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Pop Goes?

Taking Popular Music Seriously An Annotated Bibliography


Wayne D. Bowman
Annotated by: Nicholas Busch

Our interest in popularity and things popular should not revolve around the maintenance of the
existing system. Rather, we should use it to reopen possibilities for critical and creative thought
and action, both in our students and in ourselves.

Reading this quote interested me. The amount of change that would result from changing
the curriculum to include popular music would not have to be very large. In a band for instance
you could play an arrangement for a modern pop piece instead of something classical, or instead
of analysing a symphonic movement you could analyse a top 40s song. Maintenance of the
existing system is not something we need to disregard, but maybe something we should alter.

The limited statistical perspective replaces questions of musical value with concerns about the
extent to which music is programmed, purchased, or consumed It replaces qualitative concerns
with quantitative ones.

This quote frustrated me. It is too common that the public listens to or rates music based
only on popularity and not on the piece itself. Music should be popular because of how it effects
someone emotionally, not just because of sheer numbers. If music educators are going to include
pop music in their pedagogy, they must reinforce the idea that liking music should have

nothing to do with sheer numbers, since what millions of other people might like says nothing
about whether youll like it or not.

popular music affords pleasures that are often considered cheap, quick, or easy (unlike the
deferred gratification supposedly associated with genuinely artistic music). Its gratifications are
spurious, or fraudulent the musical equivalent of junk food

This quote goes on about how pop music is boring and predictable, which surprised
me a lot. In the following paragraph, he says these are the views of Theodore Adorno, but admits
that he agrees with most of what he is saying. After reading the title of this work, I thought the
author was going to be in full support of pop music, but in this paragraph he trashes it and says it
is the musical equivalent of junk food. I agree with him, as well as I agree with him about
including some pop music studies in the classroom, but this quote surprised me none the less.

If I could speak with the author, I would ask him how long he sat there trying to define
what popular music actually is. He goes on to say pop music is used music, and pop is more
purely commodity music, and uses so much space simply listing things that apply to the
definition of pop music, when most of the information is either common sense or unnecessary. I
would love to have a discussion with him about his idea that Taking popular music seriously
will make the classics all the more momentous. That is an interesting point of view that I
wish I couldve heard more about in this paper.