Soft Serve


“Either the ice cream man and his music are warmly symbolic of ‘Main Street USA,’ an idealized, mythic space resistant to objective curiosity; or ice cream truck music is a scourge on the urban soundscape, produce by tin-eared engineers whose saccharine and invasive noiseboxes drive neighborhoods to distraction. Neither approach seems particularly informative.”—Daniel Neely

A musicologist combed archives and spoke with a number of truck drivers and inventors to chart the evolution of that perennial summer anthem, the ice cream truck jingle.

Daniel Tannehill Neely is a musician and ethnomusicologist with specialties in the music of Ireland and Jamaica. He earned a Ph.D. in musicology from New York University, receiving a Fulbright Scholarship for his dissertation on Jamaican mento music. Neely has contributed essays to a number of books, including Jamaica Jamaica! (Philharmonie de Paris, 2017), Victorian Jamaica (Duke University Press, 2009), and The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (2008); he writes a weekly column about traditional music for the Irish Echo.