‘I think that no one really wants pop music to become art because it is enough as entertainment, and if it were just a bit better, one could not look at it with an indulgent smile…’ In this bitter way János Bródy, a member of the once legendary beat group, Illés, formulated his opinion about the institutions responsible for the production, function, reception and, last but not least, the quality of pop (rock, beat) music, that is to say, the music of the young in Hungary. Whether rock or pop can be regarded as art at all or whether it is by nature an inferior genre is a question beyond the scope of this article. I am concerned here with some of the basic functional principles of the institutions of pop life and their impact on the music itself in this country in the past fifteen to twenty years. I would like to discuss these problems in terms of autonomy and self-expression rather than in terms of claimed aesthetic values, since I find the former a basic condition of producing values in this type of music.t This belief is supported by a close look at the history of Hungarian pop: it seems that under favourable social and political conditions, that is, in a period of social and cultural dynamism, characterised by an open, tolerant or relatively supportive media policy, pop music can produce (as it obviously did in the second half of the sixties) artistic values too, and give authentic expression to the aspirations, attitudes and ethos of a very large segment of the young population.
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