Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 1998 - Music - 352 pages
2 Reviews

Who's better? Billie Holiday or P. J. Harvey? Blur or Oasis? Dylan or Keats? And how many friendships have ridden on the answer? Such questions aren't merely the stuff of fanzines and idle talk; they inform our most passionate arguments, distill our most deeply held values, make meaning of our ever-changing culture. In Performing Rites, one of the most influential writers on popular music asks what we talk about when we talk about music. What's good, what's bad? What's high, what's low? Why do such distinctions matter? Instead of dismissing emotional response and personal taste as inaccessible to the academic critic, Simon Frith takes these forms of engagement as his subject--and discloses their place at the very center of the aesthetics that structure our culture and color our lives.

Taking up hundreds of songs and writers, Frith insists on acts of evaluation of popular music as music. Ranging through and beyond the twentieth century, Performing Rites puts the Pet Shop Boys and Puccini, rhythm and lyric, voice and technology, into a dialogue about the undeniable impact of popular aesthetics on our lives. How we nod our heads or tap our feet, grin or grimace or flip the dial; how we determine what's sublime and what's "for real"--these are part of the way we construct our social identities, and an essential response to the performance of all music. Frith argues that listening itself is a performance, both social gesture and bodily response. From how they are made to how they are received, popular songs appear here as not only meriting aesthetic judgments but also demanding them, and shaping our understanding of what all music means.

 

What people are saying - Write a review

PERFORMING RITES: On the Value of Popular Music

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A strained and frequently patronizing evaluation of ideological, rhetorical, and sociological elements in popular music. In this study of the relationship of individuals to their favorite performers ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Miro - LibraryThing

Simon Frith quotes Nicholas Cook saying, "What I find perplexing, and stimulating, about music is the way that people - most people - can gain intense enjoyment from it even though they know little or ... Read full review

Contents

The Sociological Response
21
Common Sense and the Language of Criticism
47
Genre Rules
75
On Music Itself
97
Race Sex and the Body
123
Time Sex and the Mind
145
Songs as Texts
158
The Voice
183
Performance
203
Technology and Authority
226
The Meaning of Music
249
Toward a Popular Aesthetic
269
Notes
281
Index
345
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1998)

Simon Frith, Tovey Professor of Music at the University of Edinburgh, has written extensively on pop music and culture for the Village Voice and the Sunday Times of London. He is the author of the contemporary classic Sound Effects.

Bibliographic information