Pop Music Seminar

After some recent twitter interest in my pop music analysis seminar, I’ve posted my syllabus with bibliography and schedule *here*. I’m also sending my syllabus to the wonderful curators of the SMT popular music interest group site. Take it as you will, and refer to my little post on music theory, citation, and gender for some relevant background. I’ve also changed my general approach to syllabi since this class, following my colleague’s adoption of more accessible resources. I think it’s important to at least consider the ideas on language, design, and format the authors of that site suggests.

A couple things to note. My students really enjoyed Lori Burns’s work; in fact, 75% of them named at least one of her articles as particularly influential in my anonymous class-ending survey. I likely biased them since I think so highly of Prof. Burns and her work, but they were especially drawn to her always clear, meaningful, and replicable methodologies. Teaching Burns inspires me to be more direct with my own writing, and has inspired me to build more precise and reader-friendly approaches. Plus, she’s a brilliant theorist and analyst, so her examples always illuminate the music at hand in revealingly rich ways.

Second, the weeks on “traditional” Music Theory stuff (especially harmony) directly skewed the demographics of my final bibliography, which I tried to counteract by splitting weekly assignments into required and optional readings. I’m thankful that music theory has a large, emerging community of many committed junior scholars and faculty engaging popular music topics, which will hopefully help our subfield transcend long-standing gender disparities.

If I get the opportunity to teach a general seminar on pop music analysis again, I’d likely change up at least some of the readings since new and exciting stuff on pop is churned out pretty consistently, but I was really pleased with the variety of perspectives my students got to interact with. It was an immensely rewarding course!

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