Jonathyne Reviewed Elsewhere: Jonathyne Briggs, Sounds French. Globalization, cultural communities and pop music in France, 1958–1980.

Michael Berkowitz's picture
 
Jonathyne Briggs. Sounds French. Globalization, cultural communities and pop music in France, 1958–1980. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. 248 pp. £35.49 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-937706-0.
 
In the last five years, the socio-historical study of French popular music has truly gathered pace in anglophone scholarship ... Briggs’s book ... delv[es] into the less well-trodden 1970s (examining progressive rock, Breton rock, punk) ... Its broad argument concerns the formation and co-existence of "musical communities" in France which echo the "reconfiguration of society" (9), and serve as "a buffer against changes as [much as] an expression of them" (182). The main reconfiguration concerns France’s growing contact with Anglo-American music, a phenomenon which Briggs observes from the twin perspective of rejection and embrace, thus complicating the formation of French popular music. ...
 
Historians might well find the cultural periodisation too vague in places ("during the 1960s"), and French Studies scholars will no doubt find the numerous French typos and cultural approximations frustrating ... Yet these should not be allowed to detract from the globally useful nature and clearly written content of this book, which is another welcome and often original contribution to the rich field of French Popular Music Studies.
 
 
 
 
Briggs’s Sounds French offers an expansive overview of French popular music from 1958–1980—a historical period that allows the author to study the ways that musical culture served as a site for negotiating the transformations and anxieties of postwar modernization, the legacy of May 1968, and contemporary dynamics of globalization in France. ...
 
Briggs illustrates how the emergence of “global” genres did not simply lead to the homogenization of popular music and the erasure of French difference. Instead it led to the dialogic formation of transnational and transregional solidarities and to the creation of dominant and subcultural styles anchored in complex and unique ways in France. Briggs contends that we can speak of “communities” of French popular music because “the capacity of music to foster participation—in its creation, diffusion, and enjoyment—gives it its power to form communities” (4). ...
 
The book covers a lot of ground, and at times it therefore sacrifices more critical takes on the multiple scenes covered. The current reviewer wishes that Briggs would have put more pressure on the “community” concept, especially considering the ways in which the term is highly charged in the French context. Sometimes he seems to be speaking more of solidarity; other times it seems he is focusing on identity, or even difference. And what precisely constitutes the base-level parameters of what it means to form a “community” in this context? Still, I learned a lot from this book and it was an enjoyable read. Briggs’s volume is an impressive and very useful study that should find its way onto the bookshelves of fans, students, and scholars of French popular music.