MUSI 1002 Study Guide - American Bandstand, Kodwo Eshun, Against Interpretation
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David Allen “On Popular Music in Advertising”
- Adorno (1903-1970) was a musicologist at the Frankfurt School for Social
Research (formed by Adorno and Horkheimer in 1923)
o Adorno wrote the very controversial “On Popular Music” (1941)
criticizing Popular Music.
o He criticized capitalism
o Marxist understanding of society
o Adorno focused on what he called “the culture industry” which can be
defined as follows
Made up of economic institutions
Produces forms of culture that are commodities
The commodification of cultural products leads to a
standardization on these products (Adorno)
Standardization leads to passivity in consumers
o Adorno believed the culture industry is successful in part because
people fetishize cultural objects.
o Adorno considered classical music as “serious music”
Thought popular music provided a certain “framework” for the
listener to apply to the music.
Referred to the lyrics of popular music as “baby talk”
o Defined standardization as: The melody and the lyric are constructed
within a definite pattern or structural form
Believed popular music makes the listener “rhythmically
obedient and divests the listener of spontaneity and promotes
o Adorno (1941) also believed that popular music must simultaneously
meet two demands. "One is for stimuli that provoke the listener's
attention. The other is for the material to fall within the category of
what the musically untrained listener would call 'natural' music"
o Adorno (1941) explained the subtle differences of popular music as
"pseudo-individualism," or "the halo of free choice" (25) to find
individual meaning in the music.
- Tin Pan Alley
o Name originates from the sound made by many pianos all playing
different tunes in small urban areas, producing a sound similar to
banging two tin pans together.
o Refers to a group of New York based musicians who dominated
popular music in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
- Use of music in advertising
o Often today we see popular music being used, with altered lyrics, to
carry an advertiser’s message.
Old Navy’s use of “In the Navy” by the Village People
eBay’s use of “My Way” by Frank Sinatra
o [This integration is something that Adorno would have predicted
(1941) to be successful because with popular music “it would not
affect the musical sense if any detail were taken out of the
o Popular music is standardized in several ways
A number of types that are immediately recognizable
A small number of structures
A small number of components to each song that are
o The type of variation that exists between standardized products
o Surface changes
o They do not alter the basic structure
- High Culture (Serious Music) vs. Low Culture (Popular Music)
o Differences include
Degree of standardization
Level of complexity
- David Allen’s “On Popular Music in Advertising” his premise:
o The use of popular music in advertising is growing
o Companies attempt to reach a wider audience with the use of music
o Musicians seem more willing to have their music used for commercial
Bracket “Technology, the Dawn of Modern Popular Music, and the King of Jazz”
- Before the 1920s, music in the United States primarily circulated as sheet
music and in live performance
- With the emergence of radio systems as in home entertaiment, the music
industry created a system that defined a category of popular music as
opposed to “classical” or “serious”
- The decade of the 1920s is often referred to as the “Jazz Age”; however, the
most popular music of the era – the music played by high society orchestras,
bears little resemblance to what contemporary listeners view as being jazz.
- When recording records in the 1920s, certain instruments were excluded
from recordings because of difficulties in capturing their sound.
o Examples include the double bass, the horn, the tympani.
- The difficulty with recording is that during a live performance a mistake may
go unnoticed, where as in a recording every mistake is magnified seeing as it
can be replayed over and over again.