American Popular Music (W3075)

15 credits, Level 5

Spring teaching

This module examines the historical, social and cultural contexts of American popular music, focussing predominantly on the USA. Emphasis is placed on popular genres and styles of the twentieth century, the period in which the USA took on a dominant role in the creation and spread of popular culture across the globe.

As well as charting this growth in dominance, the module analyses popular music as representative ‘people’s music’. Genres and styles – including the blues, jazz, country, soul, funk, punk, disco, hip hop and grunge – are used to read aspects of change and continuity in the American twentieth century. Rather than providing a simple chronological history of musical styles in the USA, the module uses the music to examine concepts of race, place, tradition, commerce and authenticity. The music industry is analysed in terms of American business models, and recording and revival are explored as ways of thinking about representation, commercialization and exceptionalism.

Vital socio-historical moments, such as the emergence of rock and roll and the use of music in the civil rights era, are studied alongside the ‘invention’ of the teenager and the rise of a counterculture. The module concludes with a series of reflections on the various soundscapes associated with America and with the notion of multiple Americas audible through the myriad of non-Anglophone genres that exist within North America.

Teaching

50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar

Assessment

100%: Coursework (Essay, Presentation)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 150 hours of work. This breaks down into 24 hours of contact time and 126 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2018/19. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.

Courses

This module is offered on the following courses: