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MUSI 1002 Lecture 1 Summary

Lecture 1
What is popular music? Frans Birrer’s 4-Part Definition (1985)
1. Normative Definitions: Popular music is an inferior type
2. Negative Definitions: Popular music is that is not something else (usually “folk” or “art
3. Sociological Definitions: Popular music is associated with (or produced for or by) a particular
social group
4. Technological-economic Definitions: Popular music is disseminated by mass media and/or in
a mass market
-Print dissemination as early as the late 15th century
-Earliest stages of modern commodification of popular music through print and performance
traced to Tin Pan Alley
-Occupied a space somewhere between folk and art music
“low” and “high” culture
“Low” or folk musical culture:
Agrarian and later proletarian poor oral dissemination
Produced and consumed outside of economic exchange
“High” or art musical culture:
-associated with high(er) classes nobility, church, and bourgeoisie
-print and professional performance dissemination
-musical/cultural literacy required
-more complex
-produced and consumed in conditions of economic exchange
Popular music:
-occupies a space between “high” and “low”
-borrowed from both
-positioned itself in opposition to high culture often in problematic ways
-borrowed (parodically and parasitically from high and low)
-African-American and other non-western styles “superficially” adopted for novelty
-print and professional performance dissemination
-musical literacy required
Print -> Recorded Music -> Film
“Mass Culture”:
-Emerges with invention of recording, radio, film and mass print dissemination
Pre-mass culture popular music
-may be seen as growing from same source as folk
-a kind of music by and of the people
-much grew out of and came to replace local practices
-displaced with newer popular music
Post-mass culture popular music
-created by often geographically distant professionals expressly for consumption
-music explicitly created for the masses (cannot have specific appeal)
-active engagement replaced by passive engagement
-music has been privatized and no longer “culturally” owned
-Popular music (in its mature form) is both commodity and culture
-It shapes and is shaped by developments in culture and commerce
-“The culture industry is the central agency in contemporary capitalism for the
production and satisfaction of false needs”
Theodore Adorno (1903-1969)
-Member of the “Frankfurt School” of cultural theorists
-“Broadly” Marxist
-With Horkheimer, criticized capital’s control over social life and resulting inequalitites
-Culture industries a central tool of political domination
-Adorno and Horkheimer pioneered the field of “critical theory”