Popular Music Analysis
Run by School of Music and Media
20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits
Organiser: Dr John Cunningham
Overall aims and purpose
Popular music can be dismissed as being too simple for analysis; however, the last four decades or so have witnessed a growing body of scholarly literature offering a range of theories and methodologies. This module aims to provide a comprehensive introduction to analysing various kinds of popular music. Modes of analysis will include lyrics, music, visual representations and cultural context.
The first part of the module will offer a contextual history of the development of popular music analysis as a sub-discipline of musicology, seeking to explain why popular music should be studied seriously and how thoughts about this have developed especially since the 1980s. The second part of the module will examine different modes of analysis, with reference to case studies, allowing students to become familiar with approaches such as Schenkerian techniques, soundbox, semiotics, lyrical analysis, and deconstruction of visual accompaniments (e.g. music videos). It will also give students a firm understanding of the lading authors in the field and how their approaches differ and interact. The module will require some score reading and an understanding of basic music theory (it is advised that students will have taken WXM 1004, Harmony and Counterpoint, in the first year).
Good (B– to B+): Work which displays a good grasp of the subject, with evidence of strong ability at conceptual and critical thinking, expressed engagingly.
Excellent (A– to A*): Work which displays a thorough grasp of the subject, with evidence of depth and originality in conceptual and critical thinking, expressed convincingly.
C- to C+
Fair (C– to C+): Work which displays fair knowledge of the subject, with satisfactory ability at conceptual and critical thinking, expressed understandably.
Threshold (D– to D+): Work which displays basic knowledge of the subject, with some limited ability in conceptual and critical thinking, expressed intelligibly.
On completion of this module, the student should be able to demonstrate and apply a detailed knowledge and understanding of specific methodologies / techniques of popular music analysis and be able to evaluate their broader relevance
On completion of this module, the student should be able to communicate ideas about the music studied in a manner commensurate with professional musicological protocols
On completion of this module, the student should be able to demonstrate and apply a detailed knowledge and understanding of popular music in culture (current or historical) and be able to evaluate this in relation to their wider knowledge
On completion of this module, the student should be able to apply skills of musical analysis, source-based research, and critical thinking, and conceptual thinking in relation to the music studied
3000-word essay, with bibliography, references and music examples to be submitted on Monday of week 13. A list of topics will be provided by the tutor at the start of the module, but will allow students to demonstrate the ability to analyse a piece of popular music in terms of socio-cultural context combined with engaging with the work as a piece of music using at least one of the analytical methods / techniques taught on the module.
Students will be required to provide a brief but detailed analysis of a song / section of a song from the popular repertoire, rooted in at least one of the theories / methodologies discussed on the module. Presentations may be done live or prerecorded in the manner of a YouTube video (separate criteria will be given for each). To be delivered / submitted during the semester on a date specified by the tutor.
Teaching and Learning Strategy
One two-hour lecture each week for eleven weeks.
One one-hour seminar each week for eleven weeks.
One-to-one supervision Individual tutorial to discuss the presentation assessment.
One-to-one supervision Individual tutorial to discuss the essay assessment.
Including assignment preparation and preparation for classes (students will be expected to read / listen to texts ahead of lectures and / or seminars).
- Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
- Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
- Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
- Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
- Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
- Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
- Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
- Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
- Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
- Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
- Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
- Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in
Resource implications for students
Talis Reading listhttp://readinglists.bangor.ac.uk/modules/wxm-3022.html
to be provided
Courses including this module
Optional in courses:
- W3P3: BA Astudiaethau'r Cyfr & Cherdd year 3 (BA/ACC)
- WW93: BA Creative Studies and Music year 3 (BA/CSTMUS)
- 32N6: BA English Literature and Music year 3 (BA/ELM)
- VW23: BA Hanes Cymru a Cherddoriaeth year 3 (BA/HCAC)
- VW13: BA History and Music year 3 (BA/HMU)
- W3H6: BA Music and Electronic Engineering year 3 (BA/MEE)
- WV33: Music & Hist & Welsh Hist (IE) year 4 (BA/MHIE)
- W303: BA Music (with International Experience) year 3 (BA/MIE)
- PW33: BA Media Studies and Music year 3 (BA/MSMUS)
- RW13: BA Music/French year 4 (BA/MUFR)
- WR32: BA Music/German year 4 (BA/MUGE)
- WR33: BA Music/Italian year 4 (BA/MUIT)
- W300: BA Music year 3 (BA/MUS)
- WW36: BA Music and Film Studies year 3 (BA/MUSFS)
- WR34: BA Music/Spanish year 4 (BA/MUSP)
- VVW3: BA Philosophy and Religion and Music year 3 (BA/PRM)
- VW2H: BA Welsh History and Music year (BA/WHMU)
- QW53: BA Cymraeg/Music year 3 (BA/WMU)
- W304: BMus Music (with International Experience) year 3 (BMUS/MIE)
- W302: BMUS Music year 3 (BMUS/MUS)
- H6W3: BSc Electronic Engineering and Music year 3 (BSC/EEM)