The pioneers of popular music genres!

Last time out, we explored the idea that there were four fundamental music genres viz. classical, traditional, popular and avant grade. Now, obviously this is a blog about pop culture (I think our name gave the game away!) and so we can truly now focus on popular music genres.

What is “popular music”?

To reiterate what was discussed in our previous music genre post –

As defined by Philip Tagg, “Popular music is (1) conceived for mass distribution to large and often socioculturally heterogeneous groups of listeners, (2) stored and distributed in non-written form, (3) only possible in an industrial monetary economy where it becomes a commodity and (4) in capitalist societies, subject to the laws of ‘free’ enterprise, according to which it should ideally sell as much as possible or as little as possible to as many as possible.”

This definition is a generalisation that really begins with the advent of recorded music. More or less, this era began in 1877, when Thomas Edison, invented the phonograph. Which by definition covers a wide range of music styles and genres.

What is a “genre”?

Perhaps it is time to get into understanding the meaning of genre. The Cambridge dictionary defines genre as “a style or category of art, music, or literature.” Drilling down, categorisation implies “a class or division of people or things regarded as having particular shared characteristics.”

The key words here are “shared characteristics” – essentially a music genre groups together music with shared characteristics. The purpose of which from an academic point of view is to facilitate an appreciation and study of these genres. From a commercial perspective, of course, genres are a marketing tool to guide consumers to music they might like based on the characteristics shared with music they already like.

“Popular music” vs “pop music”

Now, it must be said that by the above definition “popular music” is quite different from “pop music”. The latter is a moving target not dependant on shared characteristics of sub-genres whatsoever. The former looks purely at whether those four categories in Tagg’s definition are checked off, without consideration of appeal. Mass production and distribution NOT mass appeal is the operative concept.

Fundamental genres (over and above pop music)

For this reason, I have decided to eschew any discussion of “pop music” as I have defined above. The styles of pop music have changed from generation to generation with superficial shared characteristics and thus fall outside our strict understanding of “genre”.

Thus, the fundamental popular music genres are as follows –

Blues, Country, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Rock n’ Roll and Hip-hop.

This will be the basis on which we shall be proceeding in the weeks to come. Comments please, at Facebook.

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