John Shepherd

John (Charles) Shepherd. Musicologist, sociologist, anthropologist, b Surbiton, Surrey, England, 25 Jan 1947, naturalized Canadian 1972; BA (Carleton) 1970, ARCM flute (1971), B MUS (Carleton) 1972, PH D (York, England) 1977.

Shepherd, John

John (Charles) Shepherd. Musicologist, sociologist, anthropologist, b Surbiton, Surrey, England, 25 Jan 1947, naturalized Canadian 1972; BA (Carleton) 1970, ARCM flute (1971), B MUS (Carleton) 1972, PH D (York, England) 1977. He was research fellow 1975-9 at Manchester Polytechnic and taught 1981-4 at Trent University. In 1984 he began to teach music and sociology at Carleton University, where he introduced courses in popular music and where in 1989 he became director of the Centre for Research on Culture and Society. Later, in 1991, Shepherd became the founding director of Carleton's School for Studies in Art and Culture. From 1994-7 he served as chairperson of the management board of the Centre for Art and Technology. He was chairperson of that university's Department of Sociology and Anthropology 1999-2000; and, for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, was associate dean of research and development 2001-3, and of planning and development from 2003. Shepherd was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research in 2007.

The sociological methodology underlying Shepherd's teaching and writings encourages a re-evaluation of the basic assumptions of late 20th century attitudes to music. Many problems of Western musical aesthetics have arisen, in Shepherd's view, from the inability of traditional musicology to deal with essential issues of music's social and cultural environment. In this connection he believes that there is much to be learned from pre-literate and oral-aural traditions. 'What's important is that different types of music aren't viewed as being in watertight compartments, some superior and others inferior,' he has stated. 'There are many common theoretical and methodological questions dealing with sound composition and quality' (Carleton Alumni News, Fall 1986).

Shepherd was chairman (Canadian branch) 1982-4, general secretary 1983-7, and publications officer 1989-91 for the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. He has lectured widely in Canada, the USA, Europe, and South America, and has broadcast in Germany, Hungary, and Australia. He has written articles on the sociology of music for Arena, British Journal of Music Education, Catalyst, Contact, Musica Realta, and other periodicals. He has been a contributor to EMC, The New Grove Dictionary of Music, and other encyclopedias. The list of his published work is extensive, and includes five books as author, several volumes as editor (including special issues of the Canadian University Music Review (CUMR) in 1990 and 2000), and numerous chapters in scholarly publications. In 2000 Shepherd was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, which called him "a leading architect of a post-War critical musicology" and "instrumental in effecting a fundamental paradigm shift in musicology." He is chairperson and managing editor of the Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World.

Further Reading

  • John Shepherd, 'A sociological approach to the understanding of music,' PH D thesis, York (England) U 1977

    - et al. Whose Music? A Sociology of Musical Languages (London 1977)

    'Towards a sociology of musical styles,' CUMR, vol 2, 1981

    Tin Pan Alley (New York 1982)

    'Definition as mystification: a consideration of labels as a hindrance to understanding significance in music,' Popular Music Perspectives 2: Papers from the Second International Conference on Popular Music Studies, ed D. Horn (Goteborg, Exeter, 1985)

    'Prolegomena for the critical study of popular music,' Canadian J of Communication, vol 11, no. 1, 1985

    La Musica come sapere sociale, transl Umberto Fiori (Milano 1988)

    'Les exigences d'une sociologie des oeuvres musicaux: le cas des musiques "classiques" et "populaires",' Sociologie de l'Art, ed Raymonde Moulin (Paris 1986)

    'Music and male hegemony,' Music and Society: the Politics of Composition, Performance and Reception, eds Richard Leppert and Susan McClary (Cambridge 1987)

    - and Giles, Jennifer. 'The politics of silence: problematics for the analysis of English Canadian musical culture,' Australian/Canadian Studies, vol 7, no. 1-2, 1989

    'Vers une critique sociologiquement fondée de la musique,' CUMR, vol 10, no. 2, 1990

    Music as Social Text (Cambridge 1991)

    'Shepherd on music,' Carleton Alumni News, Fall 1986

    - and Wicke, Peter. Music and Cultural Theory (Cambridge 1997)