Tramps like Us: Music & Meaning among Springsteen Fans

By Daniel Cavicchi | Go to book overview

6
Musically Shaping the Self

In the beginning of my fieldwork, I started interviews with fans by asking them to tell me a little about themselves. While I was acquainted with several of the people with whom I spoke, most were strangers who had simply answered an advertisement, and I intended the question as a way both to break the ice and, more important, to allow me to learn about who they were. Such an approach was fairly effective; while some people seemed uncomfortable with the question, most answered it good-naturedly, talking about age and occupation and engaging in guarded small talk about their aspirations. I knew the question put them in an awkward position, but it was a start. I assumed getting to know them personally would take some time, that I would learn more as I met with them again and worked to gain their trust.

However, to my surprise, as soon as I turned conversations toward the topic of fandom, almost all the fans with whom I spoke suddenly began to share all kinds of things about their personal identities that they had withheld only minutes earlier: they told stories about themselves in different situations; they reminisced about their pasts, their families, and their friends; they offered cogent self-analyses about their likes and dislikes, habits, and attachments; and they took great pains to articulate how they thought they were similar to or different from others they knew. In fact, in discussing fandom I learned much about people that may have otherwise taken a lengthy friendship; while they may have just warmed up to me after the first question, it seemed more as if fandom suddenly and actively enabled them to share what they could not in ordinary discourse.

There is something about fandom that quickly leads people into the realm of the private, that focuses their discussion and thinking on their personal experiences and thoughts. As I showed in the last chapter, listening involves creating associations between the music and experience; in fandom, the two become so entangled that it is difficult to locate the music's meaning without talking about

-134-

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Tramps like Us: Music & Meaning among Springsteen Fans
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Contents xv
  • Introduction - Studying Fandom 3
  • 1 - Does Anybody Have Any Faith Out There Tonight? 22
  • 2 - Touched by the Music 38
  • 3 - Ignoring the Music Business 60
  • 4 - Fans in the Audience Performance and the Politics of Participation 86
  • 5 - Listening and Learning 108
  • 6 - Musically Shaping the Self 134
  • 7 - Belonging Together 158
  • Conclusion - Toward an Experience-Near Understanding of Popular Music 184
  • Postscript 190
  • Appendix A Springsteen Fan Questionnaire 195
  • Appendix B - Bruce Springsteen, American Discography (major Works) 199
  • Notes 201
  • References 205
  • Index 217
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