Timothy D. Taylor tracks the use of music in American advertising for nearly a century, from variety shows like The Clicquot Club Eskimos to the rise of the jingle, the postwar upsurge in consumerism, and the more complete fusion of popular music and consumption in the 1980s and after. The Sounds of Capitalism is the first book to tell truly the history of music used in advertising in the United States and is an original contribution to this little-studied part of our cultural history.
Beginning with a focus on musical manifestations of colonialism and imperialism, Taylor discusses how the “discovery” of the New World and the development of an understanding of self as distinct from the other, of “here” as different from “there,” was implicated in the development of tonality, a musical system which effectively creates centers and margins. He describes how musical practices signifying nonwestern peoples entered the western European musical vocabulary and how Darwinian thought shaped the cultural conditions of early-twentieth-century music. In the era of globalization, new communication technologies and the explosion of marketing and consumption have accelerated the production and circulation of tropes of otherness. Considering western music produced under rubrics including multiculturalism, collaboration, hybridity, and world music, Taylor scrutinizes contemporary representations of difference. He argues that musical interpretations of the nonwestern other developed hundreds of years ago have not necessarily been discarded; rather they have been recycled and retooled.