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Understanding Popular Music

A popular music course by Dr Richard Elliott (work in progress).

Richard Elliott

on 4 October 2011

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Transcript of Understanding Popular Music

Understanding Popular Music

A course by Dr Richard Elliott

http://newcastle.academia.edu/richardelliott Popular How would you define "popular"? How would you define "popular music"? Is there such a thing as “unpopular music”?

If so, what might it be? Definitions Widely favoured or well-liked by many people Of the people

(but who are they?) common
debased NOT quality
NOT high
NOT art Mass-produced for mass-consumption Commercial, not authentic

(so, not of the people after all?!) Uses “popular songs” (1841)
“popular music” (1855)
“popular concert” (1859)
“popular song industry” (1935) In music, “pop” is derived from “popular music” - but are the terms synonymous? see entry for “Popular” in Tony Bennett, Lawrence Grossberg and Meaghan Morris (eds.), New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), pp.262-4 popular folk art other Walter Benjamin

‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936)

loss of the “aura” of the original artwork Theodor Adorno

mass production leads to standardisation of culture
false consciousness
passivity of the proletariat, reduced to consumers
against popular music THE CULTURE INDUSTRY Emphasis on consumption and on the use of the products of the culture industry

Making meaning from popular culture


right elitism (Arnold’s “culture and anarchy”)
left elitism (Adorno’s culture industry)

Popular as political

though, of course, it was always political & ideological cultural studies To take a position in defining popular music is to strategize

Think about your definitions...

...are they strategies to guard against music you don’t like or want to shut off?

What about the music we all hear but don’t choose to hear?

What are the strategies involved in (not) thinking about this music? STRATEGIES is popular music just music that it’s cool to like? Conscious consumers

Cultural capital (Bourdieu)

Subculture (Hall, Hebdige)

Subcultural capital (Thornton) “Ubiquitous musics” (Kassabian)

lack of value
no conscious consumers
no credibility
no cool value EXAMPLES Material prepared by Dr Richard Elliott

http://newcastle.academia.edu/richardelliott Find Walter Benjamin's essay:
http://tinyurl.com/3afjqrc Read Adorno:
Full transcript