Authenticating Identity: The Quest for Personal Validation through Authenticity in Music

  • Emily Cannon Green Blair School of Music


“Music City, U.S.A.” celebrates many cultures and music, but often Nashville is identified with singing cowboys with southern drawls. Some are quick to call this country-western image “inauthentic,” pointing out that middle Tennessee’s forested hills were never home to cattle ranches or Gene Autry. Indeed, the labels of “authentic” or “inauthentic” have become widely used in contemporary society to denote whether a thing is essentially true or untrue. In his evaluation of the 1960s music “myth” in which folk music was deemed authentic and pop music inauthentic, sociologist Simon Frith argues that the central issue was less about the music itself and more about the communication of a person’s identity through that music. An examination of the concept of authenticity as it has evolved through history and presented itself in recent scholarship and a survey of Nashville residents and college students reveal that the quest for authenticity in tourism and consumerism is closely linked to the construction of identity. While the concept of authenticity is demonstrably problematic, it retains its power because it provides a framework against which individuals can define themselves in an increasingly global world. The quest for authenticity in music, then, becomes a quest for truth about oneself for which there is no objective answer. Authenticity is fundamentally a question of perspective. Who can say whether Nashville is authentic or not? All that can be said is simply that Nashville is.

Author Biography

Emily Cannon Green, Blair School of Music
Emily is currently a senior at the Blair School of Music majoring in Musical Arts Harp with Highest Honors in Music Literature and History. She serves as a student assistant in the musicology department and teaches beginning and advance pre-college harp students. She has been named a Littlejohn Summer Research Scholar and received a Congressional Award Gold Medal. After graduation, Emily will be attending Vanderbilt University Law School.
How to Cite
GREEN, Emily Cannon. Authenticating Identity: The Quest for Personal Validation through Authenticity in Music. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, [S.l.], v. 7, aug. 2011. ISSN 1555-788X. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 aug. 2019. doi:
Humanities and Social Sciences