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Pop Cult: Religion and Popular Music [Paperback]

Rupert Till
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: 19.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

30 Sep 2010 0826432360 978-0826432360
At a time when fundamentalism is on the rise, traditional religions are in decline and postmodernity has challenged any system that claims to be all-defining, young people have left their traditional places of worship and set up their own, in clubs, at festivals and within music culture. Pop Cults investigates the ways in which popular music and its surrounding culture have become a primary site for the location of meaning, belief and identity. It provides an introduction to the history of the interactions of vernacular music and religion, and the role of music in religious culture. Rupert Till explores the cults of heavy metal, pop stars, club culture and virtual popular music worlds, investigating the sex, drug, local and death cults of the sacred popular, and their relationships with traditional religions. He concludes by discussing how and why popular music cultures have taken on many of the roles of traditional religions in contemporary society.

Product details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum (30 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826432360
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826432360
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 488,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Rupert Till is a composer, musicologist, performer and producer. He is a senior lecturer in Music Technology at the University of Huddersfield. He was brought up in York, leaving to read performing arts in Leicester, studying with composers Gavin Bryars and Christopher Hobbs. He went back to York to take an MA in music technology at the University there. He worked for a number of years as a freelance composer, musician and sound engineer, before moving into education. He took his PhD in composition while working as a full-time lecturer, submitting a portfolio that included ambient electronica, film music, and compositions for dance company Whoopee Stomp. He formed Electronica act Chillage People, whose music is available on itunes, and who have performed in the UK and Europe. He also formed the Abstract Film Orchestra who improvise live scores to experimental and silent films. He is a DJ, plays piano, guitar, percussion and sings. He is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and member of the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He was Principal Investigator of the Acoustics and Music of British Prehistory Research Network, and runs the network website. His published research on the acoustics of Stonehenge has been featured on a documentary made by the History Channel for their Mysteryquest series.

Product Description


... the useful concluding chapter gives a wake-up call to a Church that has lost touch with culture, and a well-argued case for how popular music is in part filling its place.--Sanford Lakoff

About the Author

Rupert Till is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Huddersfield, UK.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor. 1 Jan 2014
I read this over Christmas and was so looking forward to reading it for ages. It is poorly written and is not well researched. It also hops over the place which means that no point is ever fully developed. I still believe in the central idea that there are religious inflections to pop music and other forms of popular culture but the author does nothing to convince me of this. I looked him up and the problem could be that he is a musicologist rather than an academic. I'm sure he makes great music but he should stop writing about it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and Accessible 7 Sep 2010
This is an excellently written review of the subject. It is intelligent yet accessible so ideal as a course text book or for those with an interest in music. The author clearly knows his subject.
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Amazon.com: 2.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Defensive Book 7 Mar 2014
By Kristen L. Southworth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a graduate student in religion and the arts, and I consulted this book as part of my master's thesis. I am also a Gen X indie-folk singer/songwriter who was raised on the rock and pop traditions that Till references. I have experienced the transcendence of rock concerts. So I was looking forward to this book. But I was pretty disappointed.

Till appropriates the standard approach of interpreting "the arts" - in this case popular music - as "filling in" where mainline religion has supposedly failed. This line of argument comes straight out of the 1800s, when French bohemians and Romantics declared that artists were the new "priests" of Europe, a line of thinking that many scholars think is a bit dated and ethically questionable, and I tend to agree with them. Till also employs here the notion of functionalism, which is really en vogue among sociologists of religion right now and which is also problematic - the idea that if it looks like a religion, if it smells like a religion, then it is religion. I think we should not be so hasty. There is a lot offered by what have been traditionally called "religions" that pop culture communities, and other new religious communities do not and can not offer. The conversation surrounding culture and religion is really quite complex, and since I can't imagine that Till is unaware of this complexity, I question how his book seems to gloss over all of that in order to serve its point. It's a little...dare I say?...manipulative. At the very least it comes off as kind of defensive-sounding.

The title says its a book about "religion" and popular culture, but it is primarily talking about "Christianity" and pop culture, and more specifically about a certain kind of Christianity that Till doesn't like. He attempts to describe with some historical details the development and harms and dangers of this particular kind of Christianity, but the overall caricature is not a fair picture of Christian history. Additionally, true to anthropological form, he presents "New Religious Movements" (the "politically correct" term for a "cult") with no consideration of ethics.... That is, all religious communities, no matter how small or manipulative or harmful they, are undeserving of the derogatory labels placed on them by that evil cult Christianity. But by saying that Christianity itself is a cult, he thinks that this shows how all religious groups are really the same, which is really not a very intelligent argument since it employs the very critique that he seeks to dismiss.

The biggest problem I have with this is that the total lack of critical analysis underlying a lot of Till's arguments about the "pop cult" itself. It does not seem that he is at all aware that sexual exploitation of women, drug addiction, hetero-normative scripts, capitalist marketing strategies, or even suicide are actually bad or harmful. His allergy to value considerations makes it sound like he is actually defending these things against any such critique. The patriarchal misogyny of "cock rock," for example, is defended by showing that the men donning long hair and tight jeans are participating in a kind of gender-bending. That didn't quite do it for me, I have to say. It bothers me to think that in all of his many years of involvement in pop and rock culture, he somehow avoided any confrontation with the lack of real pastoral support for human beings who face the real human catastrophes that are common to these communities such as rape, overdose, homelessness, exploitation, and suicide.

I imagine that Till has probably had a lot of transformative, liberative experiences at rock concerts, and that in the context of the UK and post-Christian Europe, he has probably experienced Christianity as either absent, irrelevant, or harmful. And so perhaps it is not surprising that what you get in the end is just a book of Till's arguments against fundamentalist Christianity's "uptight" views on things like cults, sex, drugs, and even evil and death, mixed in with some very bright-eyed nostalgic defenses of pop culture and its perfectly wonderful examples of rebel rousing.

I too have had the bulk of my sacred experiences in the so-called "secular" world, and I too am interested in finding a way to talk about that academically. But the range of my life experiences - both good and bad - demands a deeper analysis of human culture than this book has to offer.
1.0 out of 5 stars If not for this class I would have never wasted my time or money on this useless piece of ... 25 July 2014
By Alexandra - Published on Amazon.com
I have to read this book for a college course I'm only 3 pages in and getting gross over generalizations up the yin-yang. If not for this class I would have never wasted my time or money on this useless piece of soap box. The reviewer Kristen above me is correct Till tries to justify the new movements as positive without bothering to analyze the negative or destructive things within certain cult movements, excuse me NRMs, can have on an individual or group, Heaven's gate anyone?
2.0 out of 5 stars Why don't sociologists care about the scientific method? 18 Jun 2014
By K. Jones - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book was required for a class that I took at college, however I took issue with the content. Aside from the fact that the scientific method seems completely overlooked, it generalized and labeled many large groups of people in a way that I personally thought was disgusting.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 17 Aug 2014
By Beatrise F. Mason - Published on Amazon.com
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