Discourses in Music: Volume 5 Number 1 (Spring 2004)

Martin Clayton, Trevor Herbert and Richard Middleton. The Cultural Study of Music: A Critical Introduction. New York and London: Routledge, 2003. 368 pp., figures, bibliography, list of contributors, index. ISBN 0-415-93845-7 (paperback).

The publication of The Cultural Study of Music, a compilation of interdisciplinary articles, was the result of dialogue and discussion within an emergent organization of scholars, the Musics and Cultures Research Group at the Open University in Britain. Although the scholarly essays originate from diverse perspectives and fields, the articles revolve around a central idea, the co-dependency of music and culture. The result is a confluence of varied opinion but shared focus. The authors ultimately agree that, "culture matters, and that therefore any attempts to study music without situating it culturally are illegitimate" (p.3).

The collection of essays was requisitioned and compiled by editors Martin Clayton, Trevor Herbert, and Richard Middleton with the intention of addressing the study of music and its interrelationship with culture, history and society. To this end, the authors were selected from a range of disciplines and given no specific instructions except to, "stress at least as much on where music studies might be heading as on summaries of work done on their topics to date" (p.8). The book is divided into two parts. The first section contains essays that deal with the connectedness of music and culture on a general, multi-disciplinary level. The second half of the publication deals with more specific issues and debates. Each chapter in both sections is a separate and distinct discussion in the area of the author's expertise. The individual essays stand alone in content but elide in intent: to illustrate through diverse opinion and theory, a "patchwork of distinct, but also overlapping and complimentary, conceptions of the relationship" (p.9) between music and culture. Middleton suggests that the book does not have to be read sequentially or by consecutive chapters. Rather, individual essays can be singularly digested in isolation from the others. As well, the editors attempt to create a publication that is accessible to academics and laypersons alike, by excluding footnotes, including suggested readings at the completion of each chapter and affixing a comprehensive list of references at the conclusion of the book upon which the reader can base future exploration.

The body of The Cultural Study of Music incorporates essays by twenty-six leading authors. These include works by Philip V. Bohlman, Simon Frith, Lawrence Kramer, Jeff Todd Titon, and Nicholas Cook. This auspicious conglomerate of scholars is underrepresented by female authors (three are included) and is dominated by British and American scholarship. Future publications would benefit from both multinational and multi-gendered representation and perspectives on the interrelationship between music and culture. Noticeably, some of the essays are purely academic, while others are approachable to a wider audience. The submissions by Simon Frith, "Music and Everyday Life," Martin Clayton, "Comparing Music, Comparing Musicology," Nicola Dibben, "Musical Materials, Perception, and Listening," and Nicholas Cook, "Music as Performance," are particularly accessible and punctuate the collection as a whole.

The Cultural Study of Music is a complement to the field of critical musicology, which includes the recent publication Rethinking Music, edited by Nicholas Cook and Mark Everist (1999). Several of the authors have contributed to both publications. While Rethinking Music is a seminal publication in the field of musicology, it is further augmented by The Cultural Study of Music. The Cultural Study of Music incorporates many perspectives on issues of culture; historical, sociological, anthropological, popular and their correlation and co relationship to music.

-Kate Galloway

Kate Galloway is currently pursing her Masters degree in Musicology at the University of Toronto. Her research areas include popular music studies, contemporary music and Canadian music, with a primary focus on the music and writings of R. Murray Schafer.