Abstract

I want to begin my discussion of ethnomusicology and power by considering the manifold conceptions of musical value in capitalist social and economic contexts. My guiding questions are these: what happens to music when it becomes a commodity? Is there something exceptional about music commodities in social life? Finding a way to navigate these questions, I would argue, is one way that the field of ethnomusicology might achieve greater theoretical relevance in the broader interdisciplinary discourses about the politics of culture. I will later suggest in this essay that an approach that broadens our understanding of reification and commodification of music as social practice might provide one way to address the problem of "musical exceptionalism" that at once provides us with an entrée into discussing the politics of cultural practice, even as the sometimes overly-specialized nature of our research seemingly dims the perceived relevance of our contribution.

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