Informing and influencing the representation of popular music, its history, and its significance in the context of modernism and nationalism

Submitting Institution

University of Leeds

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Scott's research impacts upon the portrayal and representation of a broad range of popular musics in the media, TV, and radio programmes, as well as at international music festivals and concerts. Placing popular music in the context of modernism and nationalism, Scott has contributed to the resurrection and reinvigoration of genres such as nineteenth-century parlour ballads, light opera, and operetta—as well as their recognition as popular music, predating the term's association with twentieth-century jazz or rock'n'roll—highlighting the socio-cultural and historical context of these musics, alongside their historical significance and continuing importance.

Underpinning research

Research by Scott (Professor of Critical Musicology, University of Leeds, 2006-present) has focused on the historical sociology of music (especially popular music) from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, in the context of class, nationalism, and imperialism. This research has provided a new lens for the understanding of popular music, influencing and informing the portrayal and representation of genres previously marginalised in conceptions of what popular music `is', particularly bringing operetta and music hall to the fore in the socio-cultural and historical context of their nineteenth-century origins.

His central claim is that the `popular music revolution' occurred in the nineteenth century, rather than, as was previously commonly supposed, with twentieth-century movements such as jazz or rock'n'roll [1], thus making "a major contribution to a major aspect of music history" (William Weber, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol. 40, no. 1, 83). Supported by AHRC funding [R1], Scott argues that popular music in the nineteenth century (and thereafter) should be conceived as a `third type' of music, emerging as a product of social change with its own characteristics and features, and distinct from classical or traditional musics. This argument, expressed as `The Popular Music Revolution in the Nineteenth Century: A Third Type of Music Arises' in De-Canonizing Music History, was rapidly translated into French for the refereed journal Musurgia: analyse et pratique musicales, signalling further international interest [2]. Precisely the distinctions which enable such a comparison between `high' and `low' art in the nineteenth century are foregrounded in his work on parody in Arthur Sullivan's music for The Sorcerer [3] (the quality of this research is indicated by its contribution to the case Scott made for a major European Research Council project to pursue more work on operetta in London and New York, for which he was awarded €1 million in August 2013). Scott's ongoing contribution to research on music of this period can be seen through his contributions to The Victorian Web [4], a peer-reviewed, public-domain website for which he is also Music Editor. It includes recordings of his own performances of Victorian popular songs, several of which do not exist elsewhere in recorded form. In 2012 the third (web) edition of his The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlour (2nd edition, 2001) appeared on the same site [4], bringing hypertext links and some images with additional information (The Victorian Web draws most of its contributions from professional scholars, has won numerous awards, and is archived daily by the Library of Congress).

Though his commitment to musics marginalised by conceptions of `high art' or `good taste' is central, Scott's work moves beyond the popular music of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. He has developed methodologies and theoretical models for the critical investigation of representation embedded within musical style (principally representations of ideology, national identity and `orientalism'). His examination of styles and socio-cultural contexts spans from operetta and musical hall through to jazz, national anthems, and Eurovision entries [5]. Here Scott considers the ways in which ideas of nationhood and identity are intertwined with music, simultaneously revealing and critiquing a `recipe for success' established through analysis of musical and lyrical characteristics of former winning songs. The same sense of interplay between ideology and music is central to his work on concepts of `orientalism' in music. This is part of a continuing set of reflections on the impact and relevance of the work of Edward Said to musicologists (as well as what musicology might have to say to Said), the latest contribution to which forms part of a volume which was reviewed as 5* by Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries in 2010, and Columbia University rated it one of the best books on Said [6].

References to the research

[1] Sounds of the Metropolis: The 19th-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris, and Vienna (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008) [REF output 1].


[2] `The Popular Music Revolution in the Nineteenth Century: A Third Type of Music Arises', in Vesa Kurkela and Lauri Väkevä (eds.), De-Canonizing Music History (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 3-19; translated into French as `La révolution des musiques populaires au xix-ème siècle', tr. Olivier Julien, Musurgia: analyse et pratique musicales, vol. 18, no. 4 (2011), 45-60. Both outputs were subject to peer review.

[3] `Sullivan's Demonic Tea-making Scene: Homage to Weber, or Parody?', in Jürgen Kühnel, Ulrich Müller, and Oswald Panagl, Die `Schaubühne' in der Epoche des Freischütz (Salzburg: Müller-Speiser, 2009), 1-9.

[4] The Victorian Web (<>). Examples of Scott's research here include:

25 recordings of drawing-room ballads, with commentary, played and sung by Scott: first in public domain Sep. 2007 to Apr. 2013 <>;

5 recordings of music-hall songs, with commentary, played and sung by Scott: first in public domain Mar. 2009 to Oct. 2013 <>;

The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlor: Grangerized third edition (added illustrations and hyperlinks to Scott's performances), first published online Jun. 2012 <>.

[5] `Imagining the Nation, Imagining Europe', in Derek B. Scott (ed.), Musical Style and Social Meaning (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010), 185-204 [within REF output 2].

[6] `Edward Said and the Interplay of Music, History and Ideology', in Ranjan Ghosh (ed.), Edward Said and the Literary, Social, and Political World (New York, NY: Routledge, 2009), 104-23.


[R1] March 2007-May 2007, AHRC Funded Research for Sounds of the Metropolis: The Nineteenth-Century Popular Music Revolution in London, New York, Paris, and Vienna, £25,879

Details of the impact

Scott's expertise in Victorian and Edwardian popular music [1], [2] informs the content and form of national television programmes. Scott was a principal contributor to a BBC Four documentary, The Story of the Music Hall (first broadcast 25 October 2011), the producer of which stressed that Scott's "research into the history of pop music, the laws around music halls as venue and issues of class and race was incredibly useful," while "his input was invaluable in establishing many of the details of our programme and the accuracy of the narrative", which, combined with "infectious" enthusiasm "will have deepened the audience's understanding of the material" [A], The Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) statistics show that in the week of broadcast (24-30 October 2011), BBC Four had an average daily audience of 2.275 million. Scott's research was also central to further documentaries, including Titanic: A Commemoration in Music and Film (first broadcast: BBC Two, 14 April 2012), Let's Have a Party! The Piano Genius of Mrs Mills! (first broadcast: BBC Four, 23 September 2012), and Len Goodman's Dancing Feet (first broadcast: BBC Four, 27 December 2012). This last focussed on the early twentieth-century `golden age' of ballroom dancing. The producer of the programme states that he was "aware of [Scott's] long academic back-catalogue", and it was this that enabled Scott to bring "insight to the story-telling that neither Len or ourselves could bring to the table." [B]. (Scott has been re-engaged as consultant and participant for Len Goodman's Dance Band Days, a factual documentary on British dance bands of the 1920s and 1930s commissioned by BBC Four, filmed through the latter half of 2013, and due for broadcast at Christmas with the possibility of a two-page publicity spread in The Radio Times).

Many of Scott's contributions to The Victorian Web [4] attract considerable attention, which reflect Scott's efforts to enhance understanding of significant pieces of Victorian popular music. For example, Scott's recording of `Woodman, Spare that Tree' has been uploaded to YouTube, where it has received over 14,000 views to date [C]. George P. Landow, Editor in Chief of The Victorian Web, considers that Scott's contributions play "an important part in crucial experiments about the form of the future scholarly book and its role in sharing information outside the university" [J]. Scott's presentation of the popular music of the period as an international phenomenon (rather than just a Victorian one) [1], [2], and recognition as the leading expert on nineteenth-century popular music, has allowed him to promote understanding of musics that were truly `popular' before `pop music'. In 2010 Scott was invited to speak at the Bard Music Festival, to develop understanding of the history of music amongst contemporary audiences. Scott's findings on Viennese popular music and operetta [1] enabled him to show the influence of these on Alban Berg, the featured composer at Bard that year. Similarly, in 2012 he delivered public introductions to performances of Die Fledermaus for the Canadian Opera Company—the largest opera company in Canada and the third largest producer of opera in North America—as well as discussing the intersection of `high' and `low' art for performances by the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company at Buxton Opera House in the UK [3].

Scott's work on the representation of national identity embedded in musical styles, as exemplified in the Eurovision Song Contest [5], has drawn a wide audience. In 2011 Scott appeared on (and was tweeted about by) Today (BBC Radio 4) [D], Breakfast (BBC One) [E], and BBC News Online [F]. Breakfast's viewing figures were approximately 1.6 million a day, while Today had a daily audience of over 7 million at this time according to BARB and RAJAR (Radio Audience Research). With retweets, Today's tweet about Scott's research reached a total audience via Twitter alone of 240,000. The research reached international audiences, garnering interest in Russian-speaking countries in the wake of Azerbaijan's win [G] (the report notes his identification of "serious political and moral ideas" in Eurovision successes).

Such conceptions of representation and nationhood provide a broader context for Scott to inform and influence the reception of music through the media, speaking about notions of orientalism in music [5] for Chopsticks at Dawn (first broadcast: BBC Radio 4, 8 June 2010), the meaning and function of national anthems and international `identity' [6] for Something Understood (first broadcast: BBC Radio 4, 20 January 2013), a feature of Scott's research that had previously interested The Guardian [H], and in interview with Time Out Delhi [I], discussing John Pridham's 1857 `The Battle March of Delhi' in the context of the Indian uprising, with Scott referencing the nineteenth-century rift between `high art' and entertainment [2]. The same feature linked to Scott's performance of the piece on The Victorian Web, claiming that "whenever Scott performs the piece live, people fall about laughing, and usually don't stop until it's over.' [I]

Sources to corroborate the impact

[A] Written testimonial from producer of BBC Four's The Story of the Music Hall (first broadcast: Oct 2011), available on request.

[B] Written testimonial from producer of BBC Four's Len Goodman's Dancing Feet (first broadcast: 27 Dec 2012), available on request.

[C] Derek Scott, 2010 YouTube upload of `Woodman, Spare that Tree' <> [last accessed: 28 October 2013]

[D] `A "Perfect" Eurovision Song', Today, BBC Radio 4, 14 May 2011 <> [last accessed: 24 September 2013]

[E] Breakfast, BBC One, 14 May 2011, <> [last accessed: 24 September 2013]

[F] `Eurovision winning song formula revealed', BBC News Online, 13 May 2011, <> [last accessed: 24 September 2013]

[G] Samira Abisova, `Британский музыкальный критик утверждает, что знает секрет победы на Евровидении',, 19 May 2011, <> [last accessed: 24 September 2013, translation available on request]

[H] `And the winning anthem is ...', The Guardian, 11 August 2008, <> [last accessed: 24 September 2013]

[I] Feature in Time Out Delhi by Kingshuk Niyogy, 16 September 2011, <> [last accessed: 28 October 2013]

[J] Written testimonial from Editor in Chief of The Victorian Web, available on request.