Popular Music Education: Foreword

The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Education

This post is taken from my foreword to The Bloomsbury Handbook of Popular Music Education: Perspectives and Practices (Bloomsbury, 2019). Editors: Zack Moir, Bryan Powell, Gareth Dylan Smith. Used by permission.

Popular Music Education. These three words, even though they have been at the center of my professional life for more than 25 years, continue to challenge and intrigue me because each one generates questions. What do we mean by ‘Popular’? Popular with whom, and for how long? Popular in the sense of widely distributed, or in the sense of culturally influential? When we say ‘Music’, which music… and whose music? The consensus reached long ago in conservatoires about the centrality of the European ‘common practice period’ has no easy parallel in PME, and popular music has evolved into so many forms and sub-genres that it is arguably impossible for any teacher or student to have knowledge of it all. And when we talk about ‘Education’, what, exactly, are we teaching? PME in high schools and in higher education deals variously with listening, performing existing music, creating original music, music technology, the commercial music industry, and (often controversially) the history of various canons, styles and traditions. Which of these should we choose to teach? Each answer to these questions breeds further questions. If we decide that our curriculum supports creativity, then our students will probably need to be songwriters, the song being the dominant creative product in most popular music. But how does one build a suitable grading framework for songwriting, when songs represent personal expression? What if the teacher’s definition of a good song is different from the student’s?

Entering Exeter

I’ve been to the University of Exeter today, giving a presentation about Zotero, which I’ve blogged about before, to a group of library and information professionals from Exeter and elsewhere in the South West. As ever with teaching and conferences, you learn as much as you provide, and through feedback and questions from the group, I discovered Mendeley, a more recent (and UK-based) citation software alternative which I will explore soon. It seems to have a very similar feature set to Zotero, and crucially has an iPhone app associated with it.

Here, mainly for the benefit of those who were at the presentation, but also for anyone else who’s interested, are some short videos demoing the specifics of Zotero (including some features I didn’t cover in the presentation).

Drag and drop in Firefox – Zotero to Google docs

Extracting metadata from a journal article

Live citations in MS Word using Zotero plugin