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This Is Pop

This Is Pop

In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project

Eric Weisbard

ISBN 9780674013445

Publication date: 05/31/2004

A range of genres, rooted in local impulses, reaching global audiences; a main prop of commercial culture and an art form open to aspirants and fans from every background: About the vast and diverse topic of pop, scholars and critics, journalists and musicians have much to say, but rarely to each other. A crossover venture begun at Seattle's Experience Music Project, this book captures the academic and the critical, the musical and the literary in an impromptu dialogue that suggests the breadth and vitality of pop inquiry today.

This Is Pop illustrates what can happen when the best of scholarship, criticism, and pop's inherent unruliness intersect. Robert Christgau and Gary Giddins, pivotal critics, encounter Simon Frith and Robert Walser, pioneers in the study of popular music. Luc Sante and Geoffrey O'Brien write about sound with the same prose elegance they apply to noir or New York streetlife. Musicians Carrie Brownstein and Sarah Dougher, both active in the riot grrl and rock scenes of the Pacific Northwest, examine how audience responses affect their craft. John Darnielle, of the Mountain Goats and the idiosyncratic zine Last Plane to Jakarta, attends to the web postings of hair metal fans. From film tracks to Merle Travis, from Ray Davies to rock infighting, from indie poetry to the Carly Simon Principle of pop sincerity, this book reflects the welter of ambition, style, and meaning that draw us to pop in the first place. The result is a collection as cluttered with treasures as a good music store.


  • Taken as a whole, the collection is characterized by a marked diversity that is exciting to read and provocative in its effect. This diversity is evident at the level of style (journalists don't write like academics), content (the collection contains essays devoted to unusual topics: such as the role and aesthetic identity of session musicians who, as a group, have been largely ignored in popular music studies), and epistemology (what musicians and journalists lack in terms of clear theoretical and methodological foundations, they make up for in terms of the immediacy of their experience and the knowledge that it produces). Such diversity, taken alone however, would be worth little if it were not accompanied by a high level of quality in the individual papers. Fortunately, this collection contains a large number of essays that stand well on their own: including solid pieces of research turned in by academics well known within popular music studies, as well as intelligent, provocative essays by journalists and others demonstrating that, where pop music is concerned, academics don't hold a monopoly on the ability to think critically. But it is by juxtaposing these essays with one another that the collection makes its greatest contribution: many of the individual papers gain much by being put in dialogue with the others, each complementing the others in surprising and insightful ways.

    —Paul Theberge, author of Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology


  • Eric Weisbard is the Senior Program Manager in the Education Department of Experience Music Project in Seattle. He is the former music editor at Village Voice and was a senior editor at Spin.

Book Details

  • 400 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press