Paula Harper

Paula Harper

Assistant Professor of Music in Musicology
Area of Focus: Music History

Paula Clare Harper is an Assistant Professor of Musicology in the Glenn Korff School of Music. She received her PhD in Historical Musicology from Columbia University in 2019, and prior to her appointment at UNL, she served as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Harper’s research centers around music and sound and the internet, with focuses on issues of circulation, sharing, sociality and social media, fandom, gender, and representation. Her current book project, Viral Musicking and the Rise of Noisy Platforms, documents the early 21st-century rise of ubiquitous social media platforms through an understanding of them as mechanisms for facilitating virality—a virality that is deeply sonic, and that can be productively analyzed as musicking. From Geocities and Webrings to Twitter and TikTok, the book charts a trajectory in which unpredictable virtual landscapes were tamed into entrenched channels and pathways, through exchanges between the vernacular work of digital actors and the top-down corporate attempts to capture, corral, and control their viral participatory practices. 

In addition to her book project, Paula has presented on topics ranging from Beyoncé, to Taylor Swift, to internet musical practices, at conferences across the country and internationally. Her work has been published in the journals Popular Music and Society, Sound Studies, and The Soundtrack, as well as in the Summer 2020 special issue of American Music, for which she was a co-editor.

Recently, Paula co-organized the Taylor Swift Study Day: Eras, Narrative, Digital Music and Media, an interdisciplinary virtual symposium that took place in July 2021. She was also one of the co-founders of the digital colloquium series Music Scholarship at a Distance, a virtual forum for music studies convened in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

At UNL, Dr. Harper teaches courses on Western art music history, world music, and research methods, as well as courses on music videos, sonic digital cultures, and American popular music.