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Growing Old Together: Pop Studies and Music Sociology Today


Popular music and society had been thought inseparable long before the union was made official, at first in the title of pop's original academic journal (1971), later in that of a much-taught textbook (1995). In many minds at late century, sociologies of music were sociologies of pop: Western art music's true believers could still easily imagine that repertoire existing on another plane – the historical literature was devoted to the minute detailing of its mucky creative contexts, but that didn't have to matter – and critically minded, social science-trained pop scholars usually didn't care enough to argue. Yet music sociology's first, halting steps had actually been taken in approaching the classical canon, and the movement of the 1980s and 1990s that was the New Musicology seemed radical precisely because it opened so many doors onto the social. That, then, was the situation twenty years ago, at least in the Anglophone countries: a popular music studies reaching maturity but still largely embedded in sociology and media/communications departments, and a musicology gradually transforming into a discipline in which music was much more openly reconciled with the worlds of its making.

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1 The journal Popular Music and Society is published by Routledge. Longhurst, Brian, Popular Music and Society (Cambridge: Polity, 1995).

2 See, for instance, Grossberg, Lawrence, ‘Reflections of a Disappointed Popular Music Scholar’, in Rock Over the Edge: Transformations in Popular Music Culture, ed. Beebe, Roger, Fulbrook, Denise, and Saunders, Ben (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), 2559 , and Frith, Simon’s response in his review of that volume in Popular Music 23/3 (2004), 363–72.

3 See Regev, Motti, Pop-Rock Music: Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism in Late Modernity (Cambridge: Polity, 2013).

4 Peterson, Richard A. and Kern, Roger M., ‘Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore’, American Sociological Review 61/5 (1996), 900–7.

5 Mark Mulligan, ‘The Labels Still Don't Get YouTube and It's Costing Them’, Music Industry Blog, 8 January 2016 . (accessed 22 September 2016).

6 See Hesmondhalgh, David, ‘Audiences and Everyday Aesthetics: Talking about Good and Bad Music’, European Journal of Cultural Studies 10/4 (2007), 507–27; Nowak, Raphaël and Bennett, Andy, ‘Analysing Everyday Sound Environments: The Space, Time and Corporality of Musical Listening’, Cultural Sociology 8/4 (2014), 426–42.

7 ‘Can We Get Rid of the “Popular” in Popular Music? A Virtual Symposium with Contributions from the International Advisory Editors of Popular Music’, Popular Music 24/1 (2005), 133–45.

8 The ‘descriptive/discursive’ distinction was Richard Middleton's. ‘Can We Get Rid of the “Popular” in Popular Music?’, 143.

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Twentieth-Century Music
  • ISSN: 1478-5722
  • EISSN: 1478-5730
  • URL: /core/journals/twentieth-century-music
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