Reconstructing the past

Popular music and historiography

Authored by: Steve Waksman

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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The field of popular music studies has seen something of a historical turn since the start of the twenty-first century, which has had an impact upon both the methodological and the topical emphases at work in the field. This chapter examines the convergence of popular music and historiography mainly through a focus on US popular music scholarship, and along three primary lines of enquiry. First, I discuss canonical and recent publications that raise crucial questions about when we should consider the history of popular music in its modern formation to begin. Second, I survey a range of works that have together comprised the historical turn in twenty-first century popular music studies, demonstrating how these studies have prompted a reconsideration of a range of issues that are crucial to the field. These include the shape and structure of the music industry, the effects of recording technology and the workings of race and gender within popular music. Finally, I conclude with a consideration of early sources that can be understood to constitute something of a ‘pre-history’ of popular music studies, and that have assumed new importance as the field has moved toward a more sustained engagement with historiographical questions.

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