Between Authenticity and the Market

DFG Funded Research Project „Between Authenticity and the Market: Music, Subculture, and Values in the United States since the 1970s.” (Funding 03/2014-02/2017)

Principal Investigator: Dr. Dorothea Gail

Ever since the proliferation of countercultural movements in the late 1960s, music in the United States has increasingly become a platform through which different subcultures assert their values and express these to a broader society. This project examines manifestations of such subcultural values through five case studies: a.) the fusion of consumer values, branding, and community identity in advertisement music (the self-produced jukebox music of the fast food chain Waffle House); b.) the redefinition of ethnicity and world-views in New Age Music (R. Carlos Nakai); c.) anti-consumerist tendencies in the second wave of Detroit Techno electronic dance music (Underground Resistance and Plus 8); d.) the question of elitism in the classical music scene (Charles E. Ives), and e.) the commercialization of conservative Christian values in Contemporary Christian Music (Amy Grant and BarlowGirl). I analyze these cases via three fields of entanglement and tension: 1.) musical expression; 2.) subcultural values; 3.) the requirements of the market. Since at least the 1980s, supposedly independent subcultural values have had to confront the massive impact of a broader hegemonic consensus about the validity of a consumer society. As “lifestyle” and ethnicity were commodified, religious and humanistic values became products. Yet “authenticity” (artistic standards and the expression of values) and the “market” are not mutually exclusive categories. I see to discover the new musical and social meanings that have emerged in the last thirty years as “small music business” encountered the pressures of consumer society. The project uses interdisciplinary approaches from critical culture studies, American studies, and musicology.


Project Publications

This project will result in a monograph (“Habilitationsschrift”).

Gail, Dorothea. “Identity and In-Betweenness: Hybridity as Transcultural Mobility in the Music of Native American R. Carlos Nakai and his Band Jackalope.” forum for interamerican research 8.1 (June 2015): 40-62.

Available at