Monday, 28 March 2011

Contextual studies task 2 – Adorno’s ideas on pop music

In this piece of writing Adorno states that there are many differences between serious music and popular music. His main point being that popular music is very standardised. He explains that the structure of these types of songs consist of simple melodic harmonies which are easy to listen to and understand by those who are not ‘musically experienced’. Adorno writes about how pop music falls into the category of natural music and is not dissimilar to nursery rhymes and hymns sung as children; therefore this type of music is recognisable as the listener feels they can relate to it in a personal way.
Adorno states that the music industry is very competitive and that they are always churning out pop songs which, due to the fact they are heavily standardised, are very similar. In order to make a pop song successful Adorno explains about ‘plugging’ and how constant advertising, mentioning and playing a song can make it successful. He goes on to explain about how repetition leads to recognition and how recognition is the key to success. He also writes about the plugging of personalities associated with the song such as the band leader, contributing the work to that person as opposed to the composer of the music, this creates a brand preference effect amongst the listeners.
Adorno writes about the effects of popular music on the listener, stating that in his opinion there are several components involved in the act of listening to a pop song, these are:
Vague remembrance; standardisation of pop songs promotes a feeling of vague remembrance.
Actual identification; when the listener remembers they have heard it before (due to it being played incessantly)
Connection by label; the listener associates it with the song title, memorable lyrics or the record label.
Self-reflection on the act of recognition; the listener feels proud of their ability to recognise the song.
The psychological transfer of recognition; the listener feels a sense of authority to the object and feels flattered to own something everyone owns creating an illusion of value.

He also writes about the reasons why people listen to pop music stating that popular music offers a stimulant and novelty for which the public crave. He explains about how people wish to be distracted from the demands of reality by entertainment that doesn’t demand attention and induces relaxation. Popular music can easily create this due to the fact it is patterned and pre-digested. He also states that popular music creates pseudo-individulisation among people, causing them to think they are an individual by liking a certain genre of music, when in actual fact they are just conforming to their stereotypes.

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