ABSTRACT

Central to the undertaking of this book is the search for analytical parameters that suit the music at hand. Despite the efforts of some commentators, perhaps most prominent among them Moore (2001) and Middleton (2000), I feel that the sound of recordings has not been adequately taken into consideration in academic studies. The same is true of the album as a type of structure. These elements have been interrogated by a vast array of artists concerned with spontaneity, rawness and inclusion over several decades, and this book is an attempt to deal with some of them. While the strategies pursued in this book are particularly appropriate to new folk, and more widely to any music with an outsider or oppositional stance, they are applicable to any music for which the recorded artefact is more than a document of an actual performance. As will be borne out by the examples that follow, one assumption made in many readings of popular music is that a recording exists to transmit a kind of meaning that resides in a song. Rarely have commentators noticed that the fidelity and production of a recording not only frames that meaning, but carries much of that meaning itself. Choices made with regard to recording strategies, and the attitudes that they contain towards not only the material recorded, but its position in the context of the music industry, are routinely ignored, often because a certain ‘industry standard’ of production is assumed and implicitly preferred in the analysis of popular music at an academic level. At the risk of falling into the trap of evangelising for supposed underdogs, I believe that the approach to analysis pursued in this book draws attention to influential activity on the fringes of popular music. I hope also to illuminate aspects of some well-known artists in a new way.