Classifications in Popular Music: Discourses and Meaning Structures in American, Dutch and German Popular Music Reviews
(Classificaties in populaire muziek: Discoursen en betekenisstructuren in Amerikaanse, Nederlandse en Duitse popmuziekrecensies)
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Popular music is one of the cultural fields – together with film, photography, and jazz – which in the second half of the twentieth century have apparently gained much in status and recognition (Janssen, 1999; Janssen, Kuipers & Verboord, 2009). Popular music has become ‘aesthetically mobile’ - developing from a devalued form of entertainment to the status of art. This reordering of the position of popular music seems to be an aspect of a more general change in cultural classification systems of modern western societies. DiMaggio (1987, 1991) has argued that the cultural classification systems of western societies have become more differentiated, less hierarchical, with weaker boundaries and less universal. The number of genres has expanded, genres are no longer ranked in a hierarchical status hierarchy, the boundaries between genres have become less potent and less strongly defended and the consensus on how to classify cultural genres has diminished. The hierarchical, universal classification of ‘popular’ and ‘high culture’ seems to have eroded and given way to a multitude of genres that cannot be ranked in one hierarchical dimension and broad classifications such as high vs. low seem to have been displaced by more finely grained classifications and distinctions. Although genres such as popular music, jazz, literature and theatre can no longer be placed easily within ‘high’ or ‘low’, new hierarchies seem to have appeared within (previously ‘popular’) genres (Holt, 1997; Baumann, 2001). In this dissertation, I study the way in which popular music critics create, maintain and contest new and old symbolic boundaries and classification structures within popular music. How do critics within the field of popular music ‘make sense’ of cultural products? What kind of criteria do they use to evaluate popular music and how do they classify artists into categories? Do they create or draw upon established hierarchical boundaries such as ‘art’ vs. ‘commerce’ in making distinctions? Do they classify along other lines?
This dissertation research was conducted as part of the VICI-project Cultural Classification Systems in Transition, funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO-project 277-45-001) at the Faculty of History and Arts, Erasmus University Rotterdam
- classification systems