The Sounds of Capitalism: Advertising, Music, and the Conquest of Culture

University of Chicago Press
Free sample

From the early days of radio through the rise of television after World War II to the present, music has been used more and more to sell goods and establish brand identities. And since the 1920s, songs originally written for commercials have become popular songs, and songs written for a popular audience have become irrevocably associated with specific brands and products. Today, musicians move flexibly between the music and advertising worlds, while the line between commercial messages and popular music has become increasingly blurred.

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.

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About the author

Timothy D. Taylor is professor in the Department of Ethnomusicology and Musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of Global Pop: World Music, World Markets; Strange Sounds: Music, Technology, and Culture; and Beyond Exoticism: Western Music and the World.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jun 19, 2012
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Pages
408
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ISBN
9780226791142
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Advertising & Promotion
History / General
History / United States / 20th Century
Music / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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While the youth counterculture remains the most evocative and best-remembered symbol of the cultural ferment of the 1960s, the revolution that shook American business during those boom years has gone largely unremarked. In this fascinating and revealing study, Thomas Frank shows how the youthful revolutionaries were joined—and even anticipated —by such unlikely allies as the advertising industry and the men's clothing business.

"[Thomas Frank is] perhaps the most provocative young cultural critic of the moment."—Gerald Marzorati, New York Times Book Review

"An indispensable survival guide for any modern consumer."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Frank makes an ironclad case not only that the advertising industry cunningly turned the countercultural rhetoric of revolution into a rallying cry to buy more stuff, but that the process itself actually predated any actual counterculture to exploit."—Geoff Pevere, Toronto Globe and Mail

"The Conquest of Cool helps us understand why, throughout the last third of the twentieth century, Americans have increasingly confused gentility with conformity, irony with protest, and an extended middle finger with a populist manifesto. . . . His voice is an exciting addition to the soporific public discourse of the late twentieth century."—T. J. Jackson Lears, In These Times

"An invaluable argument for anyone who has ever scoffed at hand-me-down counterculture from the '60s. A spirited and exhaustive analysis of the era's advertising."—Brad Wieners, Wired Magazine

"Tom Frank is . . . not only old-fashioned, he's anti-fashion, with a place in his heart for that ultimate social faux pas, leftist politics."—Roger Trilling, Details
In Beyond Exoticism, Timothy D. Taylor considers how western cultures’ understandings of racial, ethnic, and cultural differences have been incorporated into music from early operas to contemporary television advertisements, arguing that the commonly used term “exoticism” glosses over such differences in many studies of western music. Beyond Exoticism encompasses a range of musical genres and musicians, including Mozart, Beethoven, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Maurice Ravel, Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Bally Sagoo, and Bill Laswell as well as opera, symphony, country music, and “world music.” Yet, more than anything else, it is an argument for expanding the purview of musicology to take into account not only composers’ lives and the formal properties of the music they produce but also the larger historical and cultural forces shaping both music and our understanding of it.

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.

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