Course Description & Outline

The aim of this course is to introduce students to some general themes in the study of music (primarily popular music) as a cultural phenomenon. To do this, we will be drawing upon material from fields across the social sciences and humanities, particularly anthropology, sociology, economics, ethnomusicology, communication studies and cultural studies. Most of the concepts and themes addressed in this course will be familiar to you from introductory level courses in research methods and media studies. You might need to review your notes from these courses as we proceed.

This course is divided into two parts, each of roughly equal length. These units are as follows:

  1. Mapping Music in Everyday Life
  2. Music, Technology and The Political Economy of Media

Each of these units will introduce you to a body of research as well as a set of concepts and theories for describing and explaining the place of music in society. By the end of the course, you will be familiar the following concepts as they relate to contemporary musical culture: commodification, copyright, the culture industry, digitalization, genre, scenes, subcultures. The course material will also introduce or develop students’ knowledge of the following methodologies: ethnography, textual analysis and political economy.

Alongside these units, you will be introduced to a series of technical skills related to media production. You will be expected to think about how to incorporate audio and visual information into your assignments. This will require you to acquire a basic knowledge about how to produce audio and video files using your computer or mobile device (i.e. iPhone) as well as some basic editing skills relating to wikis, and audio files (using the free audio software¬†Audacity.) The goal is to help you expand your knowledge regarding media technology through hands-on assignments. Don’t worry if you aren’t a fan of technology or this is your first time working with this kind of software, we’ll go through everything you need to know in the course.

Finally, two points about music and you:

  1. This isn’t a musical appreciation course, but a course which asks you to engage with music as a social, economic and technological phenomenon as well as a cultural/aesthetic one. For this reason, ‘knowing a lot’ about music (either as a fan or as a formally trained musician) isn’t necessary, even though it might help at times during the course.
  2. We will be talking a lot about particular pieces of music during this course. You are expected to have listened to these pieces. Most of these pieces are available from various (legal!) online sources.