MUS1014 : Introduction to Popular Music Studies

Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 10.0


• To provide students with an introduction to the study of popular and contemporary musics at UG level.
• To explore and consider the pollinations of popular and contemporary musics across the 20th and into the 21st Century.
• To introduce students to Popular Music Studies as an academic field and provide students with conceptual tools for understanding and engaging with contemporary and popular musics academically, in relation to their own musical practices and in the context of the modern music industries.

• To raise the student’s awareness of professional approaches to reading and writing about music, by introducing them to high quality texts.
• To help students make a successful progression to further (i.e. honours degree) study, where appropriate.

Outline Of Syllabus

This module will introduce you to the challenges of studying contemporary and popular musics. You will be introduced to a range of scholarly approaches to musics from across the 20th and into the 21st Century from a range of ideological, political, cultural, and epistemological orientations in the reading, writing and performing of contemporary and popular musics.

This module may reasonably include in any one year discussions of a wide range of musical topics and examples, and their relationship to an array of social and industrial contexts (e.g. Rock and Roll and youth culture; sampling, reappropriation and copyright; jazz, blues and racial discrimination; the changing mechanisms and practices of the music industries; the social and cultural construction of genres; the cross pollination of musics from across the world; music’s use in other media; the politics of music, musicians and Protest Song; music and gender)

What do we mean by ‘popular’? How do contemporary and popular musics create identities? How have supposed boundaries been constructed between musics to form these particular identities? Are they valid or even experienced? How has technology affected the attitudes of everyone involved in the production and consumption of popular music? How and why do audiences and musicians ascribe authenticity? Is there more than meets the eye (or ear) in the lyrics of a song? In a commercial, material world how can popular music be something more than a commodity?

These questions point to the fascinating complexity of the world in which people make and consume contemporary and popular musics. They are questions of vital significance for today’s musical practitioners across genres and across professions.

This module helps you navigate such issues in the company of important thinkers and commentators. It is designed to get you thinking critically, to help you become smarter, and also to encourage you to approach your own musical practice more reflectively.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion160:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00seminars - study skills
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops112:0022:00Whole group together, workshop sessions based around course content
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study182:0082:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures act as forums in which issues are introduced to students; these may sometimes mutate into workshop sessions with break out groups to allow for semi-structured exploration of the topics.

Seminars are forums for addressing key study skills, using materials aligned to the course subject matter.

Workshops provide forums for further discussion, as well as for students to discuss and receive feedback on specific readings.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A301,000 words
Essay2A602,500 words
Written exercise1M10Precis - 500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Precis exercise – tests your ability to identify and clearly summarise the central arguments from a piece of academic writing.

Essay 1 – tests your ability to compare and contrast two pieces of scholarly writing representing different perspectives and different theoretical orientations on key debates in Popular Music Studies.

Essay 2 – tests your ability to undertake a piece of research based on one of the topics presented in the lectures, and to prepare a piece of written work over the course of several weeks. It gives you the opportunity to do further reading and to explore one of the topics in greater depth.

Reading Lists