Popular Music Studies and the Problems of Sound, Society and Method

Eliot Bates


Building on Philip Tagg’s timely intervention (2011), I investigate four things in relation to three dominant Anglophone popular music studies journals (Popular Music and Society, Popular Music, and the Journal of Popular Music Studies): 1) what interdisciplinarity or multidisciplinarity means within popular music studies, with a particular focus on the sites of research and the place of ethnographic and/or anthropological approaches; 2) the extent to which popular music studies has developed canonic scholarship, and the citation tendencies present within scholarship on both Western and non-Western popular musics; 3) the motivations for two scholarly groups, Dancecult and ASARP, to breakaway from popular music studies; 4) the forms of music analysis and the kinds of musical material commonly employed within popular music studies. I suggest that the field would greatly benefit from a true engagement with anthropological theories and methods, and that the “chaotic conceptualization” of musical structuration and the critical discourse would likewise benefit from an attention to recorded sound and production aesthetics.


popular music studies; anthropology; ethnography; recording production; sound; IASPM

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