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Reading Pop: Approaches to Textual Analysis in Popular Music Paperback – September 7, 2000
`extensive introduction is particularly valuable ... the paperback price is worth it for the introduction, and the Bjornberg and Tagg essays, alone.'
Allan More, British Journal of Music Education, Vol.18:1, 2001
About the Author
Richard Middleton is Professor of Music at the University of Newcastle.
Top customer reviews
There are interesting data contained in many of these essays. The many elements that make some pop music memorable are explored. This includes the music and/or lyrics of such artists as Randy Newman, Prince, James Brown, Peter Gabriel, and Bruce Springsteen, among others. Theories about what is important in contemporary popular music are put forth; the ideas are valuable. There is an informative and well-written chapter about torch singers by John Moore. Also included is a "Method Of Analysis" chapter by Philip Tagg. It looks at musicology and compares modes of folk, pop and art music transmission. Tagg provides a checklist of features that might be analyzed in pop music, and gives examples of how these features might be described in rich and meaningful ways. Tagg unfortunately falls prey to his own jargon.
Actually, most of the book suffers from a particularly virulent case of "academ-ese." Esoteric jargon from the ivory tower suffuses the prolix writing. The sentences are structured in knotted prose, running on and on in complex clauses and sub-clauses that are too often difficult to disentangle. The obnoxious reliance on trendy phrases and supposedly clever writing devices-- heavy uses of slash marks and words with some syllables parenthesized: these are pretentions that reflect poor style and bad habits.
Four sentences illustrate this problem, sentences from the editor's own introduction to the book: "Interestingly, if any emergent analytic paradigm may be represented as currently possessing the potential for dominance, it is, in my view, 'dialogics.' Congruent with theories of discourse, mediation, and (post)modern ethnography, its recent prominence is nevertheless associated with a more specific influence, that of Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin's materialist seminology posits-- against structural formalisms and sociological and economic reductionisms alike-- that meaning is always both socially and historically situated, and generically specific. Heteroglot networks of discursive conventions resulting from never-ending, historically contingent exchanges create a kind of giant intertextuality, operating both between utterances, texts, styles, genres, and social groups, and within individual examples of each."
One can only imagine the bloated egos or inferiority fears that fuel such composition. Because of the way it is written, this volume really serves only those with recent training in musicology-- other readers are apt to become too frustrated with the authorial style. Too bad for these writers-- their ideas make a contribution, but the ideas are apt to fall on a limited audience.
Using many familiar songwriters, and comparing works against other music genres, helps to drive home the author's points. The only criticizm I'll make is that I agree with the other reviewer - this book is heavy on academic verbosity. I could see this scaring away some potential readers.