Spooning Good Singing Gum: Meaning, Association, and Interpretation in Rock Music

Jackson, Travis A.

Since at least the early 1950s, scholars and critics from widely varying backgrounds have attempted to come to terms with the musics collectively known as "rock," returning again and again to the issue of meaning. Predictably, their answers to the implied question are as varied as their intellectual standpoints. Some scholars, for example, have viewed rock through the lenses of mass and youth culture, drawing on the work of Theodor Adorno and a large body of sociological writing. Others, coming to rock from cultural studies and literary theory, have conceptualized it as a series of "texts" that comment on and reflect current debates on cultural identity, hegemony, resistance, gender and sexuality (Frith and Goodwin 1990; Hesmondhalgh 1996). Writers for the popular press, meanwhile, have tended to focus on issues of authenticity, originality and rebellion, particularly in canonizing iconic figures like Elvis Presley, Sid Vicious, or Kurt Cobain. In reading all this work, some fans or aficionados of rock (including scholars and critics) are likely to be dissatisfied. To them it might seem that (other) rock commentators are either focusing on too narrow a portion of the musical landscape-discussing it in ways that render it nearly unrecognizable-or missing the point of the music altogether. Whatever the point, to such fans rock is potentially about more than youth culture, the (re)production of ideology, or authenticity and rebellion. The question, of course, is what "more" there might be and, relatedIy, how one gains access to and talks about it.



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Columbia University
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April 24, 2015