Popular Music – Reading Response

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In Media/Society: Technology, Industries, Content, and Users, David R. Croteau and William Hoynes (2019, p. 13) define agency as follows, adding an example from education:

Agency  is intentional and undetermined human action. Human agency  reproduces—or sometimes changes—social structure. . . . With education,  students have some leeway in what they study, how much time and energy  they spend on schoolwork, and whether or not they even continue their  studies. But, overall, their actions typically reinforce an existing  model of education that has evolved only modestly in the last century. .  . . [W]hile structure constrains agency, it is human agency that either  alters or maintains social structures.

Rojek, on page 76 of Pop Music, Pop Culture, writes:

Whereas  structuralism foregrounds the desiderata that are alleged to condition  or determine individual and group action, the agency perspective  launches from the position of the knowledge, motivation and action of  social actors to transform history and socio-economic contexts. It takes  for granted that the central defect of the structuralist approach is to  deny creativity, variation and cultural difference. . . . Against this,  agency approaches emphasize the creativity and aesthetic contribution  of artists and audiences and their attempt to make meaning and act upon  society and history. The caveat here is that subjective choice and  practice are conceived not as autonomous, but as entwined in fields of  knowledge and power that prioritize specific types of embodiment,  recognition and conduct.

Pick one or two texts we have read, up to and including Week Five,  the week of this assignment’s deadline. These texts may also be e.g.  individual perspectives (Plato/Aristotle, relationism, etc.) discussed  by Rojek in our textbook. Using examples from your own  experience or from music-related media, explain where these texts locate  listeners’ or musicians’ agency—and/or where they deny such agency.  What, according to these texts/writers, is people’s agency in their  everyday listening or in their musical performances? Where do these  authors find “intentional and undetermined human action” or “the  creativity and aesthetic contribution of artists and audiences and their  attempt to make meaning and act upon society and history”? Do these  texts/writers allow for agency at all?

Further notes/recommendations (also remember to revisit the syllabus for further information):

  • Be sure to use the space you have  efficiently. Choosing just one text may be enough if you have strong  arguments in your discussion of its up- and downsides. Two texts/writers  may work well for a comparison.
  • While, of course, short summaries  of selected texts’/writers’ main arguments should be included in your  text, be sure to focus on the application of their ideas to your  examples, and focus on your critical evaluation of these ideas. To quote  the syllabus: “How do the readings help us to understand the  relationship between popular music and everyday life? Do these readings  speak to your personal experience as a consumer or producer of music?  Are there alternative ways of thinking about what the readings discuss?  If so, what are they?
  • Be sure to isolate the key  arguments of the texts you focus on. Don’t feel like you have to explain  a text’s/writer’s minor lines of thought. Instead, take a reading’s key  point and engage with it through evidence as well as comparison.

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