Personal listening pleasures

Authored by: Wall Tim , Nick Webber

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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Music consumption in the early twenty-first century has increasingly been mediated through distinctive technologies of listening such as headphones, car radios or the iPod. Each of these devices has a surprisingly long history and they were developed and then taken up for use in a variety of institutional and cultural contexts. Listening to music using these technologies is often associated with the idea of the personalization of listening and individual control over the sonic world in which we immerse ourselves. It is easy to see this as an example of the increasing privatization of cultural experiences. However, cultural practices are rich and diverse and, while there were clearly significant shifts in the sonic world during the twentieth century, our experience of music has always been an interesting balance of the private and the public, the individual and the collective, the personal and the communal. In fact, it is in the distinctions between these ideas that we can begin to understand the diverse ways in which we realize the pleasures of listening and make music meaningful.

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