Sam Flynn


I was appointed Lecturer in Analysis and Popular Music at the University of Leeds in September 2021. 

I was awarded my PhD (and my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before that) by the University of Manchester.

My doctoral thesis – which was supervised by Dr Roddy Hawkins and Prof Rebecca Herissone – is entitled ‘Rock-a-Cha-Cha: The Erased Impact of Latin American Music on the Rhythmic Transformation of American Popular Music’. Drawing on a corpus analysis, the thesis establishes empirically that Black Latin-American musics were the predominant influence on a fundamental change in the rhythm of post-war popular music in the United States – specifically, a transition from swung-quaver ‘monorhythm’ (a rhythmic texture comprising onbeat rhythmic patterns) to straight-quaver polyrhythm between the 1950s and the 1960s. Drawing on a critical reception study, the thesis argues that the impact of Afro-Latin musics on this rhythmic transformation has been written out of history by non-Hispanic White male music critics who held a binary Black/White conception of race as well as racialised and gendered notions of what constituted mass culture within popular music. I am currently adapting my thesis into a book proposal.

Research interests

My research interests include rhythm, musical influence, genre, musical meaning, historiography, as well as the relationship between mass-culture critiques and the politics of race, gender, ethnicity, and age. My research focuses on the analysis of African-diasporic popular musics of the Americas – namely, African-American styles from 1950s R&B through to 21st-century hip hop as well as African-Jamaican ska, rocksteady, and reggae of the 1960s and 1970s.

I have researched artists such as Little Richard, Paul Anka, Prince Buster, Don Drummond, the Beatles, the Supremes, A Tribe Called Quest, and Alabama Shakes.

In addition to my research, I am active in the composition and performance of popular music as a songwriter, arranger, bandleader, and bassist.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Music
  • MusM in Musicology
  • MusB (Hons) in Music

Student education

I lead the third-year undergraduate module in music analysis: Analysing Music. I teach music analysis and popular music at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. I also supervise Bachelor’s and Master’s dissertations.

I teach and examine on performance modules at all levels of the undergraduate programme, specialising in popular-music and jazz performance. I also serve as Academic Personal Tutor for numerous first-year BA and MA students

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>