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Mark Abel


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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.

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Aesthetics Arts & Humanities
Music Arts & Humanities
Popular music Arts & Humanities
Symbol Arts & Humanities
Language Arts & Humanities
Chord Arts & Humanities
Materialist Arts & Humanities
Music-making Arts & Humanities

Research Output 2011 2018

  • 2 Book - authored
  • 2 Article
  • 1 Doctoral Thesis

Is music a language? Adorno, Voloshinov, and the language character of music

Abel, M., 17 Dec 2018, 26, 4, p. 59-86 28 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Theory of Language

Chord symbols, musical abstraction and modernism

Abel, M., 1 Jan 2016, 195

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
Musical Language
Art music
Musical Notation

Groove: An Aesthetic of Measured Time

Abel, M., 2015, Chicago. 275 p. (Historical Materialism Book Series)

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authoredResearchpeer-review

Popular music

Groove: an aesthetic of measured time

Abel, M., 1 Sep 2014, Leiden, NL. 275 p. (Historical Materialism)

Research output: Book/ReportBook - authoredResearch

Philosophical Arguments
Popular music

Groove: an aesthetic of measured time

Abel, M., Jul 2011, 329 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisResearch