David HesmondhalghWhy Music Matters

Wiley Blackwell, 2014

by Dave O'Brien on June 19, 2014

David Hesmondhalgh

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[Cross-posted from New Books in Critical Theory] What is the value of music and why does it matter? These are the core questions in David Hesmondhalgh‘s new book Why Music Matters (Wiley Blackwell, 2014). The book attempts a critical defence of music in the face of both uncritical populist post-modernism and more economistic neo-liberal understandings of music’s worth. Hesmondhalgh develops this critical defence of music by exploring its importance to individuals, to places, to communities and to nations, eventually engaging with the global aspects of music’s role and position in society. The book seeks to argue against some common positions in music, reasserting the importance of embodied experiences, such as dancing, whilst taking issue with the idea of the rock star as hero. Moreover Hesmondhalgh shows the social position and social structures surrounding music, whilst remaining attentive to the aesthetic qualities of both genres and individual pieces of music. Most notably the book is ambivalent about much of the promises claimed by the advocates of music’s transformative potential, but is never bleak, retaining a refreshing realism about the capacity of music to matter to people, publics and nations across the world.

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