Semiotic Analysis of Popular Music
taught by Philip Tagg as part of the
MA programme at the
Institute of Popular Music, University of Liverpool (1993-2002)
FRENCH VERSION OF THIS COURSE IS
A CONSIDERABLE IMPROVEMENT ON THIS ONE!
must be registered as a postgraduate student at the University of
Liverpool or have acquired special dispensation to attend these sessions.
must have good active and passive knowledge of the English language.
formal training in music or musicology is no prerequisite, a keen
interest in music and in its sociocultural functions is absolutely
essential. In other words, you do not need to be notationally literate.
increase understanding of music as a form of interhuman communication.
further the systematic understanding of relationships between structural
aspects of music ('text') and its psychological, social, cultural
and ideological qualities ('context').
develop musical listening skills and to increase aural awareness in
develop popular music research skills and to broaden the scope of
develop analytical skills in the field of (popular) music.
broaden knowledge of semiotic theory and method.
provide some critical insights into European traditions of philosophy
encourage the abilities of lateral and connotative thought.
relate skills in lateral and connotative thinking to more rationalist
modes of discourse.
develop skills in the public presentation of ideas about music.
Assessment and participation
in this module is not assessed as such. However, it may be advantageous
to use skills and knowledge acquired during this module in one or more
of your final projects. It is usual for students following the IPM masters
programme to complete their Textual Analysis project using theory, method
and materials discussed during this module.
you through this module, you will be expected to complete one analysis
assignment and to present your findings
in a seminar.
It is important
to bear in mind: (i) that there is little or no course literature specifically
associated with this module; (ii) that progress in this module is dependent
on the development of your practical listening skills; (iii) that progress
in this module is dependent on feedback from your fellow students as
well as from the tutor. For these reasons attendance at lectures and
participation in seminars is very important.
Tutor, time and place
Tagg. Wednesdays 16.30 - 18.30. Room 123, Pilkington Building, University
of Liverpool. 6 x 2 hour sessions.
and method lecture (1)
and method lecture (2)
and method lecture (3) and feedback session (1)
of course aims, content and assignment.
and definitions of semiotics. Traditions of music studies and their
relation to semiotics. Definitions of 'music'. Discussion of musical
functions. The epistemology of music. Connotation and denotation.
Communication models, codal incompeten ce and codal interference.
Semiosis and cultural relativity.
analysis: interobjective comparison and hypothetical substitution.
Intersubjectivity and paramusical fields of association. Musical sign
typology: anaphones, genre synecdoches, episodic markers, style indicators.
Music and the soundscape. D ualism melody-accompaniment. Parameters
of musical and paramusical expression.
analytical theory will be illustrated extensively in practice during
sessions 2 and 3.
2 and 3a (lecture and discussion)
should have chosen a piece to analyse by this date (see Assignment).
of Abba's Fernando. All analytical method covered in session
1 is put into practice. Musematic analysis, relation of music to lyrics,
relation of music plus lyrics to contemporary society (1975), Abba
of subsequent assignment presentation are demonstrated.
presented for the insertion of this analytical procedure in an epistemological
plays his/her chosen music (see also Assignment)
to the seminar and notes feedback from the participants.
point of these sessions is to obtain information about the piece's perceived
qualities (associations, reactions, descriptions, evaluations, etc.).
Feedback from seminar participants, in the form of structural or connotative
observations, should be taken into account by the presenter in his/her
subsequent analysis work.
reading available online
handouts for this module are available ONLY FROM THIS WEBSITE. I
neither store, classify, administer nor distribute any hard copy
van Leeuwen: Speech, Music Sound (Mamillan, 1999)