History of Popular Music

Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Performing & Fine Arts
Course Code
PEFA 3136
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course traces the development of popular music styles and genres from the roots of rock ’n’ roll to the present day in both sonic and social contexts. We explore how popular music has both reflected and influenced major social changes, also identifying musical elements that define individual popular music genres, and how those elements have changed over time.
Course Content

Selected case studies for each decade, drawn from the following styles, artists and events:


1. Roots of Rock ’n’ Roll to 1950

Delta Blues; Gospel; Country; Ragtime & Dixie; The Musical Legacies of Slavery; The Depression; The Great Migration & The Spread of the Blues; Electric Blues

The Legacy of Tin Pan Alley and the Music Industry Business Model


2. 1950s

Rock ’n’ Roll; Rockabilly; Skiffle; Country; Rhythm & Blues 

Post WW2 Affluence and the Emergence of the Teen Market


3. 1960s

Folk Revival and Protest Songs; The Rise of the Canadian Singer-Songwriter; The British Invasion

The Civil Rights Movement; From Race Records to Motown; Counterculture and Psychedelia; Drug Culture; Pop Art and the New York Scene; Hippies & Beatniks


4. 1970s

The Art of the Mixing Board (Dub); Funk; Jazz Fusion; Disco; Rock Music (Glam, Prog, Metal); Punk; New Wave 

Challenging Gender Stereotypes; Punk and the Birth of the Indie Scene; Disaffected Youth; Independent Record Labels; Rock Against Racism


5. 1980s

Hip Hop; Rap; Electro; Jamaican Dancehall; Indie; Mainstream Pop; Synth Pop

Digital Technology; Cell Phones; MTV


6. 1990s

Grunge; Britpop; Tribute Bands; Urban; Trance; Acid House; Jungle; Drum & Bass; Trip Hop; Pop Punk; Nu Metal; Trance; Techno; Canadian Singer-Songwriters

Napster; Globalization; Digital Recording; The Industry Fights Back


7. 2000s

Nu-Metal; Post Grunge; Singer-Songwriter; Alt Country; Unplugged

Digital Distribution; Bedroom Producers; The DIY Industry; The Impact of Declining Album Sales


8. 2010s

Dubstep; EDM in North America; Indie; Pop

Streaming; YouTube Hits; Synchronization and New Business Models

Methods Of Instruction
  1. Lecture and class discussion, with focus on active listening to music;
  2. Viewing of video programs on music;
  3. Attendance at live concert performance(s);
  4. Collaborative learning through student presentation(s).
Means of Assessment

As sample breakdown of assignments and examinations is as follows:

Annotated Timeline with Playlist 10%

Reviews of Live Concerts/Videos 30%

Presentation 25% 

Weekly Listening and/or Reading Quizzes 20%

Final Examination 15% 


Total: 100%



Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course the successful student will have developed:

  1. Awareness of the social factors affecting the development of popular music (e.g. technology, migration, economics and demographics) and of the role of popular music in driving social change;
  2. Vocabulary to describe musical and sonic characteristics of popular music and evolving production techniques;
  3. Critical listening skills, enabling detailed discussion of production values, aesthetics and song structure.
Textbook Materials

A recent edition of a text such as:

Szatmay, David P. and Ripley, Lynsay. Rocking in Time: A Social History of Rock’n’Roll. Canadian Edition. Pearson.


Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for PEFA 3136
Athabasca University (AU) AU MUSI 1XX (3)
Capilano University (CAPU) CAPU MUS 2XX (3)
Coast Mountain College (CMTN) CMTN HIST 2XX (3)
College of the Rockies (COTR) No credit
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU MUSI 1111 (3)
Northern Lights College (NLC) No credit
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU CA 1XX (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU HUEL 2XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU MUSI 350 (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO ARTH 115 (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) No credit
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC MUS 208 (1.5)

Course Offerings

Summer 2022

There aren't any scheduled upcoming offerings for this course.