Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society


Nick Prior

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
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  • Copyright


    Writing the acknowledgements for a text like this is a bit like writing the credits for an album. On the surface it looks to be a relatively straightforward exercise, though the length of the credits tells an altogether more complex story. Like albums, books are profoundly collective accomplishments: generated, processed and marshalled by plural agents, actors and materials. They emerge out of a haze of conversations and cloud of influences, cohering around a few good (and less than good) ideas and some hunches, and shaped over time by the ebb and flow of academic and technical labour.

    In this case, the book’s contours have been shaped by the pleasures and challenges of teaching on the topic of digital technology and popular music in the Sociology Department at the University of Edinburgh, and so my first thanks go to all the students who have contributed to the course over the years. Much like the unsung heroes and heroines from the world of session musicians, it is your enthusiasm and dedication that leaves the biggest imprint on the text. Particular thanks to Arek Dakessian who tutored on the course with such verve and devotion, and to the course administrators, Sue Renton, Karen Dargo and Joanne Blair, for their professionalism in keeping the course running like clockwork.

    My PhD students, past and present, have been a constant source of inspiration, tackling topics of immense interest and import and lighting the way by sticking to their tasks even when progress seemed agonizingly slow. That this book took the long journey it did was partly a matter of contingency and partly down to the desire to aim for the high standards set by students and colleagues in their own work. If I have fallen short of those standards, it is not for lack of good role models.

    Books like this require enthusiastic funders and backers, and so my grateful thanks to Sage Publishers and particularly the commissioning editors, Chris Rojek and John Nightingale, for their support in making the book happen, and for their patience as they awaited its arrival. Thanks also to the technical and design staff at Sage for their guidance and efficiency throughout the process. The text was completed while on sabbatical, so I owe a debt of gratitude to the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh for giving me the time to finish the book and for funding parts of the research on which it is based.

    The marks and traces left by music in the text are too numerous to mention, but my thanks go to all the musicians who gave up their time to talk to me about their own practices and to the bands whose music leaked into the writing. Thanks also to Simon Frith and members of the Wednesday music seminar group who were always a source of inventive ideas and inspiration. I count myself lucky to have met so many considerate and smart friends through the seminar. Particular thanks to Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, Matt Brennan, Mark Percival, Paul Harkins, Tami Gadir, Kieran Curran, Kyle Devine, Richard Worth, Tom Western and Adam Behr for their all-round brilliance.

    To my family – my brother, mum, dad, aunties and stepdad – I owe you so much, but particularly your love and encouragement over the years. Without your guiding emotional presence the book would have been so much harder. Dad, I still see your love and draw strength from it.

    Finally, the book was completed in Japan, a place I now consider my second home. The more I have got to know the people, culture and language of that country the more I have felt its inscrutable layers nourish the text. My thanks, in particular, to Katsuya Minamida, Yoshitaka Mouri, Tomoji Ebitani, Noriko Nakahama Davidson, Kanae Muraki and Jason Karlin for their advice, friendship and encouragement; to the University of Tokyo of the Arts (Geidai) for hosting me as a Visiting Fellow in the Spring/Summer of 2017; and most of all to Hitomi Kobayashi for her unswerving love and kindness in the book’s final stages. シンプルなことですね!

    Accreditation over, I am obliged to say that any faults, flaws and foibles are entirely my own.

    Parts of the book have appeared elsewhere in preliminary forms, but all chapters have been substantially revised, updated and rewritten and none appear in their entirety as they do here. Select elements of Chapter 1, ‘Introduction: Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society’, appeared as ‘The Rise of the New Amateurs: Popular Music, Digital Technology and the Fate of Cultural Production’, in Handbook of Cultural Sociology, edited by John R. Hall, Laura Grindstaff and Ming-cheng Lo, Routledge, 2010. Chapter 2, ‘After the Orgy: The Internet and Popular Music Consumption’, is an expanded version of the chapter ‘Beyond Napster: Popular Music and the Normal Internet’, Sage Handbook of Popular Music, edited by Andy Bennett and Steve Waksman, Sage, 2015. Chapter 3, ‘Apps, Laps and Infinite Tracks: Digital Music Production’, draws on ideas first aired in ‘Software Sequencers and Cyborg Singers: Popular Music in the Digital Hypermodern’, New Formations, 66, Spring 2009: 81–99, as well as ‘OK Computer: Mobility, Software and the Laptop Musician’, Information, Communication and Society, 11(7), October 2008: 912–932. Chapter 4, ‘From Iron Cage to Digital Bubble? Mobile Listening Devices and the City’, is a revised version of the article ‘The Plural iPod: A Study of Technology in Action’, Poetics, 42(1), February 2014: 22–39. And Chapter 5, ‘Vox Pop: Exploring Electronic and Digital Vocalities’, draws on the article ‘On Vocal Assemblages: From Edison to Miku’, for a special issue of the journal Contemporary Music Review, 36, 2017.

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