With her usual combination of erudition, innovation, and spirited prose, Susan McClary reexamines the concept of musical convention in this fast-moving and refreshingly accessible book. Exploring the ways that shared musical practices transmit social knowledge, "Conventional Wisdom" offers an account of our own cultural moment in terms of two dominant traditions: tonality and blues. McClary looks at musical history from new and unexpected angles and moves easily across a broad range of repertoires - the blues, eighteenth-century tonal music, late Beethoven, and rap. As one of the most influential trailblazers in contemporary musical understanding, McClary once again moves beyond the borders of the 'purely musical' into the larger world of history and society, and beyond the idea of a socially stratified core canon toward a musical pluralism. Those who know McClary only as a feminist writer will discover her many other sides, but not at the expense of gender issues, which are smoothly integrated into the general argument.
In considering the need for a different way of telling the story of Western music, "Conventional Wisdom" bravely tackles big issues concerning classical, popular, and postmodern repertoires and their relations to the broader musical worlds that create and enjoy them.