Friday, 26 October 2007

Serial Behaviour: "Nevermind The Beatles, here's Exile 61 and Nico"

Have recently done some Luhmannesque investigation of popular music, both on this blog, and elsewhere. What happens when we start to look at the "interpenetration" of social and psychic systems, in the form of the critic, the listmaker, "the greatest albums of all time"? What purposes do the drawing of such distinctions serve? I'm gathering material on these topics, and hope to put some of it up here soon (unfortunately my time has become more restricted, with the year drawing to a close, mounting commitments etc).
In the meantime, I've just come across another approach, which I suspect is closer to a Bourdieu type taxonomy of "taste", while still making some concession to the "disinterestedness" of aesthetics. I'm trying to repress visions of High Fidelity though.....
Nevermind The Beatles, here's Exile 61 and Nico: ‘The top 100 records of all time’ – a canon of pop and rock albums from a sociological and an aesthetic perspective
"Popular Music" (2006), 25: 21-39 Cambridge University Press Copyright © 2006 Cambridge University Press-->
Copyright © 2006 Cambridge University Press
Published online by Cambridge University Press 17Feb2006

For this article the authors analysed thirty-eight lists of ‘The 100 greatest albums of all time’ type. As the findings demonstrate, a canon of popular music has evolved which shows strong tendencies towards stability in featuring albums from the late 1960s (especially those by The Beatles), while only a few albums from the 1990s have gained ‘classic’ status. The canon's contents and exclusions are explained by the social dispositions of the participants, predominantly white males aged twenty to forty. Influenced by efforts of the cultural industries, these actors also evaluate certain albums for the purposes of distinguishing themselves from the ‘mainstream’. Furthermore, aesthetic and artistic criteria underlying the esteem of the ‘masterworks’ are identified by analysing reviews. The authors suggest that future research on canonisation should interlock sociological and aesthetic perspectives. Findings from such an approach might initiate reflection among music fans about their own exclusions, and result in an opening up of the meaning and significance of the canon.

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