• Contemporary Czech Society by Lyons, Pat and Kindlerová, Rita (eds)

      Dickins, Tom (Modern Humanities Research Association, 2018-04)
      Contemporary Czech Society, edited by Pat Lyons and Rita Kindlerová, is a wide-ranging study of current attitudinal trends and changing realities, based on insights drawn largely from mass survey data. This highly engaging and thought-provoking work, which employs a social scientific framework, seeks and largely manages to present a value-free account of popular perceptions of the self and others. The publication comprises five sections: Preface; Introduction; Theory, methods, and structure; fifty-seven short empirically-informed chapters; and Conclusion, which contains a ‘cross-validation’. The separate chapters include contributions from eighteen different scholars, although Lyons’ own input merits special recognition, not least because it exceeds that of all the other authors as a whole. The main body of the text is divided into five broadly conceived thematic parts, which consider Czech society from economic, historical, political science, psychological, and sociological perspectives. Each chapter adopts an erotetic (question and answer) approach, and is grounded in solid scholarship, with reference to numerous secondary sources, and models and frameworks, but without conventional academic citations and footnotes. The study is thus presumably intended both for a general educated market keen to learn more about the dynamics and values Czech society, and for a more specialized readership, with an interest in particular aspects of the subject area.
    • Czech Bluegrass: Notes from the Heart of Europe by Bidgood, Lee

      Dickins, Tom (Modern Humanities Research Association, 2018-07-01)
      Czech Bluegrass is an important, original and highly personal contribution to the defining characteristics and development of one of the more unlikely (but nonetheless significant) forms of musical expression in Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. Bidgood’s approach, which is broadly ethnomusicological, renders his work accessible to a range of readers with a general interest in Czech culture and folk-spectrum music, as well as to musicians and musicologists with a more specialist knowledge of and/or liking for bluegrass. I am very much in the former category, and can claim no expertise in the making or interpretation of music, but I still found much of the content engaging and perspicuous.
    • Folk-spectrum music as an expression of alterity in ‘normalization’ Czechoslovakia (1969–89): Context, constraints and characteristics

      Dickins, Tom (Modern Humanities Research Association, 2017-10-31)
      This article seeks to evaluate the challenge posed by folk, country and tramping music to the Communist authorities in ‘normalization’ Czechoslovakia (1969–89) and the measures taken to limit their impact. It outlines the traditions and the historical context of folk-spectrum music, considers the reception of songs by the authorities and the constraints that were imposed upon their performers, analyses the defining characteristics of the compositions — focusing on lexical repetition and the use of recurrent themes and motifs in the creation, exploration and celebration of realities outside the officially promoted discourse of the time — and evaluates and exemplifies the use of colloquial language as a means of expressing informality and intimacy. The study concludes that, although it is impossible to quantify the effects of the music on the approved authoritative discourse, on balance, the folk-spectrum phenomenon was an unwelcome distraction to the Communist regime.