Network for the Inclusion of Music in Music Studies (NIMiMS)


Symposium ‘Including Music in Music Studies’

[ Leeds Beckett University, 16 - 18 January, 2015 ]

Introduction and the Nine Questions

In order to overcome the problems presented under ‘What is NIMiMS and Why does it Exist?’, ‘Music’s Exclusion’, ‘‘Main Rationale’ and ‘ Main Obstacles’, a call for contributions was sent to 36 individuals, mainly scholars of popular music and mostly from Europe (including the UK). They were invited to attend a symposium held at Leeds Beckett University in mid January and to prepare a 20-minute presentation in which they were asked to address the following sorts of question.

  • Where do you work? For which institution[s], company/ies, etc?
  • What sort of music-related work do you do?
  • Which needs could be provided for by the development of viable theories of musics other than those of the established institutional canons (euroclassical, jazz, etc.)?
  • Who could benefit from the development of such theories and in what way?
  • What have been, in your experience, the main obstacles to developing such theories?
  • What positive experience, if any, do you have of popular music theory?
  • What do you see as the most important elements of music theory to change and/or develop?
  • How can we most effectively challenge the epistemic status quo of institutionalised music studies and their various forms of exclusion (‘nothing but the music’, ‘everything but the music’, ‘music-making v. music theory’, etc.)?
  • What would you be prepared to do to help establish and/or run a network of individuals interested in seriously studying the MUSIC (canonic or non-canonic) in MUSIC STUDIES by integrating an understanding of music as SOUND as a core feature in any study of culture (including ‘music studies’!)?


The overall structure of the three-day symposium was as follows.

  • Friday 16:       Presentations by music practitioners, practice-based researchers, etc.
  • Saturday 17:  Invited presentations addressing nine questions (see above)
  • Sunday 18:     Eventual founding of a Network for the Inclusion of Music in Music Studies

Friday 16 January

10:00Coffee and registration
10:30-11:00Bob Davis: Welcome and introductory presentation
 Philip Tagg: Welcome and additional comments
11:00-11:30Ray Russell: Fluid Architecture: record production, expressivity and flow in the making of Now More Than Ever
11:30-12:00Chris Whiting: Current Practice in Popular Music Courses: reflections from Newcastle College
12:15-12:45Adam Hulme: Song writing and crafting the hook: searching for the perfect earworm
14:00-14:30Chloë Mullett (Composer, lecturer-performer, arranger; Liverpool Hope University)
14:30-15:00Bob Davis: The art of ‘can belto’: Adele and Someone Like You
14:30-15:30Steve Lawson:
15:45-16:15To be confirmed...
 Dinner and/or evening event

The idea of these Friday sessions is to focus on musical practice as an essential part in the discussion of what needs to be done to improve music theory and analysis. This part of the symposium is being organised by Bob Davis and details will be posted on this site when they have been finalised.

Saturday 17 January

As from 11:00, each participant has a slot of 30 minutes, of which 20 minutes would typically be devoted to presentation and 10 minutes to questions and discussion.

10:00-11:00Philip Tagg (Leeds Beckett) − Introductory presentation: ‘I was so naïve!’ Lessons learnt from forty years of fun and frustration with music, musicians, musicology and popular music studies
11:00-11:30Esa Lilja (Helsinki)
11:45-12:15Jacopo Conti (Turin)
12:15-12:45Diego García (Oviedo)
14:00-14:30Kaire Maimets-Volt (Tartu)
14:30-15:00Guillaume Dupetit (Paris)
15:00-15:30Sue Miller (Cambridge)
15:45-16:15Markus Heuger (Cologne)
16:15-16:45Fernando Barrera (Granada)
16:45-17:15Tim Wise (Salford)
17:30-18:15General discussion
 Dinner / Evening event

Sunday 18 January

10:00-12:45Establishing a network

If at least some participants agree that it could be a good idea to establish a Network for the Inclusion of Music in Music Studies, we will need to do the following  pfeil

  • List issues recurring during the symposium that require action on our part.
  • Discuss the prioritisation of those (and other) issues.
  • Discuss future ideas, projects and activities relevant to the aims of the network.
  • Discuss strategy towards the Nothing but the Music and Everything but the music establishments.
  • Start formulating the aims and functions of an eventual network.
  • Discuss modes of communication (exchange of information) between members of the network.
  • Discuss the formal establishment of a network: its elected officers (chair, secretary, treasurer, etc.); its seat (where its official existence as a body is physically located), etc.
  • Delegate tasks resulting from discussions at this meeting (who does what by when).


  • Opening (incl. legal status of this meeting)
  • Election of chair and secretary for the meeting
  • Establishment of a network:
    (a) Do we need a network? (If not, go to 4, below);
    (b) What should it do?;
    (c) Name of the network;
    (d) Seat of the network;
    (e) Election of officers (Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, 2 auditors);
    (f) Delegation of tasks concerning the establishment of a network and its imminent activities.
  • Upcoming events
  • Any other business
  • Next meeting
  • Close

View the minutes of this constitutive meeting.

Presentation summaries

Fernando Barrera
For the past few years, I have conducted a research study in the Historia y Ciencias de la Música Department, at the Universidad de Granada, regarding the evolution of indie music in Spain. To define this music genre label I studied the formal aspects of this music and included the social context as well as taking into account public and journalistic sources that inform musical definition process. Now I can affirm that since the early 90s, when the genre label “Spanish Indie Music” first emerged, it has evolved and varied, and the number of indie bands, related media, and followers have increased greatly.
Musicology has not been directly involved in the course of this process. A new genre label has appeared, it has been developed and diversified, but the press and the public has been exclusively responsible for this progress. Indie music in Spain has resulted in an chaotic genre shaped by some critics, in many cases without any criterion, into an ambiguous music monster leaving it almost impossible to study formally and to define within the parameters of our discipline, Musicology. Musicology should be adapted, modernized, and it should embrace any music genre in order to prevent the previously mentioned cases.

Jacopo Conti
At the NIMiMS symposium I first introduced the situation of music in Italian schools and Universities. I particularly focused on the situation of popular music studies, still recognized as an add-on to euroclassical musicology or ethnomusicology, not as an independent field of studies.
After describing the situation, I introduced myself inside at outside University. I tried to answer the question “What can you do for NIMiMS?” by presenting some of my previous work, regarding topics such as graphic representation of timbre in comics, the transcription of musical and paramusical sounds previously not intended for transcription (distortion, wah-wah, feedback, etc.), the relationship between body, gesture and sound.
I also proposed the creation of a series of books for MMMSP and the extension of the practice of edutainment clips such as Philip Tagg’s in order to reach a broader, “non-muso” audience.

Diego García Peinazo Can the Subaltern (‘Popular Music Analysis Scholar’) Speak? Strategic Essentialism, Music Education and The Little Prince: A brief Approach through Andalusian Music
The Little Prince’s first picture and its possible meanings − ‘as a hat’ or ‘as a boa constrictor digesting an elephant’ − may be useful in order to explain the relationships between popular music studies and music analysis. Following Philip Tagg's theory about types of music exclusion − ‘nothing but the music’, ‘everything but the music’ −, I suggest that popular songs have been often understood ‘as a hat’, especially when we underestimate the main role of sound, musical parameters and its meanings in popular music studies. I underline the important place of creativity and imagination in music analysis, in order to develop theories and paradigms that are able to understand popular songs more in terms of ‘a boa constrictor digesting an elephant’.
This presentation summarizes not only some of the main obstacles in Spanish institutions regarding music education, music theory, transcription, etc., but also the positive experiences with popular music studies that I have had as a PhD student at the Universidad de Oviedo. I also focus on my research interest in the so-called rock andaluz, discussing some troubles with conventional music theory when studying the relationships between Andalusian music and identity politics. The necessity to reconcile the deconstruction of conventional music theory with the development of new (non Eurocentric, post-structuralist) theories in the ‘(Post)New Musicology era’ mainly concerns popular music. However, I argue that fortunately in the last years similar reactions can also be found in some World Music and Western art music scholars. Applying G. Spivak's notion of ‘strategic essentialism’, and the idea of subaltern's ‘lack of voice’ to the situation of popular music analysis in everyday academic agendas, I discuss some ways to deal with the knowledge gap between popular music analysis and cultural studies.

Francisco J. Giménez: ‘Perimusicology’: how we got into it and possible ways out.
Around 1990 some Spanish scholars began to practice "new musicology" as a reaction to the positivism of Spanish musicological research (catalogues, scores, etc). The result was an increasing number of works about correspondence, administrative documentation, ideology, even watermarks of music paper... everything but the music. And this is what I mean by the term PERIMUSICOLOGY: works around musicology that can be developed by a sociologist, an archivist or a librarian. In popular music studies, research tends to focus on cultural practices, identities, aesthetics, transgressions,… even on cultural analysis. Some ways out may be: 1. a musicology of sound (studying creation, performance and reception as a new process). 2. Micromusicology (researching a microcontext, where music is relevant). 3. All music (no distinction betwen euroclassical/popular, including music in all music studies).

Adam Hume
My talk concerned the tactics and techniques popular music song writers are possibly using to get their songs stuck in your heads, creating 'earworms'. I'm currently a PhD student at Leeds Beckett University, and during the NIMiMS conference I had my eyes opened to how popular music is being taught and how academics around the world are coming up with new ideas in the field. I too advocate the teaching of popular music studies with more emphasis on the music itself, the teaching of techniques of how to craft a song that the students want to create and are enthusiastic about. Enjoying music and creating it is what makes musicians what they are in the first place, so removing the joy means that the students are not doing what they want to and the subject loses enthusiastic students that could have been instrumental in the next generation of music itself, if only the subject had been handled and delivered better. This is where NIMiMS comes in and supports actual music in music studies.

Kaire Maimets
My talk summed up a decade of work at the Department of Musicology at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre (EAMT) in Tallinn. Since my graduate studies I’ve been researching popular forms of music (mostly Arvo Pärt’s original film music and the appropriation of his pre-existing concert works in film soundtracks) and the use of semiotics in music analysis. On the basis of this research I have designed and taught courses on film music analysis and semiotic music analysis, not only to the musos at the EAMT but also to non-musos at the Baltic Film and Media School (Tallinn), and at the Institute of Philosophy and Semiotics of the University of Tartu. My recent research interest is the social, ideological and musical meanings of Estonian late 1980s patriotic pop-rock songs, i.e. ideas, attitudes, identities, and ideologies mediated through musical structures during the transitional 'Singing Revolution' era of Estonia regaining its independence at the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The two most exciting and challenging questions arising from my work have been: [1] How and why does music have the concrete effects that it does? [2] How come music affects us so concretely but is so hard to talk about in concrete terms? To answer these questions I've tried to link the immanent analysis of musical text with the analysis of its context (i.e. that sociocultural reality in which the music is created, performed, used, and received) with that of its reception, and with that of the dynamic relations between text, context, and receiver.
In my research and teaching, in making sense of music and its effects on listeners by relating music as sound to its meanings and uses, and relating those meanings and uses back to the musical sounds, I could use much more collegial (moral, methodological, technical) support than I've been so far able to experience. NIMiMS could definitely be a source of help here, and could also act as a practical platform (e.g. for audiovisual showcase lectures/courses about music, etc.). Explaining the musical structures that give rise to certain audience reactions may be no easy task, but it is as inevitable as it is necessary, if the true aim of music studies and education is to understand (and help others to understand) the workings of not just music, but also of the human conscious and unconscious mind.

Sue Miller
As head of the BA in popular music at Anglia Ruskin university I endeavour to combine the best work in popular music studies with detailed music analysis of recordings and live performance. I believe sound needs to be put at the centre of music studies (and is too often peripheral) and that we, as educators and researchers, need to demonstrate the connections between current subdivisions of music studies in more interesting and creative ways. New forms of delivering music education in higher education need to be developed which cater to cultural diversity and complexity, using appropriate, contextualised technical and specialist musical vocabulary. Interested in popular music pedagogy and broader definitions of ‘popular music’ I believe Anglo-centrism in both traditional musicology and popular music studies needs to be challenged. Similarly the classical and the vernacular are far more integrated than labels such as musicology/ethnomusicology/popular music assume and music education is frequently out of step with the wider musical culture. The two polarities of ‘everything but the music’ and ‘nothing but the music’ outlined by Philip Tagg need to be brought under scrutiny as there are ethical questions here in terms of music’s function in society.
I see the role of this new network as acting as advocate for the importance of music education, demonstrating why and how music is meaningful. NIMiMS is a forum to share new exciting research-led teaching in the field of (popular) music, providing a directory of skills and resources which educators interested in popular music analysis can add to and use in their own teaching. Fostering partnerships with scholars in cultural studies (in languages media, English, communications and sociology departments) we could show how to incorporate the analysis of sound into their work − we are the missing link.

Philip Tagg: ‘I was so Naïve!’ Forty years of frustration with music, musicians, musicology and popular music studies. (Entire PowerPoint presentation, excl. AV examples)
I was so naïve when we founded the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) in 1981 because I totally underestimated the institutional and epistemic inertia of existing ‘disciplines’. In this presentation I identify the two main poles of that institutional inertia which continues to impede the development of viable music studies: [1] The Popular Music Studies Establishment with its rock conservatoires (‘Nothing but the music’, see   Fame video montage)  and ‘Cult-studs institutions’ (‘Everything but the music’); [2] The Euroclassical Establishment, with its problems of ‘Nothing but the music’ and confused ethnocentrism ( video What (the hell) is Tonality? ). I suggest four solutions: [1] the demystification of music ( see Music’s Meanings, Chapters 1-3 ); [2] a radical  reform of music theory terminology ; [3] the development of aesthesic descriptors (perception-based ways of designating structure; see  this v short video ) and unequivocal timecode placement (see  this even shorter video ); [4] pragmatic music semiotics providing links between the sounds of music and the society/culture in which they're produced and used ( Music’s Meanings , Chapters 5-7, 10-13).

Chris Whiting
At Newcastle College we are currently redesigning our higher education music provision, which is currently split between Newcastle College(NCG) and Newcastle University (UON) as awarding bodies for 5 foundation degree courses (FdA*). The team behind the redesigning of the provision are utilising this as an opportunity to address the currency, aims and structure of the current provision against the wider field (competing institutes, the music industry and student expectations & needs).
The current provision is made up of 5 FdAs; Popular Music (UON), Music Production (UON), Sound Engineering (NCG), Songwriting (NCG) and DJ & Electronic Music (NCG). The initial move is to amalgamate these 5 courses into 1 award, FdA Music, comprising 5 disciplinary strands based on the original courses. The current NCG courses utilise music within the curriculum quite well although the practice is varied and knowledge of best practice is not always shared, it is the intention of the team to fully embrace the practice of including music throughout the teaching of the new provision. The questions that precede this decision are; how are this music implemented (at curriculum and classroom level); and what music should be used (what is the current canon? Does this vary between disciplines?)
* A Foundation Degree is a vocationally focused qualification based on the 1st and 2nd year of a degree, excluding the 3rd year where a student would be expected to demonstrate their academic abilities, usually through a dissertation.

Tim Wise
My talk concerned my experiences as a musicologist at the University of Salford over the last ten years. Although my university is broadly amenable to NIMiMS’s project, I have witnessed there the widening of the term musicology to include much work that has little connection with or even reference to the actual sound patterns of music, a trend which serves to side-line and devalue the sonic forms themselves, which ought to be the starting point of analysis. As a long-term remedy, I advocate developing new approaches to the teaching of music to young people that will encourage both their participation in music making and their understanding of music’s structures while avoiding elitist knowledge of an elitist repertoire, and that likewise will promote awareness of the uses of music in advertising, documentaries, film, political broadcasts, and other media phenomena that constitute the average citizen’s frame of reference. To support new approaches in pedagogy, more empirical work in music reception is necessary in order to strengthen or to question the claims of various theories of music.