Learning to Listen to Perfect Sound: Hi-fi Culture and Changes in Modes of Listening, 1950–80

Authored by: Alf Björnberg

The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Musicology

Print publication date:  December  2009
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754664765
eBook ISBN: 9781315613451
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041986


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One recurring strand in twentieth-century musical–cultural critique concerns the effects of the technicalization of music on listening behaviour, listener attitudes and modes of listening. Among the more well-known examples, Adorno’s typology and critique of modes of listening may be mentioned. 1 His arguments, and those of other scholars in the same vein, have often been criticized for their strong normative aspect; however, such critique has tended to obscure some important insights into processes of change affecting music-listening as a result of technicalization and mediaization – the latter term referring to the processes whereby ‘a form of music is changed in different ways and adapted to the media system’. 2 The insight that technologies of sound reproduction and media systems have deeply affected processes of production, distribution and reception of music since the late nineteenth century is, of course, not new. The last two decades have witnessed a growing body of literature dealing with the history of sound-reproduction technology not just from a technological perspective, but also from economic, social and cultural perspectives. It seems, however, that accounts of phenomenological aspects of the reception of mediaized music – how people have listened to recorded and broadcast music and conceptualized what they heard – are still somewhat underrepresented in this body of literature.

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