Spring 2018

What is Mainstream Music?

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-127

Moodle site: Course


Amy M. Coddington (Section 01)


What is Mainstream Music? What does it mean when we describe music as mainstream? Who is the intended audience, who are its creators, and what does it sound like? In this introductory course, we will examine mainstream music from the nineteenth century to the present in the context of art and literature. Drawing on sociological theories of taste, critiques of the mass culture industry, studies of the music industry, and critical race theory, we’ll explore such issues as: why, in an increasingly diverse America, the de facto mainstream audience is white and middle class; why major symphony orchestras mostly play music by a select few composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and Brahms; how institutions such as museums, schools, television networks, and record companies work together as gatekeepers to regulate the inclusion of new artistic movements such as pop art, hip hop, rock & roll, and minimalism in the mainstream; and how the internet and the resulting fragmentation of media has given citizens agency to redefine the nature of the mainstream. Reading and listening assignments will help guide class discussions, and students will complete periodic short papers and a final collaborative project.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Coddington.

If Overenrolled: Seniors will have priority.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Fine Arts for Non-majors


2019-20: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018