Personal profile

Research interests

Mark Abel describes himself as a Marxist musicologist who works on the aesthetics of music and its interface with history and politics.

His 2014 book on musical time theorises the socio-historical and aesthetic significance of that aspect of musical rhythm known as ‘groove’. This is, in part, a historical exploration of the ways in which the time-consciousness associated with the temporal organisation of societies manifests itself in the musical expression of those societies. Concretely, it is an investigation into the social and political meaning of musical rhythm, focusing on the ‘groove-musics’ of the twentieth century. It has been received as a significant contribution to an understanding of how modern popular music can be situated within a history of music-making as a whole. Mark's ongoing research is concerned with undertaking an engagement with Marxist musicology and, more generally, with exploring ways in which a materialist methodology may be applied to cultural and artistic trends. 

Mark Abel studied music at Oxford University and jazz and the Guildhall School of Music before completing an MA in Cultural and Critical Theory at the University of Brighton. He gained his PhD at Brighton in 2011 with a politico-philosophical study of music and time from a historical materialist perspective in which he theorises the emergence of a distinctive expression of time in twentieth century Western popular music. He is also a practising musician – a pianist, saxophonist and composer – and music educator, specialising in jazz and popular music. 

He teaches in the areas of history, global politics and international relations and is particularly interested in the world order in the post-Cold War period, and the resistance movements of the twenty-first century against corporate globalisation and neo-liberalism.

Supervisory Interests

Mark supervises research projects in the following areas:

  • Aesthetics and politics of music, particularly popular musics;
  • Theorisations of the contemporary world order, especially imperialism and its discontents.

Research interests

Additional activity


Keynote presentation - 'Breaking through Adorno's reified time: the dialectics of groove and musical improvisation', Journée d'étude "Adorno et la dialectique ouverte: jazz, cinéma et fantasmagorie", Centre d'Étude des Arts Contemporains, Université de Lille, October

Journal article - 'Music, class and party in 1920s Russia', International Socialism 164


Journal article 'Is music a language? Adorno and Vološinov on the language character of music', Historical Materialism 26(4)

Interview - 'It's All in the Groove: A Marxist Theory of Music, Red Wedge magazine, June


Conference paper - 'What counts as 'black music'? Disparities between Anglophone and Hispanophone constructions of musical tradition and identity in the Americas', Reparative Histories 2 Conference: The Making, Re-making and Un-making of 'Race', University of Brighton, April  


Seminar paper - 'Is music a language? Adorno and Vološinov on the language character of music', Politics, Philosophy, Aesthetics Seminar Series, University of Brighton, October  

Three-part article series - 'Music and Marxism': Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Culture Matters, April, June, September 

Radio interview on 'Groove', Radio Študent, Ljubljana, Slovenia, broadcast 19th January 

Journal article - 'Chord symbols, musical abstraction and modernism', Radical Philosophy 195, Jan/Feb 


Conference paper - 'Narrative and history in musical time', Time, Freedom & Narrative Conference, University of Manchester, July 


Book – Groove: An aesthetic of measured time, Brill. 

Conference paper – ‘Adorno, subjectivity and collectivity in music’, Music, Marxism and The Frankfurt School Conference, Dublin, July

Conference paper – ‘Explanation or critique? What is the role of Marxist musicology?’, Marxism in Culture Seminar Series, University of London, June


Conference Paper – ‘The African roots of Western popular music: a reconsideration’, Historical Materialism Conference, London, November


Conference paper – ‘Eric Hobsbawm’s writing on jazz’, Symposium in tribute to Eric Hobsbawm, University of Brighton, December

Conference paper – ‘Jameson, making time appear, and music’, Historical Materialism Conference, London, November


Conference paper – ‘Taylorism, monopoly capitalism and groove in music’, Arts Research Conference, University of Brighton


Conference paper – ‘Alfred Schutz’s concept of the vivid present’, Graduate seminar series, University of Sussex, November


Conference paper - ‘Adorno, modernist time, and the groove of popular music’, IASPM UK & Ireland Conference, September.


Publication - ‘Timbres and Textures for Animation: Philip Miller’s music for the Kentridge Soho films’, in Tom Hickey (ed.), William Kentridge: Fragile Identities, University of Brighton.

Conference paper - ‘Towards an essentialist definition of popular music: the peculiarity of ‘groove’’, IASPM ANZ Conference, Dunedin, New Zealand, November.

Conference paper - ‘Time without measure? Bergson, Deleuze and the aesthetics of musical meter’, Arts & Architecture Research Seminar, University of Brighton, March.


Conference paper - ‘Jameson and Totality: A critique of Fredric Jameson’s aestheto-politics’, Globalization Conference, University of Brighton, December.


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