FAST – Musicology and Popular Music – Luca Cerchiari

ZONEMODA ° A.A. 2022/2023 | Università di Bologna | Second Cycle Degree in Fashion Studies

Pop Culture Theory – Stefano Marino

Musicology and Popular Music

special lecture with

Prof. Luca Cerchiari

(IULM University – Milano)

Popular music studies are recent: the subject matter, in historical terms, was supposed to go back to the early 1950s, the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, and the appearance of 33 and 45 rpm records. But musicology has recently modified this concept, broadening the geographical and historical answer to the question “What is popular music?” Nowadays this term identifies a genre related to the industrial revolution, the demographic growth of Western societies, and the development of new media systems. A more strict musical definition also relates this genre to worldwide ethnic sources, popular dances (waltz, tango, samba), urban popular songs (cafè-chantant, cabaret), and popular entertainment shows (minstrelsy, vaudeville). In a general musicological perspective, popular music must finally be related to “classical” music, at least in semiographic, harmonic, melodic, and formal terms

Thursday, March 23rd 2023 – 5.00 – 7.00 PM

Room Alberti 13,

Piazzetta Teatini, 13




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Musicology and popular music

by Juliane Costanzi

On the 23rd of March, a special lecture happened with Luca Cerchiari, professor of ‘history of pop music’, also director of master’s degree in music publishing and production at IULM University of Milan. Cerchiari used as inspiration the album ” The Dark side of the moon ” by Pink Floyd to exemplify how musicology has recently modified its concept.
In the past, popular music was often seen as a lesser art form than classical music, and it was not always taken seriously by music scholars, however in recent years, this attitude has shifted and now days is recognized as a valuable subject of study. One of the reasons for this change is the acknowledgment of cultural impact that popular music has had on society.
That is why the album The Dark Side of the Moon can be considered as a landmark in popular music. It was certainly influenced by a variety of musical genres, including jazz, although is not generally considered to be a jazz inspired. Rather, it is primarily associated with progressive rock, a genre that emerged in the late 1960s and was characterized by complex arrangements, experimental sounds, and a willingness to push the boundaries of rock music, a structure around a loose narrative taking listeners on a journey which appraise a concept album.
Frank Sinatra has an important role in development the format of concepts albums, also helped to establish the idea of the album as cohesive, thematically unified work of art. He became known for the unique blend of jazz, theater and popular songs, such a mix was used by many musicians that recorded versions of classic show tunes, bringing their own improvisational approach to familiar melodies. For example, John Coltrane recorded a version of the song “My Favorite Things” from the musical “The Sound of Music” in 1960, which became one of his signature pieces. Coltrane’s version of the song featured his distinctive saxophone sound and innovative use of modal jazz, transforming the original melody into a mesmerizing and hypnotic improvisation.
Overall, the intersection of musical theater and jazz has been an important part of the development of popular music, that has played a significant role in shaping the cultural landscape of different societies around the world, has been a powerful force for economics, social change, and cultural value.