Watley, G. (2009) Use and consumption of cultural icons in popular music: what can the oral historian learn from contemporary musicians? Paper presented to: Oral History Society Annual Conference : Hearing Voice in Oral History, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, 3-4 July 2009.
The common conscience of oral history Ken Howarth refers to should logically extend to the oral history of popular music. Howarth also recognised in 1998 that academics in the UK were generally,” … slow to endorse oral history.” Would this slow endorsement apply contemporaneously to analysis of the oral history of popular music in the expression of social and political voice by minority groups and non-academics? This paper will address how different forms of popular music convey images to its listeners via cultural icons and how the usage of these icons is interpreted by audiences. These varying image interpretations are dependent on how the triangle of space between the speaker/singer, the audience and the cultural icons is filled. This paper will address this issue and what the oral historian can learn from it. The use, consumption and interpretation of cultural icons will be further analysed in order to understand how not only popular musicians project their socio-political voice, but also how audiences interpret the usage of such icons as both consumers of music and producers/definers of identity. This paper will simultaneously analyse these issues whilst providing the oral historian with insight into how this particular projection of voice can affect oral history research, particularly as it relates to the primary subjects of oral history research, interviewees.