School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

Dr Richard Elliott

Senior Lecturer in Music

Background

Richard Elliott is Senior Lecturer in Music and Director of the BA in Contemporary and Popular Music at the International Centre for Music Studies. He is a cultural musicologist who works mostly in the discipline of popular music studies. He is the author of the books Fado and the Place of Longing (2010), Nina Simone (2013), The Late Voice (2015) and The Sound of Nonsense (2018). He has also written articles, essays and reviews covering popular music, literature, consciousness, memory, nostalgia, place and space, affect, language and technology. In addition to his academic publications, he has written about music and popular culture for the websites PopMatters, Tiny Mix Tapes and The Conversation.

Richard holds degrees in Music (PhD, Newcastle University), Popular Culture (MA, Open University) and Comparative American Studies (BA, University of Warwick). He has worked as an English teacher, accountant, record seller, warehouse operative, photo developer, pizza chef and factory worker. He blogs when he can at latevoice.com, but no longer at The Place of Longing, So Transported or Vinyl Vacations, which now act as archives of earlier projects. He tweets as @traumaticolonel and @globalpop3009, posts photographs to Instagram and very occasional sounds to SoundCloud. He has a Google Scholar profile and shares work at Humanities Commons..

Richard is a member of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Research

Richard Elliott is a cultural musicologist with a particular interest in popular musics of the world. He is the author of the books Fado and the Place of Longing: Loss, Memory and the City (Ashgate, 2010), Nina Simone (Equinox, 2013), The Late Voice: Time, Age and Experience in Popular Music (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015) and The Sound of Nonsense (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). He has also published articles and reviews on popular music, literature, consciousness, memory, nostalgia, place and space, affect, language and technology.

Richard’s research interests are wide but predominantly connect to ways in which music reflects and produces time, space and memorable objects. His early work explored the roles played by loss, memory, nostalgia and revolution in popular music and was heavily influenced by theories of place and spatiality. These ideas were developed in his first book Fado and the Place of Longing, which analysed Portuguese fado music as a reflection and production of space and place.

The topics of memory, nostalgia and revolution are also present in Richard's book on Nina Simone, which combined history, biography and song analysis and which - unusually for publications about this artist - explored the whole of Simone's career. As well as attending to the often-discussed role Simone played in the civil rights era of the 1960s, Richard discusses the artist's late style and starts to outline his theory of the late voice.

Another ongoing theme in Richard's work is the various ways in which music creates or evokes ‘memory places’ that take on significance for individuals and communities. More recent work reflects music’s potential to soundtrack lives and histories; His 2015 book The Late Voice explores the representation of time, age and experience in popular song, building its narrative around extended case studies of Ralph Stanley, Frank Sinatra, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.

The Sound of Nonsense, published at the very end of 2017 (with a 2018 publication date), reflects Richard’s interest in words, music and sound studies. It brings together novelists, nonsense writers, sound poets, experimental composers, comedians and pop musicians in an attempt to get at the role of sound in creating, maintaining and disrupting meaning.

Richard’s other areas of specialisation include the global span of popular music styles from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, music and cultural theory, urban musicology, the poetics of song and the politics of authenticity. He has a background in a variety of disciplines, having gained a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative American Studies, a Master’s in Popular Culture and a PhD in Music.

Richard is currently conducting research on the materiality of song and on the representation of global popular musics in the phonographic era.

Richard supervises MA dissertations and PhD theses on areas relating to the topics above.

Teaching

Undergraduate Teaching

Richard is module leader for American Popular Music (MUS2083), Popular Music and Media (MUS2085) and Global Pop (MUS3009, not running in 2018/19).

American Popular Music (MUS2083) examines the historical, social and cultural contexts of American popular music, focussing predominantly on the USA. Emphasis is placed on popular genres and styles of the twentieth century, the period in which the USA took on a dominant role in the creation and spread of popular culture across the globe. As well as charting this growth in dominance, the module analyses popular music as representative ‘people’s music’. Genres and styles—including the blues, jazz, country, soul, funk, punk, disco, hip hop and grunge—are used to read aspects of change and continuity in the American twentieth century.

Rather than providing a simple chronological history of musical styles in the USA, the module uses the music to examine concepts of race, place, tradition, commerce and authenticity. The music industry is analysed in terms of American business models, and recording and revival are explored as ways of thinking about representation, commercialization and exceptionalism. Vital socio-historical moments—such as the emergence of rock and roll and the use of music in the civil rights era—are studied alongside the ‘invention’ of the teenager and the rise of a counterculture. The module concludes with a series of reflections on the various soundscapes associated with America and with the notion of multiple Americas audible through the myriad of non-Anglophone genres that exist within North America.

Popular Music and Media (MUS2085) explores the relationship between popular music and media from a variety of critical and sociohistorical perspectives. In posing questions about the ways in which music has been produced, consumed, curated and mutated, the module sheds light on the ideological structures underpinning the mediation of music in the past and present. It does so by examining the relationships between musical production and media technologies (the microphone, phonograph, radio, film, television, mp3, social media, etc.); the changing role and place of music in society as understood through an analysis of media technologies; the meaning and nature of musical mediation and reception in society; the political economy of the music industry; the creative potential of media technologies for processes of musicking and remediation (including mixing, mash-ups, memes and plunderphonics); the mediation of music in work and leisure activities (the use of music while we work and play); case studies of key figures who have shaped our understanding of popular music and media, from musicians and producers to theorists and philosophers.

Global Pop (MUS3009) traces the growth in awareness of musics from around the world from the early twentieth century onwards, an awareness made possible by developments in sound recording. From the first global recording boom of the 1920s to the contemporary mania for digging into the past (vinyl archaeology), sound recordings have been a primary means for listeners to experience otherness, for the music industry to diversify its market and for ‘experts’ (critics, DJs, collectors, academics) to attempt to master discourses around other cultures. The module also explores the contemporary global pop scene (its artists, objects, networks, practices and platforms) and considers the ways in which this scene (incorporating World Music 2.0 and outernational musics) can be distinguished from earlier periods of 'international' and 'world' music. To get a sense of the kind of things we study, check out the playlists on YouTube, Spotify and SoundCloud.

Postgraduate Teaching

MMus elective: Popular Music and the Politics of Authenticity

MMus dissertation supervision

PhD supervision

Publications