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“We Are Interrupted by Your Noise”: Heckling and the Symbolic Economy of Popular Music Stardom

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Heckling has rarely been examined in popular music studies. The argument of this piece is that audience members heckle in an attempt to alter the balance of power in live musical performance. To understand this I introduce the idea of the “symbolic economy,” a framework of assumptions and interpretations held by audience members that gives stars their social value. My argument is that each musician's aura is perceived when his or her performance is both recognizably popular and emotionally meaningful to each fan. Heckling can potentially damage the aura by shifting attention away from the star, condemning the content of his or her performance, and forcing him or her to make an impromptu response. Drawing on theory from sociology and literary studies, the article supplies examples to help us understand the potentials of this process by creating a typology of different heckles. Finally, it explores the ways in which musicians have carefully managed any threats posed by cries from the audience.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-02-01

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