Fabbri, Franco (2012) Genre theories and their applications in the historical and analytical study of popular music: a commentary on my publications. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

There can be little doubt that the usage of the concept of genre remains widespread in discourses
around music, cinema, theatre, literature. However, for a long period of time, musicologists have paid little attention to genre which is considered to be an outdated legacy of positivism: a concept belonging to amateurish criticism or daily musical practice – and incompatible with the hegemonic ideology of ‘absolute music’. In the commentary that follows, the history of my own efforts to bring genre back to the theoretical core of musicological debate is outlined, and intertwined with the work of other scholars (sociologists, cultural theorists, anthropologists) who helped re-define genre as a
useful concept in the scholarly study of music. Popular music, as a set of genres from which paramusical elements – and related social conventions – were never expelled as spurious (as formalist musicology did with respect to Western art music), was obviously my main focus, although in some writings I deal with classical music, electronic music and traditional (folk) music.

After examining at some length the development of my theory of genre (definitions, ‘rules’ and
conventions, inter-genre relations and intra-genre diachronic development), the commentary focuses on a number of studies of specific (mostly popular) genres, music scenes, forms, artists, where genre is an underlying concept. One of the most delicate aspects of any theory about genre, and one that has been at the centre of my investigation for so long, is that of diachronic development; as a consequence, the history of popular music became at some point a favourite subject for my study – my contributions are outlined in the commentary which can be read in conjunction with my writings on the subject. Finally, a section is dedicated to my writings on music technology, music industry, and media. In the conclusions my work on genre is contextualised nationally and internationally, with some considerations on linguistic issues; the commentary ends with a brief outline of my future research plans.

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