Weeks 1–3: Foundations

Jan 22: Why study pop music?

We’ll confront the idea that pop music does not deserve to be studied seriously. Our discussion will be based on .

Jan 29: Intertextuality and Mashups

This week, we continue to absorb the lessons on intertextuality from the week prior as we study mashups. Our primary reading will be .

Due Monday at noon

In Slack, find your thread in #partner-responses. Link to a mashup that you enjoy. Write ~250 words that relate your mashup to .

Due Wednesday at noon

In partners, discuss each of your mashups and your writeups about them.

Feb 5: Transcription

Because there is usually no written score for pop songs, transcription is an essential skill for pop analysis. You will practice transcribing on your own. In class, we will have discussion based on .

Due Monday at noon

  • Transcribe the first verse and first chorus of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” either the original by the Beatles or the cover by Joe Cocker—agree on one with your partner, and do the same song. Work out as much detail as you can. You may use lead sheet symbols instead of attempting to exactly transcribe harmony parts. .mp3 files available in the readings folder.
  • Upload a .pdf of your transcription to your thread in #partner-responses.
  • Write a paragraph or so about your experience transcribing the music. What was your process? What was difficult for you? Is there anything you were unsure about? Be brief but clear.

Due Wednesday at noon

Compare your transcription to your partner’s. Discuss the differences, focusing primarily on meter and rhythm.


Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library.

Adams, Kyle. 2015. “What Did Danger Mouse Do? The Grey Album and Musical Composition in Configurable Culture.” Music Theory Spectrum 37 (1): 7–24.
Burns, Lori. 2002. “‘Close Readings’ of Popular Song: Intersections among Sociocultural, Musical, and Lyrical Meanings.” In Disruptive Divas: Feminism, Identity and Popular Music, by Lori Burns and Melissa Lafrance, 31–62. New York: Routledge.
Murphy, Nancy. forthcoming. “Expressive Timing in ‘With God on Our Side.’” Music Analysis.