Students can listen to music examples while reading new text

Faculty of Fine Arts sessional assistant Professor Matt Vander Woude’s recent publication, North American Popular Music (Nelson Education, 2009), co-authored with David Hemphill of San Francisco State University and Glenn Appell of Diablo Valley College, looks at popular music from a cultural studies perspective. The textbook invites students to consider themes such as popular music and corporate control, censorship and social identity. With chapters like “Popular Music and the Music Industry”, “African Origins, Slavery, and Slave Culture” and “The Broadway Musical”, Vander Woude expands on a wide history of popular music while remaining conscious of Canadian contributions.

Vander Woude says he realized that “most, if not all, textbooks on popular music tend to present Canada’s contributions in scattered dribs and drabs.” North American Popular Music is unique in its integration of Canadian musicians within the main narrative(s) of North American popular music. He rewrote and reorganized significant passages of a previous text, titled American Popular Music: A Multicultural History, originally written by Hemphill and Appell (Thomson Schirmer, 2005), to enhance its Canadian content.

The publication also takes advantage of current popular music trends by enhancing the learning experience with technology such as iTunes. A unique partnership between the publisher and iTunes provides students with an added component to their studies by making most of the musical examples cited in the book available for downloading from iTunes.

“A subscription to the site, which will be included in the purchase of each text, allows the student to download, analyze and discuss a shared pool of course-related musical resources,” says Vander Woude. He hopes this interactive component will help fill the gap between his lectures and assigned readings, and provide a well-rounded learning experience.

Vander Woude already has some ideas on how he will follow up in a second edition: “I think the second edition will include more material on First Nations, Indo-Canadian and Latin-Canadian popular music.” He also plans to include more of the contributions made by pop musicians who “made it big in Canada but not elsewhere.”

A practising guitarist, Vander Woude is currently researching the improvisational practices of jazz guitar players in the immediate post-Second World War era. He has taught courses on European art music and on popular music at York University, the University of Guelph and at the University of Waterloo.

Submitted to YFile by Vivian-Sofia Mora, a fourth-year visual arts student in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts