The British Barbershopper: A Study in Socio-Musical Values, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The British Barbershopper

A Study in Socio-Musical Values, 1st Edition

By Liz Garnett


216 pages

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Paperback: 9781138253438
pub: 2016-08-26
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Hardback: 9780754635598
pub: 2005-04-05
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315087030
pub: 2017-07-05
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Barbershop singing is a distinctive and under-documented facet of Britain's musical landscape. Imported from the USA in the 1960s, it has developed into an active and highly organized musical community characterized by strong social support structures and a proselytizing passion for its particular style. This style is defined, within the community, in largely music-theoretical terms and is both highly prescriptive and continually contested, but there is also a host of performance traditions that articulate barbershop's identity as a distinct and specific genre. Liz Garnett documents and analyses the social and musical practices of this specialized community of music-makers, and extends this analysis to theorize the relationship between music and self-identity. The book engages with a range of sociological and musicological theoretical frameworks in order to explore the role of harmony, ritual, sexual politics, performance styles and 'tag-singing' in barbershop. This analysis shows how musical style and cultural discourses can be seen to interact in the formation of identity. Garnett provides the first in-depth scholarly insight into the British barbershop community, and contributes to ongoing debates in the semiotics and the sociology of music.


'… this is an excellent study. Excellent bibliography and glossary… Highly recommended.' Choice '… a new contribution to the literature which is thought-provoking in its appraisal of musicological and ethnographic research, as well as in its insights on a musical phenomenon which is little known to those not directly involved in its performance… well written and accessible… a vivid and frank depiction of a fascinating musical world, which will stimulate welcome debate about the relationship between repertoire, performance practices and contemporary social values.' Popular Music '… Liz Garnett's thick descriptions, theoretical foundation and scientific insight give a brand new perspective to the musical and social world of the British barbershopper… Liz Garnett's book is a very valuable study which, I am certain, will contribute to the study of other musics.' International Review of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music ’…Liz Garnett's book is fascinating and thorough. As a contribution to the ongoing discussion of how the worlds of performance and criticism are evolving, the British Barbershopper is a valuable addition to the literature of musicology and the sociology of music.’ The World of Music ’… [a] terrific book… the author has illuminated not just the British form of barbershopping but all of contemporary barbershop singing, and that, in doing so, she has made a signal contribution to the study of how contemporary Westerners further the 'project of the self' through participation in networks and institutions of musical performance.’ Ethnomusicology Forum

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: barbershop singing in the UK; Ethics and aesthetics: the social theory of barbershop harmony; The procedures of preservation: barbershop singing and the invention of tradition; Ridicule, religion, and the public image of barbershop; Separate but equal? Sexual politics in the barbershop; Performance mannerism and the amateur imagination; Tag-singing: the private face of barbershop; To 'be' a barbershopper: theorizing music and self-identity; Conclusion: beyond barbershop; Glossary; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Dr Liz Garnett is a musicologist and choral clinician whose research and praxis both explore the theme of music and its social meanings. She has held academic posts at Colchester Institute and Birmingham Conservatoire, and is in demand internationally as a performance coach and arranger. Her first book, The British Barbershopper: A Study in Socio-Musical Values, is also published by Ashgate.

About the Series

Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series

Popular musicology embraces the field of musicological study that engages with popular forms of music, especially music associated with commerce, entertainment and leisure activities. The Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series aims to present the best research in this field. Authors are concerned with criticism and analysis of the music itself, as well as locating musical practices, values and meanings in cultural context. The focus of the series is on popular music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with a remit to encompass the entirety of the world’s popular music.

Critical and analytical tools employed in the study of popular music are being continually developed and refined in the twenty-first century. Perspectives on the transcultural and intercultural uses of popular music have enriched understanding of social context, reception and subject position. Popular genres as distinct as reggae, township, bhangra, and flamenco are features of a shrinking, transnational world. The series recognizes and addresses the emergence of mixed genres and new global fusions, and utilizes a wide range of theoretical models drawn from anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, media studies, semiotics, postcolonial studies, feminism, gender studies and queer studies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General