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Simon Frith

Simon Frith (born 1946) is a British sociomusicologist,


and former rock critic, who specializes in popular music
culture.[1] He is Tovey Chair of Music at University of
Edinburgh.

He explores rock as leisure, as youth culture, as a force


for liberation or oppression, and as background music.[3]
He argues that rock music is a mass cultural form which
derives its meaning and relevance from being a mass
medium. He discusses the dierences in perception and
use of rock between the music industry and music consumers, as well as dierences within those groups: The
1 Background
industry may or may not keep control of rocks use, but it
will not be able to determine all its meanings - the probAs a student, he read PPE at Oxford and earned a doctor- lems of capitalist community and leisure are not so easily
ate in sociology from UC Berkeley. He is the author of resolved.
many inuential books, including The Sociology of Rock
(Constable, 1978), Sound Eects: Youth, Leisure and the
Politics of Rock 'n' Roll (Pantheon, 1981), Art into Pop
(Methuen, 1987 - written with Howard Horne), Music for 3 Bad music
Pleasure: Essays on the Sociology of Pop (Cambridge University Press, 1988), and Performing Rites: On the Value Frith (2004, p. 17-9) argued that "'bad music' is a necof Popular Music (Oxford University Press, 1996). He essary concept for musical pleasure, for musical aesthethas also co-edited key anthologies in the interdisciplinary ics. He distinguishes two common kinds of bad music;
eld of popular music studies, including: On Record: the rst is the Worst Records Ever Made type, which inRock, Pop & the Written Word (Routledge, 1990), Sound cludes:
and Vision: Music Video Reader (Routledge, 1993), and
The Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock (Cambridge
Tracks which are clearly incompetent musically;
University Press, 2001).
made by singers who can't sing, players who can't
More recently, Frith has edited a four-volume set, Popuplay, producers who can't produce,
lar Music: Critical Concepts in Media & Cultural Studies
Tracks involving genre confusion. The most com(Routledge, 2004), and published a collection of his key
mon examples are actors or TV stars recording in
essays, Taking Popular Music Seriously: Selected Essays
the latest style.
(Ashgate, 2007). He is the co-author of a three-volume
work, The History of Live Music in Britain since 1950, the
rst volume of which will be published in March 2013 by
The second type is the rock critical list, which includes:
Ashgate.
Frith has chaired the judges of the Mercury Music Prize
Tracks that feature sound gimmicks that have outsince it began in 1992.[2] His popular music criticism
lived their charm or novelty,
has appeared in a range of popular presses including the
Village Voice and The Sunday Times. He taught in the So Tracks that depend on false sentiment (...), that feaciology Department at the University of Warwick and the
ture an excess of feeling molded into a radio-friendly
English Studies Department at Strathclyde University. In
pop song.
1999, he went to the University of Stirling as Professor
of Film and Media. In 2006, he took up his current post,
Tovey Chair of Music at the University of Edinburgh. He He later gives three common qualities attributed to bad
is the brother of guitarist and composer Fred Frith and music: inauthentic, [in] bad taste (see also: kitsch), and
stupid. He argues that The marking o of some tracks
neuroscientist Chris Frith.
and genres and artists as 'bad' is a necessary part of popular music pleasure; it is a way we establish our place in
various music worlds. And 'bad' is a key word here be2 The Sociology of Rock
cause it suggests that aesthetic and ethical judgements are
tied together here: not to like a record is not just a matter
In The Sociology of Rock (1978) Frith examines the of taste; it is also a matter of argument, and argument that
consumption, production, and ideology of rock music. matters. (p. 28)
1

Four social functions of popular


music

In Towards an Aesthetic of Popular Music Simon Frith


(1987) argues that popular music has four social functions
that account for its value and popularity in society.[4] Popular music:
1. allows us to answer questions about our own identity
and place in society
2. help us manage the relationship between our public
and private emotional lives
3. help us organize our sense of time and shapes popular memory
4. is something that is possessed

References

[1] Paul Morley. ... Ms Dynamite, M People and Portico


Quartet. Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
[2] University of Edinburgh Sta Prole. BBC. Retrieved
November 27, 2010.
[3] Ken Tucker. THE WONDERFUL ART OF VULGARITY. The New York Times. Retrieved November 27,
2010.
[4] Frith, Simon (1987). Music & Society: The Politics of
Consumption, Performance and Reception. Cambridge
University Press. pp. 133151. ISBN 9780521379779.

Sources
Frith, Simon (1978). The Sociology of Rock. ISBN
0-09-460220-4
Frith, Simon. What is Bad Music in Washburne,
Christopher J. and Derno, Maiken (eds.) (2004).
Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate. New York:
Routledge. ISBN 0-415-94366-3.
Frith, Simon (1996). Performing Rites: On the Value
of Popular Music.
Frith, S., Brennan, M., Cloonan, M., and Webster,
E. (2013). The History of Live Music in Britain, Volume I: 1950-1967: From Dance Hall to the 100 Club.
Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 978-1-4094-2280-8.

External links
"Online exchange with Simon Frith" at rockcritics.com

EXTERNAL LINKS

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Simon Frith Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Frith?oldid=738686918 Contributors: Jahsonic, Charles Matthews, Hyacinth,


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