Cmns 321: The Cultural Production of Popular Music

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School Of Communication

CMNS 321: The Cultural Production of Popular Music

Spring 2011

Lecture: Wednesdays 5:30-7:20, HC 1900

Course Website:

Instructor: Darryl Cressman


Office: HC 2150, Wednesdays 2:00-4:30

TA: Nicholas Perrin:

Course Description

The study of popular music, like all media culture, is contradictory in nature. Popular music consists of both the immaterial (the music) and the material (the musical object); it is simultaneously economics and aesthetics. Even the term itself can be read as signifying two different areas of study. On one hand, popular music can be understood as a genre of music, distinguishable from other genres such as jazz, rap or rock. On the other hand, all music is popular music and can be interpreted as containing a number of musical genres and non-musical practices that have arisen alongside the music. For the purposes of this course, we will be adhering to the second, more inclusive, definition. In doing so we will be examining a variety of genres of music including punk, disco, country, rap, reggae, and rock as well as a number of institutional, cultural and technological practices that have come to shape the production and consumption of popular music. This course will draw upon a number of theoretical positions to better contextualize these multifarious and often times contradictory dimensions of popular music by historicizing and explaining the competing discourses, subject positions, cultural practices and ideologies which constitute it.


All required readings are available through the course website

Assignments & Grading

Short Written Assignment/February 23/Week 6 – 25%

Term Paper/April 6/Week 12 – 40%

Final Exam (Take Home) – 20%

Tutorial Participation – 15%

Overview of Assignments & Exams

Short Written Assignment: Due February 23 – 25%

1500-1750 Words

This assignment is intended to prepare you for the term paper by asking you to engage critically with musical culture by applying ideas drawn from the readings to musical examples. You will be asked to select a questions/topic from a list of 5-7 that will be handed out during Week 2.

Term Paper: Due April 6 – 40%

3000-4000 Words

The term paper is the major component of the course and as such it is expected that students should begin thinking about potential topics early on in the semester. It is important to begin thinking about potential topics, directions or debates that interest you and begin to formulate ideas quite early on in the semester in order to properly situate yourself with relevant research material. A good place to begin (other than course readings) is to review the articles in various journals that deal with popular music (Journal of Popular Music Studies, Popular Music, Popular Music & Society) Please take advantage of office hours if only to talk about the ideas you’ve been thinking about and receive feedback and suggestions for further research.

Final Exam – 20%

The final exam will be a take home exam. The questions will be handed out at the last lecture (April 6) and will also available on the course website after the lecture.

Tutorial Participation – 15%

Tutorial participation is based upon both attendance and participation in tutorials. Your TA will speak to this during the first tutorial.

Late Assignments

Late assignments are penalized 5% per day late (including weekends). Please speak to either the TA or the instructor if an extension is required. Barring exceptional circumstances, absolutely no extensions will be given 24 hours prior to the due date of any assignment.

Schedule of Lectures and Readings

Week 1

January 12: The Study of the Cultural Production of Popular Music

Simon Frith (1987). “Towards an Aesthetic of Popular Music” in Music & Society: The

Politics of Composition, Performance and Reception, eds. Leppert & McClary.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.133-151.

Week 2

January 19: The Pre-History of Popular Music - Music Becomes a Commodity

Jacques Attali (1985 [1977]) Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Minneapolis:

University of Minnesota Press, pp. 3-21 & pp. 46-59.

Michael Chanan (1994). Music Practica: The Social Practice of Western Music from

Gregorian Chant to Postmodernism. London: Verso, pp. 138-161.

Suggested/Related Readings

Weber, W. (2004[1975]). Music & the Middle Class: The Social Structure of Concert Life in London,

Paris and Vienna Between 1830-1848. Burlington, VT.: Ashgate.

Johnson, J. (1995). Listening in Paris: A Cultural History. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Week 3

January 26: Popular Music & The Recording Industry

Simon Frith (1987) “The Industrialization of Popular Music” in Lull (ed.) Popular Music

and Communication. Newbury Park CA: Sage, pp. 53-78.

Reebe Garofalo (1999). “From Music Publishing to mp3: Music and Industry in the 20th

Century.” American Music 17 (3), pp. 318-354.

Kembrew McLeod (2005) “mp3s are Killing Home Taping: The Rise of Internet

Distribution and Its Challenge to the Major Label Music Monopoly.” Popular Music & Society 28 (4), pp.521-531.

Suggested/Related Readings

Hull, Geoffrey P. (2004). The Recording Industry. New York: Routledge.

Mike Hobart (1981). “The Political Economy of Bop.” Media, Culture and Society, 3, pp. 261-279.

Qureshi, R.B. (2002). Music and Marx: Ideas, Practice, Politics. New York: Routledge.

Frith, S. & Marshall, L. (2004). Music & Copyright. New York: Routledge.

Week 4

February 2: Theorizing Popular Music - The Frankfurt School & Mass Culture Critique

Theodor W. Adorno (2002[1941]) “On Popular Music” in Essays on Music.

Berkeley: University of California Press, pp.437-469.

Theodor W. Adorno (1991 [1938]) “On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression

of Listening” in The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture. New York: Routledge, pp. 29-61.

Suggested/Related Readings

Walter Benjamin (1968) “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in Illuminations, pp.


Theodor W. Adorno. (2002) Essays on Music ed. Richard Leppert. Berkeley: University of California


Richard Leppert (2005). “Music Pushed to the Edge of Existence (Adorno, Listening and the Question of

Hope).” Critical Inquiry 60, pp. 92-133.

Tia DeNora (2003). After Adorno: Rethinking Music Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Week 5

February 9: Theorizing Popular Music - Subcultures

Dick Hebdige (1979) Subculture: The Meaning of Style. New York: Routledge, pp.1-29

& pp.73-127

Suggested Readings

Sarah Thornton (1995). “Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital.” Cambridge: Polity Press.

Gelder, K. (2005). The Subcultures Reader. New York: Routledge.

Will Straw (1991). “Systems of Articulation, Logics of Change: Communities and Scenes in Popular

Music.” Cultural Studies, 5(3), pp.368-388.

February 16 – No Class

Week 6

*****Short Writing Assignment Due******

February 23: Theorizing Popular Music – The Specter of Authenticity & Selling Out

Coyle, Michael & Dolan, Jon (1999). “Modeling Authenticity, Authenticating

Commercial Models” in Dettmer & Richey (eds.) Reading Rock and Roll: Authenticity, Appropriation and Aesthetics. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 17-35.

Peterson, Richard A. (2005). “In Search of Authenticity.” Journal of Management

Studies, 42(5), pp.1083-1098.

Frith, S. (1986). “Art versus Technology: The Strange Case of Popular Music.” Media,

Culture, and Society. Vol.8, pp. 263-279.

Suggested/Related Readings

Hesmondhalgh, D. (1999). “Indie: The Institutional Politics and Aesthetics of a Popular Music Genre.”

Cultural Studies 13 (1), pp. 34-61.

Elizabeth Eva Leach (2001) “Vicars of ‘Wannabe’: Authenticity and the Spice Girls.” Popular Music

20(2), pp.143-167.

Allan Moore (2002). “Authenticity as Authentication.” Popular Music 21(2) pp. 209-223.

Tichi, C. (1998). Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars. Durham:

Duke University Press.

Peterson, RA. (1997). Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity. Chicago: University of Chicago


Week 7

March 2: The Sight of Sound

Graham Carr (2006) “Visualizing ‘The Sound of Genius’: Glenn Gould and the Culture

of Celebrity in the 1950s.” Journal of Canadian Studies 40 (3), pp.5-42

Michelle A. Stephens (1998) “Babylon’s ‘Natural Mystic’: The North American Music

Industry, The Legend of Bob Marley, and the Incorporation of Transnationalism.”

Cultural Studies 12(2), pp. 139-167.

Douglas Kellner (1995) “Madonna, Fashion & Image.” in Media Culture. New York:

Routledge, pp. 263-297.

Week 8

March 9: Globalization & Musical Culture

Leante, L (2004) “Shaping Diasporic Sounds: Identity as Meaning in Bhangra.” World of

Music, 46 (1) pgs. 109-132.

Hebdige, D. (1987). Cut ‘n’ Mix: Culture, Identity and Caribbean Music. London:

Methuen & Co. pp. 47-102 & 136-148.

Week 9

March 16: Music From the Margins I – Riot Grrrls & Disco

Angela McRobbie (1990[1980]). “Settling Accounts with Subcultures: A Feminist

Critique” in Frith & Goodwin (eds.) On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written

Word. New York: Pantheon Books, pp. 66-81.

Schilt, K. (2003). “A Little Too Ironic: The Appropriation and Packaging of Riot Grrrl

Politics by Mainstream Female Musicians.” Popular Music & Society 26(1), pp. 5-16.

Kai Fikentscher (2000) You Better Work: Underground Dance Music in New York City.

Hanover NH: University Press of New England. pp. 3-19, 93-108.

Kopkind, Andrew (1979). “The Dialectic of Disco: Gay Music Goes Straight.” The

Village Voice.

Week 10

March 23: Music From the Margins II – From Strange Fruit to Mos Def

DeVeaux, Scott K. (1997). The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History. Berkeley:

University of California Press. Selections

Rose, Tricia (1994). “Prophets of Rage: Rap Music and the Politics of Black Cultural

Expression” in Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary

America. Middleton CN: Wesleyan University Press, pp. 99-146.

Fricke, J. & Ahearn, C. (2002). “The Forefathers: B-Boy and DJ Culture in the Bronx”

in Yes Yes Y’All: The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip Hop. De

Capo Press.

Week 11

March 30: The Producer of Popular Music

Virgil Moorefield (2005) The Producer as Composer: Shaping the Sounds of Popular

Music. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp.

Jonathan Sterne (2006) “What’s Digital in Digital Music?” in Messaris & Humphreys

(ed.) Digital Media: Transformations in Human Communication. New York:

Peter Lang. pp. 95-109.

Suggested Readings

Antoine Hennion (1989). “An Intermediary Between Production and Consumption: The Producer of

Popular Music.” Science, Technology and Human Values 14 (4), pp. 400-424.

Thebarge, P. (1989). “The ‘sound’ of music: Technological Rationalization and the

Production of Popular Music.” New Formations, 8. pp.99-113

Week 12

*******Term Paper Due********

April 6: Musical Culture as Sociotechnical Culture

Curtis, James, M. (1984). “Towards a Sociotechnological Interpretation of Popular

Music in the Electronic Age.” Technology and Culture, 25 (1), pp. 91-102.

Sterne, J. (2006). “The mp3 as Cultural Artifact.” New Media & Society, 8(5), pp.825-


Suggested Readings

Adorno, T.W. (1991). “The Curves of the Needle,” “The Form of the Phonograph Record,” “Opera & The

Long Playing Record.” October 55, pp.49-67.

E.W. Rothenbuhler & John Durham Peters (1997). “Defining Phonography: An Experiment in Theory.”

The Musical Quarterly 81(2), pp.242-264.


Please read this document very carefully - - especially section 3.0. If you do not understand anything on these two pages, ASK YOUR PROFESSOR FOR CLAFIFICATION. If you do something prohibited by this policy and claim that you did not know you were not supposed to do it or that you did not understand the policy, you will still be held responsible. It is your responsibility to make sure you understand these regulations.



All members of the University community share the responsibility for the academic standards and reputation of the University. Academic honest is a cornerstone of the development and acquisition of knowledge. Academic honesty is a condition of continued membership in the university community.


Academic dishonesty, like other forms of dishonesty, is misrepresentation with intent to deceive or without regard to the source or the accuracy of statements or findings. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University; it is furthermore unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University.


The illustrations presented below are considered to e representative but not definitive nor exhaustive of activities which could be considered to constitute academic dishonesty.

  1. Plagiarism is a form of dishonesty in which an individual submits or presents the work of another person as his or her own. Scholarship quite properly rests upon examining and referring to the thoughts and writings of others. However, when excerpts are used in paragraphs or essays, the author must be acknowledged using an accepted format for the underlying discipline. Footnotes, endnotes, references and bibliographies must be complete.

Plagiarism exists when all or part of an essay is copied from an author, or composed by another person, and presented as original work. Plagiarism also exists when there is inadequate recognition given to the author for phrases, sentences, or ideas of the author incorporated into an essay.

  1. Submitting the same essay, presentation, or assignment more than once whether the earlier submission was at this or another institution, unless prior approval has been obtained.

  2. Cheating on an examination or falsifying material subject to academic evaluation. This includes the unauthorized sharing of material, e.g. two or more students using the same textbook during an “open book” examination; or the use of course notes or any aids not approved by an instructor during a “closed book” examination; unauthorized possession or use of an examination or assignment. This also includes the submission of identical or virtually identical assignments by students who studied together.

  3. Submitting as one’s original work, essays, presentations or assignments which were purchased or otherwise acquired from another source.

  4. Using or attempting to use other students’ answers; providing answers to other students; or failing to take reasonable measures to protect your answers from use by students in assignments, projects or examinations.

  5. Impersonating a candidate in an examination or availing oneself of the results of such impersonation.

  6. Submitting false records or information, in writing or orally. This includes the falsification or submission of false laboratory results, documents, transcripts or other academic credentials.

  7. Stealing or destroying the work of another student.

  8. Removing books or other library material without authorization, or mutilating or misplacing library materials, or engaging in other actions which deprive other members of the University community of their opportunity to have access to the academic resources of the library.

  9. Unauthorized or inappropriate use of computers, calculators and other forms of technology in course work, assignments or examinations.


All members of the University community have a responsibility to ensure that they themselves, and others, be familiar with generally accepted standards and requirements of academic honesty. These shall be published in the University Calendar and in the Registration Handbook. Ignorance of these standards will not preclude the imposition of penalties for academic dishonesty.

Course outlines and course instructors are expected to inform students at the beginning of the semester of any special criteria of academic honesty pertinent to the class or course. Failure of a course instructor to provide such special information does not in any way exempt a student from penalties imposed by or on behalf of the University under the general guidelines noted in 3.0 above.



Procedures to be followed by the University in imposing a penalty for acts of academic dishonesty or an appeal therefrom are detailed in the policy establishing the University Board on Student Discipline and in the policy establishing the Senate Committee on Disciplinary Appeals respectively.


Penalties imposed by the University for academic dishonesty may include one or more of the following: a warning, a verbal or written reprimand, reassessment of work, failure on a particular assignment, failure in a course, denial of admission or readmission to the University, forfeiture of University awards or financial assistance, suspension or expulsion from the University.


In deciding on the appropriate sanction to be imposed for an act of academic dishonesty, consideration may be given to the following factors:

  1. the extent of the dishonesty;

  2. the inadvertent or the deliberate character of the dishonesty;

  3. the importance of the work in question as a component of the course or program;

  4. whether the act in question is an isolated incident or part of repeated acts of academic dishonesty; and

  5. any other mitigating or aggravating circumstances.

It is your responsibility to make sure you understand these regulations. Please read each section very carefully. If you do not understand any part of the regulations, ASK YOUR PROFESSOR FOR CLARIFICATION.

In your term papers and written work, you must give proper references for your sources. If you copy something word for word from a book or article, you must indicate that it is a quote by putting it in quotation marks “like this”, and you must identify the source: author, date, page number. Even if you don’t copy something word for work - - if you paraphrase it and change some the words - - you must still identify the source: author, date, page number.

You will be guilty of plagiarism:

  • if you fail to provide proper references for your sources, including page numbers;

  • if you do not put quotation marks around material copied from other sources (even if it is only a part of a sentence!);

  • if you do not identify the source of material that you paraphrased;

  • if you copy work of another student;

  • if you submit work that is identical to that submitted by a student you studied with.

If it is determined that you did any of these things, it is likely that you will suffer one or more of the following

  • you may receive a failing grade in the course;

  • you may receive a failing grade on the assignment you may be suspended from the university for one or more semesters you may lose any financial assistance you were receiving.

This is VERY serious business. Make sure you understand the University’s policies!

T10.01 through T10.03 (available online at

All incidents of Academic/Intellectual Dishonesty must be reported to the School’s Director (Alison Beale), c/o her assistant, Brenda Baldwin ( 778-782-3470 room K9683). Brenda has the relevant forms to complete. Copies of the form are then forwarded to the VP’s office.

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