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date: 02 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines music in the British workplace. It considers whether it is appropriate to see the history of music in the workplace as involving a journey from the organic singing voice (both literal and metaphorical) of workers to broadcast music appropriated by the powerful to become a technique of social control. The chapter charts four key stages in the social history of music in British workplaces. First, it highlights the existence of widespread cultures of singing at work prior to industrialization, and outlines the important meanings these cultures had for workers. Next, it outlines the silencing of the singing voice within the workplace further to industrialization—either from direct employer bans on singing, or from the roar of the industrial noise. The third key stage involves the carefully controlled employer- and state-led reintroduction of music in the workplace in the mid-twentieth century—through the centralized relaying of specific forms of music via broadcast systems in workplaces. The chapter ends with an examination of contemporary musicking in relation to (often worker-led) radio music played in workplaces.

Keywords: music, musicking, work, labor, workplace, voice, control, resistance

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