All You Need is Cash

Liverpool Hope University is now offering -- and before we continue with this sentence, let me be clear that I am not making this up -- "a brand new MA in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society, the first of its kind in the world."

According to a PDF accompanying the announcement:

"This MA will examine the significance of the music of the Beatles in the construction of identities, audiences, ethnicities and industries, and localities; by doing so it will suggest ways to understand popular music as a social practice, focusing attention on issues such as the role of music in the construction of regional identities, concepts of authenticity, aesthetics, meaning, value, performance, and the use of popular music as a discursive evocation of place. Furthermore, in a consideration of popular music as a text, popular music semiotics will also be employed."

Well of course it will.

This development was noted as a Quick Take at Inside Higher Ed a couple of days ago but I am just now catching up. I have been wondering if it would be possible to write this blog post without quoting White Noise by Don DeLillo and the answer to that question is obviously "no." So let's just get that out of the way.

The relevant passage is, of course, Murray Siskind's remarks to J.A.K. "Jack" Gladney, the professor (indeed, inventor) of Hitler Studies at College-on-the-Hill:

"You've established a wonderful thing here with Hitler. You created it, you nurtured it, you made it on your own. Nobody on the faculty of any college or university in this part of the country can so much as utter the word Hitler without a nod in your direction... It must be deeply satisfying for you. The college is internationally known as result of Hitler studies. It has an identity, a sense of achievement. You've evolved an entire system around this figure, a structure with countless substructures and interrelated fields of study, a history within history. I marvel at the effort. It was masterful, shrewd and stunningly preemptive. It's what I want to do with Elvis."

Which just goes to show that you should be careful what you satirize. To my mind, the best commentary on this news comes from Jonathan Bellman at the always excellent blog Dial "M" for Musicology, who writes:

"The Beatles, bless them, weren't and aren't a discipline. Sure, study Musicology and do a dissertation on them, or study Cultural Studies and do a dissertation on them, or Psychology or whatever else. But a degree in the Beatles per se? How would that make you anything but a laughingstock? 'Well, I've really spent most of my time with the verses of "In My Life"; I'll have to go review George Martin's double-speed piano solo and get back to you before answering your question definitively. This really isn't my area; I'm an Earlyist, and my dissertation was on pitch bending and blues inflections in the Tony Sheridan sessions, so this is well outside my sub-specialty...'

"The global economy is in free-fall and Liverpool Hope University launches a Beatles degree. Sheesh. I'm sure there are Beatles fans all over the world who should be given the degree on the spot for work already accomplished."

You want discipline? Study Throbbing Gristle.

(crossposted)

March 6, 2009 4:58 PM | | Comments (1)

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