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date: 22 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the shifting conceptions of how to listen to music in the age of sound recording. I start with reviewing Adorno’s concerns regarding a regression of listening and contrast these with new listening practices in the first half of the twentieth century. I show, then, how hi-fi enthusiasts in the Cold War era linked ideals of sophisticated music listening to recorded music and technical expertise. While the self-image of the cultivated yet technologically aware domestic listener greatly revalued the experience of skillful music listening, I show how societal change rendered normative ideals of listening increasingly unattractive late in the century. Relying on recent sound studies research and various historical sources, I offer a critical discussion of conceptions of skillful music listening and put this debate in the context of shifting self-conceptions among the middle classes as well as the power struggles this section of society faced.

Keywords: bourgeois identity, crisis of listening, hi-fi listening, listening and technology, recorded music, skillful listening, sound studies, Theodor W. Adorno

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