Dig Sound and Music in Hip Culture

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-08-13
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Hipness has been an indelible part of America's intellectual and cultural landscape since the 1940s. But the question What is hip? remains a kind of cultural koan, equally intriguing and elusive.

In Dig, Phil Ford argues that while hipsters have always used clothing, hairstyle, gesture, and slang to mark their distance from consensus culture, music has consistently been the primary means of resistance, the royal road to hip. Hipness suggests a particular kind of alienation from society--alienation due not to any specific political wrong but to something more radical, a clash of perception and consciousness. From the vantage of hipness, the dominant culture constitutes a system bent on excluding creativity, self-awareness, and self-expression. The hipster's project is thus to define himself against this system, to resist being stamped in its uniform, squarish mold. Ford explores radio shows, films, novels, poems, essays, jokes, and political manifestos, but argues that music more than any other form of expression has shaped the alienated hipster's identity. Indeed, for many avant-garde subcultures music is their raison d'Ítre. Hip intellectuals conceived of sound itself as a way of challenging meaning--that which is cognitive and abstract, timeless and placeless--with experience--that which is embodied, concrete and anchored in place and time. Through Charlie Parker's "Ornithology," Ken Nordine's "Sound Museum," Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man," and a range of other illuminating examples, Ford shows why and how music came to be at the center of hipness.

Shedding new light on an enigmatic concept, Dig is essential reading for students and scholars of popular music and culture, as well as anyone fascinated by the counterculture movement of the mid-twentieth-century.

Publication of this book was supported by the AMS 75 PAYS Endowment of the American Musicological Society, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Author Biography

Phil Ford is Assistant Professor of Music at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. His work focuses on American popular music in the cold war, performance and auditory culture studies, and the intellectual history of counterculture. He was founder and co-author of the Dial 'M' for Musicology weblog.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction: Dig

Chapter 1: Koan (What Is Hip?)
1. What is Hip?
2. The Suzuki Rhythm Boys
3. The Devil's Staircase
4. The Black Spot

Chapter 2: Somewhere/Nowhere
1. Precambrian
2. Game Ideology
3. 1948: Smart Goes Crazy
4. Miles and Monk
5. Somewhere/Nowhere

Chapter 3: Sound Become Holy (The Beats)
1. Sound Become Holy
2. The Sadness of It All
3. Digging What They Dig
4. Astounding and Prophetic
5. Stenciled off the Real

Chapter 4: Hip Sensibility in an Age of Mass Counterculture
1. Right On, Mr. Horowitz
2. The Square
3. Asymmetrical Consciousness
4. Elitism
5. Mass Culture Critique
6. The Decline of Midcentury Modernism and the Birth of Postmodernism
7. Sound Museum

Chapter 5: Mailer's Sound
1. The Sound is the Thing, Man
2. Abstraction
3. Whiteness
4. Mailer's Sound
5. Enantiodromia

Chapter 6: "Let's Say That We're New, Every Minute" (John Benson Brooks)
1. Off-Minor
2. Music of the Isms
3. DJology
4. Cipher
5. Magical Hermeneutics
6. Technologies of Experience
7. Practice

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