Institute of Popular Music celebrates 21st anniversary

The University of Liverpool will celebrate 21 years of its Institute of Popular Music (IPM) at a special event at Liverpool World Museum’s The Beat Goes On exhibition.

The IPM was the world’s first academic institute dedicated to research, teaching, information and resources in popular music studies, and as part of its birthday celebrations will announce a special anniversary scholarship at an international music conference hosted by the University.

The 21st Anniversary IPM Scholarship will allow a research postgraduate student to study at the Institute for three years.  Scholars will be invited to apply for the award at the 15th Biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM), where music experts will discuss music history, industry and technology.

The Institute was opened in 1988 and was inspired by discussions between National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside and the University.  The museums had staged a successful exhibition on Beatles-related art in 1984, and were interested in developing a popular music archive. It was thought that a new centre, with an international focus in popular music teaching and research, would be particularly appropriate for a city rich in music talent and history.

The IPM has since developed undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes, which are delivered to more than 200 undergraduate and postgraduate students.  The Institute, now part of the School of Music, has recently welcomed musician Elvis Costello to the University as an honorary music graduate.

Professor Sara Cohen, Director of the IPM, said: “The Institute began life in a box-room under the stairs in the Department of Music and had two members of staff dedicated to developing the study of popular music.  Initial research projects involved collaboration with Liverpool Museums and exploration of the role of popular music in 20th century Liverpool life. Work with the Museums continues today, and IPM researchers now study many aspects of popular music cultures, such as the music industry, songs and compositions, and music and urban environments.

“Historically universities have focused on classical music studies, but Liverpool seemed ideally placed to offer the first dedicated centre for the study of popular music. Musicians such as The Beatles and Echo and the Bunnymen helped to put the city on an international stage and music fans and researchers have continued to travel to Liverpool to celebrate its contributions to popular culture.” 
The Institute’s archives have also attracted global attention; materials from the Robert Shelton collection featured in Martin Scorsese’s Bob Dylan film, No Direction Home. The archives now hold more than 40,000 sound recordings, as well as substantial collections of the music press and other special collections.

Dr Marion Leonard, Senior Lecturer at the IPM, said: “We have just completed a major research project on music and the urban environment and Liverpool was a great case study through which to explore this.  As part of the city’s European Capital of Culture year I worked as curator on The Beat Goes On exhibition with National Museums Liverpool. The show features material from record companies, musicians, archives and private collectors. Objects on display include hand written lyrics by Billy Fury, props from the Zutons ‘Valerie’ video and the stage of the Woolton church where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met in 1957.”

The Institute will celebrate its 21st anniversary at The Beat Goes On exhibition with delegates from the IASPM conference on Tuesday, 14 July.  The conference takes place at the University of Liverpool from Monday, 13 July to Friday, 17 July. 


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