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Rhythms of Labour

Rhythms of Labour
Music at Work in Britain


  • Date Published: April 2013
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from September 2019
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107000179

£ 81.00

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About the Authors
  • Whether for weavers at the handloom, labourers at the plough or factory workers on the assembly line, music has often been a key texture in people's working lives. This book is the first to explore the rich history of music at work in Britain and charts the journey from the singing cultures of pre-industrial occupations, to the impact and uses of the factory radio, via the silencing effect of industrialisation. The first part of the book discusses how widespread cultures of singing at work were in pre-industrial manual occupations. The second and third parts of the book show how musical silence reigned with industrialisation, until the carefully controlled introduction of Music while You Work in the 1940s. Continuing the analysis to the present day, Rhythms of Labour explains how workers have clung to and reclaimed popular music on the radio in desperate and creative ways.

    • A landmark study on the important and long neglected relationship between music and work, which draws on a great range of research across multiple time periods
    • Explores the development and influence of music in the working environment in Britain, from the work songs of the pre-industrial age to the broadcast music of the twentieth century
    • Features historical and contemporary cases, including many examples of the music that was created and heard by workers
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… real and unconstrained strength lies in [this book's] masterly coverage and presentation of the primary sources, its understanding and exploitation of previous scholarship, and its excellent bibliography.' Stephen Banfield, CHOMBEC News

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107000179
    • length: 354 pages
    • dimensions: 253 x 180 x 24 mm
    • weight: 0.81kg
    • contains: 4 b/w illus. 1 table
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from September 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: music at work and the sound of silence
    Part I. Music at Work in Pre-Industrial Contexts:
    2. From work song to singing at work
    3. Hearing the British Isles singing
    4. Fancy and function
    5. Community
    6. Voice
    Part II. Industrialisation and Music at Work:
    7. Silenced
    8. Fragments of singing in the factory
    Part III. Broadcast Music in the Workplace:
    9. Instrumental music? The rise of broadcast music
    10. Music and meaning on the factory floor
    11. Conclusion: learning from the history of music at work.

  • Authors

    Marek Korczynski, University of Nottingham
    Marek Korczynski is Professor of Sociology of Work at the University of Nottingham. He has written and edited a number of acclaimed books, including On the Front Line (1999, co-authored), Human Resource Management in Service Work (2002) and Social Theory at Work (2006, co-edited). He has also published widely on the connections between music and work, including articles in journals such as Work and Occupations, Organisation Studies, Popular Music, the Folk Music Journal, Business History, the Labour History Review, and Cultural and Social History. He gained his PhD from the University of Warwick and has been a Visiting Professor at Karlstad University, Sweden. Marek Korczynski and his fellow authors have released a CD of lost archived British work songs, entitled Rhythms of Labour (on the Harbourtown label).

    Michael Pickering, Loughborough University
    Michael Pickering is Professor of Media and Cultural Analysis in the Department of Social Sciences at Loughborough University. Michael has published in the areas of cultural history and the sociology of culture, as well as media analysis and theory. His most recent publications are The Mnemonic Imagination: Remembering as Creative Practice (2012), co-written with Emily Keightley, and Research Methods for Memory Studies (2013), co-edited with Emily Keightley. His other books include Researching Communications (1999/2007), co-written with David Deacon, Peter Golding and Graham Murdock; Creativity, Communication and Cultural Value (2004), co-written with Keith Negus; Beyond a Joke: The Limits of Humour (2005), co-edited with Sharon Lockyer; Blackface Minstrelsy in Britain (2008) and Research Methods for Cultural Studies (2008).

    Emma Robertson, La Trobe University, Victoria
    Dr Emma Robertson is Lecturer in History at La Trobe University, Australia. Her first book, Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History, was published in 2009. Additional publications from her research on the chocolate industry have appeared in the edited collection Women and Work Cultures, Britain 1850–1950 (ed. Krista Cowman and Louise Jackson, 2005); Business History; BBC History Magazine (April 2010) and online at She has also published on the history of radio in relation to the BBC Empire/World Service and is writing a co-authored book on this topic with Dr Gordon Johnston. Emma is currently researching British multinational companies in Australia, including the Rowntree and Cadbury confectionery firms. She is on the editorial board of Women's History Magazine.

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