Each to his iPod, or great music for all?
Saturday 27 October, 10.30am until 12.00pm, Seminar Space Battle for Music

There is no doubt that music is universal in the sense that it exists in every culture, and that everyone enjoys and responds to it in one form or another, but can any one piece or genre of music ever appeal to everyone? In modern Western society we can choose from countless genres drawn from all over the world. The Western classical canon no longer enjoys privileged status in the musical marketplace. From opera to garage, different genres of music are fiercely defended and identified with by some groups and yet hated by others. At the same time, though, few would argue that all types of music are equal, and most of us want other people to share the music we love.

Is any particular form of music truly universal? Can aesthetic judgements escape cultural specificity, or rise above personal taste? Is a Chinese musician who plays Bach embracing something universal, or simply becoming Westernised? Are classical music buffs just another tribe? Or might other forms of music also stake a claim to being universal? And if there are no universals, how can we engage with new and unfamiliar music?


Ivan Hewett
chief music critic, Daily Telegraph; professor, Royal College of Music; broadcaster; author, Music: healing the rift
Barb Jungr
singer, writer and performer; CDs include, The Man in the Long Black Coat and From Stockport to Memphis
Sir Nicholas Kenyon
managing director, Barbican Centre; presenter, BBC Radio 4’s Cities From The Ashes; former director BBC Proms
Jon 'Webbo' Webster
CEO, Music Managers Forum; founder, Mercury Music Prize
Dolan Cummings
associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)

 Produced by

Dolan Cummings associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)
Cara Bleiman teacher, Arnhem Wharf Primary School

Each to his iPod, or great music for all?, Anca Dumitrescu

 Recommended readings

Vanishing acts
The recorded era witnessed levels of literacy and popularity for classical music that are unlikely to be seen again
Martin Kettle, The Guardian, 2 April 2007

Segregation blues
What is the distinction between folk and popular music and is it really tenable except on the grounds of racial authenticity?
Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor, Guardian, 3 April 2007

Where have all the rock stars gone?
With the shift from public to private consumption, and from mass to a niche culture, the very notion of popular music becomes outmoded
David Shumway, Chronicle of Higher Education, 21 June 2007

The single tradition exploded
A century of recording and broadcasting has expanded our taste and brought a vast new richness to classical music
Nicholas Kenyon, Guardian, 15 February 2005

Why classical music is out of tune with the iPod
Classical music doesn't belong to the private, mobile space of the iPod, but to the public space of churches, libraries, debating societies and concerts
Ivan Hewett, Telegraph, 3 August 2005

Music, Culture and Experience: Selected Papers of John Blacking
One of the most important ethnomusicologists of the century, John Blacking is known for his interest in the relationship of music to biology, psychology, dance and politics. He attempted to document the ways in which music-making expresses the human condition, how it transcends social divisions and how it can be used to improve the quality of human life.
John Blacking, University of Chicago Press,

On the radical in musicology
The discipline of musicology is pleasurable in terms of that which it disciplines; the unthinking enthusiasm of the amateur
Ian Biddle, Radical Musicology, 31 December 2005

Performing Rites: Evaluating Popular Music
'A socio-philosophical quarrel with history about the value of pop music and popular culture.'
Simon Frith, Oxford University Press,

New Musical experiences
Have changes in the means of distributing and consuming music privatised what was once a collective experience?
Dan Hill, City of Sound, 2 January 2006

recommended by spiked

The death of the LP
Donald Winchester, 21 November 2005

Session partners

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