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Banding Together

Banding Together: How Communities Create Genres in Popular Music

Jennifer C. Lena
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Banding Together
    Book Description:

    Why do some music styles gain mass popularity while others thrive in small niches?Banding Togetherexplores this question and reveals the attributes that together explain the growth of twentieth-century American popular music. Drawing on a vast array of examples from sixty musical styles--ranging from rap and bluegrass to death metal and South Texas polka, and including several created outside the United States--Jennifer Lena uncovers the shared grammar that allows us to understand the cultural language and evolution of popular music.

    What are the common economic, organizational, ideological, and aesthetic traits among contemporary genres? Do genres follow patterns in their development? Lena discovers four dominant forms--Avant-garde, Scene-based, Industry-based, and Traditionalist--and two dominant trajectories that describe how American pop music genres develop. Outside the United States there exists a fifth form: the Government-purposed genre, which she examines in the music of China, Serbia, Nigeria, and Chile. Offering a rare analysis of how music communities operate, she looks at the shared obstacles and opportunities creative people face and reveals the ways in which people collaborate around ideas, artworks, individuals, and organizations that support their work.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4045-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Chapter 1 Music Genres
    (pp. 1-26)

    I start every semester in my Sociology of Hip-Hop and Rap Music course by asking the students to tell me a story about the origins of this musical style. The collective narrative that emerges, cobbled together from episodes of VH1’sBehind the Music, Vibe Magazinearticles, and song lyrics, is that rap music’s origins lie in the desire of inner-city, poor, black men to document their lives and critique the social order that blocks progress for our nation’s minorities. In criticism of this, a second group of students argue that this political narrative is a smoke screen, masking and justifying...

  5. Chapter 2 Three Musics, Four Genres: Rap, Bluegrass, and Bebop Jazz
    (pp. 27-64)

    Music histories are full of hints that there is a pattern to the evolution of communities of sound. In an early history of bluegrass music I find one such allusion:

    [bluegrass] Musicians . . . share certain characteristics. Growing up in areas which were the source of mountain music, the men were taught to pick and sing by friends and neighbors. Some first gained reputations over local radio shows, then moved to larger stations, and finally found national prominence. Timing played a crucial part in success: being at the right time at the right place led to joining “name” bands...

  6. Chapter 3 Music Trajectories
    (pp. 65-116)

    Musical communities take on differing characteristics as they ebb and flow, and these changes are directly related to the range of problems or opportunities the group encounters. To bring these characteristics into sharper focus, I have demonstrated that there are four analytically distinct genre forms. In the Avant-garde genre, music practitioners come together to share their concerns over the state of music, but do so often without conceptualizing a set of goals or identifiers for the group. While most Avant-garde genres wither or merge with other genres, a few grow in size and develop a more focused and coherent group...

  7. Chapter 4 The Government-purposed Genre
    (pp. 117-144)

    Thus far, I have focused on documenting musical genre forms in the United States. In this chapter, I expand our view to include music produced in other countries. A preliminary survey of the popular music of countries with widely differing political economies, music cultures, and levels of development revealed that the four genre forms (Avant-garde, Scene-based, Industry-based, and Traditionalist) do exist to greater or lesser degrees across the globe, but there proved to be another widely distributed form that I did not find when I initially examined twentieth-century U.S. musical styles.

    In a number of countries, popular genres receive substantial...

  8. Chapter 5 On Classification Systems
    (pp. 145-170)

    Writing inHarper’s Magazinein 1941, Irving Kolodin reported the maturation of “big band” jazz ensembles into an Industry-based genre form:

    Those with a finger on the pulse of this capricious industry have an amazing instinct for estimating the moment when a band is truly ‘hot,’ in a sense unrelated to the kind of music it plays. It is at such a moment, when sales of records suddenly swing upward, and a fan club is started in Baton Rouge, and another leader tries to buy off the hitherto obscure arranger who has given the band its distinctive personality, and radio...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 171-204)
  10. References
    (pp. 205-232)
  11. index
    (pp. 233-242)