Problematising popular music history in the context of heritage and memory

Authored by: Bruce Johnson

The Routledge Companion to Popular Music History and Heritage

Print publication date:  May  2018
Online publication date:  May  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138237636
eBook ISBN: 9781315299310
Adobe ISBN:


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Research gathered under the explicit rubric of popular music, memory and cultural heritage is broadening the horizons of popular music studies. The prevailing understanding of ‘popular music’ sees modern technological mediations for a mass market as constitutive. This model tends to occlude most of the world’s live everyday music-making, which is central to the formation of cultural heritage, and it also generally limits historical perspective to the late twentieth century. It severs the meaning of ‘popular’ from pre-twentieth century understandings of the term and which are still current among many contemporary scholars. The identification of popular music with transnational commercialisation also tends to homogenise music practices, and fails to recognise the problems raised by the dynamics and pre-twentieth century history of the high/low culture divide. Studying popular music in relation to concepts of memory and heritage has pushed against the envelope of the present to deepen historical and geo-cultural perspective, bringing more attention to bear on neglected popular cultural forms and practices. Enlarging the understanding of popular music beyond modern mass mediations also discloses links with supposedly remote disciplines, for example by restoring a stronger sense of the role of the body in music and music cognition.

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