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Cultures of Listening: The popular aesthetics of 'difficult music'.

Atton, Chris


Chris Atton


Difficulty and complexity are values most often associated with a modernist avant-garde of ‘serious’ music. Their presence in popular music tends to attract the opprobrium of critics who seek to maintain a purity for popular music founded on values of authenticity, sincerity and directness of expression. In my presentation I will explore the critical discourse of audiences for difficult music in popular culture, such as avant-rock, Noise and free improvisation. I will show how and where audiences listen to and derive pleasure from music that sits on the intersection between the popular and the avant-garde. Rather than engage in arid exercises in intellectualism, which is how many critics might expect such audiences to behave, fans of the popular avant-garde encounter difficulty and complexity through a fertile variety of social situations, interpretations and aesthetic judgements.


Atton, C. (2013, October). Cultures of Listening: The popular aesthetics of 'difficult music'

Presentation Conference Type Lecture
Start Date Oct 2, 2013
End Date Oct 2, 2013
Publication Date Oct 2, 2013
Deposit Date Oct 2, 2013
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Popular music; audience response; listening; cultural discourse; avant-rock; Noise; free improvisation;
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