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SOCY 122 (65)

The Dialectics of Popular Culture

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Queen's University
SOCY 122
Rob Beamish

The Dialectics of Popular Culture -peculiar way different lived cultures explore, re-create and seeks to explain human experience Monopoly- if you’re the only one selling a product then you can set the price Lizabeth Cohen-‘landscape of mass consumption’-> reconstruction to modernization -after the war, normalcy and total living was mass consumption and mass production First Great Transformation-rural to urban -Rural->self-sufficiency and local community ->shared consensus of values and worldview ->feudal -Urban->modern, mass production, mass advertising, mass consumption ->people categorized into market group based on gender race, and social status ->industrial, capitalist society Mass Consumption in Postwar -seen as a civic responsibility that ensures full employment, expansion of the economy, and a society that contrasts with the Soviet aspirations to spread communism around the world -ideal of economic abundance and democratic political freedom -national civil religion -consumers’ republic was the foundation for popular cultural forms-> against Arnold, Nietzsche, Hoggart, Adorno, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Postman, and Gabbler -popular culture suggests a growing diversity in tastes and cultural products to consume, but much of it was homogenous irrespective of the cultural medium that is best understood by looking at the intersection of history of the social structure with the development of cultural forms and production Growth of Cultural Diversity Richard Peterson-1954-1956 was a major aesthetic revolution -arguments focuses on copyright law, patent law, practices of the Federal Communications Commission in the United States, and technological development Copyright Law-provides protection for owners of musical compositions -sheet music writers and publishers could now invest in development and promotion of new songs because others couldn’t legally reproduce their work without paying royalties -didn’t provide a mechanism for the writers and publishers to collect the royalties that were due when their music was played in different places -writers and publishers banded together to create the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) ASCAP-collects royalties on behalf of its membership and delivers music to musicians and music institutions -protects its member’s interests by influencing where the music is played -ASCAP and Copyright Law represents the forces leading to the homogenization of the music industry that encourages the increasingly banal, levelled-down cultural production that Leavis, Thompson, Hoggart, Adornom Herkimer, and Marcuse criticized so heavily and feared would dominate the realm of culture -tension between a simplified mass culture and a vibrant, sophisticated popular culture is the struggle between the monopoly or oligopoly interest of big businesses and the pursuit of a diversity and innovation by small independent artists and producers Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI)-created by a number of radio networks against ASCAP -signed its own staple of music publishers and songwriters, including those rejected by ASCAP -defined mainstream music -challenge between BMI and ASCAP allowed for a range of music Phonographic Record 78s-ten inches, seventy-eight revolutions per minute (rpm) shellac disk that was the standard record in the music industry -poor quality of sound reproduction -constant low-level hissing and scratching sound in the background -limited sound quality -later almost disappeared -fragile-> needed expensive private distribution systems Long-Playing Record (LP)-released by Columbia Records -twelve inches, thirty-three and a half rpm -Columbia Records offered to share it with its larger arch-rival RCA to establish a common industry standard, but RCA rejected -dominant medium for classical music 45s-created by RCA -seven inches, forty-five rpm vinyl record with a large hole in the middle -dominated popular music and was played on the radio, jukeboxes, and in store -unbreakable-> mailed to institutions for an affordable price-> allowed small record companies to compete with big corporations -helped break down the oligopolistic control that the major record producers had once enjoyed as a consequence of the cost of distribution being prohibitive for the small independents Jukebox 45s-became a platform for a variety of musicians for exposure -helped build taste culture for an emerging style of music because they were playing everywhere Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-restricted the number of stations across the United States -each market had only three to five stations-> NBS, CBS, and MBS (Mutual Broadcasting System), and one or two independent stations Television-reduced the resistance of the three major networks -number of independent radio stations soared-> major broadcasting stations moved to television -most visible technological change that encouraged the proliferation of radio stations and thus increased demand for various types of music Postman- television represents a different epistemology than typography Transistor Radio-popular with teenagers and young adults -made music more portable -allowed households to have more radios -loosened parental control over what was heard -freedom of choice -before the transistor radio, most homes had one large cabinet radio-record player in the household which held the radio and record player and storage space for 78s, LPs, and 45s, it was a standard piece of household furniture that determined the status of the family by quality and appearance, the cabinet was located in the center of the house and controlled by the parents -growth of local radio networks ended that near monopoly control of radio by the majors and the number of competing stations forced each one to pursue a particular niche in the market -number of record producers grew and the opportunities for recording artists with different talents increased who many were forced to the margins by the oligopolistic control of the major producers -major producers began losing some artists to higher paying competitors -broader range of musical styles -attention and resources to television by major networks caused budgets of the national network outlets to fall and the size of the crew decreased Disk Jockeys (DJs)-focal point for their increasingly specialized audiences -determined the sound and personality of the radio station -during the oligopoly years, song writers wrote well-crafter songs like the ones that were previous hits and were tailored to satisfy the demands of the person commissioning the song, not on the basis of their own personal experiences or inspiration -Second revolution in music as popular culture lead to a diversity of music, lyrics, and styles, and an -increase of independent radio stations and record producers Bob Dylan -defined high culture -endless layers of artistry and each one lead to a renewed perspective and a deeper level of appreciation -cherished myths and sometimes shattered illusions -meaning, art, and culture are multilayered -began in folk-> remained a singer-songwriter in the folk tradition, but not a folk singer -uses handed down tradition captured contemporary urban existence -his artistry is his own personal biography with the history of the social structure -similar to Mill’s, they
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