Why do some music styles gain mass popularity while others thrive in small niches? Banding Together explores this question and reveals the attributes that together explain the growth of twentieth-century American popular music. Drawing on a vast array of examples from sixty musical styles--ranging from rap and bluegrass to death metal and South Texas polka, and including several created outside the United States--Jennifer Lena uncovers the shared grammar that allows us to understand the cultural language and evolution of popular music.
What are the common economic, organizational, ideological, and aesthetic traits among contemporary genres? Do genres follow patterns in their development? Lena discovers four dominant forms--Avant-garde, Scene-based, Industry-based, and Traditionalist--and two dominant trajectories that describe how American pop music genres develop. Outside the United States there exists a fifth form: the Government-purposed genre, which she examines in the music of China, Serbia, Nigeria, and Chile. Offering a rare analysis of how music communities operate, she looks at the shared obstacles and opportunities creative people face and reveals the ways in which people collaborate around ideas, artworks, individuals, and organizations that support their work.
Jennifer C. Lena is visiting assistant professor of sociology at Barnard College.
"Banding Together is an essential read for fans of popular music, thanks in no small part to Lena's wealth of music knowledge, as the book draws together the studies of music communities and music genres into a coherent whole."--Martin James, Times Literary Supplement
"This book should be required reading for anyone interested in the role of music--all music--in culture. Although Lena's focus is on the rise of 20th-century American popular idioms, the questions she asks are appropriate for and applicable to a number of significant canons. . . . A significant contribution to the literature."--Choice
"Sociologists of music, as well as musical practitioners and fans, will find in Banding Together an engaging story about the commonalities shared by a variety of musical genres, despite their inherent stylistic differences. Through its wealth of examples, the book puts flesh on the otherwise counterintuitive contention that artistic creativity is a collective endeavor. Yet it goes beyond this well-established sociological observation to demonstrate how these musical art-worlds share a strikingly unified developmental grammar."--Amir Goldberg, American Journal of Sociology
"Jennifer Lena's Banding Together unleashes a fierce and exacting take on the scattered and freewheeling territory of music, offering a soothing order to the wild scufflings of performers and fans alike, and inspiring a smarter, more forthright think on a crazy untrammeled scene. In other words, it has a beat and you can dance to it."--Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket and accordionist with The Magnetic Fields
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