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Three-stage metal flake paint. Sandcast, laser-cut, and CNC-machined club plaques. While meeting the lofty aesthetic standards of lowrider culture is of paramount importance for Cholos and Cholas, lowriding is also a true expression of Chicano community and individuality.

In fact, nearly one-third of the players on today's Major League rosters are of Latino background. What do their stories tell us about their cultures and about the participation of Latinos in the United States? Downloadable File. Printed Material. Since both Plato and Aristotle philosophized about music, philosophy of music predates and is not identical with modern philosophy of art. Nonetheless, most philosophy of music is strongly influenced by the aesthetic assumptions of modernism.

This principle would distinguish science and craft from such activities as music, poetry, theater, dance, painting, and sculpture. Following this precedent, most subsequent theorizing about music inherited distinctively modernist biases about art. Three ideas proved to be particularly relevant to later efforts to distinguish art from popular art. First, art is the product of genius.

Art is constantly evolving, so successful new art involves progress. Second, the value of art is aesthetic, and aesthetic value is autonomous. Artistic value cannot be reduced to utility, moral effects, or social functions. Third, whatever is true about fine art is true about music. From the middle of the eighteenth century until the middle of the nineteenth, philosophers regarded music as a pillar of the emerging system of the fine arts.

As a result, music could not be regarded as art if it lacked genius and autonomy. By the beginning of the twentieth century, most intellectuals endorsed the elitist consensus that popular music lacks these features. Despite its influence on subsequent theorizing, the eighteenth-century intellectual framework did not recognize a clear distinction between fine art and popular art. It places great emphasis on genius and artistic autonomy.

These elements of the Kantian aesthetic are often cited to dismiss the art status of popular music. Many subsequent philosophical analyses of the distinction between art music and popular music draw on his proposal that the lesser arts dull the mind. Lacking the interplay of ideas and formal experimentation that characterizes fine art, the popular arts are mere entertainment see Kaplan, Nonetheless, it is important to note that Kant does not himself recognize the field of popular art, so he does not align the lesser arts and popular art.

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Furthermore, his general position on the value of music is inconclusive. As such, Kant might assign greater artistic value to a folk song than to J. Where we do find discussion of this topic in the eighteenth-century, popularity is not yet opposed to art. Mozart writes of the importance of providing his operas with memorable, popular melodies. Even here, however, it would be anachronistic to suppose that Enlightenment categories support a clear distinction between art music and popular music. At best, philosophers of this period postulated differences between refined and vulgar taste.

A more rigid distinction between art music and other music gradually emerges during the nineteenth century. By the middle of the century, philosophical discussions of music begin to make sporadic reference to what we now recognize as popular music. Philosophy of music increasingly concentrates on explaining why recent European concert music is musically distinctive and superior. The art of music is the art of structuring tones. Only structural properties matter, and they matter only for themselves.

Impure music that relies on words or emotional expression pleases audiences with non-musical attractions. In this analysis, most popular music pleases its audience by its extra-musical rewards. A quarter century later, Edmund Gurney provides additional arguments for musical autonomy. Responding to the longstanding idea that music expresses emotion by generating a felt, bodily response, both Hanslick and Gurney insist that bodily engagement indicates an inferior response. Again, they extend a Kantian theme. Together, Hanslick and Gurney are an important source of the view that popular music is inferior because its primary appeal is visceral, bodily, and felt.

In contrast, the abstract structures of classical music demand an intellectual response. The body hears, but only the intellect listens see Baugh , Gracyk Gurney is not entirely negative about popular music. Folk music comprises most of the latter category. This category also includes appealing melodies of operatic arias and other classical works.

Gurney already recognizes, in , that the maintenance of social strata requires stereotypes that unnecessarily limit access to a wide variety of music. Consequently, true popularity is seldom cultivated. For Gurney, music cannot be popular if its appeal is limited by social boundaries of any sort. Nietzsche initially defends the superiority of certain strains of European classical music. He praises composers whose irrational genius provides the Dionysian energy needed to correct the rational excesses of European culture.

Nietzsche eventually reverses himself. Nietzsche aside, philosophy of music has been dominated by the view that the best music is autonomous and formally complex John Dewey is almost alone in defending the vitality of popular art during this time period. Unfortunately, Dewey said very little about music. As recently as , philosophy of popular music consisted of variations on a single theme. As a result, most philosophers who bothered to discuss popular music concentrated on identifying the aesthetic deficiencies inherent in such music.

Theodor Adorno offers an influential, philosophically sophisticated account of the nature of twentieth-century popular music. He is the single best source for the view that popular music is simplistic, repetitive, and boring, and that it remains this way because commercial forces manipulate it in order to placate and manipulate the masses who passively respond to it. Although a Marxist orientation influences almost all of his arguments, his influence is apparent in many writers who are not explicitly Marxists.

Unfortunately, Adorno is a notoriously difficult writer. His writings on music are subtle, dense, and fill many hundreds of pages.

An encyclopedia of philosophy articles written by professional philosophers.

Adorno begins with the insight that popular music is characterized by the synthesis of entertainment values and mass art. Twentieth-century popular music is mass art because commercial forces now produce it on an industrial model. It is a commodity aimed at the largest possible number of consumers. Therefore it must combine a high degree of standardization with relative accessibility, and so the same rhythms and structures appear again and again. As a result, popular music competes with and replaces local and regional folk traditions In the wake of the industrial revolution, genuine folk art is no longer possible.

In a commercial world where one popular song sounds much like any other, popular music cannot function as a medium of genuine communication. At best, a philosophically reflective stance sees that its standardization and commercial presentation reflects important facets of the socio-economic conditions that shape it. Its standardization reflects the alienating, oppressive standardization of modern capitalism.

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The momentarily pleasurable diversions offered by popular music are mere distractions from this alienation — a process that the music itself reinforces. Since it fails to satisfy any genuine needs, exposure to popular music encourages an endless repetition of the cycle of consumption, boredom, alienation, and fresh distraction through consumption. We cannot complain about popular music if our culture cannot provide a more satisfying alternative.


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If nothing better is available, then there is nothing especially wrong with popular music. Adorno argues that objectively better music is available. He is sophisticated enough to avoid a simple contrast of classical and popular music. For Adorno, almost all of the music that passes as art music is just as bad. It is barely comprehended by its audience, most of whom respond approvingly to its familiarity. Radical composers such as Arnold Schoenberg, however, provide art music that is socially progressive. Artistic truth is relative to the time and place of its creation and reception.

It requires music that is sufficiently autonomous from socio-economic pressures to permit compositional integrity. For example, our expectations for aesthetic pleasure previously placed a premium on beauty. The quest for beauty curtails genuine autonomy. Therefore musical integrity comes at a cost: good music no longer offers us the beauty of conventional fine art.

Instead, it must be compositionally complex enough to incorporate and display the contradictory demands that we impose on art. By comparison, music that is readily understood and immediately pleasurable is not autonomous. Given these requirements, very little music succeeds in forcing listeners to deal with the contradictions of modernity. Popular music fares worst of all. Its requirement of accessibility deprives it of social truth, so it lacks any genuinely progressive social role.

Adorno sees no important distinctions within popular music. His analysis is subject to challenge on the grounds that some popular music lacks conventional beauty and easy pleasures. However, Adorno can reply that such music cannot simultaneously achieve popularity while offering artistic truth, for that truth cannot be conveyed by music that is accessible enough to generate a commercial profit.

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Yet they created autonomous, challenging music. The commercial framework of twentieth century music has not eradicated artistic truth as Adorno defines it. Adorno aside, popular music received limited philosophical attention before the early s. Although neither Howes nor Stadlen cites Adorno, their analyses endorse many of his basic ideas. Where Gurney treats folk music as a species of popular music, Howes opposes the two categories.

Howes proposes that the communal composition and ongoing re-fashioning of folk music ensures a unique combination of simplicity and excellence. In a few short paragraphs, Stadlen encapsulates most of the position that Allan Bloom revived more hyperbolically in To summarize the modernist view, genres of art develop a hierarchy.