Intensive graduate seminar “Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method, and Practice”

Intensive graduate seminar

“Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method, and Practice”
3–6 March 2015, EAMT

Prof. Philip Tagg, Universities of Leeds Beckett and Salford, UK

Kaire Maimets-Volt, EAMT

The seminar takes place at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (Tallinn, Tatari 13)

The seminar consists of lectures and sessions of group work analysis.

Working language: English


The seminar is intended for both musos and non-musos, i.e. to those with either formal training in music(ology), or who make music on a professional or semi-professional basis, as well as to those who might not necessarily know what a diminished seventh is but who are as passionate about music and want to know more about how it works.

Deadline for registration: 25 February 2015. Please send your participation request to The number of participants is limited!

PHILIP TAGG (b 1944) is a British musicologist, writer and educator. He is co-founder of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) and author of several influential books on popular music and music semiotics (Kojak – 50 Seconds of TV Music – Towards the Analysis of Affect in Popular Music, 1979/2000; Fernando the Flute: Analysis of the Music in an ABBA Mega-Hit, 2000; Ten Little Title Tunes: Towards a Musicology of the Mass Media, 2003 (with Bob Clarida); Music’s Meanings: A Modern Musicology for Non-Musos, 2013; Everyday Tonality II: Towards a Tonal Theory of What Most People Hear, 2014). He has lectured courses on Popular Music Analysis, Music and the Moving Image, and History of Popular Music at the Department of Musicology of the University of Göteborg (1977–1991), at the Institute of Popular Music (IPM) of the University of Liverpool (1993–2002), and at the Faculty of Music of the University of Montréal (2002–2009), and he has given workshops and intensive seminars on these subjects around Europe, in North and South America and Australia. In January 2010 Tagg returned as a pensioner to the UK. He is currently Visiting Professor of Music at the Leeds Beckett University and the University of Salford.


This intensive seminar is dedicated to the theory, methodology and practice of (perception-based) semiotic analysis of popular music. The actual sounds of music – how they are created, what they consist of, the patterns they build, etc. – are studied in respect to the culture and society in which they are produced and used.

Among the aims of the seminar is to develop music listening skills and to increase aural awareness in general; to further the systematic understanding of relationships between structural aspects of music and its psychological, social, cultural and ideological qualities; to encourage the students’ abilities of connotative thought; to relate music as sound to its meanings and uses, and to relate those meanings and uses back to the musical sounds with which they are demonstrably linked; and to relate skills in connotative thinking to more rationalist modes of discourse.

Every registered participant is asked to bring in a piece of music (as mp3 file on the USB, or on a smart phone, iPod, laptop or tablet equipped with Bluetooth device) that they would personally like to analyse in this seminar. This could be anything – a pop song, a film tune, a TV-series opening title and so on – as long as it is something the participant him/herself is curious about.


Tuesday, 3 March room C-105
10:00-10:15 Introductions, aims of the seminar, timetable, practical issues.
10:15-11:00 Public lecture: “Introduction to a musicology that integrates the
sounds of music into the study of culture and society”
11:00-12:00 Public lecture: Theory and method 1
12:00-13:00 Public lecture: Theory and method 2. Sample analyses. during the seminars (1 min extract prepared by every individual)
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-16:00 Seminar: Collectively deciding which “tunes” to analyse
16:00-17:00 Seminar: Plenary feedback groups 1 and 2 (of 8)

Wednesday, 4 March room C-105
10:00-13:00 Seminar: Plenary feedback groups 3, 4, 5, 6 (of 8)
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:00 Seminar: Plenary feedback groups 7, 8 (of 8).

15:00-15.15 Coffee pause
15:15-17:00 Group work session: mapping of PMFCs, IOCM search,
assessing plenary feedback, contextualisation, etc.

Thursday, 5 March C-105
10:00-11:00 Seminar: Discussion of issues arising from group work
11:00-13:00 Group work session: mapping of PMFCs, IOCM search,
assessing plenary feedback, contextualisation, etc.
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:00 Lecture: Theoretical feedback on issues arising from group work
15:00-17:00 Final group work session. Preparation for final presentations.

Friday, 6 March A-402
10:00-13:00 Seminar: Final presentation groups 1-4 with discussion + feedback
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-16:30 Seminar: Final presentation groups 5-8 with discussion + feedback
16:30-17:00 Conclusive summaries

Reading assignments:

Before the start of seminar, the students are required to read the following chapters from

Tagg, Philip (2013). Music’s Meanings. A Modern Musicology for Non-Musos. New York, Huddersfield: The Mass Media Music Scholars’ Press (MMMSP):

[1] Preface (pp. 1–34)

[2] Chapter 6, “Intersubjectivity” (pp. 195–228)

[3] Chapter 7, “Interobjectivity” (pp. 229–261)

In the course of the seminar, selected materials from Ch. 10 (“Vocal persona”) and Ch. 13 (“A simple sign typology”) will be assigned to read.

The book Music’s Meanings is available at the libraries of EAMT and Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics, University of Tartu. For the registered participants it would be made accessible also as a pdf-file.

The last day of seminar is dedicated to the students’ oral presentations of group work analysis. To receive 3 ETCS credits, the participants have furthermore to write down and hand in their group analyses by 20 March.

The seminar’s working language is English. There is no participation fee. The GSCSA will reimburse the travel and accommodation expenses of its registered members. Detailed information on accommodation availabilities, meals and transport will be sent by email after the confirmation of your registration.

More information:
Aleksandra Dolgopolova, GSCSA coordinator

This seminar is supported by the European Union Social Fund.