The phrase "popular music revolution" may instantly bring to mind such twentieth-century musical movements as jazz and rock 'n' roll. In Sounds of the Metropolis, however, Derek Scott argues that the first popular music revolution actually occurred in the nineteenth century, illustrating how a distinct group of popular styles first began to assert their independence and values. London, New York, Paris, and Vienna feature prominently as cities in which the challenge to the classical tradition was strongest, and in which original and influential forms of popular music arose, from Viennese waltz and polka to vaudeville and cabaret. Scott explains the popular music revolution as driven by social changes and the incorporation of music into a system of capitalist enterprise, which ultimately resulted in a polarization between musical entertainment (or "commercial" music) and "serious" art. He focuses on the key genres and styles that precipitated musical change at that time, and that continued to have an impact upon popular music in the next century.
By the end of the nineteenth century, popular music could no longer be viewed as watered down or more easily assimilated art music; it had its own characteristic techniques, forms, and devices. As Scott shows, "popular" refers here, for the first time, not only to the music's reception, but also to the presence of these specific features of style. The shift in meaning of "popular" provided critics with tools to condemn music that bore the signs of the popular-which they regarded as fashionable and facile, rather than progressive and serious. A fresh and persuasive consideration of the genesis of popular music on its own terms, Sounds of the Metropolis will appeal to students of music, cultural sociology, and history.