Friday, June 17, 2011

Simon Frith - The Aesthetics of Popular music

Simon Frith - "Towards an Aesthetic of Popular Music" - summary
part 1 - 2 - 3

In the last part of "Towards an Aesthetic of Popular Music" Simon Firth examines the reasons which allow popular culture to fulfill its social functions which were identified in the preceding parts of "Towards an Aesthetic of Popular Music". He offers four points for future analysis.

Frith's first point concerns the manner in which 20th century popular culture has absorbed musical conventions of African-American music. His second point is the predominant place voice has in modern popular music and the fact that we react to the singer's voice whether we understand the lyrics or not, and that says something of their narrative structure. Frith's third point is that popular music is open to genre analysis and classification of the different ways in which music uses narrative structure to produce patterns of self identification and to express different emotions. Frith suggest the classification of popular music genres through their ideological functions and in accordance to the manner to present themselves as art, community of emotion.

For Frith, popular music has been, for the past 50 years, an important way in which we learn to understand ourselves as historical, ethnic, gender and class subjects. Pop music has the ability of positioning us in society but also a capacity to subvert social structures. As Frith puts it "pop tastes do not just derive from our socially constructed identities; they also help to shape them". Additionally, pop for Frith has an individualizing effect – "what pop can do is put into play a sense of identity that may or may not fit the way we are placed by other social forces", and this is why, in the end, Frith wonders whether the value of popular music is that is has "some sort of collective, disruptive cultural effect". 
Taking Popular Music Seriously (Ashgate Contemporary Thinkers on Critical Musicology)

Simon Frith - "Towards an Aesthetic of Popular Music" - summary
part 1 - 2 - 3