|Topics in Focus||Artists in Focus||Countries in Focus|
|The Music Video||David Bowie||Argentina|
|Musical Countercultures||Celia Cruz||France|
|Music and National Identity||Miles Davis||Japan|
|Popular Music and Literature||Aretha Franklin||Mexico|
|The Swing Phenomenon||Umm Kulthūm||The Philippines|
|Music and Gaming||Tim Maia||Vietnam|
|The Velvet Underground|
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While the first music videos arguably can be traced back to the beginning of the last century, they really came into their own during the 1980s due to the launch of MTV, an American cable and satellite channel with its headquarters in New York City.
Symbolically, it was the clip ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ by The Buggles (produced by Trevor Horn) that ushered in MTV, followed by ‘You Better Run’ by Pat Benatar. Mark Goodman, one of the first five MTV VJs, uttered the MTV slogan: “Starting right now, you’ll never look at music the same way again … We’ll be doing for TV what FM did for radio.”
Music videos in all their forms remain powerful cultural artifacts that circulate widely across social media platforms to promote music and musicians. The proliferation of social networking sites and handheld technologies has changed the course and format of the video and its modes of screening music.
As music videos animate our social and cultural spaces, they shape significant representations of gendered, sexualized, raced, and classed identities. The musical contexts of genre and style comprise a driving force in the shaping of cultural identities and a complex set of factors cultivate a musical persona.
Learn more in Framing Personae in Music Videos in The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Video Analysis.
The advent of the music video in the MTV age not only transformed the landscape of pop, but may well have been part of a larger artistic project. Sunil Manghani suggests that videos have become a new site of cultural production. A new video form – which he calls the Internet video – has emerged as a means for a younger generation to communicate and experiment with the forming of identities and social connections.
Learn more in The Pleasures of (Music) Video in Music/Video: Histories, Aesthetics, Media.
‘This Is What You Came For’ is a video collaboration between artists Nava, Harris and Rihanna that has received over two billion hits on YouTube. We encounter at the very on-set a multitude of spaces, including a desert, a clearing in the Cascadian forest, and a massive white cube, closed on all sides except one.
Using an innovative 360-degree camera technology and projection mapping, Nava is able to project realistic environments into the cube which are captured entirely in-camera (no post-production, no CGI). Such virtual spaces, which include dance clubs, desert scenes and even a simulacrum of the aforementioned forest, are so convincing that the viewer sees Rihanna, the video’s constant focal point, to be interacting with them in real time.
Learn more in Risers, drops and a fourteen-foot cube: A transmedia analysis of Emil Nava, Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s ‘This Is What You Came For’ in Transmedia Directors: Artistry, Industry and New Audiovisual Aesthetics.
Musical countercultures have sprung up across the world throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, prevailing as an expression of societal subcultures and anti-establishment movements, and as a sonic rebellion against the dominant musical genres which embody the status quo in their particular moment. Discover countercultures throughout the modern era as explored by a range of international authors on Bloomsbury Popular Music:
In his chapter on the politics of novelty in the 1960s, Peter Dale explores the legacy of the era’s political activism and the true countercultural contribution of its rock music. He examines the impact of reductive secondary interpretations of a singular ‘Sixties’, and the potency of the peace movement and political significance of rock having been amplified.
Psychedelic spirituality and the use of drugs underpinned the sounds and counterculture of the 60s. LSD and marijuana in particular were associated with hippiedom at a time when there was an ‘easy confluence between Indian spirituality and drugs’. Read more about psychedelia and spirituality in the context of the creative process, from the influence of Ravi Shankar and transcendental meditation on The Beatles, to the relationship between drug use for ‘mind expansion’ and the creation of psychedelic soundtracks for counterculture films.
While depictions of the festival on screen helped to mediate collective perception by playing down the commercial side of the event and mythologizing its countercultural impact and 'aura', one artist of the time for whom the Woodstock vision of free love and revolution had its limitations was Joni Mitchell. Discover how the pointed lyrics in her song, Blue sought to puncture "Woodstock’s hazy, under-conceptualized dreams of what the counterculture might achieve".
In South America, the canción de protesta or ‘protest song’, denotes a song with a political and ideological message or with a marked social criticism, usually expressed through its lyrics. The canción de protesta first appeared in Venezuela’s popular music in the mid-1960s, within the context of the global countercultural media explosion, and the centre of its activity was based in the country’s universities where concerts, rallies and marches took place.
It was a music trend similar to that of the nueva canción latinoamericana in other countries such as Chile, where 'Rock andino' was also emerging in the late 60s and early 70s as an expression of youth counterculture in combination with the movement nueva canción chilena which employed marginalized music from the Andes. One of the canción de protesta genre’s most prominent musicians was Alí Primera, who was a national political activist and expressed the idea that he was not only a singer of the political left, but a singer for all poor people.
Read about the fine line between the canción de protesta and propaganda which came to develop in the genre’s ‘second period’ from 1999 onwards, as it came to be adopted by Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez as the sound of the 'Bolivarian revolution' and manipulated in the hands of the regime as a mass-gathering device for left-wing political propaganda.
Punk as a cultural genre first emerged back in 1976 and 1977, and as author Kevin C. Dunn outlines, over the years it has become a global force that constructs oppositional identities, empowers local communities, and challenges corporate-led processes of globalization.
A key characteristic of punk music was its chaotic, dissonant assault on the established norms of rock’n’roll from the likes of the Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and Siouxsie and the Banshies; shared rejection of fashion norms was also an important aspect of punk counterculture.
In Global Punk, read about how a deeper understanding of punk means recognizing its multifaceted character as a set of social practices, with punks rejecting 'sanitized' popular culture and creating their own cultural products. Adoption of the national idiom and the founding of independent labels was an important part of this DIY ethos, for example in Europe, punk was sung in native languages and organized by local scene.
Despite its overprotective 'gatekeepers' and punk participants’ tendency towards hyperbole, punk’s rejection of passive consumerism and reflection of the working-class, artistic, and nihilistic attitudes felt by young people can be seen to have 'created the opportunity for political empowerment and resistance in people’s everyday lives', beyond the parameters of 'high politics'.
Campaigning political practice within the last three decades has taken on a renewed carnivalesque atmosphere, with contemporary protests reminiscent of the festal demonstrations of 60s counterculture. Creative, diverse performances have been at the forefront of festival-style Climate Camps, Extinction Rebellion roadblocks, or the Occupy movement with its pop-up tents in urban financial centres. These collectives have drawn on rebellious festival or event culture in what author George McKay describes as 'celebratory confirmation of the demand for social alternatives'.
Discover his exploration of ‘Protestivals’ and their role as a creative response to the traditional political rituals of the left, with marches from point A to point B and speeches along the way. He delves into the concept of protestivals as experimental ‘cultural heterotopias’ providing alternative possibilities to the status quo, while exploring their countercultural value from the view of cultural critics – are they truly an ‘instrument of political opposition’ or merely a temporary 'ritual of rebellion'?
From the beginnings of the twentieth century to today there has been a fascination with the idea of music as a marker of shared tradition within a nation, and therefore as a builder of cultural identity. In an increasingly globalised world, the connection between music-making and identity has become a more difficult, yet still important, area of study.
National identities are often simultaneously embraced and contested in the practises of popular music, particularly through its fusion of traditional with contemporary or commercial styles. Discover how the creation of Punta Rock, in the 1970s and 80s helped to promote Garifuna identity through the maintenance of the Garifuna language and song forms; how Zenji Flava demonstrates the locality of the Isles of Zanzibar through song lyrics, musical patterns, and music videos; and how Moroccan fusion bands have elevated regional and sub-group musical traditions such as gnāwa to a marker of national identity.
Held annually since 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest involves over 50 participating countries and regularly reaches hundreds of millions of television viewers. Overtime it has refashioned the national identities of the countries involved, making them appear more attractive through new media, technologies and fashions. Eurovision songs, while derided by some as over the top cultural kitsch, present elements of national and European identity through the selection of music style and performative symbols. Explore Dean Vuletic’s Postwar Europe and the Eurovision Song Contest on how the contest has historically reflected political and cultural shifts across Europe, acting as a vehicle to address topics such as patriotism, European integration, and war. Read more about Abba, one of the most iconic Eurovision acts, in Elisabeth Vincentelli’s contribution to the 33 1/3 series.
Perhaps owing to its ability to conserve cultural memory, and therefore a collective identity, music is particularly important in cultivating ties to the home country of migrant or diasporic communities. Read about how migrants from Turkey, who settled in Berlin in the 1960s, utilise bağlama and Türkü bars in order to keep their cultural heritage and identities alive; and about how Parisian-based Radio ALFA uses fado to establish a contemporary relationship between the Portuguese communities of France and their homeland.
Popular music has also been used to assert a cultural identity that is in opposition to the dominant culture of a country; this is often communicated via hip-hop. Since its birth in the Bronx in the 1970s as a protest medium, hip-hop has been utilized as a mechanism for expression. Discover how hip-hop features in the musical life of individuals from Mexico to Sub-Saharan Africa, alongside how indigenous musicians in Australia empower themselves through hip-hop whilst rejecting the idea that their expression of identity has to be done in a traditional way.
The relationship between popular music, literature and the written word throughout the 20th and 21st centuries has extended from their critical connections as subjects of study, to structural similarities, and a shared narrative power to represent and shape cultural, social and political history. Explore the ongoing encounters and collisions between these disciplines, and some of the key artists and writers at the heart of their intersections.
Another poet-songwriter and Bob Dylan’s contemporary, Leonard Cohen, transitioned from writing formalistic poetry and prose, to poetry in song. Learn about how jazz and poetry readings by Jack Kerouac had a notable early influence on his work.
American writer and figurehead for the ‘Beat Generation’, Jack Kerouac, lived a life infused by the sound of songs at home, out on the road, and within live performances. Read more about the rich association between literature and music in his work and how his peripatetic style sought to mirror bebop jazz rhythms.
Also discover Kerouac’s influence on modern artists from Van Morrison to Pearl Jam and that of his fellow Beat Poet Allen Ginsberg on The Beatles, as well as how Paul Simon came to reinvent their American road narrative.
Intertextuality is a device mainly known within a literary context, but author Quentin Williams explores the frequency of intertextual references within rap, along with its multiple levels of meaning and linguistic subtlety. Discover more about the way MCs sample from everyday texts circulating in and outside of hip-hop spaces and how their performances may be indicative of intertextual sampling.
Reporting or writing about music is a key component of the industry’s ecosystem. Read more about music journalism’s common critical criteria, its role in capturing the essence of music, and how its connection to the more literary style of New Journalism led to the development of the cult of the rock journalist.
In When Genres Collide, Matt Brennan rethinks popular music history by exploring how writers in the music magazines Down Beat and Rolling Stone constructed an artificial ideological divide between jazz and rock ‘n’ roll that would be replicated in American musical discourse for decades to follow. This provocative new history received an honorable mention in the Association of American Publishers’ PROSE Award for Music & Performing Arts in 2018.
Brennan challenges the widespread view that the mid-1950s was a revolutionary starting point for popular music, the moment when African-American-originated ‘rhythm ‘n’ blues’ was brought to a new mass market of white teenagers through re-branding it as ‘rock ‘n’ roll’. In the chapter 'Jazz Culture as the Precursor to Rock 'n' Roll', he argues that this was in fact pre-empted by the 1930s swing craze. When Benny Goodman hired the African-American bandleader Fletcher Henderson (pictured) to create arrangements of hot jazz for his 1935 radio show, Goodman leaped to stardom: hot jazz, now labeled ‘swing’, immediately tapped into a young white audience across the USA, in a similar way to Elvis Presley’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956.
Read more about the swing phenomenon in the Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World entry on ‘Swing Music and Big-Band Jazz’.
From classic arcades of the 1970s to modern blockbuster video games, music is key to the experience and popularity of gaming. One of the most iconic and innovative gaming soundtracks to date is Koji Kondo’s score for Nintendo’s 1985 game, Super Mario Bros. Andrew Schartmann's 33 1/3 title outlines how Kondo and his team transformed the creative landscape of video game music.
During the 21st century, musical production, performance, and gameplay have become increasingly interconnected. Discover more about the evolution of hip-hop, electronic dance music, and interactive media in Mike D’Errico’s chapter of Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound.
“Exactly when did poetry become subsumed by rock ‘n’ roll? When was experimental film swallowed and digested by music videos? My generation of artists held a starry-eyed belief in the notion of crossing over; of leaving the elitism of the white cube for other media and venues: video, performance, audio, music.” Tony Oursler
Tony Oursler was not only David Bowie’s friend and muse but a collaborator who was interstitially involved with the music videos Bowie created with Floria Sigismondi. A significant transmedia artist in his own right, Tony Oursler understood the artistic magnetism that drew Bowie and Sigismondi into a creative partnership. Oursler’s ‘starry-eyed belief in the notion of crossing over’ and resistance to elitism sum up an approach that has been neglected by much of the literature on transmedia.
Learn more in The alchemical union of David Bowie and Floria Sigismondi: ‘Transmedia surrealism’ and ‘loose continuity’ in Transmedia Directors: Artistry, Industry and New Audiovisual Aesthetics.
Discover David Bowie’s work as a music video pioneer in The Boy Kept Swinging: David Bowie, Music Video, and the Star Image in Music/Video: Histories, Aesthetics, Media.
The Cuban-American singer Celia Cruz rose, during the mid-twentieth century, to become one of the most important and dynamic performers of Latin American music, across genres such as Salsa, Bolero, and Guaracha. Born in Havana in 1925, she produced her first recordings in Venezuela in 1948, before touring Latin America over the subsequent decades with groups and artists such as Sonora Matancera, Tito Puente, and Johnny Pacheco.
Miles Davis enjoyed a prolific five-decade career as one of the most acclaimed and innovative musicians in the history of jazz. Born in Illinois, his family eventually moved to St Louis, Missouri where he began to play his trumpet in bands, before later moving to New York City and becoming a jazz session regular in Harlem – performing jazz in the bebop style, and alongside his hero Charlie Parker. He went on to develop the idiom of cool jazz with his various groups, eventually coming to write his seminal work Kind of Blue in 1959, which became the best-selling jazz album of all time.
Find out more about one of his greatest albums, Bitches Brew, in the 33 1/3 edition by George Grella Jr.
Over the course of a career that spanned more than five decades, Aretha Franklin became the internationally recognised voice of Soul. Her music sound tracked the burgeoning feminist movement of the late 60’s while powerfully evoking the emotions of the civil rights movement. Her recent death prompted an outpouring of tributes, including from President Obama who stated that her music ‘helped define the American experience’.
Brazilian singer, composer and musician Tim Maia enjoying a long career in which he created music spanning an eclectic range of genres from soul to samba-rock. His memorable musical style and impassioned approach to life were encapsulated by his infamous Tim Maia Racional recordings in particular. Allen Thayer’s 33 1/3 volume on Racional Vols. 1 & 2 Introduction explores Maia’s larger-than-life public persona and pioneering contribution to international soul and the music of his homeland.
At the time of the US civil movement, Maia was the first black Brazilian entertainer to thoroughly break from the traditional roles, namely samba, as he introduced American soul music with its outspoken cultural stances to Brazilians of all colours. His music’s blend of modern soul and Brazilian music with elements of samba and baião, led to the development of the so-called Black Rio music scene in the 1970s, which helped to define a modern black Brazilian identity beyond mass culture’s circumscribed role for Afro-Brazilians.
Prince’s eclectic, genre defying music, and uniquely flamboyant style made him one of the most popular yet controversial artists of the late 20th Century. Key themes dominating his life, work, and legacy are explored in Joseph Vogel’s illuminating new biography, This Thing Called Life, including chapters on gender, race, religion and death.
Find out more about Prince at his creative peak in the 33 1/3 edition, Sign ‘O’ the Times, by Michaelangelo Matos, which delves into one of the landmark double albums of the 1980s. Also discover the para-religious devotion of Prince’s fan community in Chapter 7 of Religion and Popular Music, and the significance of his connection with Minneapolis in the Encyclopedia of Popular Music.
As part of the brand new 33 1/3 Global series covering key recordings from around the world, discover the life and work of the legendary Brazilian artist, Caetano Veloso. Exiled by the Brazilian dictatorship in the 1960s, Veloso helped pioneer the Tropicália movement that took the South-American country by storm, having a lasting impact on Brazilian popular music and remaining a point of reference for innovative musicians into the twenty-first century. Find out more about Veloso’s life as Barbara Browning explores his third studio album A Foreign Sound.
The Velvet Underground are seen by many as one of the most influential rock groups of all time, despite a lack of commercial success during their years as a band in the mid-late 1960s. Their avant-garde style of rock 'rejected the creative status quo of the time', and sought to 'mould the perverse, the brutal and the beautiful into art'. Lou Reed and John Cale combined complex musical techniques from other genres such as jazz and classical with controversial lyrics about subjects such as drugs, sexual deviance, and prostitution.
Their music was built on drones and distortions, and was pioneering in its unashamedly experimental tone, blurring the boundary between the avante-garde and pop with significant cross-pollination from beat generation lyrical imagery and minimalist classical composers such as La Monte Young and Steve Reich.
Celebrity visual artist Andy Warhol became the group’s manager in 1965, having decided they were the perfect house band to provide music for his multimedia pop art shows 'The Exploding Plastic Inevitable'. He created the famous 'banana' artwork for their album 'The Velvet Underground and Nico' and the avant-garde scene at his Silver Factory headquarters helped Lou Reed grow as a songwriter and musician.
Read more about their seminal album, 'The Velvet and Underground and Nico' in Joe Harvard’s 33 1/3 which explores its creation and lukewarm reception in 1967’s 'Summer of Love'. Harvard delves evocatively into the sounds of songs such as Heroin and Venus in Furs: 'Clear and cool at times, in some passages dark and murky; ebbing in certain places, then suddenly rushing forward as bubbling, boiling rapids in others, it always flows like water.'
Popular music in Argentina has a richly diverse history, with influences from the indigenous population, European settlers, and African slaves. Tango developed as a vibrant and passionate style of music and dance towards the end of the nineteenth century in Buenos Aires, and grew to become a significant and enduring component of Argentinian cultural identity. Artists such as Carlos Gardél and Ignacio Corsini were key in popularising the genre through the 1920s, leading to a ‘golden age’ of tango in the clubs, dance halls, and streets of 1940s and 50s Argentina.
Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World Volume IX explores the eclectic popular music genres of the Caribbean and Latin America, including Argentinian folclore, milonga, and rock nacional.
Popular music in France evolved from the emergence of jazz and chanson in the early 20th century, which flourished in the café-concerts and cabarets of Paris. Yéyé became a popular genre of the 1960s, with artists such as Serge Gainsbourg (pictured, with Jane Birkin) creating music influenced by rock ‘n’ roll and doo wop from the US. Darran Anderson’s 33 1/3 provides an account of Serge Gainsbourg’s 1971 concept album, Histoire de Melody Nelson, which is widely acclaimed for its combination of lush cinematic strings, proto-hip hop beats, and Serge’s spoken-word poetry.
Volume 5 of the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Popular Music covers Locations in Asia and Oceania, with articles on the history and music cultures of every country, plus important cities and regions, each one with a bibliography and discography. Included is a scholarly account of popular music in Japan, exploring ancient musical traditions such as gagaku and shômyô, through to the adoption of Western instrumentation following the Meiji Revolution, and the J-pop phenomenon of the 1990s. Additionally, read the introductory chapter of Keisuke Yamada's contribution to the recently launched 33 1/3 Global Series—Supercell's Supercell featuring Hatsune Miku, in which Yamada explores the groundbreaking use of synthetic vocals in popular music.
On 27 June 2009, within ten hours of the breaking news of Michael Jackson’s death, prison warden Byron F. Garcia arranged for a music and dance tribute to the King of Pop to be performed by some 1,500 prisoners in front of a live audience of tourists and media corporations in the exercise yard of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Centre (CPDRC) in the Philippines.
Garcia’s CPDRC inmates’ video-recorded interpretation of Thriller takes pride of place in YouTube culture as one of the earliest, and most enduringly popular, viral videos in internet history. As an example of a post-MTV music video, CPDRC’s Thriller forms part of a growing digital-era practice of covering, sampling and remediating previously recorded music, and these kinds of intensified audiovisual aesthetics have become significant source texts in popular music culture.
Learn more in the Introduction to Dangerous Mediations: Pop Music in a Philippine Prison Video.
Discover more about the history of popular music in the Philippines in the Bloomsbury Enyclopedia of Popular Music of the World.
The music of Vietnam is influenced by both Chinese and South Asian elements. Prior to colonization, popular music entertainments included musical theatre with origins in Chinese opera, folk theatre and chamber music, as well regional folk song styles. After colonization by the French in the nineteenth century, Western melodies and instruments such as the guitar grew in popularity.
In the years following the nation’s division in 1954, government in the communist North controlled everything from musical training to broadcast while in nationalist South Vietnam, popular music was largely left to the free market, with an influx of US troops and money. More widely, US involvement in the Vietnam War which followed was an enduring influence on western artists including Bruce Springsteen and The Clash.
Following post-war reunification, the communist victors sought to ban and confiscate all cultural vestiges of the former southern regime. Many singers and songwriters fled Vietnam, moving primarily to France, Australia and the United States. By the mid-1980s Vietnam’s government began to relax its control on culture, with tea rooms and karaoke establishments spread through the city of Hô Chi Minh.
Since the late 1990s, some Vietnamese commentators have expressed concern about the influence and popularity of overseas Vietnamese music, Hong Kong music, US music and, more recently, Thai music on the marketplace. In contrast, however, to many years of hostility between the Vietnamese diaspora and those residing in Vietnam following 1975, there has generally been a growing interaction between the native and diaspora musics and music industries.