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Popular Music Theory. Contents Intro to Popular Music Theory Postmodernism and Popular Music Social Class and Popular Music Age and Popular Music Gender.

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Presentation on theme: "Popular Music Theory. Contents Intro to Popular Music Theory Postmodernism and Popular Music Social Class and Popular Music Age and Popular Music Gender."— Presentation transcript:

1 Popular Music Theory

2 Contents Intro to Popular Music Theory Postmodernism and Popular Music Social Class and Popular Music Age and Popular Music Gender and Popular Music Post-modern Approaches

3 Intro to Popular Music Theory

4 Theory underpinning the study of popular music is particularly wide-ranging, incorporating aspects of Musicology - Media Studies - Cultural Studies - Gender Studies –History – Economics – Literary Studies Intro to Popular Music Theory

5 Traditional musicologists have analysed the composition of popular music as if it were a classical composition. Howard Goodall, for example compares the Beatles and Mozart. Howard Goodall Intro to Popular Music Theory

6 This approach has been criticised by some for neglecting the performative and improvisational qualities of popular music. Jazz Improvisation KissJazzImprovisationKiss Intro to Popular Music Theory

7 In Look! Hear! The uneasy relationship of music and television (2002) Simon Frith argues that the defining feature of popular music is its televisual aesthetic. Intro to Popular Music Theory

8 The other side of this are the approaches emanating from the social sciences, which are often labelled the sociology of rock. Simon Frith, The Sociology of Rock, 1978 Punk 77.Punk 77 The systematic and scientific study of society and societal behaviour. Intro to Popular Music Theory

9 Theorist have tended to focus on issues to do with audiences of popular music and the representation of performers. Age, Race Sex and Class Intro to Popular Music Theory

10 Emanating from this is a school of Media and Cultural Theory known as Madonna Studies. Influenced by the Queer Theory and the work of Foucault Madonna is seen as exemplifying Feminist critiques – particular those of Judith Butler. Madonna - Open Up Your heart Intro to Popular Music Theory

11 Is Madonna a glamorized fuck doll or the queen of parodic critique?. Pamela Robertson - Guilty Pleasures Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna (1996) Intro to Popular Music Theory

12 Criticisms of this approach say that it ignores the musical and aesthetic qualities that make popular music distinct from other media texts. This raises the question have we come full circle? Intro to Popular Music Theory

13 Popular Music & Social Class

14 One of the key theoretical issues in popular music studies is that of post-modernism. Postmodernism: Faith in grand narrative has collapsed (science, religion, history, progress) Identity is fluid – sense of self not fixed Consumerism is a creative endeavour in which the self is constructed. No distinction between the real and the simulated. Convergence of Information Technology and Society. Popular Music and Postmodernism

15 Some argue that musical recordings are the epitome of the post- modern text because they are copies without originals (simulacrums). Records: the ultimate simulacrums? 1930s Recording Studio:Postmodern? CDS: Less authentic than vinyl? Popular Music and Postmodernism

16 The music video re-enforces this in its depiction of inauthentic performances and abstract visuals. QueenQueen Robert PalmerRobert Palmer Popular Music and Postmodernism

17 Others have tried to identify key moments in the history of popular music when it seemed to embody post-modern cultural practice e.g. the advent of sampling in the 1980s. S- Express Popular Music and Postmodernism

18 Popular Music & Postmodernism

19 Paul Willis A Social Theory for the Social Meaning of Pop (1973)

20 Paul Willis views popular music culture as an authentic expression of working class youth. Popular Music and Social Class

21 Willis challenges received thinking that certain art forms are more valid than others i.e. classical music. High Culture Low Culture Popular Music and Social Class

22 He views popular music as a new form of media literacy for groups traditionally marginalized. Popular Music and Social Class

23 Is abstract verbal communication important in pop music? Think of well known songs that actually use very simplistic words or indeed nonsense words or phrases. (T)he vast majority of young people involved with pop music are working class, and share along with the rest of their class, an inability to articulate their meanings in an abstract verbal manner. Willis, Paul. E, A Theory for the Social Meaning of Pop, journal (Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Birmingham), p.3. The Beatles The Beatles OasisOasis Popular Music and Social Class

24 Criticism: This is a rather sentimental and some might say patronising view of audiences. Also ignores the middle class articulate demographic – many popular music stars, for example, are college graduates. Roxy Music David Bowie Roxy MusicDavid Bowie Popular Music and Social Class


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