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Songs, stories and selfhood: a critical humanist study of creativity and identity on an acoustic music scene

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posted on 25.04.2016, 13:31 by Mark Poole
This thesis researches singer-songwriters on an acoustic music scene. The rise of non-folk based 'acoustic' music and the recent re-emergence of the 'acoustic singer songwriter' in mainstream popular music bring up interesting aspects to consider regarding the self in contemporary culture. The key purpose here is to reflect upon the production and reproduction of creative musical identities amongst these music makers both in the private sphere of their daily lives and life histories, and in the public sphere of the acoustic music scene and conventional society. Through a consciously continuous movement between the self and the social, and the private and public spheres, I fuse ethnographic observation of the social workings of the acoustic music world with in depth examinations of the making and management of creative identities amongst its individual participants. The thesis focuses on three definable areas: firstly, the artistic creativity of music making itself; secondly, the creativity involved in the everyday managing of the musical identity, both in the domestic realm and in the music scene itself; and thirdly, the creative carving out or mapping of musical identities through the telling of individual life stories. The research deals with semi-professional musicians well into their adult years who are caught in a struggle between economic and domestic pressures on the one hand and their personal construction of a musical identity on the other. My focus here on a demographic category largely made up of the thirty-sixty age group - what we might refer to as 'the greying zone' - is of crucial sociological importance. The only studies of older age groups in music research tend to involve minority scenes outside of the mainstream such as folk, jazz or classical. This thesis however gives a voice to individuals engaged in a mainstream music scene, which, although closely related to folk, is in many ways closer to rock and pop. This greying zone is surprisingly absent from studies of culture and yet it is they who, more than ever, have a very powerful part to play in what is produced and consumed in popular music. There will be aspects regarding the general nature of acoustic music in this thesis. It is important to make clear however, that this is not intended to be a musicological study. It is also crucial to state that it aims to be more than simply a popular music study. This is a sociological analysis of individual identity, creativity and everyday life using a music scene as a backdrop. Overall, I present here a dynamically human picture of a diverse and mutable music culture involving individual stories and changes within and between its members.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Mark Poole

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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