Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Musikwissenschaft

Prof. Dr. Mark J. Butler


Lehrstuhlinhaber Popular Music Studies

Prof. Dr. Mark J. Butler
Professur für Popular Music Studies
Institut für Musikwissenschaft und Medienwissenschaft
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
10099 Berlin
Sitz: Am Kupfergraben 5, 10117 Berlin, Raum 312


Prof. Dr. Mark J. Butler befindet sich vom 1. Oktober 2022 bis zum 30. September 2023 in Forschungsfreisemestern. Anmeldungen für die Sprechstunde bitte individuell per E-Mail.


Tel.: +49 30 2093 65806
Tel. Sekretariat +49 30 2093 65810

E-Mail: mark.butler[at]



Mark J. Butler has held the professorship in Popular Music Studies since October 2021. He previously served as Professor and Associate Professor of Music Theory and Cognition at Northwestern University (2015–2021 and 2009–2015, respectively) and as an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania (2003–2009). Butler received the PhD in Music Theory from Indiana University in 2003. He has held fellowships at the American Academy in Berlin and The University of Texas at Austin (Donald D. Harrington Faculty Fellow). He was President of the U.S. branch of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music from 2015–2017.


Butler’s research focuses on contemporary, groove-based popular music. He is an expert on electronic dance music. His first book, Unlocking the Groove (Indiana University Press, 2006), developed theoretical and analytical models for rhythm and meter in electronic dance music, a repertoire that had not been previously explored from a musicological point of view. He is also the editor of an anthology entitled Electronica, Dance, and Club Music (Ashgate, 2012), which was the first published reference book on the subject.


Butler’s second monograph is Playing with Something That Runs: Technology, Improvisation, and Composition in DJ and Laptop Performance (Oxford University Press, 2014). In this text he considers how musicians utilize pre-existent, seemingly “fixed” elements such as records and digital samples to create dynamic, real-time improvisations, as well as the ways in which technologies, both material and musical, make these transformations possible. Based on extensive field research with leading electronic musicians in Berlin, Playing with Something That Runs analyzes real-time musical performances in relation to the recorded elements that comprise them. The book received the Outstanding Publication Award from the Popular Music Interest Group of the Society for Music Theory in 2015.


Butler has also published articles and chapters on subjects such as mobility in Berlin-based laptop performance, alternative constructions of authenticity in the music of the Pet Shop Boys, and the interaction of voice and genre in relation to gender and sexuality in the songs of indie-pop composer Stephin Merritt. He is currently preparing a second edition of Unlocking the Groove, now under contract with Oxford University Press.