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MUS2083 : American Popular Music (Inactive)

  • Inactive for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Richard Elliott
  • Owning School: Arts & Cultures
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module 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.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module typically covers a range of topics related to the social, historical and aesthetic contexts of American popular music, including:

•       dominant themes in American Popular Music
•       the Blues Continuum
•       standards, jazz and the Great American Songbook
•       sound recording, song collecting and the folk revival
•       protest music
•       the American popular music industry
•       place and space in American popular music
•       musics of other Americas

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture102:0020:0010 lectures in Semesters 1 and 2
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion321:0032:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading321:0032:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching101:0010:0010 seminars in Semesters 1 and 2
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops32:006:003 workshops in Semesters 1 and 2
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1001:00100:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures provide a forum for the presentation and discussion of key critical concepts, musical sound, set texts and explorations of materials and methods of investigation. Seminars enrich and deepen student comprehension of key concepts and issues in American popular music and significantly enhance teamwork, communication and critical skills through small group discussions with staff and other students. Workshops focus on practical skills relevant to the analytical and curatorial aspects of the module and the assessments. Student independent learning for this course involves listening, reading and reflecting on key sources and texts, which helps to develop and enrich knowledge of American popular music repertory and scholarly perspectives on the role of popular music in society.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Design/Creative proj1M305 minute podcast
Essay2M702500 word essay
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Essay (sem 2 summative)
The essay topics are based on the materials covered in the lectures, seminars, readings and study tasks, so students should be able to map each essay option onto one or more weeks of the module. Students are encouraged to make connections across the module. The essay tests comprehension of the conceptual territory covered in lectures, reading, listening and in group work.
Podcast (Sem 1 summative ) assesses:
• comprehension of issues, theories and concepts introduced in Semester 1 lectures and seminars and the set
• research skills
• communication skills (written and spoken)
• reflective and critical skills
• ability to creatively respond to a case study

Reading Lists