The Folk: Music, Modernity, and the Political Imagination (Paperback)

The Folk: Music, Modernity, and the Political Imagination By Ross Cole Cover Image

The Folk: Music, Modernity, and the Political Imagination (Paperback)


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Who are "the folk" in folk music? This book traces the musical culture of these elusive figures in Britain and the US during a crucial period of industrialization from 1870 to 1930, and beyond to the contemporary alt-right. Drawing on a broad, interdisciplinary range of scholarship, The Folk examines the political dimensions of a recurrent longing for folk culture and how it was called upon for radical and reactionary ends at the apex of empire. It follows an insistent set of disputes surrounding the practice of collecting, ideas of racial belonging, nationality, the poetics of nostalgia, and the pre-history of European fascism. Deeply researched and beautifully written, Ross Cole provides us with a biography of a people who exist only as a symptom of the modern imagination, and the archaeology of a landscape directing flows of global populism to this day.

Ross Cole is a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. His writing on a range of topics appears in leading journals including Ethnomusicology, Popular Music, and ASAP/Journal.
Product Details ISBN: 9780520383746
ISBN-10: 0520383745
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: September 7th, 2021
Pages: 276
Language: English
"This is not a book about music, song, or performers. It is intellectual history of a rarefied kind. This needs to be understood if we are to appreciate Cole’s work for what it is: a quite brilliant deconstruction of the entire historiography of ‘folk’. His thesis is compelling, deceptively simple, and ultimately irrefutable. Cole’s great leap is to see, in this process, coherence, where others have seen only mess, hypocrisy, and contradiction. . . [He has produced] a convincing and definitive deconstruction of the myth of the folk, its antecedents, intentions, methods, and consequences. If there were such a thing as justice, no one would ever again speak on the subject of ‘folk music’ without having first digested this book."
— Music & Letters

"Cole’s argument is something of a wake-up call. If a previous generation of song collectors and musicologists stand implicated in a process that lends itself all too easily to fascism, then contemporary ethnomusicologists would be right to infer some challenge to the ways in which we shape and exercise interpretative frames and critical practices in our own work. . . . This book, then, should fuel an important debate. Cole is a formidable wordsmith, and this very elegantly written volume will be instructive reading for musicians and musicologists who want to better understand the political context and undercurrents of the folk revival, and how its dynamics might play out today."
— Ethnomusicology Forum

"Impressively wide-ranging. . . . There really are so many strands and stories to this richly informed investigation. It is the critical tension between the believers and non-believers that makes this particular study of the folk phenomenon so fascinating."
— Twentieth-Century Music