Listening to Popular Music: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Led Zeppelin

Listening to Popular Music: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Led Zeppelin

by Theodore Gracyk




It has long been assumed that people who prefer Led Zeppelin to Mozart live aesthetically impoverished lives. But why? In Listening to Popular Music, award-winning popular music scholar Theodore Gracyk argues that aesthetic value is just as important in popular listening as it is with “serious” music. And we don’t have to treat popular music as art in order to recognize its worth. Aesthetic values are realized differently in different musical styles, and each requires listening skills that people must learn.

Boldly merging insights from popular music studies, aesthetic theory, cognitive science, psychology, identity theory, and cultural studies, Gracyk crafts an innovative study that argues that understanding aesthetic value is crucial to the enjoyment of all forms of music. Listening to Popular Music thusoffers a new, general framework for understanding what it means to appreciate music, showing that an informed preference for popular music is a response to real values of the music, including aesthetic values.
"Finally, a book on aesthetics that's philosophically grounded, anti-elitist, and tailored to popular music. Much needed and deftly achieved."
—William Echard, Department of Music, and Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture, Carleton University
"A sophisticated account of aesthetic value in popular music that revealingly challenges orthodoxies of cultural studies and traditional aesthetics."
—Stephen Davies, Department of Philosophy, University of Auckland, and author of The Philosophy of Art

"Gracyk's arguments are thoughtful, clear, and persuasive, and it's refreshing to see him expose the flaws in commonly repeated critiques of popular music. This book will challenge open-minded doubters to take popular music seriously."
—Mark Katz, Assistant  Professor of Music, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and author of Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music
Theodore Gracyk is Department Chair and Professor of Philosophy at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He is the author of Rhythm and Noise: An Aesthetics of Rock and I Wanna Be Me: Rock Music and the Politics of Identity, which won the 2002 IASPM-US Woody Guthrie Book Award.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780472069835
Publisher: University of Michigan Press
Publication date: 05/02/2007
Series: Tracking Pop Series
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     xi
Introduction: Aesthetics and Popular Music     1
Aesthetics without Elitism
Separating Aesthetics from Art     11
The Question of "Art"     11
Pet Sounds and Traditional Criteria for Art Status     15
The Problem Generalized     24
Pierre Bourdieu and the Sociological Critique     28
Everyday Aesthetics     35
Clearing Space for Aesthetic Value     41
Interpreting Songs     41
The Social Relevance Thesis     46
Dutch Teens and the Excess Problem     51
The Interaction of Politics and Aesthetics     59
The Case of "Bohemian Rhapsody"     63
Pragmatic Considerations     67
Aesthetic Principles and Aesthetic Properties     73
Unprincipled Evaluations     73
Listening to the Blues     77
Four Challenges to Aesthetic Principles     87
Musical Categories and Ideal Critics     94
The Aesthetic Value of the Popular
Appreciating, Valuing, and Evaluating Music     103
Distinguishing among Objects of Evaluation     103
Appreciating and Evaluating     109
Cognitive Value and Appreciation     114
Functionalityand Value     118
The Value of a Taste for a Musical Style     123
Value as Choice and as Importance     127
The Ideas of Hearing and Listening     134
A Short History of the Distinction     135
Denigrating the Popular     139
Is Listening an Exclusive Activity?     143
Listening to David Bowie     146
Listening as Engagement with Symbols
Music's Worldly Uses     153
Traditional Elitism     154
Music as Thought     157
Unexpected Communities     167
The Politics of Noise     172
Taste and Musical Identity     176
Music in Identities     178
Adolescence and the Problem of Self-Identity     181
Imagining Music and Imagining Self     184
Conclusion     191
Notes     195
Selected Bibliography     225
Index     231

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