Beyond authenticism : new approaches to post war music culture

Hennessy, Tom (2016) Beyond authenticism : new approaches to post war music culture. Doctoral thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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The emergence of folk, jazz, blues, skiffle, rock n roll and R&B scenes in the post-war period of 1945 – 1964 was a major development in Anglophonic music culture. Key individuals operating within these scenes frequently pursued authenticity, or framed their musical activities as “authentic” – that is as cultural produce that was supposedly “true” to a certain way of life, or that offered something “real” in the face of the commercial culture of the mainstream. While this “authenticism” was productive in many respects it also represents a problem for the cultural historian. This thesis tackles this problem by first diagnosing the origins, nature and effects of authenticism, and then by undertaking three new historical studies through which a differently inflected history of this remarkable phase of popular music can be drawn. The first part of this thesis describes the emergence of authenticism in the 1940s and 50s as constituted by certain forms of language. I situate authenticism as a broad current within post war culture which fed upon the growing sense of dissatisfaction with the status-quo. I pay particular attention to its association with the New Left, a confluence whose legacy I argue should now be reappraised. The second part of the thesis proposes three alternative approaches to the subject: a data-based and textual analysis of chart pop, an analytical biography of Lonnie Donegan and a consideration of space and music culture focused upon London. These three case studies will provide a critical and evidence-led analysis that asserts the hybrid and de-centred nature of post war music culture and its place within the broader narratives of modernity. The aim is to create distance from the discourses of authenticism that still influence popular and academic understandings of this field.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: School of Social Sciences, History & Philosophy
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2017 16:48
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2017 16:48

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