Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music,

Simon Frith, Author
Simon Frith, Author Harvard University Press $27.95 (360p) ISBN 978-0-674-66195-0
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Paperback - 360 pages - 978-0-674-66196-7
Hardcover - 978-0-19-816332-9
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-19-288060-4
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University professors of a generation ago scoffed at the idea of their students listening to the Beatles and Bob Dylan more intently than to their own lectures on history and philosophy. Nowadays universities offer courses in rock and roll and popular culture, which have become the history and philosophy of a very different era. The British Frith (Sound Effects) is the kind of scholar the best rock and roll deserves--a true fan first, a critic/cultural commentator later. Like his American counterpart, Greil Marcus, Frith sometimes waxes academic at the expense of his reader. But like Marcus, Frith's ideas are always important ones: What values justify ""high"" and ""low"" art? What mandates the various ""genres"" of pop music? What role does technology play in our appreciation of the music we hear? These and the other high-minded questions Frith examines don't necessarily find their final answer here, but the process is more fulfilling than the slick music magazines flooding the newsstand. Nowhere among his discussions of aesthetics does he offer answers about what it will be hip to listen to next week, but Frith's socio-philosophical quarrel with history about the value of pop music and popular culture more than earns its place among the growing canon of worthwhile pop culture texts. (Sept.)
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