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Popular music

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M054-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2021
Retrieved April 19, 2024, from

Article Summary

Popular music is a neglected topic in philosophy, and only recently have philosophers examined it sympathetically and with concern for its positive attributes. The distinction of some music as popular music is infrequent in Western culture before the eighteenth century and only became common in the nineteenth century. The category arose in contrast to the development of the music we now label as classical music. As with many cultural categories, its essential and common features are highly contested. In the late twentieth century, philosophers of music became more supportive of the position that popular music can be aesthetically and artistically meritorious. This trend accelerated a shift away from generalised positions on the nature of value of popular music in favour of focused explorations of specific issues and examination of specific genres and their attendant issues. Philosophical discussions of popular music frequently stress that its value extends beyond its stereotyped status as simple, pleasurable entertainment. Popular music often merits complex audience engagement with the performance and the performer, inviting reflection on its social and political uses by performers and audiences. Finally, there is debate about ways that work instantiation and performance practices differ in the fields of popular and classical music – a debate that carries the implication that classical music should not be regarded as the norm for developing general theories in philosophy of music.

Citing this article:
Gracyk, Theodore. Popular music, 2021, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M054-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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