Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Music Criticism


William Renwick




By the early 21st century, the term 'musical genre' has been repositioned in popular usage in comparison to its premodern/modern function. Instead of merely classifying pieces according to established formal structures in mainly western art and folk music, it has evolved through modernity and postmodernity into an enormous, complex and highly, problematic system, phenomenon or construction seeking not just to fulfill that function, but also seeking stylistically to classify the popular and art music of every culture and era. Using the Wikipedia online listing of musical genres as one manifestation of the public usage of the term, one sees entire repertories, traditions and their sub-categories such as jazz, motown, indie garage and mohabelo placed on non-hierarchical par with formal genres such as symphony, lament, ballad and strathespy. This paper combines theoretical. researched. and anecdotal information around musical genre's nature and behaviour from a postmodern perspective. It examines the reimagining of musical genre which has characterised the postmodern age, and proposes models for understanding it based on the work of Theodor Adorno, Marhsall McLuhan and lean Baudrillard using three very different genres of church music as illustrations. Finally, in addition to reporting on Genre Implosion, a weekly radio show which aired on CFMU 93.3FM throughout the duration of the project, it seeks to locate itself within the concepts of 20th century pragmatism underlying it, which make it less about positing 'truths' about musical genre than about encouraging its practical use and application in the flexible and multi-faceted forms inherent to postmoderniry.

McMaster University Library

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