How Can We Evaluate Popular Music, according to Simon Frith

by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג

I'm a writer, scientist, musician, inventor and lecturer. During the daytime I am advisor to the President of Shenkar College. In the evening I write children's books, satire, and "how to" manuals ("Mel's ten tips). I'm co-founder of Ourboox and married to Ourboox CEO Shuli Sapir-Nevo. אני סופר, ממציא, מרצה, מוזיקאי
Oct 2013
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How Can We Evaluate Popular Music, according to Simon Frith

by Mel Rosenberg - מל רוזנברג

Simon Webster Frith must be one cool fellow. He is a famous sociomusicologist. He has a brother Chris, who is a famous psychologist, another brother who is a well-known musician (Fred) and a nephew Alex who writes children’s books. Come to think of it, I’d like to meet the entire Frith family. On Frith Street. Now wouldn’t that be something?

 

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Professor Frith writes popular books on popular music. What makes a song popular? What makes a guy fall in love with a doll? Give a listen to the song “He/She’s Funny that Way” on the next page. What makes it special?

 

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Without even thinking about it, it had a big influence on one of my own songs.

 

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How about the song Lady Godiva? Can you guess why I liked it so much as a teenager?

 

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In his book, “Performing Rites: on the value of popular music, Harvard University Press, 1996“, Prof. Frith talks about consumers’ everyday judgement of popular music in terms of authenticity, taste, and stupidity (page 71). Hmm, that’s interesting.

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In Chapter 6 (page 123) Frith tackles the question of whether rock and roll means sex, and what race has to do with it. I’m reminded of this song, Takes Two to Tango. Listen from 2:50 for the second ‘take’. What do you think?

 

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Compare with this ‘white version’

 

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And finally, Aretha and Ray:

 

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Frith cites Chernoff (African Rhythm and African Sensibility), “In African music, it is the listener or dancer who has to supply the beat: the listener must be actively engaged in making sense of the music; the music itself does not become the concentrated focus of an event, as at a concert.

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More in the next pages!





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