Experimental Writing on Popular Music

The Felt Quality of Sound
Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

Journalistic coverage of music relies not only upon evocative and descriptive copy, but also on photographs which ideally capture the experience of ‘being there’. In this short photo essay, we bring together photographs (by Bethany Kane), ideas, poetry and quotes ...

Locational Aesthetics: Squashing
Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

I can’t write a good opening sentence. I’m not a writer. I write music instead. ‘Locational Aesthetics: Squashing’ is a transcription of a short feature recorded for broadcast on Resonance 104.4FM (https://www.resonancefm.com) as part of Drivetime Underground (http://www.drivetimeunderground.com), a “dissonant ...

Read Aloud at 4am
Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

Half-human, staring back from the mirror, amphibian-eyed, a splice in the rhythm of day following night following day following night. Muttering a dream-language: a remnant of the half-human’s other half. The witching hour is past; this is the bewitching hour, ...

How I Finally Learnt to Love…Grindcore! And in Doing so Reclaimed a Very Close Friend
Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

Drawing on my own personal memories of being involved in the British punk/anarcho-punk scene in the UK, in the late seventies and early eighties, my written piece explores the nature of friendship, loss and re-connection. Inspired by a provocation set ...

Bob Dylan: Nobility, Lyrics and Ghosts
Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

I can still remember it clearly: my brother’s red 1960s Garrard record player, with a unique smell that only electrical appliances from that era possessed. On the turntable a CBS LP, identifiable by its distinctive orange label, rotating at 33 ...

The Savage Twisting Of Vowels
Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

This piece examines the combination of words and music and the visceral effect and tangible quality of language itself. In order to bring the felt attributes of words that Mary Oliver describes to the forefront, it is based on my ...

The Mastering Engineer: Manipulator of Feeling and Time
Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

Other contributors have responded to Mary Oliver’s prompt with valuable considerations of the roles phonetics and their so-called ‘felt qualities’ play in the construction and performance of popular songs. These phonetics can have pitch, they can be delivered at a ...

In Defiance of Any Sense of Normalcy
Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

In Defiance of Any Sense of Normalcy is a long-term photographic and ethnographic project that focuses on the Northern Soul scene; an underground music subculture born in the industrial North of England in the 1970s, where dancing to forgotten records ...

Riffs (2017) Vol. 1, No. 1

Don’t get me started… It began as an experiment. How to find the words to say what we wanted say about music? Asking ourselves over and over: what are we trying to say? And why? There are a few rules: ...


Riffs emerged from a writing group at Birmingham City University, established in 2015 by Nick Gebhardt and supported by the Birmingham School of Media. As popular music scholars, many of the original ‘Write Clubbers’ straddled disciplines: music; sociology; media studies; anthropology; dance. Some felt adrift, on thin ice. ‘Write Club’ offered an opportunity of 2,000 words and the space of a table and eight chairs to explore what it meant to research popular music, to write about it, to construct an argument, a description, a song, a line. Once nerves were finally quashed and it became comfortable to watch another read your work, the writing became better and better until it seemed a crime to keep them under wraps, hidden away from curious eyes on a private blog. In Riffs, we offer up some of our thoughts and writing in the hope that we will be able to read yours, and that each of us will in some small way change the ways in which we think and write about popular music. Consider this your official invitation to Write Club.

Publisher Birmingham City University
Country United Kingdom
ISSN (Print) 2513-8537
Year started 2017
Indexed 9 articles
Licence Open Access

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