MUSV3110 - Soul of a Nation: Black American Popular Music, from R&B to Hip Hop


Lessons are not given in the academic year 2023/2024

Course content

Through lectures, in-class discussions, and assigned readings, listening, and video viewing, this seminar will examine Black American popular music from the 1950s to the 1990s. This period includes both the Civil Rights and Black Power years, and extends from postwar R&B and gospel, to soul, soul jazz, funk, jazz-rock, disco, and early rap. In exploring this still-influential repertory of popular music, we will study questions and assumptions about the interrelationships between race, musical aesthetics and values, culture, politics, and society, and how this era of African American culture and this rich body of music has continued to shape Euro-American popular music and popular culture to the present day. The course will critically explore issues around definitions of Black music and musical aesthetics, as well as related discourses of authenticity, representation, cultural ownership, and appropriation.

Learning outcome


A candidate who successfully completes MUSV3110 will

  • have an increased historical appreciation for the creative processes in, and debates surrounding, the culture and legacy of Black American popular music, 1950-1990
  • have knowledge of both key issues in, as well as historical- and thematic-based knowledge of, Black American popular music
  • have specialized knowledge of the critical theory and discourses around Black American popular music


A candidate who successfully completes MUSV3110

  • has the ability to present knowledge, findings and critical insight in a coherent and convincing form both orally and in writing
  • demonstrates the acquisition of independent and appropriate research skills through written projects on a topic relating to the module
  • can draw on concepts and skills encountered during the module and be able to use them critically to evaluate a wide range of related works

Learning methods and activities

Combined lectures and seminars.

Mandatory activities

Satisfactory participation in compulsory instruction and activities (e.g., short reports on syllabus reading assignments) set out during the course.

This class is structured as a seminar with discussion sessions and lectures being the central parts of each class. Weekly coursework includes: select readings; listening and viewing assignments related to readings; and in-class discussion of these assigned materials.

NOTE: Because this is a discussion-oriented seminar, all weekly assigned readings MUST be dutifully read before each week's class, as in-class discussion participation is a vital part of the pedagogical methods of the course.

Compulsory assignments

  • Satisfactory participation in compulsory instruction and activities (e.g., short reports on syllabus

Further on evaluation

Students are required to submit two assignments. The two assignments will be weighted differently in the combined grade, with the grading weight being proportionally based on the required response lengths of each.

One assignment will be due halfway through the semester, the second at the end of the course. The first should be about 1500 words (4-5 pages long, with font size 12, line spacing 1.5), and the second about 3500 words (9-10 pages, with font size 12, line spacing 1.5).

If the course is not passed, the student must only retake the part of the assessment that was not passed. If the candidate retakes the exam, there is no need to retake the compulsory assignments.

Specific conditions

Required previous knowledge

Requires admission to one of the Bachelor's programmes or Master's programmes in Musicology, Music Technology or Music Performance.

More on the course



Version: 1
Credits:  7.5 SP
Study level: Second degree level



Language of instruction: English

Location: Trondheim

Subject area(s)
  • Music History
  • Musicology
Contact information

Department with academic responsibility
Department of Music


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