Book About Hidden Music-Making in an English Town Reissued

Wesleyan University Press has announced the re-issue of Ruth Finnegan’s The Hidden Musicians: Music-Making in an English Town (ISBN: 0-8195-6853-8). The 406 page book is a landmark study of music and culture that documents the remarkable scope of amateur music-making in the English town of Milton Keynes, focusing on the early 1980s. This unique ethnography demonstrates the active and continuing role of local part-time musicians and their supporters while challenging general assumptions about music and how we study it.

The scope of the book is truly expansive, covering rock, country, brass band music, hand bell choirs, punk, opera, and many other forms of music. The book sprung from Finnegan’s own participation in the local music scene of Milton Keynes, which lead her to the conviction that amateur music practitioners are just as worthy of investigation as professional performers, and that their cultural practices are as real and interesting as the economic or class facets of their lives to which so much attention is usually devoted.

Finnegan’s work touches on controversial issues about the nature of popular culture, the anthropology and sociology of music, and the quality of people’s pathways in modern urban life. The book’s aim is to lead to a greater appreciation and study of the musical practices and experiences of ordinary people in their own locality.


Ruth Finnegan is professor emeritus at the Open University in the U.K., where she studies the comparative sociology and anthropology of artistic activity. Her other books include Communicating: The Multiple Modes of Human Interconnection; Tales of the City: A Study of Narrative and Urban Life; South Pacific Oral Traditions  (edited with Margaret Orbell); and Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance, and Social Context.

Buy The Hidden Musicians.