Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Educational, Not Entertaining, 1 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Music and Politics (PCPC - Polity Contemporary Political Communication Series) (Paperback)
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'Humans make music and music makes us human.'
- Cloonan & Frith, A Music Manifesto for Scotland (2011)

Music and Politics (PCPC - Polity Contemporary Political Communication Series) isn't an easy book to rate. On one hand, it's a thorough exploration of the ways in which music and politics affect each other (the author goes as far as to suggest they're extensions of each other). From an academic perspective, this is a five-star book. Yet while the content is hugely educational, John Street's dry, humourless writing style hinders the book's readability. I ploughed through the pages, fully aware that they were laden with valuable knowledge, but - try as I might - I couldn't get enthused about the mode of delivery. It's a safe bet that most books with the word 'politics' in the title will be duller than dishwater, but a great writer can bring even the most boring subject to life; an example that springs to mind is Michael Lewis, whose Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour describes serious events (those that caused the global economic crash) in the style of an unravelling mystery loaded with incisive observational humour. Not so with this book. Street knows his subject inside out: he's professor of politics at the University of East Anglia, so one would expect this to be the case. His writing would greatly benefit, however, from an infusion of humour and literary flair. My experience of reading this book was very much like that of eating cabbage as a child: I knew it was good for me, but I just couldn't enjoy it.

Here's the synopsis:

Chapters 1 and 2 deal with censorship of music, music policy and the idea (as claimed by Lord Redesdale) that live music is a human right.

Chapters 3, 4 and 5 develop the concept of music as a human right, examining how music is used and perceived by citizens, and manifest in the demands they make of the state. Analysis is made of how music can articulate political ideas and organise political action (for example, Live Aid, Live 8, Rock Against Racism). These chapters argue for music as more than a mere soundtrack to politics, but as the very substance of politics. Street argues that music represents and communicates political ideas and identities, as well as mobilising movements in support of such notions.

Chapter 6 looks at how music, by marking key adjuncts in history, informs political ideas and in so doing becomes history.

Chapter 7 traces the connection between musical taste and political values, mapping the interplay between aesthetics and ideology.

Chapter 8 argues that music is not just a matter of taste or entertainment, but also a key to understanding social order. Street contends that music is a form of political experience.

That's it in a nutshell. 'Music and Politics' is a well-written book, but it's not an entertaining one. Had John Street written it as an academic manual for his politics students, its coldly factual tone would have been appropriate. For a book aimed at the mainstream, however, it lacks both warmth and readability. Constructive criticism from a reformed cabbage hater.
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