,” the kind kids paste stickers of sports figures in, after trading with others. We both said yes and you can see the results in (des forms de vie): une écologie des pratiques artistiques. I wasn’t sure what to do until Dianne reminded me that Faulkner and I wrote our entire book without meeting in person for more than very brief periods and, really, the whole thing was done by e-mail, which thus was the form of life that supported that work. So Rob and I pasted all the e-mails together into a long document, which Dianne edited meticulously, and Franck wrote a Preface for. Of course, no conventional publisher would publish such a thing, but Larry Gross, who among other things is the head of the Annenberg Press, agreed to publish it as an e-book. And so Thinking Together: An E-Mail Exchange and All That Jazz is available now from Amazon, the Apple Store, and other places that handle e-books. And, to top it off, a printed version (yes, on paper! and, yes, in English only) is available from Questions Théoriques. And—a late development—a review by Marc Perrenoud of Thinking Together on the web site of La vie des idées, both the original version and an English translation found on the English language version of the site, Books and Ideas.
The University of Chicago Press published What About Mozart? What About Murder? Reasoning from Cases last year. I’d thought about this book for years and worked on it sporadically, but finally buckled down and finished it. And in September 2015, the Press will publish Becoming A Marijuana User, the original article and a new preface, in a very handsomely designed small book you might want to give your younger relatives as a thoughtful gift.
Less recently, I participated in two events which have been commemorated in books. Both took place in France. In 2010, Pierre-Jean Benghozi and Thomas Paris organized a colloque (big conference) at Cerisy, a conference center in Normandie, where a bunch of us stayed for five days, enjoying the hospitality of this wonderful institution, and talking about me and my work. The results have now appeared in a book they edited, titled Howard Becker & les Mondes de l'Art Colloque de Cerisy. This book includes a forty-five minute film of the doings made by Giuseppe Viecchi, which contains, among other things, some clips of the musicians who were there, me included, playing during the evenings.
In 2011, Marc Perrenoud organized a meeting in Lausanne around my ideas about the sociology of work, and those papers have appeared, edited by Marc, as Le travail sociologique de Howard Becker (Paris: La Découverte, 2013).
I’ve twice participated in the activities of a group of doctorants at the École des Hautes Études in Paris, doing a question-and-answer session with a pretty big crowd. The people involved have put the results up on the web for people to enjoy at their leisure (the 2011 event and the one in 2012).
Here’s something for the curious. There once was another sociologist named Howard Becker, who was quite famous in his day (roughly the 30s to the 60s). Learn more about him, why we aren’t related, and who he was related to by clicking here.