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Popular Music: Sampling Studies and Hip-Hop Studies

School of Arts and Creative Industries

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Dr P Harkins , Dr D Hook No more applications being accepted Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Research-active staff in the music department at Edinburgh Napier University are working on a number of interdisciplinary projects in the areas of Popular Music Studies (PMS), Science and Technology Studies (STS), the music industries, music technologies, hip-hop studies, popular music pedagogies, and jazz studies. We welcome proposals from applicants who are interested in conducting research into any aspect relating to the study of digital sampling and/or hip-hop. This may include the history and design of music technologies, the development of digital synthesizer and sampling technologies (including keyboards, drum machines, rack-based devices, PCs and laptops with software samplers, and any kind of Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs), sampling and the music industries (including the use of samplers in both live and recorded music), and the study of hip-hop music in Scotland, the UK, and beyond.
Instead of exploring the ways samplers have been used as music technologies, the academic study of digital sampling since the late 1980s has tended to focus on the legal framework of copyright within the music industries and other relevant issues including authorship, postmodernism, and gender/sexuality. More recent work by scholars such as Tara Rodgers have made valuable attempts to ‘shift the focus from well-worn debates over copyright infringement issues by pointing toward greater understanding of the musical attributes of samplers and other digital instruments’ (2003, p. 313). We invite proposals from applicants who are interested in studying digital sampling within the social and cultural contexts of music making: in professional studios, home studios, concert stages, and other sites of performance. We are interested in the re-use of pre-existing recordings in hip-hop and also encourage applicants to look at the range of contemporary practices relating to sampling and the uses of sampling technologies in a variety of musical worlds including but not limited to: pop, rock, folk, art, and electronic dance music (EDM).
Hip-hop artists in Scotland interpret and adapt global hip-hop culture in unique ways making it compatible with existing narratives within Scottish culture, while still representing global hip-hop values. Hip-hop exists within a set of contradictions and dualities (Rose 1994). It operates as mass culture that critiques and parodies mass culture. It is a mainstream, global culture that also allows for stories to be told from the margins. In Scotland, it is simultaneously a mainstream musical genre (US hip-hop) and a marginalised subculture (Scottish hip-hop). We invite proposals from applicants who are interested in studying the history of hip-hop in Scotland and examining the social and cultural contexts of music making including the use of both analogue and digital technologies. We also welcome a focus on the music and lyrics of Scottish hip-hop to examine how the local, global and individual intersect to ‘devise unique ways of communicating thoughts, emotions and everyday realities’ (Alim 2003, p. 62).

We are willing to accept either full-time or part-time applicants. Edinburgh Napier University has been voted the top modern university in the UK for music in The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and 2020 and we are looking to expand our community of postgraduate research students.

Academic Qualifications

A first degree (at least a 2.1) ideally in the arts, humanities and social sciences with a good fundamental knwoledge of the academic study of music or the study of culture more generally. Preference is likely to be given to applicants with a Master’s degree. We may consider applicants who don’t meet these academic requirements if they have extensive relevant experience.

English language requirement

IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s policy are available online.

Essential attributes

• Experience of fundamental analysing of qualitative data using recognised methods.
• Competent in a discipline such as, but not limited to, music, ethnomusicology, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, media studies, and English literature.
• Knowledge of the discipline and research methods to complete a PhD thesis.
• Good written and oral communication skills.
• Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project.
• Good time management

Funding Notes

Self funded students only


Harkins, P. 2019. Digital Sampling: The Design and Use of Music Technologies. London: Routledge.
Hook, D. 2018. An Autoethnography of Scottish Hip-Hop: Identity, Locality, Outsiderdom, and Social Commentary. Edinburgh Napier University.
Katz, M. 2012. Groove Music: The Art and Culture of the Hip-Hop DJ. New York: Oxford University Press.
Schloss, J. 2014 [2004]. Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop. Conneticut: Wesleyan University Press.
Williams, J. 2014. Rhymin’ and Stealin’: Musical Borrowing in Hip-Hop. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
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