- Department: Music
- Module co-ordinator: Miss Alice Masterson
- Credit value: 20 credits
- Credit level: H
- Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
- See module specification for other years: 2022-23
This module will introduce the socio-musicological study of popular music. Dividing the sessions into critical musicological topics (including identity, gender, authenticity, and politics), we will explore the extent of pop’s social power.
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The difficulties that Donald Trump faced finding musicians willing to let him use their music at his political rallies demonstrates the delicate relationship between music and social and political issues. Indeed, when pop superstar Rihanna tweeted that ‘[neither] me nor my people would ever be at or around one of those tragic rallies’ upon learning that Trump had been playing her hit ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’ on the campaign trail in 2018, she separated her and her fans into a distinct social group that rejects the POTUS’ politics. How have popular music consumption and social and political identities become so intertwined? Through use of case studies, this module will explore a number of social issues and their relation to pop music, with particular focus on identity and resistance. Interdisciplinary by its nature, the social study of popular music will introduce students to theories from the fields of sociology and cultural studies. Case studies are deliberately broad, including a wide range of dates, countries, and genres, to demonstrate how the theories studied may be applied to a number of contexts.
What does the term ‘popular music’ actually mean, and how might we approach studying it? How do audiences use pop music consumption to define their individual identities, and how does this branch out into collective identity? How does popular music reinforce or resist norms surrounding gender and sexuality? What role has popular music played in protest movements around the world? How and why do audiences perceive authenticity as important, and can true authenticity ever really be achieved? Why do the deaths of prominent musicians cause such widespread grief from people who have never met them? These questions will all be addressed through seminars, group discussions, and practical exercises.
By the end of the module, students should:
On completion of this module, in their independent work, students should demonstrate learning outcomes C1-6.
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Report form with marks to student within the standard marking turnaround period.
Auslander, Philip. ‘Musical Personae.’ The Drama Review 50 (Spring 2006) 1: 100 – 119.
Barker, Hugh and Yuval Taylor. Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. NY: W. W. Norton & Company Inc.: 2007.
Frith, Simon. Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Moore, Allan. Analyzing Popular Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Reynolds, Simon and Joy Press. The Sex Revolts: Gender, Rebellion and Rock ‘n’ Roll. London: Serpent’s Tail, 1995.
Shuker, Roy. Popular music: the key concepts. Fourth edition. London: Routledge, 2017.
Whiteley, Sheila, Andy Bennett, and Stan Hawkins, ed. Music, Space and Place: Popular Music and Cultural Identity. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.