"A worthy addition to popular music scholarship....Cavicchi's dialogic and reflexive style of presentation is right at the heart of current cultural studies and ethnomusicological thinking....He is able to take complex theory and make it readily accessible for a nonacademic reader."--Rob Bowman, York University
"Cavicchi manages to convey enthusiasm [about] his subject without losing his critical stance...and he writes in an accessible, clear, and engaging style. It is a pleasurable and fascinating study that will make a significant contribution to the study of popular music."--Sara Cohen, Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool
"This is an original area in music studies [which] grows out of the author's pioneering work in popular music as people use it in daily life. Cavicchi takes a scholarly approach to understanding fandom as community, and his research among Springsteen fans has been quite thorough....The book's readability is a very impressive and appealing feature."--Jeff Titon, Brown University
From the Author
From the Preface - This book began as my Ph.D. dissertation in American Civilization at Brown University; I conducted the bulk of my fieldwork with Bruce Springsteen fans from spring of 1993 to spring of 1995, while I was a graduate student. There are few dissertations on music in the field of American civilization (or American studies, as it is known elsewhere) if only because people who are interested in studying music usually do so in music departments. But I learned early on that my interest in popular music and my reluctance to learn a symphonic instrument made me unwelcome at most American university music departments; instead, I drifted into American studies which, in encouraging a broad interdisciplinary study of the culture and history of a geographical area, allowed me the flexibility to study musical life as I pleased. This is not to say that I abandoned any notion of working in the field of music; I spent much of my time at Brown in the Music Department, taking courses on ethnomusicology, attending recitals and lectures, reading musicology journals in the music library, and teaching courses about American music. But at the same time, I was doing a lot of thinking about ideas from my other classes in anthropology, history, and literary studies. This book is clearly a product of my eclectic studies at Brown.
I also see this book as a continuation of the work I did as an interviewer and editor in the Music in Daily Life Project at the State University of New York at Buffalo, while a masters student in the late eighties. The project was a six year-long investigation of the ways music worked in the day-to-day existence of ordinary people. Along with thirty or so other interviewers, I asked relatives, friends, and others the simple questions, "What is music about for you?" and listened carefully. The project was the first one of its kind--no one had explored the ways in which ordinary people used and understood music in the United States before--and it opened my eyes to new ways of studying music based not on aesthetics and history but rather on ethnography and culture. In this book, I like to think that I have continued the exploration of music in daily life; instead of talking to people in general about their musical experiences, I have focused on a particular group of people who have made participating in the world of popular music a central part of their lives.
Overall, I hope this book will find a place among the growing number of works about music audiences. I am still shocked when I go into major bookstores and find plenty of books about musical performers but none about music listeners. One can always find a biography of Beethoven but rarely an engaging account of what it was like to attend the performance of one of his symphonies. One can always find all sorts of analyses about the Beatles' lives and recordings but very little about all the people who used the music to get through the day, week after week, year after year. Indeed, the academic field of music seems to be one of the last of the arts disciplines in the humanities to experience a revolution akin to the rise of reader-response criticism in literary studies, where the prevailing paradigms about the importance of authorship and the structures of a work have been challenged by new concerns with how people use and understand those works. In music, it is still the creation of music which reigns supreme; everyone is expected to be a musician or composer and be concerned with musicianship and composition.
In both the Music in Daily Life Project and my research with fans, the people to whom I spoke were often taken aback when I approached them; several were astounded that I would even be interested in their musical activities. Yet when they decided to tell me about music in their lives, they spoke with enthusiasm and clarity, recounting experiences which were rich in emotion, memory, and complexity, sharing with me whole realms of meaning about which no one in the modern university seems to care. On the whole, I hope this work will further the idea that studying music must include not only the exploration of musical performances and performers but also those who are performed to. I hope it will show that we need more studies of audience in order to achieve a more complete understanding of the ways in which cultural production is useful and important, not only in abstract aesthetic terms like "truth" or "beauty" but also in everyday life, as a means of education, communication, pleasure, memory, identity, and community. In the end, I hope that this work will show that seriously engaging the cultural experiences and activities of a majority of people in modern society has value and can move scholarship into a better position for the purpose of aiding and intervening in the problems and concerns of those people.
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