High and low in music

Canons versus charts


  • Erling Bjurström Linköpings universitet, IKOS




Canon of classical music, canons, major and minor canons, music charts, high and low culture, digitalization


The article explores the contrast between canonization processes and the compilation of popularity charts within music, set against the backdrop of the high/low culture distinction. By becoming a crucial building block in the infrastructure of popular music in the 1940s, charts laid the groundwork for a more clear-cut distinction between high and low culture, fuelled by an implicit tension between canonicity and the prominence of charts. Although this tension has weakened, it persists in contemporary music, framed by multiple claims to canonicity and an expanded diversification of charts, primarily propelled by the shift to digital media technology. This development is considered in terms of the distinction between major and minor musical canons, which reflects their hierarchical positions in the high/low culture divide. After delineating the contrast between canons and charts in an ideal-typical manner, the article ends with a discussion of how the transition from analogue to digital media has altered the implied interplay between canonicity and charts, as well as the distinction between high and low in music and in culture more broadly.




Referera så här

Bjurström, E. (2024). High and low in music: Canons versus charts. Svensk Tidskrift för Musikforskning Swedish Journal of Music Research, 106(1), 121–146. https://doi.org/10.58698/stm-sjm.v106.18523




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