Music: A Subversive History

Basic. Oct. 2019. 528p. ISBN 9781541644366. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781541617971. MUSIC
Musician and music historian Gioia (Love Songs) contends that throughout the history of music, the innovations of the rebellious and the subversive have been coopted by the sanctioned and the institutional. This isn’t a new idea, but in drawing from fields such as anthropology, psychology, theology, and folklore, the author raises thought-provoking questions in this wide-ranging survey. Chief among these is the notion that the very study of music has been hampered by mechanisms of formal social, cultural, and religious approval, which privilege certain forms of musical expression over others. He cites a range of examples, from the myth of Orpheus as a magical music-maker to the influence of African Americans, who have been subject to centuries of oppression, on American music. Gioia’s argument is persuasive and offers a wealth of possibilities for further exploration.
VERDICT This fascinating recontextualization will appeal to anyone who ever wondered why “Hound Dog” became a hit only when Elvis Presley covered it.

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