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Unit information: Popular Music and Society in 2015/16

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Unit name Popular Music and Society
Unit code SOCIM3135
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Raphael Nowak
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Popular music is inherently social: how music gets defined as 'popular', and how it is valued or criticised reveals much about the socially constructed nature of music and those who produce and consume it. It is also inherently social in a more down-to-earth sense, however; it seeps into social life and plays a part in a vast range of social practices, from procreating to burials. The meaning of popular music only emerges from its use in such everyday social activities. This unit investigates the two-way relationship between popular music and society - society in popular music and popular music in society. Typical issues considered include: the emergence of the idea of popular music; popular music and social boundaries; popular music and politics; popular music and self-identity; popular music and the internet; and the popular music industry.

The unit aims to:

  • Consider the historical emergence of 'popular music' and the normative dimensions of its labelling
  • Investigate the ways in which popular music is used in contemporary society
  • Examine the relationship between popular music genres and different social groups
  • Encourage students to critically reflect upon their own popular music judgements

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Recognise the socially constructed nature of popular music
  • Describe some of the ways that popular music is embedded in social practices
  • Engage with sociological theory concerning popular music
  • Assess the impact of social, political and economic forces on the production and consumption of popular music.

Teaching Information

1 X 2 hour seminar over 12 week teaching block.

Assessment Information

The assessment will relate to the learning outcomes specified above and will be by an extended essay of 3500-4000 words showing an in-depth understanding and integration of key aspects of the unit.

Reading and References

  • Tia DeNora (2001), Music in Everyday Life, Cambridge UP, Cambridge.
  • Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin (eds.) (1990), On Record, Routledge, London.
  • Simon Frith (1998), Performing Rites, OUP, Oxford.
  • Peter Martin, (1995), Sounds and Society, Manchester UP, Manchester.
  • Richard Middleton, (2009), Voicing the Popular, Routledge, London.
  • Keith Negus, (1996), Popular Music in Theory, Polity, Cambridge.