#tbt: “The Hidden Musicians” revisited

January 11th–12th, 2016, Open University in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom will hold a conference surrounding The Hidden Musicians by Ruth Finnegan, who is a music professor at the university. More information about this event can be found at here.

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The Hidden Musicians: Music-Making in an English Town, was originally published in 1989, but was reprinted by the Wesleyan University Press in 2007. The book is comprised of various studies by Professor Finnegan who studied the practices of amateur musicians and music ensembles in the small English town of Milton Keynes. She studied the differences and distinctions between what makes a band ‘professional’ or ‘amateur’, seen through the lens of professional and candid photographs taken at rehearsals and musical events, as seen below.


 above: The eighty-year-old Wolverton Town and British Rail Band. The current members in their band uniform.


Above: An informal photograph of the Woburn Sands Band shortly after competing in the National Brass Band Finals, showing the age range typical of many music groups (here 11 to 70).


The book also explores the different genres of music made in the town, comparing the different rock bands, musical theatre ensembles, and variations of marching bands and community bands in the town. Through this, Finnegan creates a new methodology of studying music and how music is made and performed as seen throughout the book’s illustrations and its resonance within the musical academia of Open University.

Outside of Milton Keynes, amateur bands and musicians like those of the small English town, have continued to flourish throughout the years upon the same premises of being communal, casual, and organized by camaraderie. In the Wesleyan University Press office, our director, Suzanna Tamminen, below, spends her lunch hour practicing her tuba for her community band.

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