Pop gets classical experts into the rhythm

February 28, 1997

WHEN STUDENT demand forces traditional university music departments to turn to pop, serious issues get drummed up.

As Derek Scott of Salford University puts it, yodelling, growling, whistling and crunching or bending of notes do not usually appear in the classical style.

"This presents us with a real problem in student assessment," Dr Scott says. "The standards of beauty in the classical technique simply do not apply in popular music and in addition there is no elite repertoire to establish standards of taste."

The divisions between classical and popular music are by no means straightforward. What may be considered good performance in jazz, for instance, would not be appropriate in folk or country.

"The classical approach is based on the notion of universal values of excellence," Dr Scott says. "We say there are many standards of beauty, and that these shift. That means you must make judgements about a performance within the context of a particular musical style at a particular time."

Dr Scott has won Funding Teaching and Learning Programme backing for the design of an assessment strategy for popular music. Rather than a set of inflexible criteria, examples of what are regarded as good practice will be assembled to erect a framework to reward musical achievement.

The team intends to build a staff development package in CD-Rom format to circulate to interested departments.

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