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Understanding Popular Music

Week 1: Understanding Popular Music: Theory, ‘authenticity’ and history


What is ‘popular music’?

How did Theodor Adorno and the Frankfurt School view popular music and popular culture more generally?

How has the debate over popular music changed in recent years?

What is the significance of ‘Authenticity’, and how has this proved problematic?

Does Eric Hobsbawm offer a model for historical writing about popular music?

What does Elijah Wald's article 'Louis Armstrong Loves Guy Lombardo' tell us about the use of genre when studying popular music?


Core Reading

Allan Moore, ‘Authenticity as Authentication’, Popular Music, 21, 2 (2002), pp. 209 - 223

Tim Wall, 'Constructing Histories of Popular Music', chapter in Studying Popular Music Culture (2013), pp. 3-22 **

Eric Hobsbawm, ‘Jazz come to Europe’, from Uncommon People (Orion, 1998) **

Elijah Wald, 'Louis Armstrong Loves Guy Lombardo' in Ake, Garrett and Goldmark, Jazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries (U California Press, 2014), pp.16-28 [Ebook]

Further Reading

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, ‘The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception’, in Dialectic of Enlightenment (Orig., 1944, 2002 edn.) (available online)

Walter Benjamin, ‘The work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ (1936), in Hannah Arrendt (ed.), Illuminations (London, 1999 edn), pp. 211-44

Andy Bennett et al, The Popular Music Studies Reader (Abingdon, Routledge, 2006)

Simon Frith, 'The Industrialisation of music', from Music for Pleasure (1988) **

Simon Frith, Taking Popular Music Seriously: Selected Essays (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007)

Reebee Garofalo , ‘How autonomous is relative: popular music, the social formation and cultural struggle’. Popular Music, 6 (1987), pp. 77-92.

Carol V. Hamilton (1991) ‘All that Jazz again: Adorno's Sociology of Music’, Popular Music and Society, 15:3, (1991), pp. 31-40

David Hesmondhalgh and Keth Negus (eds), Popular Musical Studies (London, Arnold, 2002)

Jeffrey H. Jackson and Stanley C. Pelkey (eds) Music and history : bridging the disciplines (University Press of Mississippi , 2010) (ML3916.M88)

George Lipsitz, ‘The Historical Study of Popular Culture’, in Gary Burns (ed), A Companion to Popular Culture (Chichester, Wiley, 2016), pp. 13-30 [ebook]

Brian Longhurst and Danijela Bogdanovic, Popular Music and Society (Cambridge, Polity, 2014 edn.)

William P. Nye ‘Theodor Adorno on Jazz: A critique of critical theory’,

Popular Music and Society, 12:4 (1988), pp. 69-73.

Hans Rollman, ‘Question everything, especially if you believe in it’. An interview with Stuart Jefferies

Tim Wall, Studying Popular Music Culture (2013)