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
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
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. Intro to Popular Music Theory
This approach has been criticised by some for neglecting the ‘performative’ and ‘improvisational’ qualities of popular music. JazzImprovisationKiss Intro to Popular Music Theory
Intro to Popular Music Theory 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 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. The systematic and scientific study of society and societal behaviour.
Intro to Popular Music Theory 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 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 “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 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?
Popular Music & Social Class
Popular Music and Postmodernism 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 Some argue that musical recordings are the epitome of the post-modern text because they are copies without originals (simulacrums). 1930s Recording Studio:Postmodern? Records: the ultimate simulacrums? CDS: Less authentic than vinyl?
Popular Music and Postmodernism The music video re-enforces this in its depiction of inauthentic performances and abstract visuals. QueenRobert Palmer
Popular Music and Postmodernism 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 & Postmodernism
Popular Music and Social Class Paul Willis views popular music culture as an authentic expression of working class youth.
Popular Music and Social Class 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 He views popular music as a new form of media literacy for groups traditionally marginalized.
Popular Music and Social Class 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 Oasis
Popular Music and Social Class 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 MusicDavid Bowie