Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

Purdue School of Engineering and Technology

History of American Popular Music

MUS-Z 207 / 3 Cr.

This class examines the cultural content of music by defining Popular Music not Pop Music and by examining various decades of music in America from the early Native American music to the present day. It also delves into the changing technology climate of America from the 1860s to the present day and the impact of this technology on popular music as seen in the music business.


American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3

  • Compare, contrast, and connect the themes, structures, and cultural content of a broad range of American Popular Music from the beginning of the country’s history to the present day.
  • Explore the ways in which cultures in the U.S. have collided as evidenced in the history of American Popular Music, and investigate the ways in which artistic and cultural forces in America have shaped and are shaped by compositional processes and aesthetic properties of musical style.
  • Examine the impact of the corporate music industry on American Popular Music, and analyze the influence that technology has had on both.

Students will be able to do the following by the end of the semester:

  • Listen actively and critically to music (rather than simply hearing it) by creating written reports about live musical performances using appropriate musical concepts and terminology.
  • Analyze two live concerts in terms of their aesthetic as well as their technical processes: e.g., the use of technology, sound reinforcement, overall stagecraft, lighting etc. Students will write a five full page paper on each concert that presents a synthesized critique of the total production.
  • Articulate a broad awareness of American Popular Music–the principal eras, genres, and cultural sources, etc. – by having completed a presentation assignment.
  • Analyze the influence of corporate industry and of technology on American Popular Music by having the students complete “questionnaires” with short answers, throughout the course.
  • Show students the rich history of American music.
  • Show students that music started long before Europeans set foot on this continent.
  • Show music are like building blocks.
  • You have to have a beginning to have any type of history.
  • To show how Blues plays a huge part in the music we had yesterday and today.
Principles of Undergraduate Learning (PULs)

4. Intellectual Depth, Breadth, and Addictiveness (major emphasis)

3. Integration and Application of Knowledge (major emphasis)

5. Understanding Society and Culture (moderate emphasis)

2. Critical Thinking (moderate emphasis)

NASM Standards

D.2.a.1 The ability to hear, identify, and work conceptually with the elements of music such as rhythm, melody, harmony, structure, timbre, texture.

D.2.a.3 An understanding of compositional processes, aesthetic properties of style, and the ways these shape and are shaped by artistic and cultural forces.

D.2.a.4 An acquaintance with a wide selection of musical literature, the principal eras, genres, and cultural sources.