Popular Music Research

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Defining Popular Music ‘Popular music’ is a term that currently and historically has relied on varied interpretation to function. It is difficult to present a fixed definition of the term due to the problematic research methods/approaches coming from a variety of backgrounds that have allowed us to arrive at this point. The lack of consensus in the academic realm surrounding exactly what encompasses popular music and whether or not it should be a discipline of it’s own, alongside problematic relational studies has blurred the academic lines of popular music studies. This lack of agreement has also potentially influenced media scepticism and pushed a narrative that has hindered the term ‘popular music’ from a non-academic angle. The Centre…show more content…
The following will investigate and exhibit other potential perspectives surrounding the definition of the term popular music and highlights important historical events and figures to the development of this area of study. The growing acknowledgement of the sociological aspect of music since the unsteady, textual beginning of Popular Music Studies has been a positive development in academia, however, whether a definition should be in terms of social characteristics, aesthetics or both is yet to be generally agreed-upon and requires further academic discussion. A Historical Perspective As an academic focus, popular music studies has always been under dispute. In the 1960’s at the beginning of popular music studies, much of the research focussed on the textual aspect of music. Lyrical analysis was initially popular amongst English Literature academics, and classical musicians would often draw comparisons between popular music of the time and the music of famous composers such as Handel and Beethoven. The focus here was on musical analysis, harmony, chords, orchestration, performance technique/skill, etc. Cloonan states, ‘popular music was thus initially judged by how far it fitted into a Western canon’, as…show more content…
From this point of view, the focus when studying popular music, should be on the social aspect, ‘the social penetrates, produces or contextualizes music.’ (Prior, 2011) Questions surrounding the masses, how they interact with popular music and what makes it popular are at the forefront of sociological research in relation to this topic, determining and/or hypothesising the social forces behind the popularity of genres, songs, trends and more. Thus begs the question, should the term popular music be defined in relation to mass interaction and possibly even social forces? The word ‘popular’ alone is tied with sociology. In the Oxford dictionary, the word ‘popular’ when relating to ‘cultural activities or products’ is defined as ‘intended for or suited to the taste, understanding, or means of the general public rather than specialists or intellectuals.’, which could potentially relate to music as a cultural activity or product, however, this definition is very casual and lacks acknowledgement for the forces behind popular music and leaves many open ended questions, i.e. geographical location, points of origin, accessibility, etc. This definition cannot function effectively in the academic realm as it allows space for ignorance. It can be (and has historically been) interpreted from a

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