1 AN ACADEMIC FOOTNOTE: I do draw on an admittedly ridiculously broad range of disciplines and thinkers in the course of the various essays and analyses, which is largely because I have yet to find one theorist or theoretical model that adequately provides a framework for the kind of criticism that I wanted to attempt. However, my primary inspiration is the ‘sociology of music’ of Theodor Adorno, which I discuss at length in the chapters which comprise Part 1 of the study. Another key musicological influence in this first part is Steve Goodman’s book Sonic Warfare. In Part 2, my main musicological resource is the so-called ‘theory of musical narrative’ that Byron Almén outlines in his book of the same name, drawing on Eero Tarasti and Vera Micznik among others. Elsewhere, I make use of ideas from Adam Krims, Robert Fink and Dai Griffiths. I also acknowledge some of the musicology that most closely resembles my project superficially, including that of Philip Tagg, Susan McClary, Richard Middleton and Carolyn Abbate. In the long run, though, what I’ve read of these well-known musicologists has always been quite frustrating, either too academically ‘rigorous’ to risk making any bold assertions, self-consciously defensive against that same empiricist academy, or floating in what feels like a cloud of impotent relativism, of the kind that is the polar opposite to many of my favourite non-academic writers and bloggers on music.
Most of my arguments have recourse to thinkers from other fields; I offer no apologies for ranging as widely as I do since, as far as I’m concerned, this is what theory is for. However, by this I don’t mean that theory is useful to demonstrate how such-and-such a pop song can be heard with reference to such-and-such a paradigm or concept, as if to valorise or defend the song in some way (pop songs don’t need defending), or indeed to valorise or defend a theory by demonstrating its relevance to pop culture. Philosophies and theories of life and living, culture and society, are useful in thinking about any cultural product that is implicated in, or indeed designed to be ‘about’, some aspect of life and living, culture and society. As far as I’m concerned, the subject of these essays is not pop music, but the subject of pop music.↩
2 I acknowledge that a lot of work has been done in musicology to debunk the dichotomy between recorded and live music. The painstaking deconstruction of the old Western classical ideology of the musical work as a score/text, which exists as an idealist ‘essence’ beyond the imperfection of individual live performances, has been too hard-won to risk instituting another ideology concerning the relation between live and recorded pop music (specifically that the studio-recorded, officially-released version of the track is the 'definitive text' of a pop song, which is then imperfectly reproduced in performance - live audience want to hear, as closely as possible, the song ‘as it sounded on the album’, etc.). However, I maintain that within the ideology of this listening culture, these recorded ‘performances’ are the ‘Urtexts’ of pop music, in the way that Western classical ideology imagines the ‘ideal’ form of classical pieces to reside in the score, or possibly ‘in the composer’s head’.↩