1st Edition

Playing for Change
Music and Musicians in the Service of Social Movements

ISBN 9781594517891
Published April 30, 2012 by Routledge
320 Pages

USD $44.95

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Book Description

Although music is known to be part of the great social movements that have rocked the world, its specific contribution to political struggle has rarely been closely analyzed. Is it truly the 'lifeblood' of movements, as some have declared, or merely the entertainment between the speeches? Drawing on interviews, case studies and musical and lyrical analysis, Rosenthal and Flacks offer a brilliant analysis and a wide-ranging look at the use of music in movements, in the US and elsewhere, over the past hundred years. From their interviews, the voices of Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Tom Morello, Holly Near, and many others enliven this highly readable book.


“Rosenthal and Flacks have greatly advanced the study of culture and social movements with Playing for Change. This book should be required reading for anyone seeking a more in-depth understanding of the role of music in social movements.
—Social Forces

“Playing for Change is a thorough and focused study that will no doubt help shift the music-movement nexus conversation and offer a far more nuanced analysis of the ways in which this link has matured and shifted across time and space.”
—Labour/Le Travail

“This is the definitive book on the uses of songs and musical performances, or what [the authors] refer to as “musicking,” in social movements…It offers a strong analytical framework that should guide future work not only on movement musicking, but on social movements more generally.”
—Humanity & Society

“The strengths of the book lie in the insightful discussion of meaning in music and the inclusion of the position and concerns of the activist. The authors move the discussion of the role of music in social movements forward. Adopting a very accessible vocabulary and tone they achieve their goal as stated in the opening pages, “to argue for the importance of culture in general and music in particular in social movements (pg.5).”
—Ron Eyerman, Mobilization

“Sociologists Rosenthal (Wesleyan Univ.) and Flacks (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) offer here a complex, theoretical analysis of music and social movements. They focus on the US but include references to music throughout the world. The authors begin by defining social movements and movement songs, popular songs, and folk songs. Drawing on a wide range of historical and sociological studies, they discuss the music industry, performers, song lyrics, musical styles, and audience reactions…Recommended.” -CHOICE July 2011 Vol. 48 No. 11

“This is an important contribution to the role of music in society and indeed to the workings of movements designed to transform it. In an age in which institutional pressure inside the academy can stimulate the publication of thin, undercooked studies, Playing for Change is refreshingly complete, obviously the fruit of lengthy reflection and research. [It] will be invaluable to teachers and students of music and sociology alike.”
—Rock Music Studies

"Rosenthal and Flacks present valuable questions and insights about every stage of music-making. They also let many prominent, talented artists, in all their eccentric, articulate, dreaming language, define their own sense of roles and responsibilities in our culture. It’s very inspiring to see how their visions were unfolding in the moment."
-Dar Williams, Composer and Musician