I Hear a Symphony opens new territory in the study of Motown’s legacy, arguing that the music of Motown was indelibly shaped by the ideals of Detroit’s postwar black middle class; that Motown’s creative personnel participated in an African-American tradition of dialogism in rhythm and blues while developing the famous “Motown Sound.” Throughout the book, Flory focuses on the central importance of “crossover” to the Motown story; first as a key concept in the company’s efforts to reach across American commercial markets, then as a means to extend influence internationally, and finally as a way to expand the brand beyond strictly musical products. Flory’s work reveals the richness of the Motown sound, and equally rich and complex cultural influence Motown still exerts.
“[Flory’s] access to Motown archival materials, his scrutiny of the Michigan Chronicle, and his encyclopedic familiarity with seemingly every form of Motown’s output and public circulation—recordings, covers, film, television appearances, commercials—brings readers closer than ever before to an understanding of the operations of the company and the sheer scope of Motown’s presence in global popular culture.”
—Mark Burford, Associate Professor of Music at Reed College
“I Hear a Symphony is a superb musicological investigation of Motown as a force in the pop marketplace over the past five decades. It presents a one-of-a-kind, multifaceted narrative whose themes include industrial history, cultural history, race, musical style and practice, repertory, intertextual influence, technology, marketing and branding, and pop music’s transnational currents, all woven into a sophisticated history of one of pop’s most fascinating and enduring institutions.”
—Albin Zak, Professor of Musicology at the University at Albany
“[I Hear a Symphony] makes a substantial contribution to academic literature on Motown . . . [Flory] certainly takes an approach to Motown that is significantly different from any previous work on the subject.”
—Rob Bowman, Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, York University