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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Music

Postgraduate Course: Making sense of popular music (MUSI11050)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is designed to introduce the field of popular music studies and new directions in popular music research through case-study oriented lecture/seminars, accompanied by selected reading and listening tasks. Strong links will be made to issues of gender, race, capitalism, and technology, as well as to the at times complicated relationship between popular music and popular culture.
Course description To facilitate contextualisation, the course will adopt a case-study approach using various artists, trends, or approaches as a lens through which to examine and apply various theoretical approaches key to the study of popular music. Particular topics, themes, and approaches may vary from year to year. While not a history course per se, the course is concerned with ensuring that students understand and can extrapolate from some of the key historical developments in popular music. While welcoming broader approaches in student work, the course takes a largely North American perspective as its jumping off point.

The course will provide an overview of some key approaches to popular music studies from the field of musicology across the last 40 years, ensuring that a variety of critical viewpoints in contemporary musicology are discussed. Race, gender, technology, capital, genre, identity, politics, and notions of value will be recurrent themes for examination and application.

In addition to weekly set readings, students will be expected to engage with popular music as sound, and critical engagement with recordings will be a point of weekly focus. That said, this course does not expect or require you to read music or engage with formal musical analysis (though you may do so if you wish).

Classes will normally take place weekly, and will comprise lecture/seminars organised around set readings and listening/viewing. Students are expected to participate proactively in seminar discussion.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of key theories, principles, and concepts in the field of popular music studies.
  2. Communicate key concepts and debates within popular music studies with peers and senior colleagues.
  3. Plan and execute a significant analysis of a specialist topic within the study of popular music.
  4. Exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in the development of their analysis of popular music.
Reading List
Indicative bibliography:


Beard, D. and Gloag, K. 2005. Musicology: the key concepts. London: Routledge.

Bennett, Andy, and Barry Shank and Jason Toynbee (eds). 2006. The Popular Music Studies Reader, edited by, London: Routledge.

Clayton, Martin et al (ed). 2003. The Cultural Study of Music. London: Routledge.
Frith, Simon. 1996. Performing Rites. On the Value of Popular Music. Oxford: OUP.

Frith, Simon. 2007, Taking Popular Music Seriously, Aldershot: Ashgate.

Horner, Bruce and Thomas Swiss, 1999, Key Terms in Popular Music and Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.

Longhurst, Brian. 2007. Popular Music and Society. Cambridge: Polity.

Negus, Keith. 1996. Popular Music in Theory. Cambridge: Polity.

Toynbee, Jason. 2000. Making Popular Music: Musicians, Creativity and Institutions. London: Arnold.

Wall, Tim. 2003. Studying Popular Music Culture. London: Hodder Arnold.


Journal of Popular Music Studies
Popular Music
Popular Music and Society
Music Week [this is a business digest of developments in the music industry]
Scottish Music Review
Journal of the Art of Record Production
Music and Arts in Action
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Keywordspopular music,Sociology of music,Musicology,Popular culture
Course organiserDr Marian Jago
Tel: (0131 6)50 2426
Course secretaryMiss Laura Varga
Tel: (0131 6)50 2430
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