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Music as symbol, music as simulacrum: postmodern, pre-modern, and modern aesthetics in subcultural popular musics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2008

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Postmodern aesthetics has come to be recognised as a salient feature of much popular culture, including music. Urban subcultures, and especially migrant subcultures, may have inherent inclinations toward postmodern aesthetics, while at the same time retaining ties to modern and even pre-modern cultural discourses. The syncretic popular musics created by such subcultures may reflect these multiple cultural orientations by combining postmodern and more traditional characteristics. Thus, for example, punk rock and rap music can be seen to combine postmodern techniques of pastiche, bricolage and blank irony with modernist socio-political protest. Similar eclecticisms can also be found in the musics of some urban migrant subcultures, whose syncretic musics, like their senses of social identity, often self-consciously juxtapose or combine ancestral homeland traditions with the most contemporary cosmopolitan styles and attitudes. Interpretations of such musics may call for a particularly nuanced appreciation of the distinct aesthetic modes which may coexist in the same work.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995

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