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  • Acknowledgments  vii
    Introduction. A Prelude  1
    1. Listening to the Political  10
    2. The Anthem and the Condensation of Context  38
    3. Turning Inward, Inside Out: Two Japanese Musicians Confront the Limits of Tradition  72
    4. "Heroin"; or, The Droning of the Commodity  108
    5. The Conundrum of Authenticity and the Limits of Rock  147
    6. 1969; or, The Performance of Political Melancholy  201
    Coda. Listening through the Aural Imaginary  244
    Notes  263
    Bibliography  301
    Discography  317
    Index  319
  • "Summer is the season for foreground music, when our desire for melodic accompaniment is on spectacular display. It cradles the widely held conviction, astutely explored by Barry Shank in The Political Force of Musical Beauty, that the word song does rotten justice to certain units of musical experience. As, for instance, when some tune, in the process of unfolding itself, appears at once to exist for us alone and to matter beyond measure. It can happen in a club or a car or a chair. Such an experience’s apparent privacy can make its 'political force'—Shank’s apposite term—difficult to capture. Shank draws these effects, and insights into the kinds of collectivity they suggest, from an impressive range of musical forms."   — Darby English, Artforum

    “While few people reading this magazine would object to the idea that new musical experiences can be radically transformative on an individual level, the conviction that music can influence broader political change is more problematic. Quickly clarifying that his book isn’t about how music can be a vehicle for sharing pre-existing political sentiments, Barry Shank instead provides examples of music that has created new shared senses of the world and revealed the political significance of sounds previously heard as noise.” — Jon Marshall, The Wire

    Reviews

  • "Summer is the season for foreground music, when our desire for melodic accompaniment is on spectacular display. It cradles the widely held conviction, astutely explored by Barry Shank in The Political Force of Musical Beauty, that the word song does rotten justice to certain units of musical experience. As, for instance, when some tune, in the process of unfolding itself, appears at once to exist for us alone and to matter beyond measure. It can happen in a club or a car or a chair. Such an experience’s apparent privacy can make its 'political force'—Shank’s apposite term—difficult to capture. Shank draws these effects, and insights into the kinds of collectivity they suggest, from an impressive range of musical forms."   — Darby English, Artforum

    “While few people reading this magazine would object to the idea that new musical experiences can be radically transformative on an individual level, the conviction that music can influence broader political change is more problematic. Quickly clarifying that his book isn’t about how music can be a vehicle for sharing pre-existing political sentiments, Barry Shank instead provides examples of music that has created new shared senses of the world and revealed the political significance of sounds previously heard as noise.” — Jon Marshall, The Wire

  • "In this ambitious, original, and compelling book, Barry Shank addresses the relation of music to politics. In the process, he makes a significant contribution to aesthetic theory. It is beautifully written, nuanced yet accessible. Its central theme, on the political agency of music, is refreshing and Shank's close readings and formal analyses of musical examples are both richly rewarding and entertaining." — Bernard Gendron, author of Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club: Popular Music and the Avant-Garde

    "Treating noise as the recalibration of our sensibility settings and a vision for building community on difference, Barry Shank makes a politics of thorny sound. Even better, when this formerLong Ryders member, turned chair of Comparative Studies, takes on Moby’s half-borrowed 'Natural Blues,' Yoko Ono’s obstacle course art, the Velvet Underground’s 'Heroin' drone, then Patti Smith, Bad Brains, Bikini Kill, and TV on the Radio with Tinariwen, we get something amazingly long in arriving: an exploration of college radio music by a passionate college professor." — Eric Weisbard, editor of Pop When the World Falls Apart: Music in the Shadow of Doubt

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  • Description

    In The Political Force of Musical Beauty, Barry Shank shows how musical acts and performances generate their own aesthetic and political force, creating, however fleetingly, a shared sense of the world among otherwise diverse listeners. Rather than focusing on the ways in which music enables the circulation of political messages, he argues that communities grounded in the act and experience of listening can give rise to new political ideas and expression. Analyzing a wide range of "beautiful music" within popular and avant-garde genres—including the Japanese traditions in the music of Takemitsu Toru and Yoko Ono, the drone of the Velvet Underground, and the insistence of hardcore punk and Riot grrrl post-punk—Shank finds that when it fulfills the promise of combining sonic and lyrical differences into a cohesive whole, musical beauty has the power to reorganize the basis of social relations and produce communities that recognize meaningful difference.

    About The Author(s)

    Barry Shank is Professor of Comparative Studies at Ohio State University. He is the author of Dissonant Identities: The Rock 'n' Roll Scene in Austin, Texas, and A Token of My Affection: Greeting Cards and American Business Culture, and a coeditor of American Studies: An Anthology and The Popular Music Studies Reader.

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