Rhythm and Resistance: Explorations in the Political Uses of Popular Music

Rhythm and Resistance: Explorations in the Political Uses of Popular Music

Rhythm and Resistance: Explorations in the Political Uses of Popular Music

Rhythm and Resistance: Explorations in the Political Uses of Popular Music

Synopsis

Beginning with the spirituals of the slaves and the gospel of the black church and continuing through the blues, jazz forms, country, folk, and rock, Rhythm and Resistance presents popular music as part of a continuing effort, over two centuries, to create community values and identity in the face of social transformations. The book refutes the idea that the use of popular music for expression by a "socially marginal" society is new. The author demonstrates that popular music as an expression of community identity is centuries old.

Excerpt

Rhythm and Resistance is an interpretive exploration of "political" uses of popular music from the era of slavery through the present. Many recent theorists of popular culture have stressed the way "marginality" has, in Stuart Hall's words, become "at last a productive space." This phenomenon is by no means "new," but extends back two centuries to the cultural creations of slaves--the black church, spirituals, work songs, field hollers--and then to the blues and gospel. All these forms are reflected in later jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, rock 'n' roll, rock, and rap. These earlier forms were taken up by whites and invested with new energies such that they appeared as virtually new, or "reinvented," forms but were really extensions of earlier forms.

This book conceives of popular or "people's" music as part of a continuing effort to create forms of community in response to social transformations--the trauma of modernization--that empty out all the "little worlds" (Marshall Berman's term) in which people live. Human existence is conceived as a quest for community or, more specifically, for "free spaces" and "utopias" to which popular culture is a manufactured response.

The human reality is conceived as a "contested" reality in which people struggle in what M. M. Bakhtin would call a "dialogic" process to create a satisfying existence out of the raw materials provided by "culture industries.

In this sense Rhythm and Resistance constitutes a fundamental critique of the approach (probably started by T. W. Adorno 1944 essay "The Culture Industry") that sees popular culture as imposed on an inert public.

The Springsteen phenomenon of the 1980s, for example, is examined at length because of that artist's effort to remind us of what we have lost and to reassert . . .

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