Network for the Inclusion of Music in Music Studies


[name and provisional logo - explanations]
updated 2015-01-30 by Philip Tagg

[Temporary website]

NIMiMS, the Network for the Inclusion of Music in Music Studies, was founded on Sunday 18 January, 2015, by scholars and musicians attending a symposium at Leeds Beckett Unniversity (UK).

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    ▪ Leeds symposium, Jan 2015


What is NIMiMS and why does it exist?


A network dedicated to the cause of including MUSIC in MUSIC STUDIES? That’s like campaigning for the inclusion of the ENVIRONMENT in ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES! If that reasonable analogy were operational we wouldn’t need to take action against the absurdity of music’s effective exclusion from many types of music studies.

Top of this page Music’s exclusion

Music isn’t always excluded from music studies but it often is, and in two main ways: [1] NOTHING BUT THE MUSIC and [2] EVERYTHING BUT THE MUSIC.

§1 NOTHING BUT THE MUSIC ( ‘thesis’). The actual sounds of music —how they’re created, what they consist of, the patterns they build, their ‘sonic materiality’, etc.— are studied, as theory or practice, in isolation from the culture and society in which they’re produced and used. This type of exclusion from a broader understanding of music studies is typical for conservative music theory teaching and is common in conservatoire contexts. This position can be called the NOTHING BUT THE MUSIC pole of exclusion. By setting up ‘the music’ as the sole object of study, NOTHING BUT THE MUSIC excludes itself from the larger set of learning of which it ought logically to be an integral part (music studies). ‘The music itself’ cannot be part of music studies if it is so exclusive about itself!

§2 EVERYTHING BUT THE MUSIC ( ‘antithesis’). The actual sounds of music (its ‘sonic materiality’, see §1) are either ignored or treated as peripheral to the context in which they exist. This pole of exclusion —EVERYTHING BUT THE MUSIC— dominates popular music studies (e.g. IASPM, Popular Music). It has also been recently imported as a supposed ‘alternative’ into institutions traditionally associated with the NOTHING BUT THE MUSIC position.

§3 MUSIC (‘synthesis’). Both poles of exclusion (§1 and §2) share one important common trait: the dynamic between the sounds of music (§1) and the sociocultural context without which they cannot exist (§2) is missing. Put another way, the contexts investigated in [popular] music studies (§2) cannot exist without the sounds of music (§1) to which they are manifestly linked and which often, as in the case of genre, are central to the definition of context. It is in these ways that music is reduced to either a contextless text (§1) or to a textless context (§2). That’s the basic reason why the creation of a Network for the Inclusion of Music in Music Studies (NIMiMS) is a necessary and urgent task.

Top of this page Main rationale

This current initiative (NIMiMS) is the result of conversations between scholars of [mainly popular] music who are, or have been, active as musicians and who have had to work in institutions of musical learning (§1) or in cultural/studies, media studies departments, etc. (§2), or in both. We have often been struck by an overriding sense of institutional inertia and epistemic sloth in our working environments. We have mostly had to work in isolation and have often been frustrated in our efforts to relate music as sound (§1) to its meanings and uses (§2), and to relate those meanings and uses (§2) back to the musical sounds with which they are demonstrably linked (§1). This network initiative (NIMiMS) aims to break our isolation and to give us a concerted voice with a view to integrating the sounds of music into the study of culture and society. That ultimate goal demands that we first make our presence felt as a distinct group (a bit like those who had to identify ‘women's history’ or ‘popular music’ as valid objects of study) rather than as marginalised ‘voices in the wilderness’. Together we have a much better chance of turning ‘music studies’ into music studies.

Top of this page Three main obstacles

1. Conventional Western institutions of musical learning in the West tend to be fixated on the euroclassical repertoire, or on the jazz canon, with avant-garde or electronic composition and ethnomusicology as the most commonly sanctioned add-ons. These institutions have developed an arsenal of terms adapted to the structural specifics of the repertoires under specific social, cultural and technological circumstances. Many of those terms, as well as the ideology they carry, are inapplicable to many types of music outside the accepted canon[s] and are in dire need of reform (see Discussion document concerning the reform of basic music theory terminology, 1: Tonality and form).

2. Popular Music Studies. IASPM (International Association for the Study of Popular Music) was founded in 1981 as an international, interdisciplinary and interprofessional organisation. The interprofessional aim (not just academics but also musicians, journalists, recording engineers, etc.) effectively exists only on paper, while the interdisciplinary aim is compromised by a dearth of music-immanent studies. The association is in other words dominated by scholars (mainly anglophone) from the social sciences and the ‘non-muso’ humanities. This disciplinary hegemony means that the MUSIC at the centre of POPULAR MUSIC ends up in the margins of ‘popular music studies’ as ‘a troublesome appendage to cultural studies’, as Franco Fabbri put it in the heyday of ‘postmodernist’ theorising back in 1995.

3. Epistemic confusion. Obstacles 1 and 2 can also be understood in combination as symptoms of an underlying epistemic confusion. Profitable popular music studies courses are often run either as if the music did not count (obstacle 2), or as if conservatoire-style practical performance (incl. recording, etc.) were the only activity of any importance, i.e. as if notation and a music theory of the popular were unnecessary. Theories of popular music (as music) are also held back by the ethnocentrism and conceptual inadequacy of conservative music theory (obstacle 1). Together these obstacles create a vicious circle which aggravates the rift between music-related disciplines, as well as that between music theory and music making. Funding bodies, university administrators, etc. are unable to see these weird rifts as anything but the normal state of institutional affairs. Another bizarre symptom of this confusion is the abandonment of musically immanent studies in ‘alternative’ musicology.

NIMiMS Contacts

Send short email message to:
    Esa Lilja (Chairperson)    ● Bob Davis (Secretary)    ● Kaire Maimets (Treasurer)   ● Philip Tagg (Temporary webmaster)

Top of this page Membership area [temporary info]

Membership/Interest form: link not available until membership structure finalised and the Network’s financial arrangements established (probably end February, 2015)...

No members list is currently available (2015-01-30). Here instead is a list of 32 individuals who either participated actively in the Leeds Beckett Symposium (, 16-18 Jan, 2015), or who have expressed support for that action and for the reasoning behind it. Click on name to find out more about each individual. [see also Summaries of symposium presentations and Minutes of constitutive meeting]

ANDREATTA, Moreno Paris France
BARRERA, Fernando ¶ Granada Spain
CARR, Paul Cardiff UK
CONTI, Jacopo ¶ Torino Italy
COOPER, Steve Wolverhampton UK
DAVIS, Bob ¶ Leeds UK
DUPETIT, Guillaume ¶ Paris France
FABBRI, Franco Milano/Torino Italy
GARCÍA PEINAZO, Diego ¶ Oviedo/Córdoba Spain
GIMÉNEZ RODRIGUEZ, Francisco Granada Spain
GONIN, Philippe Dijon France
HARRISON, Clive Melbourne Australia
HEUGER, Markus ¶ Köln Germany
HUME, Adam ¶ Leeds UK
JULIEN, Olivier Paris France
LAWSON, Steve¶ Birmingham UK
LILJA, Esa ¶ Helsinki Finland
MAIMETS-VOLT, Kaire ¶ Tartu/Tallinn Estonia
McKERRELL, Simon Newcastle UK
MILLER, Sue ¶ Cambridge UK
MULLET, Chloë ¶ Liverpool UK
PARKER, Steve ¶ Leeds UK
PAVESE, Errico Trento Italy
PLASTINO, Goffredo Newcastle UK
RICHARDSON, John Turku Finland
ROGERS, Holly Liverpool UK
RUSSELL, Ray ¶ London/Leeds UK
SCOTT, Derek Leeds UK
TAGG, Philip ¶ Huddersfield UK
WHITING, Chris ¶ Newcastle UK
WICKE, Peter Berlin Germany
WISE, Timothy ¶ Salford UK

Top of this page Upcoming events [reverse chronological order | go to past events]

  • June, 2015: Tim Wise organises NIMiMS event, probably around music education, at Salford University (UK)
  • 20-23 May, 2015: Philip Tagg gives annual Stevenson lectures at UCLA Department of Musicology on [1] the reform of music theory terminology, [2] film music analysis for non-musos, and [3] ‘From Archaic Rurality to Urban Modernity: structure and meaning in quartal harmony’ (Los Angeles, USA).
  • 2-6 March, 2015: Kaire Maimets and Philip Tagg run semiotic music analysis seminars in Tallinn (Estonia).
  • 27-28 February, 2015: Esa Lilja and Philip Tagg run music analysis seminars in Helsinki (Finland).
  • 2-6 February, 2015: Philip Tagg lectures at Universidad de Santiago de Compostela (Galícia/Spain): [1] Introduction to popular music studies; [2] Music analysis for non-musos; [3] Ethics and politics in Morricone’s music for The Mission (1986).

Top of this page Past events [reverse chronological order | go to upcoming events]

Top of this page About the name and provisional logo

NIMiMS proposed logo full size


The slur symbolises that we are joined (legato) in a network. Since we hope our existence is only a temporary necessity, we don‘t see ourselves as constituting an established ‘Society’ or ‘Association’ —just a network.


The slur also symbolises the inclusion of this Network and of Music as parts of a larger whole —Music Studies in general. We reject any regressive move towards the socially decontextualised study of music (‘just the music’) as strongly as we do the exclusion of music from the study of music (‘everything except the music’). We are simply advocating the inclusion of music as a self-evident and essential part of music studies.


The equalizer display symbolises music as sound —it’s what popular audio equipment shows when music is played— while the slur alludes to the possibility of music as notation. We don’t specify POPULAR music in the name of the network because vernacular UK English tends often to equate ‘popular music’ with recordings of ‘songs’ and doesn’t include, for example, music for moving images. Besides, euroclassical studies need to stop excluding their music from studies that can make sociocultural sense of it!

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