This Fall term (2017) my variable topics course will fall under Period Studies with a specific focus on Popular Music in the Digital Age. The course is open to both undergraduates and graduate students from all departments. A full description is as follows:
Over the last few decades the music industry has been subject to a severe case of “disruption,” due to changes in technology, the economy, and listening practices. Artists like Chance the Rapper, Beyoncé, and Radiohead have challenged record industry customs by releasing music with experimental funding and promotional models. New services like Spotify and YouTube have become common ways of listening to music but have also been criticized for failing to pay artists a fair price per stream. Popular Music in the Digital Age is a course that critically investigates the relationship between popular music and digital culture. The course will chart the history of digital music from the development of digital audio technologies, through their replacement of analog audio technologies, up until their role in the music industries in the present day. We will focus on the ways that digital technologies have altered the sound and value of music, instigated the development of new music formats (such as the MP3), and changed our listening practices. Further, the course will use critical and cultural theory to raise questions about copyright, monetization, and performance in the digital age; thinking especially about the challenges and benefits, for both artists and listeners, created by digital technologies and new music listening services/platforms. We will work towards imagining alternative systems, practices, and methods for sharing music and compensating artists in the digital age. Students will be asked to participate frequently throughout the course and to reflect critically on their own listening practices and experiences of digital music.