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MB Lee Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities #4 (04 Dec 2015)


Valuing Music

MB Lee Distinguished Lecture in the Humanities
Professor Timothy D Taylor
Department of Ethnomusicology, UCLA
December 4 2015

How can we understand the value of music? Economic theories of value sometimes help us understand the value of cultural goods such as music, yet there are also non-economic forms of value associated with music. This lecture offers a theory of non-economic forms of value of musical goods.

This presentation departs from the common ideas that the labor that produces cultural goods is somehow special, or that cultural goods themselves are special sorts of goods. Instead, it insists that our focus should be not on making taxonomies of labor or types of goods, but, rather on how cultural goods such as music are valued. Drawing on anthropological theories of value, some of which are derived from Clifford Geertz's demand that analysis should focus on what is meaningful to people, this paper argues that there are different regimes of value in which cultural goods can be located, an older regime that emphasizes the exchange value of cultural goods, and, today, a new regime in which the digital distribution of music has given rise to forms of value that accrue from users' curation of music, as represented in the creation and sharing of playlists through social media and popularity on YouTube. Following David Graeber, I argue that this sort of value derives from what I call meaningful action.

The MB Lee Distinguished Lectures in the Humanities are designed to promote the significance of the arts and humanities to the wider public. Accessible, curious and enriching, the talks should stimulate a passion for the arts and a desire to see the values of the humanities benefit the social well-being of Hong Kong.



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