From John Farnham to Lordi: the noise of music


In the field of music scholarship in general, it is popular music studies that have engendered the most innovative developments over the last several decades. As an academic formally based in literature and cognate theoretical fields, I would go further and offer the personal opinion that they have made some of the most interesting contributions to the methodologies of cultural studies over that period, fed by prior traditions of ethnomusicology and ethnography. One of the main reasons has a bearing on this article: it is impossible to write effectively about popular music, which is so predominantly independent of the printed score, without at least implicitly questioning the scopic orientations of cultural analysis and theory which dominate other fields (and indeed, sometimes music studies themselves). We can find an unfolding summary of the developments in popular music studies through what I suggest are the three most important academic journals in the field, which are, in order of seniority, Popular Music and Society (founded in the USA in 1971), Popular Music (UK, 1981) and Perfect Beat: the Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture (Australia, 1992). In its continuing series, Perfect Beat provides a comprehensive and focused exemplification of approaches to the critical analysis of the musics usually designated as ‘popular’ in the Oceanic region. In short, if we want to know what’s going on in Australian popular music studies, this journal is a good place to start

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