Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture

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Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture (1999) by Bruce Horner and Thom Swiss is a compilation of original essays by leading scholars in the field of popular music. It aims to map the competing perspectives on the key terms of contemporary debates on popular music and culture.


  • "The emphasis of study upon a particular aspect of music is in itself ideological because it contains implications about the music's value."
  • "We can no longer maintain any distinction between music and discourse about music, between the supposed object of analysis and the terms of analysis."
  • "Hip-hop backbeats have supported vocalists as far-flung as Bruce Springsteen and Sinead O'Connor, and digital samples have crossed over still more unexpected territory."
  • "'Form' has always come into being in a dialogue between particular 'instances' and the larger body of work, or 'tradition.'"
  • "If words, images, and movements as elements of popular music's texts are linked in powerful ways to popular music's sounds in a manner that we yet do not fully understand, then...we may conclude that, although music can be textual, it is textual in some very distinctive ways."
  • "Performance has remained the ideal locus of rock authenticity long after it has ceased to be the real origin of rock music."
  • "Women are still a relative rarity in rock bands, and studies of women's experiences with pop and rock music have indicated that girls are socialized to pop and rock music differently from boys: boys and young men tend to learn songs by ear and talk about popular music's technical aspects, while girls and young women tend to focus on lyrics rather than on equipment and instrumentation, and to resist learning songs by ear. Miki Bernyi's experience testifies to the truthfulness of those findings:
      • 'Girls don't have the patience to spend six years learning someone else's music. Me and Emma [Anderson] can't jam because we only know how to play our own songs. Jamming's more of a boy's thing....I think that women play more imaginatively because they learn to play while they're writing songs, instead of waiting to be technically good first.' (Quoted in Evans, 1994, p. 44)
  • "These differences can make it difficult for female musicians to enter male-dominated musical cultures."
  • "The term "chorus form" is often used to denote a type of performance - typically in jazz or rhythm 'n' blues, but also sometimes in country music and rock 'n' roll - where a given structural unit is repeated an indefinite number of times. The unit itself may be sectionally elaborate, as in the case of most Tin Pan Alley ballads. It may be twelve-bar blues, or something similar, as in the case of many R&B and rock 'n' roll numbers: here, a three-line AAB lyric, set to a three-phrase melody, is underpinned by a single gestural sweep in the harmony. Occasionally - as in some funk, dub reggae, and hip-hop, for example - it may approach the status of open-ended process."