Popular Music and Communication (Second Edition)

J. Lull

Many current texts on communication dig into beer ads and soap operas with gusto. Yet when they reach pop music many slip into a numbed disinterestedness, and to say the least are very "square." Pity, because pop music is a ubiquitous and powerful mass medium. Further "respectable" academic literature is available and growing, if slowly. These two volumes reflect this much needed attention.

Lull's book is probably already widely known. The first edition (1987) helped to introduce Wallis & Malm's (1984) work to a broader audience, as well as consolidating Simon Frith's international reputation. Oddly this "second edition" is really a completely new volume: only two of the ten articles are carried over from the first edition (Frith's and Grossberg's). This is a mistake. The second edition fails to give a sense of consolidating the "classics" in popular music scholarship; nor does it give completely fresh material as in the second volume of a series. We end up with neither book nor journal.

Not that the book is unstimulating. Of particular interest is Lewis' claim that disco originated in the mid-1970s in Paris and only later was picked up by American gay and black clubs. Schwichtenberg explores the music video; and Rothenbuhler & McCourt have a useful description of the relationship between pop music and radio. However, of the new material Goodwin's article on technology and pop music is the most stimulating. In particular he argues that the musician's role in creativity is slowly being reduced. In his place the producer and engineer are becoming more dominant. Goodwin signals a very promising line for new research.

Robinson, et al.'s book is the first volume of a series reporting an eight-year research project under the auspices of the International Communication and Youth Consortium. Their book will be required reading for anybody interested in the international youth culture. The main task of the book was to examine whether, following the cultural imperialism hypothesis, "worldwide cultural homogenization" is inevitable. Heavily documented, the book indicates that there is a flourishing production "of unique musics by local musicians" (p. 227). The evidence is drawn in particular from eight countries: South Korea, Nigeria, Canada, the United States, Jamaica, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Turkey. A critical response by Simon Frith points out the lack of study of the entrepreneurs (the kind of work suggested by Goodwin's article).

However, the book is a magnificent achievement and stands on par with the work by Wallis & Malm with which it inevitably must be compared. One looks forward to the companion volumes of the project. Of particular note is the research style that drew on 40 indigenous researchers from over 20 countries. This is a highly ambitious project in intercultural studies and stands as a landmark in intercultural co-operation.



  •  Announcements
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Current Issue
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Thesis Abstracts
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo

We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

SSHRC LOGO