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Title: “The Normal Order of Things”: Propriety, Standardisation and the Making of Tin Pan Alley
Authors: Rafferty, Kieran Francis
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis employs a variegated approach that considers demographics, institutions, business practices, and dominant lyrical themes and imagery, in order to establish the pervasiveness of an ideology of propriety within early twentieth-century Tin Pan Alley and its songwriting output. The thesis proposes that this pervasiveness ultimately contributed to the standardisation of song structure within Tin Pan Alley song itself. For the most part, the first generation of Tin Pan Alley, prior to 1920, is considered, in an account of the commercial and aesthetic foundations that led to the ‘Golden Age’ – the period for which the Alley has been elevated into national myth. Specifically, it is proposed that in the context of a nation constituted of exilic narratives, and one constantly engaged in a process of identity formation, Tin Pan Alley’s institutions, personnel, practices and products engendered a ‘structure of feeling’ (after Raymond Williams) that amounted to an ideology of propriety, realised through a multivalent aesthetic of Exile/Home. An account of the material and social processes of mass-standardisation for which Tin Pan Alley is well-known is developed, and situated within a broader historical context. The sectional song structure 32-bar AABA is figured as the standardised product of an industrial context, shaped by this ideology of propriety. Furthermore, the dominant themes and lyrical content of the sentimental song are investigated, in order to establish the resonances between these and 32-bar AABA and how they may share ideological import. Finally, an account of the pragmatic, ideological and cognitive affordances of 32-bar AABA is developed, and a statement on how such a study relates to Adorno’s views on mass-culture and Tin Pan Alley concludes the work.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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