SMT conference activities

SMT Conference Activities

The Popular Music Interest Group has hosted a variety of special sessions and activities at the annual national meetings of the Society for Music Theory. Other conference sessions on related topics have also featured many of the group’s members. Below is a summary of the group’s activities in past conferences.

2017 Arlington, Virginia:

Lightening Talks — Understudied Areas of Popular Music
(Saturday November 4, 2017, 5:30-7:30)
Nancy Murphy (University of Houston), Moderator

  • Jeff Yunek (Kennesaw State University): “Perceiving the Mosaic: Form in the Mashups of DJ Earworm” (Co-authored by Benjamin Wadsworth and Simon Needle)
  • Lydia Huang, (Temple University): “The Chinese Mistress: Analyzing Wang Leehom’s ‘Hua Tian Cuo’”
  • Chantal Lemire (Western University): “Speaking Songs: Tom Waits and the Music of Spoken Word”
  • Grant Sawatzky (University of British Columbia): “Pitch-shift, Tempo, ‘Playback Speed’: On Collage Technique and the Construction of Nostalgia in Vaporwave”
  • Jesse Kinne (University of Cincinnati): “The Grooves of Swordplay in Samurai Champloo”


2016 Vancouver, British Columbia


Analytic Round Table

To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
(Saturday Nov. 5, 5:30-7:30 PM)

2015 St. Louis, MO

“Skill Share” and Meeting
(Saturday, Nov. 1, 5:00-7:00 PM)”Skill Share”

  • Stefanie Acevedo (Yale University) and Janet Bourne (Northwestern): “Using Empirical Methods to Study Popular Music”
  • Trevor de Clercq (Middle Tennessee State University): “The Nashville Number System: A Harmonic Notation for Popular Music”
  • Nancy Murphy (University of British Columbia): “Text, Timing, and the Blues in Dylan’s ‘Down the Highway'”

2014 Milwaukee, WI

Panel Discussion and Meeting
(Saturday, Nov. 8, 5:30-7:30 PM)

Panel Discussion: “What should be the role of the PMIG within our society as a whole?

  • Nicole Biamonte, McGill University
  • Christine Boone, UNC-Asheville
  • John Covach, University of Rochester
  • Jocelyn Neal, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Drew Nobile, University of Chicago
  • Joti Rockwell, Pomona College

2013 Charlotte, NC

Panel Discussion and Meeting
(Saturday, Nov. 2, 5:30-7:30 PM)

Panel Discussion: “Popular Music and Urban Geography

  • Robin Attas (Elon University): “Personalizing the Urban Ethos”
  • David Blake (Stony Brook University): “Sonic Cartographies and Cultural Geographies: Canonizing the Athens Sound”
  • Thomas Robinson (University of Alabama): “Martin Hannett’s Mancunian Sound”
  • Joti Rockwell (Pomona College): “Mashing down Babylon?: Bad Brains, Urban Geography, and Hardcore Music in Washington, DC”

(2013 Panel Abstracts)

2012 New Orleans, LA

Special Session, Panel Discussion, and Meeting

Special Session: “Popular Music and Protest”
(Sponsored by the AMS Popular Music SG, the Popular Music Section of SEM, and the SMT Popular Music IG)
S. Alexander Reed (University of Florida), Chair

  • Griffin Woodworth (MakeMusic, Inc.): “Synthesizers as Social Protest in Early 1970s Funk”
  • Noriko Manabe (Princeton University): “Remixing the Revolution: A Typology of Intertextuality in Protest Songs, as Evidenced by Antinuclear Songs of Post-Fukushima Japan”
  • Holly Holmes (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), “‘With a Voice Like a Gun’: Brazilian Popular Music, Censorship, and Strategies of Resistance during the Military Dictatorship, 1964-85”
  • Barbara Milewski (Swarthmore College), “Peace, Love and . . . Concentration Camp Music? Aleksander Kulisiewicz and His Concerts of Prisoners’ Songs at the West German Protest Song Festivals of the 1960s”

Panel Discussion: “What does it mean to analyze popular music?” and “Approaches and methodologies to analyzing popular music”
(2012 Panel Abstracts)

Panelists: Kyle Adams (Indiana University), Nicole Biamonte (McGill University), Tim Hughes (University of Surrey), Fred Maus (University of Virginia), Brad Osborn (Ohio University), and Melissa Wong (University of Cambridge).

2011 Minneapolis, MN

Special Session and Meeting

Special Session: “Your Old-Fashioned Music, Your Old Ideas: Prince, Minneapolis, and the Sounds of Diversity”
(Co-sponsored with the Committee on Diversity)
Christopher Doll (Rutgers University), Chair

  • Griffin Woodworth (MakeMusic, Inc.): Uptown Controversy: Genre, Location, and Confrontation in Prince’s Early Guitar Music
  • Matthew Valnes (University of Pennsylvania): “If You Can Describe It, It Ain’t Funky”: Prince, Improvisation, and the Concept of “Genre Works” in Musical Performance
  • Dana Baitz (York University, Toronto): Let a Woman Be a Woman and a Man Be a Man: On the Conditions Facilitating Liberatory Themes in Prince’s Music
  • Emily M. Gale (University of Virginia): Prince and the Postmodern Politics of Stylistic Promiscuity in “Willing and Able”

Round-table Discussion: “Metric Fake-Outs and Surprises in Popular Music”
Justin London (Carleton College), Chair

Popular music is rich with instances of withholding, denying, and fulfilling listeners’ expectations, and Prof. London presented examples collected from numerous scholars and lead a discussion regarding the processes underlying the music’s rhythmic, metric, and harmonic effects. “Metric Fake Outs” and “Pop Music Harmonic Surprises” spreadsheets containing the examples can be found at

2010 Indianapolis, IN

Meeting and Special Session

Special session: “(Per)Form In(g) Rock”
(The session resulted in a special issue of Music Theory Online.)
Nicole Biamonte (McGill University), Moderator; Mark Spicer (Hunter College / Graduate Center, CUNY), Respondent

  • Jay Summach (Yale University), “The Structural Origins of the Prechorus”
  • Christopher Doll (Rutgers University), “Rockin’ Out: Expressive Modulation in Verse-Chorus Form”
  • Brad Osborn (Rhodes College), “A Genetic Taxonomy of Through-Composition in Post-Millennial Rock”
  • Timothy Koozin (University of Houston), “Musical Form and Guitar Voicing in Pop-Rock Music: A Performance-Based Analytical Approach”

Presentation and discussion on women in popular music scholarship
Robin Attas (University of British Columbia), Chair

Panelists: Nicole Biamonte (McGill University), David Brackett (McGill University), and Stephanie Doktor (University of Virginia).

2009 Montreal, PQ:

Popular Music Interest Group Business Meeting and Discussion

2008 Nashville, TN

Popular Music Interest Group Meeting

Panel Discussion: “Career Issues in Popular-Music Scholarship”
Nicole Biamonte (University of Iowa), Chair and Moderator

Invited panelists: Walter Everett (University of Michigan), Ellie Hisama (Columbia University), Tim Hughes (University of Surrey), and Mark Spicer (CUNY)

2007 Baltimore, MD

Special Session on the SMT Program

“Theory, Meta-Theory, and Popular Music”
Ellie Hisama (Columbia University), Moderator

  • Fred Everett Maus (University of Virginia), “Conversations about Popular Music”
  • Akitsugu Kawamoto (Durham, North Carolina), “Theorizing the Variety of Intertextuality in Popular Music”
  • Mark Butler (University of Pennsylvania and the American Academy in Berlin), “Analyzing Performance in Popular Music: New Methodologies for Unstable Ontologies”
  • Andrew Robbie (Harvard University), “Multimodal Metatheory and the Structure of Music Video”

2006 Los Angeles, CA

Popular Music Interest Group Meeting

“Popular Music Pedagogy “

The presence of popular music within university curricula has increased exponentially within the past two decades, and courses in music theory and analysis have been an important part of this trend.

  • How are music theorists currently involved in the teaching of popular music?
  • What issues do they face in bringing their pedagogical expertise to bear on repertories outside the Western art-music canon?
  • What kinds of creative solutions have they devised?

The Popular-Music Interest Group will consider these questions in a roundtable discussion at our 2006 meeting. We will focus on three broad areas in relation to the pedagogy of popular music: teaching undergraduate nonmajors, teaching undergraduate majors, and teaching graduate students preparing for academic careers. Panelists including John Covach, Timothy Hughes, Fred Maus, Eugene Montague, Jocelyn Neal, and Mark Butler will discuss teaching approaches, challenges, course design, and sample assignments. Between presentations, substantial time will be reserved for discussion and questions from the audience.

Preparatory Materials for SMT 2006 (Los Angeles)

Butler, Graduate Course
Butler, Nonmajor Survey Course
Butler, Undergraduate Major Course

Hughes, Popular Song Analysis
Hughes, Advanced Popular Music Harmony
Hughes, Advanced Popular Music Harmony Outline
Hughes, Advanced Popular Music Harmony Film List
Hughes, APMH Group Analysis Assignment
Hughes, APMH Group Recording Assignment
Hughes, Music with Computer Sound Design Modules

Maus, Gender and Sexuality in Popular Music
Maus, Theory I

Neal, Undergrad Survey Course (Rock)
Neal, Analysis Course (Undergrad Majors)

2005 Boston, MA

Analytic Round Table

“The Smile Album”
Lori Burns (University of Ottawa), Moderator

Invited Panelists: Daniel Harrison (Yale University), Rob Wegman (Princeton University), and Andy Flory (UNC Chapel Hill)

2004 Seattle, WA

Analytic Round Table

Panelists and members of the pop music interest group selected an album and specific track for a round-table discussion. Participants prepared in advance, and a lively session was hosted at the conference.

“Sam Phillips’ ‘Fan Dance'”
Jocelyn Neal, Moderator

Invited panelists: Walter Everett, Adam Krims, and Albin Zak

2003 Madison, WI: Special Session on the SMT Program

“From Motive to Mixdown: Influence, Inspiration, and Innovation in Popular Music”
Adam Krims, Chair

  • John Brackett: “The Wall Cycle: The Concept Album Trilogy of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters”
  • Jocelyn Neal: “Narrative Paradigms and Musical Signifiers in Country Music Songwriting”
  • Andrew Flory: “Marvin Gaye as Vocal Composer”
  • David Carson Berry: “The Structural Roles of Pentatonicism in Tin Pan Alley Songs”

2002 Columbus, OH

Special Session on the SMT Program

“Rock, Folk, and the Great White Way: Twentieth-Century Popular Music from a Post-Millenial Perspective”
Mark Spicer, Chair

  • William Marvin: “Simulating Counterpoint in Broadway Musicals: The Quodlibet as Compositional Procedure”
  • Scott Murphy: “Re-Solving One Kind of Metrical Dissonance”
  • Anna K. Stephan-Robinson: “Phrase Rhythm in Paul Simon’s Simon and Garfunkel Songs”
  • David Temperley: “The Plagal Stop Cadence in Rock”
  • Kevin Holm-Hudson: “A Study of Maximally Smooth Voice Leading in the Mid-1970s Music of Genesis”

2001 Philadelphia, PA

Popular-Music Interest Group Business Meeting and Discussion

2000 Toronto, ON

Special Session on the SMT Program

“Sketch and Style Studies in Popular Music: A Theorist’s Perspective”
Dave Headlam, Chair

  • Albin Zak, Respondent
  • Walter Everett: “The Values of Traditional Historiographical and Theoretical Approaches for the Study of Rock Music”
  • Mark Butler: “‘Taking it Seriously’: Intertexuality and Authenticity in Two Covers by the Pet Shop Boys”
  • Mark Spicer: “Ghosts in the Machine: Analyzing Style in the Music of the Police”
  • John Covach: “The Big Jingle-Jangle: Folk Rock, the Byrds, and the Electric Twelve-String Guitar”

1999 Atlanta, GA

Special Session on the SMT Program

“Timbre and Technology in Rock and Rap”
John Covach, Chair

  • John Cotner: “Pink Floyd’s ‘Careful with That Axe, Eugene’ (ca. 1968-1969): A Study of Genre, Texture, Medium, and Structure”
  • Shaugn O’Donnell: “‘Mind Your Throats Please’: Collage as Retransition in Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother Suite”
  • Kevin Holm-Hudson: “(Re)mixing as (Re)orchestration: Textural Revision in Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge
  • Ciro Scotto: “Conflict Between Pitch-Class and Timbre Functions in Metallica’s ‘Devil’s Dance’ and ‘Enter Sandman'”
  • Tim Hughes: “‘Now’ Sandwiches: The Use of Quotation in Rap Music”

1998 Chapel Hill, NC

Initial organizational meeting of the SMT Popular Music Interest Group

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