This course surveys the history of American popular music beginning with the songs that roused Americans to civil war and continuing to the confrontational battle-rhymes of hip-hop artists of the present. Students will be encouraged to engage with this music on a variety of levels, aesthetic, technical, political, and cultural. Special emphasis, however, will be given to the significance of popular music for reflecting broader cultural attitudes, tensions, histories and struggles. This course further introduces students to issues or topics that animate the study of popular culture more generally, such as the role of popular music in the construction of social identities, the influence of mass media and technology, and the problems of cultural representation and appropriation.
This course will enable students to:
- identify the musical characteristics associated with various styles of American popular music;
- situate those styles within their cultural, social and political contexts;
- summarize debate on the meaning and significance of popular music;
- intervene in these debates by forwarding a critical perspective of their own.