(Chair: Ruth Herbert, University of Oxford)
Laudan Nooshin (City University London)
Between a rock and a hard place: discourse, practice and the unbearable lightness of analysis. Methodological challenges in studying creative process in Iranian (classical) music
Since the late 1980s, an important strand of my research has sought to understand the underlying creative processes of Iranian classical music, a tradition where the performer plays a central creative role and which is therefore often described as ‘improvised’, both in the literature and – since the mid-20th century and drawing on concepts initially adopted from European music – by musicians themselves. Methodologically, perhaps the greatest challenge is tracing the relationships between musicians’ verbal discourses – usually taken by ethnomusicologists as evidence of cognitive processes – and what happens in practice. Of course, the relationship is a complex one and the dual ethnomusicological methods of (a) ethnography and (b) transcription and analysis don’t always tell the same story. In the case of my work, there was a disjuncture between musicians’ discourse of creative freedom, albeit underpinned by the central memorised repertoireknown as radif, and the analytical evidence which showed the music to be highly structured around a series of what could be termed ‘compositional procedures’, but which are not explicitly discussed by musicians.
More recently, I have been working with younger performers – university-educated and cosmopolitan – who are developing discursive frameworks for their creative practice, including an explicit articulation of compositional intent and an intellectual-analytical approach to performance which is quite new to Iranian music. From the researcher’s point of view, such changes have made it easier to talk to musicians about detailed aspects of creative process, and the relationship between verbal discourse and musical practice has ostensibly become more straightforward. In this paper, I focus on the work of two musicians, Amir Eslami and Hooshyar Khayam, and explore both the broader ramifications of these changes for creative practice in Iranian music, and the methodological implications for those seeking to understand creative processes.
Laudan Nooshin is Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at City University London. Her research interests include creative processes in Iranian music; music and youth culture in Iran; music and gender; neo/post-colonialism and Orientalism; and music in Iranian cinema. Recent publications include the edited volume Music and the Play of Power in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia (Ashgate). Her forthcoming monograph is
entitled Iranian Classical Music: The Discourses and Practice of Creativity (Ashgate).
Joe Bennett (Bath Spa University)
Documenting collaborative songwriters’ creativity using Linear Event Analysis
(some of this work will be published in http://www.arpjournal.com in Dec 2013
Psychologist John Sloboda identified the methodological challenges in understanding composers’ creativity, and concluded that the best evidence of compositional decision- making was found in real-time reporting of composing as it occurs. Such ‘verbal protocol analysis’ has been attempted by a small number of researchers (e.g. Collins ) but such methods are necessarily interventionist and risk subjecting the composer to the observation effect.
Collaborative songwriting is immanently communicative, so some methodology problems can be solved through ‘linear event analysis’. Audio recordings are compared to computer- assisted iterative documentation such as ‘track changes’ edits and ‘save as’ audio files. These can then be compared with the finished song, and creative behaviours and motives can be inferred. In this paper the author will describe his emergent research into observation methodologies for songwriting, and outline the techniques he has used to try to answer the question ‘what do collaborative songwriters do’ in a musically meaningful way.
Keywords: songwriting, popular musicology, music psychology, creativity studies.
Joe Bennett’s research focuses on the creative practice and psychology of collaborative songwriters. Joe teaches on the MMus Songwriting at Bath Spa University, and director of the the UK Songwriting Festival. His guitar tuition books, articles and compositions are published worldwide by Music Sales, Rockschool, Total Guitar Magazine and others. As an expert witness forensic musicologist, Joe advises music lawyers, publishers, artists and songwriters on matters of plagiarism and musical similarity.
Nikki Moran (University of Edinburgh)
The ‘Improvising Duos’ Project: studying music in and as social interaction
This paper presents the methodology and some results from a British Academy-funded collaboration, the ‘Improvising Duos’ project. We recorded video, audio and kinematic data from 24 improvising musicians in 12 duo pairings, with the aim of analysing emergent properties of their joint performance. We set out to explore the extent to which observers could demonstrably judge ‘real’ versus ‘fake’ musician duos, thus making the behavioural manifestation of the musical interaction process into the object of analysis. We used 3D motion-capture animations of the duos to create a set of stimuli. These ten-second excerpts of duo performance included both authentic (‘real’) duos and but also ‘fake’ duos spliced from two different duo pairs. In an experiment, participants watched the animations and judged the authenticity of the improvising duo. Formally-trained musician participants were able to discriminate reliably between genuine versus synthetic duos.
Nikki Moran is Lecturer in Music at Edinburgh University. Her research and PhD supervision deals with empirical approaches to music and social interaction. Nikki’s teaching includes modules for the BMus degree and the MSc Music in the Community. She is also Programme Director for the new undergraduate degree, MA Music (Sep 2014).
Today I’m at the Royal Musical Association study day at the University of Oxford, presenting a paper about the methodological challenges of observing and analysing collaborative songwriters’ creativity. For the convenience of those who are there today I’ve pasted the references at the bottom of this post. An academic paper with more detail will be published soon in the Journal on the Art of Record Production (Issue 8, December 2013).
Documenting collaborative songwriters’ creativity using Linear Event Analysis
It is a little-known fact that almost half of the hit songs in the USA of the last 60 years were written by collaborative teams. Songs acquire immense cultural and economic value, and good songwriters are celebrated in the music industry, but collaborative songwriting practices remain largely unexplored by popular musicology or cognitive psychology. Psychologist John Sloboda identified the methodological challenges in understanding the creative mind of a composer, and concluded that the best way of acquiring evidence of compositional decision-making was real-time reporting of composing as it occurs. Such ‘verbal protocol analysis’ into composers’ creativity has been attempted by a small number of researchers (e.g. Collins) but such methods are necessarily interventionist and therefore risk subjecting the composer to the observation effect. Collaborative songwriting is immanently communicative, so some of the methodology problems identified by Sloboda can be solved through ‘linear event analysis’ – i.e. audio recordings of the songwriting process. This evidence base can be triangulated with computer-assisted generation of iterative documentation such as ‘track changes’ lyric edits and ‘save as’ audio files. These evidence bases can then be compared with the finished product – the song itself – and tentative conclusions about authorial intent and processes can be drawn. In this paper the author will describe his emergent research into observation methodologies for popular songwriting, and outline the techniques and systems he has used to try to answer the question ‘what do collaborative songwriters do’ in a musically meaningful way.
Keywords: songwriting, popular musicology, music psychology, creativity studies.
- Bamberger, J., 2003. The Development of Intuitive Musical Understanding: A Natural Experiment. Psychology of Music, 31(1), pp.7–36.
- Barnes, A., 2006. James Blunt goes to war with his mentor over royalties. The Independent on Sunday. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/james-blunt-goes-to-war-with-his-mentor-over-royalties-470496.html.
- Bennett, Joe. Collaborative Songwriting – the Ontology of Negotiated Creativity in Popular Music Studio Practice. In Journal of the Art of Record Production, 2011. Available from http://www.joebennett.net
- Bently, L., 2009. Authorship of Popular Music in UK Copyright Law. Information, Communication & Society, 12(2), pp.179–204.
- Bugg, J., 2012. Jake Bugg interview: “I’ve achieved what I wanted to’ – Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopmusic/9718719/Jake-Bugg-interview-Ive-achieved-what-I-wanted-to.html.
- Cantor, J.S., 2006. Fearless Innovation–Songwriting for Our Lives: Inspiring Learners with Arts-Based Practices that Support Creativity. Multicultural Education, 14(2), pp.57–64.
- Collins, D., 2007. Real-time tracking of the creative music composition process. Digital Creativity, 18(4), pp.239–256.
- Demers, J., 2006. Steal This Music – how intellectual property law affects musical creativity. University of Georgia Press.
- Hayden, S. & Windsor, L., 2007. Collaboration and the composer: case studies from the end of the 20th century. Tempo, 61(240), p.28.
- Hewson, J., 2009. Songbook: James Blunt. Available at: http://www.skyarts.co.uk/music/article/songbook.
- McIntyre, P., 2001. The Domain of Songwriters: Towards defining the term “Song.” Perfect Beat: The Pacific Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture, 5(3), pp.100–111.
- Moore, A.F., 2012. Song means : analysing and interpreting recorded popular song. Ashgate.
- Padgett, A., 2008. Rhetoric of Predictability: Reclaiming the Lay Ear in Music Copyright Infringement Litigation, The. Pierce L. Rev., 7, p.125.
- Sloboda, J., 1985. The musical mind : the cognitive psychology of music, OUP.
- Smart, G., 2007. Now Blunt goes back to war. The Sun. Available at: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/bizarre/article246437.ece.
- Zollo, P., 1997. Songwriters on songwriting, Da Capo Press.
This post is mainly for the Masters in Songwriting students I’m working with today at our Corsham Court Songwriters’ Centre, but might be of interest to songwriters generally (or to anyone considering applying for the course).
These are musical examples we’ll be discussing in the lecture/seminar. I’ve embedded the audio as YouTube clips for convenience.
Some further reading – John Covach on song form.
Allan Moore Song Means (Amazon link) – also in the BSU library and as a downloadable ebook.
What do the following songs have in common?
The Beatles – You Never Give Me Your Money
Erasure – I Love To Hate You
Frank Sinatra (and others) – Fly Me To The Moon
Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
Train – 50 Way To Say Goodbye
Cat Stevens – Wild World
Type your comments here, or via Twitter/Facebook.
Last week I posted a research survey on this site to investigate the way listeners infer meaning from song arrangements. Thanks to all of the Facebook, blog and Twitter contacts who responded. Some of the respondents have asked me to publish the results, so here they are. The text below is part of a forthcoming research publication which should be available sometime in 2014.
Song, Performance and Track – a listening experiment
Joe Bennett, 26 Sept 2013
It is self-evident, or perhaps a tautology, that an audio recording of a song carries cultural meaning for the listener, but to what extent does the listener infer meaning (from the track) that was not created by the songwriter? To borrow from Allan Moore’s terminology, to what extent is the track one of the ‘means by which songs can mean’? To provide an objective/measurable example of the way ‘performance’ can create listener inferences I devised the following simple listening experiment, conducted using an online poll. Participants were asked to select randomly one of two unidentified recordings ‘Song A’ and ‘Song B’ and listen to only one of them. ‘Song A’ was Carole King’s 1970 recording of the Goffin/King composition Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? ‘Song B’ was the Shirelles’ recording of the same song from 1960. Importantly, both recordings share the same melody and lyric as each other, with near-identical harmony, but are performed in different styles (‘singer-songwriter’ and ‘1960s girl band’ respectively) and at different tempi. Listeners were asked to speculate about inferred/imagined events – that is, to provide information about the characters and story that is not provided in the lyric.
I’m currently undertaking some research into inferences in song – the story, characters and images that listeners imagine when they hear a recording or performance. At the moment I’m collecting data about two well-known recordings (take the survey – you’ll find out what they are at the end) and I’m trying to get as many responses as possible. The survey will take around 5 minutes (including the time it takes to listen to the song!) and there are 8 questions.
So please forward this link to everyone you know – and don’t forget to take the survey yourself.
This is a post for my Masters degree songwriting students, containing all the slides (with lyrics and YouTube clips) for today’s lecture session at the Songwriter’s centre in Corsham.
I’m currently working on materials for a lecture about AABA song form for the Masters degree in songwriting. It’s a lecture I give every year and it starts from an historical perspective – contextualising AABA as the most common song form during first half of the 20th century. The 32-bar ‘standard’ is a remarkable formula – it was the dominant form of popular music (in the USA and UK) for around 50 years, and it follows some very simple rules – each section is 8 bars long, and form is verse-verse-bridge-verse . (Sometimes the ‘song’ is referred to as a ‘chorus’ because of an extended – usually slower – intro leading into it). In a standard, the title usually appears at the start or end of each verse, and almost never in the bridge. Verse 1 introduces the lyric idea; verse 2 develops its narrative; the bridge comments on the theme from a different viewpoint; the final verse summarises the narrator’s view or otherwise concludes the narrative.
For an overview of AABA form see my 2011 article from Total Guitar magazine.
Writing in 1941, the musicologist and sociologist Theodor Adorno described the ‘standardisation’ of popular music and deconstructed the 32 bar standard – which was, at the time, the song form used by almost every contemporary hit. Adorno held some rather extreme views about popular music, and it’s a fairly common sport among contemporary popular musicology to attack his arguments as prejudiced and elitist (although some have attempted a more nuanced approach). But here’s the thing – Adorno’s analysis is musically accurate.
Standardization extends from the most general features to the most specific ones. Best known is the rule that the chorus consists of thirty two bars and that the range is limited to one octave and one note. The general types of hits are also standardized: not only the dance types, the rigidity of whose pattern is understood, but also the “characters” such as mother songs, home songs, nonsense or “novelty” songs, pseudo-nursery rhymes, laments for a lost girl. Most important of all, the harmonic cornerstones of each hit — the beginning and the end of each part — must beat out the standard scheme. (Adorno, 1941).
Where Adorno’s argument falls down is in his inferences; he assumes that because a popular song’s content may be partly predictable for the listener, this is a reason to contrast it with ‘serious’ music where listener expectations may be more challenged. Actually, he argues that popular music’s ‘standardisation’ is not to be characterised by comparative simplicity. It’s hard to disagree with the following quotation on musical grounds;
The difference between the spheres cannot be adequately expressed in terms of complexity and simplicity. All works of the earlier Viennese classicism are, without exception, rhythmically simpler than stock arrangements of jazz. Melodically, the wide intervals of a good many hits such as “Deep Purple” or “Sunrise Serenade” are more difficult to follow per se than most melodies of, for example, Haydn, which consist mainly of circumscriptions of tonic triads and second steps. Harmonically, the supply of chords of the so-called classics is invariably more limited than that of any current Tin Pan Alley composer who draws from Debussy, Ravel, and even later sources. (Ibid).
Adorno had done his research about popular music, and it is inaccurate to say that he criticises it for its structural simplicity. The problem with his critique is that he wasn’t habituated in songs as a listener – or rather, [I infer that] he didn’t seem to derive personal emotional impact from them. Speaking personally, as a pop music consumer (and musicology geek), of course I recognise structural similarities between pop songs (here’s a brief analysis of 2012 hits). But as a listener I’m influenced by the differences between otherwise predictable musical content. These may well be, in Adorno’s terms, ‘conditioned reflexes’, but the skill of the songwriter, and the emotional power for the listener, is contained within the deviations from the predictable, not the predictable content itself. Standardisation in popular music is powerful and self-perpetuating, and here I agree with Adorno’s statement that ‘the standard patterns [of 1940s pop songs] have become invested with the immunity of bigness — “the King can do no wrong.”‘ – but this is just economic and cultural Darwinism in action (here’s a short article discussing the market forces that drive song standardisation; here’s a much longer academic one).
Because he was writing in the 1940s, Adorno did not differentiate between ‘song’ and ‘track’ because, as in classical music, the ‘work’ in popular music of the time was defined in sheet music form. In the early 20th century, the song was usually more famous than the singer. If he were writing now there would be a whole new landscape for him to discuss because late 20th century popular music is defined as an audio product, not a musicological one – the song is the recording. Listeners are responding simultaneously to the song and the track (that is, the production), so the bandwidth of information we receive is so much greater. ‘Serious’ music (or at least a proportion of it) uses a known timbral palette – a piano, or an orchestra for example – but popular music production allows pretty much any sound to be incorporated into the mix.
So I agree with Adorno musically and, mostly, economically; his descriptions of the 32 bar standard and the market forces that perpetuate it are well reasoned and IMO evidence based. But he applies a structural and sociological analysis to popular music that he refuses to apply to ‘serious’ music, even though all music contains some constrained elements and some challenges to constraint. As listeners, we respond to the difference between constraint and freedom, repetition and contrast, form and content. All music is a balance between standardisation and innovation.
Church bells are ringing, mellow and clear
I feel so lonely, beneath stars above
Listening to one thing, the one thing I love
In the valley, ooh-hoo!
But it brings back sweet memories of you
Can you hear it, ooh-hoo!
Through the twilight, ooh-hoo!
When it answered I love you, I do
How I wish we were here
Just like we used to be
But since you have gone
There’s nothing left for me
Just an echo, ooh-hoo!
In the valley, ooh-hoo!
But it brings back sweet memories of you
CHAMBON, PHILIP J. (Kingston University, London)
Q: Where’s the song? A: It’s the track stupid!
[abstract] Many contemporary and indeed historical popular music songs have been created as a result of collaboration and improvisation between individuals in a studio environment (larger controlled spaces, multi-track tape, ProTools), or in a home recording environment (smaller unpredictable spaces, portable reel-to-reel recorders, multi-track cassette recorders, laptops) or a combination of these.
Popular music tracks are referred to as songs, sometimes even if there are no vocals. What is the song? Is it the basic top line – tune and lyrics and the piano chords? Probably not since Brill Building days, or music theatre has a song existed as a score. Paul Simon, one of the most successful songwriters of his generation, is quoted in Levetin (2008, p.2) as saying ‘The way that I listen to my own records is for the sound of them; not the chords or the lyrics – my first impression is of the overall sound’. Read more…
Here’s a rather close to the wire song that, to my ears, owes rather too much to the verse of ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’. Compare Emily J’s vocal in the advert [0:00] with Bobby McFerrin’s [0:28] first melodic phrase. And note the identical harmony in bars 1-4 of the verses.
I’m here in Québec City for the 8th Art of Record Production conference, where I’m presenting a paper about research methodologies for creativity studies in songwriting. The magnificent building in the picture is Pavilion Louis-Jacques-Casault, which is the location of Université Laval’s music department. The last time I attended ARP was in 2010 (when it was held at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK – see blog entry).
There’s more information about the conference at the Art of Record Production website. ARP publishes Journal On The Art of Record Production (which published my recent article about songwriting in studio practice: download pdf).
Applying melodic analysis to infer the extent of plagiarism in popular song authorship disputes. Joe Bennett, Bath Spa University
This is my own paper. I’ll publish the slides online soon, but for now I’ve posted the references, as a few people requested today. I hope to publish something more substantial on this work in 2014. For context, here are a couple of links to my previous research into songwriting creativity;
- Bennett, Joe. “Constraint, Collaboration and Creativity in Popular Songwriting Teams.” In The Act of Musical Composition: Studies in the Creative Process, edited by David Collins, 139–169. SEMPRE Studies in The Psychology of Music. Ashgate, 2012. Download pdf
- Bennett, Joe. “Collaborative Songwriting – the Ontology of Negotiated Creativity in Popular Music Studio Practice.” In Journal of the Art of Record Production 2010. Leeds, UK: Art of Record Production, 2011. Download pdf (English) • Download pdf (Spanish)
Bently, Lionel. “Authorship Of Popular Music in UK Copyright Law.” Information, Communication & Society 12, no. 2 (March 2009): 179–204.
Boden, Margaret. The Creative Mind : Myths and Mechanisms. 2nd ed. Routledge, 2004.
Cason, R. J. S., and D. Müllensiefen. “Singing from the Same Sheet: Computational Melodic Similarity Measurement and Copyright Law.” International Review of Law, Computers & Technology 26, no. 1 (2012): 25–36.
Cronin, Charles. “Music Copyright Infringement Resource – Sponsored By USC Gould School of Law,” 2002. http://mcir.usc.edu/cases/
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. “Society, Culture, and Person: a Systems View of Creativity.” In The Nature of Creativity : Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, 325–339. CUP 1988.
Demers, Joanna. Steal This Music – How Intellectual Property Law Affects Musical Creativity. University of Georgia Press, 2006.
Melodic Similarity: Concepts, Procedures, and Applications. Computing in Musicology 11. Cambridge, Mass. : Stanford, CA: MIT Press ; CCARH, Stanford University, 1998.
Lund, J. “An Empirical Examination of the Lay Listener Test in Music Composition Copyright Infringement.” (2012). http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2030509.
Melodic Similarity: Concepts, Procedures, and Applications. Computing in Musicology 11. MIT Press, 1998.
Temperley, David. Music and Probability. MIT Press, 2007.
Into the Mythic. Richard Parfitt (Bath Spa University)
Through universal themes we understand and make sense of the world. Our reaction to art is imbued with unintentional responses. That we may see rebirth in the constant reinvention of David Bowie, or perhaps find the spirit of Odysseus in Bruce Springsteen, is testament not just to the power of myth, but the exploitation of that need by market forces. The metaphor retains its power and the message finds its medium in whatever culture is available at the time. Narratives from the Bible and Greek drama, as well as Hollywood movies and fiction chime with the semiology of many contemporary acts. Non-Western traditions are represented through comparative mythologies and mystical archetypes. One only has to look closely at Florence and the Machine to see not just the modern Pre-Raphaelites, but also the White Goddess. In this secular age, paganism has gone mainstream, and that means the free market is on to it. Don DeLillo once wrote: When the old gods leave the world, what happens to all the unexpended faith? (1) The philosopher John Gray believes that that the need to worship is hardwired into the human brain (2). If he is right then people will seek out the old myths in whatever context they have put their faith. This presentation will look at implied narrative and the significance of psychic landmarks as a way of validating music and unifying aspects of pop culture.
Richard J. Parfitt is Senior Lecturer in Commercial Music at Bath Spa University where he runs the MMus in Songwriting. He crossed over to the ‘dark side’ of academia late, having previously worked professionally within the music industry, where he was guitarist and songwriter for the 60ft Dolls. In 2005, he worked closely with Rough Trade Management developing the career of Grammy and Brit Award artist Duffy, and as a songwriter he has sold over a million records. He is currently working towards a doctorate in Music and Myth.
Richard sets out his arguments by outlining questions of authenticity and voice in the context of the question he is often asked ‘how do you teach songwriting’. He then lists many ‘teachable’ parameters – metre, rhyme, imagery, melodic shape etc. But he asserts that although craft can be taught, songwriting is also an art. Read more…
[abstract] Distortion is an important and essential property of timbre, and it is the timbral property that defines hard rock and heavy metal. However, most analyses and analytic theories of compositions from this repertoire focus solely on pitch-class relationships because pitch-class theories can produce powerful explanations or structural descriptions, such as, functional harmonic or Schenkerian style analyses of pitch-class relationships. The preeminence of pitch-class theories is further enhanced by the limited power analytic theories of timbre have had in analyzing timbre relationships. Unfortunately, most tonal theories of pitch-class relationships applied to hard rock and heavy metal produce analyses that lack the complexity found in the analyses of classical compositions, so hard rock and heavy metal works often appear to be structurally simplistic. However, the complexity that would put compositions from this repertoire structurally on par with classical compositions is often found in the domain of timbre. In this paper, I will present a theory of distortion. The theory presents a quantized view of the distortion continuum based on spectral analysis that produces a series of transformations connecting an absolutely linear signal to a signal containing 100% total harmonic distortion. The theory also incorporates contour theory. I will use the theory to demonstrate how distortion motives are developed and how distortion can create form in a composition. Specifically, I will present an analytical model of distortion motives and distortion structuring in the compositional design of two Metallica songs, ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Nothing Else Matters’, as well as other compositions from the repertoire. Read more…
Structure and Unity in Norwegian Black Metal: An Analytical Case Study. Mark Johnson (Australian National University)
[abstract] The Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 1990s has, to date, been primarily considered by scholars as a violent and subversive subcultural movement. The relative lack of detailed musical discussion of the genre is perhaps partly due to its own deliberate cultivation of an obscure and alienating aesthetic; as if to repel outsiders and allow access only to an exclusive inner circle of bands and fans. This paper goes beyond the aural DO NOT ENTER sign through a close musical analysis of an exemplary album of the genre, Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger (1994). The album’s lo-fi production and sonic texture seem particularly inscrutable, monochrome and minimalistic, even by the standards of previous Black Metal.
However, by adapting analytical tools drawn from classical repertoire, such as voice-leading analysis and Schoenberg s concept of Grundgestalt, it is possible to understand the complex approach to melody and form which lies beneath the music’s harsh and homogenous exterior. Extensive motivic development and structural relationships between riffs contribute to a sense of musical unity, both within individual tracks, and across the album as a whole.
Through a case study of an emblematic album, this paper moves towards an analytical framework for Norwegian Black Metal more generally. By approaching the genre from an analytical perspective, we can begin to understand the ’inner circle’ from which we have been barred, and in doing so, speak back to current sociological understandings of this subculture.
Mark Johnson is a PhD Candidate at the Australian National University (ANU). Mark completed a Bachelor of Music in 2009, majoring in Musicology and also studying piano and fortepiano. In 2010, Mark was awarded the Bernhard Neumann Memorial Prize for best fourth year student at the ANU School of Music for his Honours theses on rhetoric and didacticism in Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and on elements of mysticism in Scriabin’s late musical language. Mark’s research interests include rhetoric, narrative, aesthetics and esotericism in music.
Mark’s PhD research is centred on a musical analysis and interpretation of Norwegian Black Metal, which allows him to explore his research interests in a new context of popular music.
[With apologies to Mark for missing the first couple of minutes]
The first Darkthrone example we (I) hear is from As Flittermice as Satans Spies, and Mark notes the relentlessness of some of the musical characteristics (tremolando picking etc), stating that he intends to filter them out for analytical purposes – we will see why shortly.
Elevating Form and Elevating Modulation. Dai Griffiths (Oxford Brookes University)
[abstract] The device known as, among other terms, truck-driver modulation, arranger’s modulation, and pump-up modulation, is an important procedure that merits a place in the harmony textbook. For a conference that brings together popular music and music analysis, it’s a topic nicely balanced: theoretically thin perhaps, critically derided certainly, but familiar and important in pop music. Problems in nomenclature reflect problems of definition, and this paper steers debate chiefly in two ways. First, the title marks a distinction between form and modulation through the shared epithet; the fresh emphasis on form can rapidly be presented. Secondly, however, the focus is upon the modulation, the harmonic procedure, which reveals a wide range of pieces working in consistent ways. A typology attends to distance of transposition and modulatory technique, adapting where possible standard types from harmony textbooks. Other interesting topics, such as the role played by the elevation in the piece as a whole, the role of arrangement, words and the effect of elevation, and questions of history and repertory, will likely be passed over.
Dai Griffiths is Senior Lecturer in Music at Oxford Brookes University, and author of monographs on Radiohead and Elvis Costello. His research is now mostly on words in songs, while his teaching is mostly in tonal harmony and analysis. Since 2009 he has divided his working time equally between the University and fatherhood.
The opening slide in Dai’s presentation is his reading list – including Muchler, Christopher Doll’s Rockin’ Out, Walter Everett’s Understanding Rock (1997) and Carl Schacter’s ‘Analysis By Key’. He hands out a list of his categories of modulation, and then we’re straight into the examples. He starts, delightfully, with Bernard Cribbins’ Right Said Fred, describing this as a ‘T1’ analysis, and then Rosemary Clooney’s God Bless America. His ambition is to create a set of categories through which we can classify all US/UK popular songs.
Temporality and Microrhythm in Groove-Based Musics. Analytical perspectives. Anne Danielsen, University of Oslo.
[abstract] The state of listening to groove-based music has been described as a condition of heightened presence in the musical here-and-now. This experience is often ascribed to the rhythms’ circular structural design and the groove’s repetitive form, which can last from several minutes to several hours depending on the context. However, also the presence of subtle microrhythmic features is crucial to the experience of groove. How can we analyze microrhythm in groove-based musics? And what can be said about form in groove-based music, which often seems to be completely devoid of form in the traditional sense? Last but not least, how can the analyses of temporality and micro rhythm inform us about the particular experience of time linked with dancing and listening to a groove? I will start with a discussion of previous empirical and theoretical work on rhythm within musicology, ethnomusicology and music psychology. Then I present a framework for analyzing groove-based music inspired by the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, and apply it to various groove- based musics. Here, I propose to engage with rhythm as an interaction between two analytically separable levels—virtual reference structures and actual sounds—that evokes the interaction between syntax and actual speech or writing in linguistics. I will use auditory analysis and various visual representations of sound, such as waveform curves and spectrograms, to explore the rhythmic design in detail. Finally, I touch upon how digital music technology has changed the feel of contemporary groove-based music.
Anne Danielsen is Professor in Musicology at the University of Oslo. She has published widely on rhythm, groove and music production in post-war African-American popular music and is the author of Presence and Pleasure: The Funk Grooves of James Brown and Parliament (Wesleyan University Press, 2006), for which she received the Lowens Book Award from the Society for American Music. She is also the editor of the anthology Musical Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction (Ashgate, 2010).
Anne’s opening question (inherent in much of her research) ‘how can we analyse micro-groove?’ and although she focuses on musical analytical perspectives today, she asserts that this does not preclude a cultural analytical approach. She starts with a brief discussion of previous work in musicology, ethnomusicology and music psychology. Read more…
The Words that Maketh Murder: Voicing Trauma in the Work of PJ Harvey. Sarah Boak (University of Southampton)
[abstract] The traumatised body features heavily in the work of PJ Harvey; bodies in trauma are explored on both an individual and collective level. This paper investigates the relationship between trauma, embodiment, disembodiment and the voice, in her recorded work. The corporeal experience of violence is explored through an analysis of the grain of the voice, and through bodily narratives.
The separation of the voice from the body as a post-traumatic strategy of coping is central to trauma studies literature, as subjectivity and identity become disembodied as part of this coping mechanism. Analysis of vocal strategies and technique in Harvey’s work, shows how the voice can be both embodied and disembodied in narratives of trauma.
The social construction of femininity has a particular relationship to violence. However, the material explored by Harvey also considers violence perpetrated by women. The upheaval of gender norms around femininity and violence in her work, and the switch from female victim to female perpetrator, finds its most potent expression in the embodied voice, where women sing narratives of violence. Kristeva’s explorations of the subject/object boundary permit an investigation of how vocal strategies of embodiment or disembodiment have diverse effects on narratives. On one hand, bodies can be brought to the fore of the narrative, connecting the voice and subjectivity back to the body, and presenting an opportunity for healing. On the other hand, the voice can be disembodied; distanced from the source of the sound, or from trauma itself.
Sarah opens with an historical overview of Polly Harvey’s work over 20 years, noting the tendency toward darker lyric themes, including ideas of body, embodiment and trauma. Citing Barthes as part of her theoretical framework, the broader PhD project is then described as the discussion of artists who explore bodily/corporeal experiences in their lyrics and sound worlds. Read more…
PopMAC day 1: The Matrix & Cultural Diagnostic Concepts in Analyzing Recordings of the Beatles… Craig Morrison #popmac
Using the Matrix & Cultural Diagnostic Concepts in Analyzing Recordings of the Beatles & Others. Craig Morrison, Concordia University
Peter Van der Merwe defines the matrix as a unit of musical communication such as a beat, note, or chord. Matrices group together concretely (songs, styles) and conceptually (sonata form, key, note), and come with implications, like the major scale with its fixed intervals, implying a sequence of chords. A matrix can carry embedded meanings: The major mode is bright, the minor dark; slow tempos express repose, fast tempos animation.
Vargish and Mook, investigating a scientific theory, a painting movement, and a form of literature in the early 20th century, coined the term ‘cultural diagnostic’ for advanced intellectual activities that serve to reveal the values of the period, with value defined as an underlying but identifiable characteristic [that is] pervasive, almost ubiquitous. Values, not necessarily new, can become dominant themes or qualities. A popular music style can be a cultural diagnostic as it contains historically defining values.
I developed these concepts in my doctoral thesis Psychedelic Music in San Francisco. In analyzing melodies, harmonies, rhythm, and lyrics while teaching The Music of the Beatles, I realized that as the band evolved, they not only became masters of embedded meanings (typically tied to emotions), which were integrated intuitively, I believe, into the compositions and arrangements, but their repertoire was an excellent example of a cultural diagnostic that contained the values of the period expressed as musical devices. That their use of matrices seems more sophisticated and extensive than other bands, of any era, may explain why their music continues to resonate. This paper will be illustrated by many examples, especially Beatles songs.
Craig begins with a discussion of the way the Beatles’ more unusual musical decisions (e.g. 7 bar phrases in Yesterday) often provide embedded meaning, enhancing the lyric (giving the example of the lyric immediately after bar 7 ‘suddenly’). He then provides a list of scholars (Dominic Pedler and many others) who have cited the way lyrics and music are analytically inseparable in The Beatles’ music. Read more…
PopMAC day 1: Incredible Regularity & Fast Evolution in the Beatles’ Harmonic Progressions. Philippe Cathé, Sorbonne #popmac
PopMAC day 1: Incredible Regularity & Fast Evolution in the Beatles’ Harmonic Progressions. Philippe Cathé, Sorbonne.
Does pop music really display its complexity in timbre and texture rather than in melody, harmony or form, as the ‘call for papers’ reads? Is this really the case for the Beatles? This paper addresses the questions through harmonic analysis, focusing on harmonic vectors, a theory based on a novel type of classification of harmonic root progressions. I will deal with all the songs written and sung by the Beatles. I will show that their harmonic practice bears greater similarity with that of composers of the late Renaissance rather than with Classical music. The evolution of the Beatles, year after year, indicates that their music bears even closer similarities with the music of Gabriel Fauré. A slight change in the percentages, from the middle of their career, suggests that we reconsider the impact on their music by vaudeville, jazz, comic songs and western ballads, especially during the second half of the sixties. Further results indicate the extraordinarily regular evolution of the virtual pop-rock side of their style, and highlight the strong influence they excerted on all subsequent pop music. Finally, my paper will explore the harmonic logic underlying their creative evolution, and suggest that harmonic analysis of pop music needs to go beyond the usual frame of tonality. In conclusion, I will make a case for ‘harmonic vectors’ as a general tool, above and beyond the Beatles.
Philippe Cathé is a reader in musicology at Paris-Sorbonne University. He is both a music theorist focusing on harmonic music from the end of Renaissance until the present time and a musicologist, specialist of the composers Charles Koechlin and Claude Terrasse and, more generally, of French music from the end of the nineteenth to the first half of the twentieth century. He works on developing Nicolas Meeùs’ theory of harmonic vectors. Besides this, he saves a part of his time to analyse the importance of sound in films. He has recently co- directed a book, “Charles Koechlin, compositeur et humaniste”, and he has just completed a work entitled “500 Years of Harmonic Music”.
Philippe opens with a discussion of the oft-stated negative views of popular musicology – that it is unworthy of harjmonic analysis because of its simplicity. He shoots down this argument by a hypothetical critique of Lichtenstein, who was not criticised (at least, not by art history) for using primary colours. Read more…