MUSC 144: Introduction to Country Music

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This course explores the history of the genre, its significant performers, songwriters, songs, and cultural identity from 1922 to the present. Following a loose chronology, the course traces the evolution of specific musical styles and investigate issues related to culture, performance practice, transmission, and reception. Extensive listening assignments will introduce the distinct musical styles, voices, and performers that comprise the genre. Reading assignments cover the relationship of country music to American popular culture, historical representation, and authenticity. This course will critically evaluate country music’s musical content and contemporary cultural role; the primary texts for investigation are the songs themselves.

This course adopts a broad and inclusive understanding of the term “country.” Students will explore musical styles that relate to the central tradition of commercial country, even when those styles exist outside the mainstream.

At the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • listen to any song within the country genre and have some understanding of when it was recorded, in which musical style or scene it was recorded, and how it related to the culture in which it was made.
  • explain the tensions within country music that both tie it to tradition and foster new and innovative developments.
  • describe the specifically musical elements of the genre.
  • understand how the genre maintains its identity and contributes to the broader fabric of American popular culture.

Required Text:

  • Neal, Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History. ISBN 9780199730599

Other Requirements:

  • High-speed Internet
  • Live Concert: This course requires that you attend a live country music performance during the semester. The performance can be in your local region, and the instructor must approve your choice.

View a sample course syllabus.

Contact the Friday Center at with any questions or for more information.

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