Popular Music

Articles

Writing about listening: alternative discourses in rock journalism

CHRIS ATTONa1

a1 School of Creative Industries, Napier University, Craighouse Road, Edinburgh EH10 5LG, UK E-mail: c.atton@napier.ac.uk

Abstract

‘Alternative’ publications challenge the conventional discourses of rock journalism. In particular, the dominant discourses of authenticity, masculinity and mythology might be countered by publications that emphasise historical and (sub)cultural framing, and that present radicalised ‘spaces of listening’. Using Bourdieu’s field theory to identify autonomous and semi-autonomous sites for rock criticism, the paper compares how a fanzine (the Sound Projector) and what Frith has termed an ideological magazine (the Wire) construct their reviews. The findings suggest that, whilst there is no evidence for an absolute break with the dominant conventions of reviewing, there is a remarkable polyglottism in alternative music reviewing. The paper emphasises differing cultural and social practices in the multiple ways the publications write about music, and argues for the value of such polyglottism.