Irving Berlin: Nine Rules for Writing Popular Songs

  • Article and interview by Frank Ward O’Malley (1875-1932)
  • Originally published in ‘The American Magazine’, Volume 90, October 1920
  • Transcribed by Joe Bennett from the Google Books version, January 2020
Irving Berlin c.1920

JB comment: This semester, I’m very pleased to be teaching one of Berklee’s ‘survey’ classes – History of Rock. As part of the ‘prehistory’ session we look at commercial songwriting in the early part of the 20th century, and during my prep for the class, a helpful musicologist colleague directed me to a 1920 interview with Irving Berlin, in which he provides his ‘Nine Rules’. Although these rules have been quoted and summarized in several books about Berlin’s life, the full text of the original interview was not available online. However, the original magazine from 1920 has been digitized by Google, so I spent some time today manually transcribing it for posterity.

The full article is around 3000 words in length, so for those who just want to read the Nine Rules, I’ve pasted them up front in this blog post, after which you can read the whole piece, with the Rules at the end. In blog form, we have the added benefit of Spotify embeds, so you can hear and download the song he describes “My Wife’s Gone to the Country” (the song and the sheet music are now helpfully out of copyright).

The big question, of course, for any songwriter or musicologist reading this is: do Berlin’s Nine Rules still apply today? I’m sure he would have been pleased to know that 100 years after he gave that interview, songwriters of the 2020s were considering his rules while listening to the popular songs of the day.

Irving Berlin Gives Nine Rules for Writing Popular Songs

  • First – The melody must musically be within the range of the average voice of the average public singer. The over-voice professional singer is the song writer’s salesman, the average-voice public his customers. The salesman-singer cannot do justice to a song containing notes too high, too low, or otherwise difficult to sing; and the customer will not buy it.
  • Second – The title, which must be simple and easily remembered, must be “planted” effectively in the song. It must be emphasized, accented again and again, throughout verses and chorus. The public buys songs, not because it knows the song, but because it knows and likes the title idea. Therefore sacrifice lines you are proud of, even sacrifice rhyme and reason if necessary, in order to accentuate the title line effectively.
  • Third – A popular song should be sexless, that is, the ideas and the wording must be of a kind that can be logically voiced by either a male or a female singer. Strive for the happy medium in thought and words so that both sexes will want to buy and sing it.
  • Fourth – The song should contain heart interest, even if it is a comic song. Remember, there is an element of heart-longing in the most wildly syncopated “Ah’m goin’ back to Dixie” darky “rag” ever written.
  • Fifth – The song must be original in idea, words, and music, Success is not achieved, as so many song writers mistakenly believe, by trying to imitate the general idea of the great song hit of the moment.
  • Sixth – Your lyric must have to do with ideas, emotions, or objects known to everyone. Stick to nature – not nature in a visionary, abstract way, but nature as demonstrated in homely, concrete, everyday manifestations.
  • Seventh – The lyric must be euphonious – written in easily singable words and phrases in which there are many open vowels.
  • Eighth – Your song must be perfectly simple. Simplicity is achieved only after much hard work, but you must attain it.
  • Ninth – The song writer must look upon his work as a business, that is, to make a success of it he must work and work, and then WORK.

A Night At The Opera: The Music of Queen #berklee

On December 5th 2019, Berklee staged its annual Singers’ Showcase, and the theme this year was A Night at the Opera—The Music of Queen. As a lifelong fan, I was honored to be asked to write the program notes for the evening’s performance.

Each song entry features a reference to the original Queen recording, and the official video embedded, plus a description of the approach the students took for the Berklee version. Selected excerpts from the show itself will appear online sometime in the future, but for now you can get a great behind-the-scenes flavour of the quality of the performance by watching Marshall Lilly’s terrific drumcam footage.

The Berklee student performers, with special guest drummer, Berklee President Roger H Brown.
Photograph: Kelly Davidson Studio


Drumcam video: Marshall Tilly

Introduction: “I see a miniature libretto from a fan”

Anatomy of the Hit: Bruno Mars and Cardi B ‘Please Me’

[JB note: This article was originally commissioned by TIDAL, and is part of a series – see links below. Parental advisory: adult themes in the lyrics.]

  • Songwriters: Cardi B / Bruno Mars / James Edward II Fauntleroy / The Stereotypes (Ray Charles II Mccullough, Ray Romulus, Jeremy Reeves, Jonathan Yip)
  • Tempo: 67BPM
  • Run time: 3:21
  • Chord loop: |Bm7    C#7(#5b9) | E/F#    F#7(b9) |
  • TIDAL audio: Please Me

Today, we will be talking more about the music than we will be talking about the sex – I mean, the lyrics. Usually with a song analysis, I try to figure out how the words and music work together, and highlight particular phrases that stand out in the musical arrangement. But given that Please Me is a ‘slow jam’, we don’t want all this musicology to kill the mood, so we will mostly let Cardi’s x-rated rapping (and Bruno’s vocal paroxysms) speak for themselves. TIDAL is all about the fidelity, so along with master-quality audio we’ve included the full, un-bleeped lyric. Insert your own asterisks according to taste.

Anatomy of the hit: Ariana Grande’s ‘7 rings’

Anatomy of the Hit: Ariana Grande’s “7 rings”
Fact_File

As a music theory geek, I love to get inside songs and figure out why we like them. There’s something beautiful about the ability of a mainstream hit to bring people together. And when the songwriter and singer is as extraordinary a talent as Ariana Grande, we can be sure we’re putting the very finest pop product in our ears.

So let’s dive in, intro first, middle bit in the middle, and outro at the end, as has been the way since the dawn of time.

TIDAL video

Intro – 8 bars [0:00]

We hear a single reverbed synth sound playing half notes, with occasional 8th note passing notes, and no indication of what’s to come. That’s sparse, even for a trap-pop intro. At this point, we don’t even know if we’re hearing 140BPM (fast pop) or 70BPM (slow ballad).

The Art of Listening To Songs #apme2018

Randy Klein, songwriter and SongU coach.

Randy introduces himself and talks briefly about his work in music education, including his publications, talks, and his experience of listening to other songwriters’ work over many years. Today he’s sharing with us the structure of his 16-week songwriting course, and he begins with the philosophy of definition i.e. the question ‘what is a song?’. He suggests that most technical descriptions of a song fall short of the mark of describing its subjective effects on listeners, noting how difficult this intangible would be to achieve. He provides a traditional melody-lyric-harmony definition of a song (i.e. omitting the Sound Recording or arrangement), and then asks the potential student question “If [a song is too intangible to hold], then how can I learn about it?”.

To the great amusement of the audience, Randy now talks us (literally, talks us) through the whole of the lyric to James Brown’s ‘I Got You’, demonstrating that it’s clearly a love song. He now separates the [love] song from the arrangement, describing the horn lick and Brown’s vocal as ‘ear candy’, building on the core lyric’s emotional intent.

Eurovision 2018 preview – top 10

It’s Eurovision eve!

[For any Americans who are unfamiliar with the ESC, here’s the background]

Image result for eurovision 2018 logoBack in 2010 I live-tweeted some song commentary as the show was going out. Since 2011 I’ve been live-blogging the show, with real-time music analysis and commentary, and attempting to predict the winners before the voting begins.

Since 2015 I’ve been in the USA, and for the last two years have had to pre-blog due to work commitments and the time difference, but this year I’m pleased to say true live-blogging is back and I’ll be sitting down at 3pm ET/8pm UK time to be live-blogging. So please go to http://www.joebennett.net at those times and refresh your browser after each song. I’ll be chord-analysing, BPM detecting and quality-scoring each song as we go.

Here’s a preview of the top 10 watched YouTube Eurovision song videos in April. I note that an early favourite was Belgium, who didn’t make it through the semi-finals.

 

Did Lana Del Rey copy Radiohead?

radiohead-pablohoney-albumartThis week, Lana Del Rey stated that she is being sued for copying Radiohead’s 1992 song Creep in her 2017 release, Get Free.

First, some facts…

  • Both songs use the same chord sequence: | I | I |  | III | III |  | IV | IV | iv |  iv |
    • Creep is in G major, so | G | G | B | B | C  | C | Cm | Cm |
    • Get Free is in Bb major, so | Bb | Bb | D | D | Eb | Eb | Ebm | Ebm |
  • They are both mid-tempo (Creep is around 92 BPM; Get Free is around 102BPM).
  • They both have a similar rhythmic feel – straight 8s 4/4 time, in 8-bar sections (this is a similarity but an unremarkable one, given that it applies to a huge number of songs).

…and some history…

  • Creep is part-borrowed from Albert Hammond’s The Air That I Breathe (1972) – later a hit for The Hollies. According to The Guardian, Radiohead gave Hammond and his co-writer Mike Hazlewood a credit in the Pablo Honey album liner notes.

Here are the three songs in reverse order of release:

Musical and Lyric Traits in the UK’s favourite Christmas songs

There’s a news story right now about the ‘Happiest Christmas song’, a commerical research project I was asked to undertake recently to provide statistics about the characteristics of the UK’s favourite Christmas songs (Spotify streams, Christmas 2016). It resulted in the following song, penned by the remarkable Harriet Green and Steve Anderson, two super-talented and mega-credited UK songwriters. The song is below – I think it came out great, but judge for yourself.

Academics who are interested – here’s the analysis paper – a simple list of musical and lyric traits by popularity, with some speculative commentary about cultural trends (complete with extra-Christmassy red and green data charts). There’s also a ‘making of’ video at the bottom of this post.

Bennett, Joe (2017). Musical and Lyric Traits in the UK’s favourite Christmas songs. Boston/online. joebennett.net.

Here’s the behind the scenes video of the recording session, with commentary from songwriter Harriet Green.

Slapback echo #arp #arp2017

Tor Halmrast: Sam Phillips: Slap Back Echo, Luckily in Mono

elvisAbstract: “Slap back echo” was created by Sam Phillips for Elvis Presley´s early Memphis recordings. Using cepstrum and autocorrelation, we find that the tape delay used in Sun Studios was 134-137 ms, which is so long that the echo is perceived as a single, distinct echo in the time domain, and not the comb filter coloration of timbre in the frequency domain defined as Box-Klangfarbe. Such coloration would be perceived if a distinct, separate, reflection gave a comb filter with a distance between the teeth (CBTB: Comb-Between-Teeth-Bandwidth) comparable to the critical bandwidth along the basilar membrane in the cochlea. When Elvis changed to RCA Victor´s studio in Nashville, “RCA was anxious to recreate the “slapback” echo…To add them to Elvis’ vocals Chet [Atkins] and engineer Bob Farris created a pseudo “echo chamber” by setting up a speaker at one end of a long hallway and a microphone at the other end and recording the echo live”. Analysis of these recordings gives that the echo is somewhat shorter (114 ms and 82 ms), and much more diffuse, so “slap echo” was not actually recreated. The main findings is that even though the delay time of the Sun Studio “slap tape echo” is long, the echo is still perceived as rather “close”, because the echo is in mono. Panned in stereo, the feeling of being inside a small room would disappear. In addition, we analysed also a shorter delay, as for a possible reflection from the floor of the studio back to the singer´s microphone. These results are more unclear, but we found that such shorter delay would have given Box-Klangfarbe, but if this actually was a floor reflection, the measured deviation of the delay time must mean that the singer moved his head during the recordings (a highly reasonable assumption for Elvis!)

[JB note: Tor’s presentation was outstanding, but it was also extremely technical in terms of physics and data, so I’m not sure I fully did it justice with this live blog post. With this limitation in mind, I’ve posted several of his slides to help the more technical reader].

Tor begins (after a disclaimer that he is not an Elvis fan) with some background about Sun Studios and their recording environment, and some technical analyses of slapback parameters – comb filtering, phase, delay and frequency. We hear the delay from Heartbreak Hotel, leading into a more detailed discussion of how a very short delay creates comb filtering. If you are 1.751m from a wall, ou get a time delay of 10ms, and a Comb Between Teaath Bandwidth (CBTB) of 100Hz. Importantly it is not possible to get rif of this effect with EQ. So if you put a source/mic this close to a wall you will hear this artefact.

Producers of Pop, Rock and Classical Music #arp #arp2017

Differences and Similarities in the Creative Agency of Producers of Pop, Rock and Classical Music

Tuomas Auvinen, University of Turku

Screenshot 2017-12-01 05.41.55.pngAbstract: In my presentation, I will explore differences and similarities in the creative agency of the producer in the production process of urban pop music produced in a home studio, rock music produced in a conventional studio facility and classical concert hall music produced in a concert hall setting. Starting from the premise of record production being a collaborative effort, I approach agency as the capacity to make and effect decisions within a structure or even to alter it to some extent, and creativity as contributing to the domain of existing works through exercising aesthetic decision-making. Based on these understandings of agency and creativity, I will examine how different cultures in different production settings and different studios conceived as cultural spaces affect the construction of the producer’s agency within creative communities in the production process. Furthermore, I will discuss how differences in understandings of the ontology of the music contribute to the level of creativity, i.e. the contribution to the domain of existing works, that a producer agent can possess. I base my presentation on extensive ethnographic fieldwork of three case studies on production processes, which took place in the course of 2015-2017. The presentation will summarize and discuss some of the central findings of my forthcoming PhD dissertation. This presentation is intended to be in the short presentation format.

Tuomas’s PhD research, which is nearing completion this year, relates to music producers – what kind of creative agents are they, and how is creative agency formed in production environments?

The producer’s vision #arp2017 #arp

The producer’s vision: A study into the multi- faceted cognitive design of the popular music recording aesthetic

Brendan Anthony, Griffith University

IMG_0067Abstract: Research into popular music record production and its associated creative practice has highlighted that a song’s production is often influenced by a multitude of stimuli and these can be musically, sonically and socio-culturally diverse. Technology’s influence on musical aesthetics is also at the forefront of scholarly investigations because the democratization of recording technology suggests that the musical spaces producers operate in have changed. Artistic direction however, is still the producer’s responsibility and the current landscape for record production is filled with a multitude of creative practice options that shape the recording aesthetic. These can include live or overdubbed performances and electronic programming versus acoustic instrumentation and when combined with technological choices these decisions ultimately frame the creative stages of pre-production, recording, and mixing. So how does the producer ensure a production process that engages appropriate influences, and subsequently manifests a suitable musical result?
This paper theorizes that the producer’s vision is the constant underpinning of the production rationale and therefore this subsequently designs the recording process and affects musical and sonic aesthetics. It is here that the producer uses multi-modal perception to target genre related outcomes of musicality and the sonic palate, and nurture the capturing of appropriate performances. However the paper argues that this cognitive vision is an individualised trait that is inspired by a ‘field of knowledge’ from which producers innovate. This paper reports on a qualitative investigation into the producer’s vision via a survey of five producers whose experience range from national success in Australia to international acclaim. The paper demonstrates how the data analysis unpacks the discourse surrounding the producer’s vision and is supported by research from the fields of creativity, musicology and popular music production.

Brendan begins by siting his personal research within the producer’s ‘vision’, and he opens with a clip from the movie Begin Again, which describes the producer’s thoughts as he hears a low-key live performance and mentally adds instruments.

Keynote: Bernard Löhr #arp #arp2017

mixerbord.jpgFor the first time ever, this ARP opens with a rather lovely piano recital by our hosts, which serves as a (surprisingly romantic) introduction to our keynote speaker, Swedish producer Bernard Löhr (discog).

Bernard greets us by noting that he has two great interests – recording music, and cars. He promises to focus on music today, and talk about cars only if time allows!

Binaurality and stereophony in 60s/70s pop #iaspm2017

Franco Fabbri: Conservatorio di Parma, Università di Milano (Italy)

Binaurality, stereophony, and popular music in the 1960s and 1970s

Mixing desk
In the early days of stereo recording, engineers would often mix without headphones, even if the final mix was intended for binaural listening.

ABSTRACT: Stereophonic headphones were first marketed in the USA in 1958. Binaural listening (via headphones) became one of the favourite ways for fans to listen to rock albums in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Stereophonic mixes, however, were not necessarily designed for binaural listening. Sound engineers rarely used headphones, and generally preferred to mix without wearing them, with some explaining that they couldn’t get a proper balance if they didn’t listen to the studio monitors. Often they would listen to the result of a mix with cheap shelf loudspeakers, or even car loudspeakers, claiming that those would be the most common sound sources used by the audience; strangely enough, headphones were not used for this purpose in the studio. While the association and historical overlap of stereophonic mixes, advances in studio technology and consumer audio, and the rise of psychedelia and progressive rock have been commented (more in accounts on or by individual artists/bands/producers than in general terms) the issues of binaurality, of stereophony, and of their relations with popular music has seldom been explored. The paper will focus on the musicological aspects of binaurality and stereophony, both at poiesic and aesthesic levels.

Franco opens with a history of the study of binaurality, leading us to the development of stereo audio in the 50s/60s, which provided two [and this is key to what follows] separate channels. He makes the point about the difference between binaural listening on headphones (which separates the signals completely) and binaural listening (which includes phase/delay between the signals). In the earliest experiments in binaurality, headphones were used first – and listeners considered headphones more ‘realistic’ than speaker-based stereo. Headphones were also not an option in the early days of cinema (he cites Disney’s Fantasia as one of the earliest movies with 2 channel sound)… because of the social aspect. Franco illustrates “it was difficult to kiss your loved one in the cinema wearing headphones”!

Global Folk drumming pedagogy (Sweden) #iaspm2017

Daniel Akira Stadnicki: 
University of Alberta, Canada

Towards a ‘Global Folk’ Drumming Pedagogy?: Percussive Innovations and Legacies in Swedish Folk Music

Petter_Berndalen_Foto_Andy_Liffner_1_Web
Swedish drummer Peter Bernadalen

ABSTRACT: This paper explores the drumming and percussion techniques found in Nordic ‘global folk’ music (Hill, 2007), emphasizing some of the pedagogical questions, issues, and opportunities that emerged in this research. Concentrating primarily on the ‘innovationist’ branch (Kaminsky 28-30; 2012) of Swedish folk music and the work of drummer Petter Berndalen, this presentation expands upon some of the key features of contemporary Nordic folk drumming as potential resources for ‘world’ drum kit performance and instruction. These include: timbre as a pedagogical resource; the subordination to melody instruments; and the distinct melodic rhythm of the polska as a radical drumming paradigm. This presentation will incorporate stylistic analyses, interviews with Swedish and Norwegian folk drummers, and reflections on my own performance-practice (including brief demonstrations). Drummers are often musical outliers in many established folk traditions, and drumming—particularly in trap/kit configurations—remains an overlooked topic in folk/roots music scholarship. However, Nordic drummers have crafted unique ways of accompanying folk musicians, generating new percussive traditions, often on modified kits using mounted and hand- held tambourines. Through highlighting the work and oral histories of Nordic folk drummers, this paper will contribute new research on folk musicianship and music pedagogy.

Hill, Juniper. “Global Folk Music” Fusions: The Reification of Transnational Relationships and the Ethics of Cross-Cultural Appropriations in Finnish Contemporary Folk Music,” in Yearbook for Traditional Music 39 (2007), 50-83.

Kaminsky, David. Swedish Folk Music in the Twenty-First Century: On the Nature of Tradition in a Folkless Nation (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2012).

After a brief contextual intro, we see a selection of kits, which include traditional kits, augmented with djembes, cajons, plus various Indian and Japanese drums etc.

Two Sides of the Moon: the virtuosic & primitive in rock drumming #iaspm2017

Mandy Smith: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/Case Western Reserve University

Two Sides of the Moon: Mediating the Virtuosic and the Primitive in Rock Drumming

Keith moon
Keith Moon – “controlled chaos” deconstructed.

ABSTRACT: In live performances, The Who’s drummer Keith Moon flails his arms wildly, dazzles the crowd with classic “drummer face,” and dominates the entire kit, leaving no drum or cymbal unbeaten. In the midst of this pandemonium, however, he executes technically masterful passages and maintains a steady beat. Moon’s bodily performance style produces a visual and aural clash that embodies both chaos and control. He somehow manages to epitomize both “primitiveness” and virtuosity—two concepts often at odds in Western culture. This paper draws on recent scholarship on the body and groove, particularly Robert Fink’s concept of rhythmic tension and release, to argue that drums operate as a site where rock’s value structures are mediated because of the instrument’s ability to signify simultaneously the primitive and the virtuosic. I analyze two Who songs, “My Generation” (1965) and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (1971), to demonstrate how Moon manifests musically an important conflict in rock values—its competing aesthetic ideals of cerebral complexity and raw simplicity. By embodying both values simultaneously, Moon complicates debates over rock authenticity and lineages. This paper ultimately argues for an analytical consideration of the oft- neglected drummer to gain a deeper understanding of rock’s meanings and pleasures.

 

Mandy opens with an excerpt of Keith Moon playing Won’t Get Fooled Again, pulling “at least four awesome drummer faces” while playing to the headphone beat of the ARP synthesizer backing track, simultaneously achieving the primitive and virtuosic.

Popular song & literary scholarship (Brazil) #iaspm2017

Cláudia Neiva de Matos: Universidade Federal Fluminense

Popular song and literary scholarship: interactions between criticism and artistic creation

[ABSTRACT ONLY]

vm-e-baden
Vinícius de Moraes (right); one of several Brazilian poet/songwriters discussed in Marta’s presentation.

ABSTRACT: Brazilian popular song and literature have long been intertwined. The 19th-century “modinhas” were often created by setting written poems to music and in the radio era romantic songs often had literary style lyrics. Since bossa-nova and tropicalismo, an increasing number of artists, from Vinícius de Moraes to Arnaldo Antunes, have composed poems as well as lyrics. Besides, since the 1980s, as popular music gets more space and relevance as a subject of academic research, a new kind of connection arises, linking scholars and popular songwriting: professors and critics of the literary and linguistic fields, such as José Miguel Wisnik and Luiz Tatit, are also renowned songwriters and singers. They never or seldom write poetry, but they produce important books and articles about popular song. This paper will approach the artistic and critical production of those and other “mastersingers”, in order to discuss the following working hypothesis: when creating and performing songs get together with researching and analysing them, both art and science are affected; art offers new aesthetic proposals and forms; academic and critical work develop new perceptions and perspectives, with remarkable results to the analytical and theoretical approach of popular song.

[no commentary – with apologies to Cláudia, I arrived late to this session, but her discussion of the overlap between Brazilian poets, academics, and songwriters was fascinating and I look forward to reading her work if she writes it up at a future date].

Keynote: popular music studies / jazz studies #iaspm2017

André Doehring: Institute for Jazz Research, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz, Austria

Fish and fowl? Mapping the no-man’s-land between popular music studies and jazz studies

 

louis-armstrong3.jpg
Louis Armstrong stated many times that he loved Guy Lombardo’s Royal Canadians. Was he more open-minded than some jazz and pop musicologists? [spoiler: yes]
OUTLINE: In his article ‘Is jazz popular music?”, Simon Frith (2007: 10) has noticed that the “separation of jazz and popular music studies is an indisputable fact of academic life”. Indeed, due to their historically different developments, both disciplines have established sets of aesthetic norms, separate institutional bases, and specific methods to identify and cope with the musics they have found worth studying. Recently, Matt Brennan (2017) has shown the influence of music journalism on these scholarships. Ultimately, both succeeded – more (jazz studies) or less (popular music studies), at least in the German-speaking world – as distinctive disciplines with developed curricula. 

This keynote argues, by pointing to examples throughout the history of recorded music, that this neat division of the musical world is precarious because it prevents a fertile exchange between jazz and popular music studies; for instance, the development of (still) so-called New Jazz Studies during the last twenty years has only occasionally led to serious discussion in the popular music field. Moreover, this separation excludes a lot of musics, musicking and musicians in between these two fields. In particular, by using an example from the realm of electronic dance music, the lecture advocates a joint effort to fill the void in between the front lines of jazz and popular music that, potentially, may lead to structural changes in teaching and researching jazz and popular music.

REFERENCES:

BIO: André Doehring is professor for jazz and popular music research and head of the Institute for Jazz Research at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz (Austria). Before, he has been assistant professor at the University of Gießen (Germany) where he received his doctorate in musicology and had studied musicology and sociology. He is president of the International Society for Jazz Studies (IGJ), member of the scientific board of the German Society for Popular Music Studies (GfPM), co-editor of GfPM’s online journal Samples and since 2017 of IGJ’s yearbook Jazz Research and Studies in Jazz Research. His main research topics are the social histories and historiographies of popular music and jazz, analysis, and music and media. Currently, he is involved into establishing a European network for transnational jazz studies.

PUBLICATIONS: Song Interpretations in 21st Century Pop Music (Eds. Appen/Doehring/Helms/Moore, Ashgate, 2015); “Andrés’s ‘New For U’ – new for us. On analysing electronic dance music” (Ashgate 2015); “Modern Talking, musicology and I: analysing the forbidden fruit” (Routledge 2016); “Male journalists as ‘artists’: the ideological production of recent popular music journalism” (Éditions des Archives Contemporaines 2017).

[with apologies to André for not hearing the start due to background noise as people came in]

André laments the relative historical disinclination of academe to be prepared to engage musicologically with pop and jazz. He states that there is still a percentage bias against non-classical musics, citing as evidence the tiny proportion of popular (as opposed to classic) musicology professorships in German universities. He leads us through the history of some pioneers, including Marshall Stearns, who founded the Institute for Jazz Studies in 1953 New Jersey, USA.  We are led through the gradual growth of jazz studies in (mainly US) Higher Education from the 1950s onward.

Vesta Tilley and the 19th-century music industry in the UK #iaspm2017

Nancy Bruseker: Independent scholar

How to find out more about the 19th-century music business in the UK

Tilley
Vesta Tilley (1864-1952), in and out of drag (source – Wikipedia).

ABSTRACT: Technological advances in music distribution have radically changed business and audience practices and the way music itself is made by musicians. However, these technological developments affect not only music being made and sold today. Modern technological advances have made sources like historical newspapers and genealogical records more accessible, allowing researchers the opportunity to begin to reconstruct musical lives and musical worlds beyond the 20th century, including ones that predate recorded sound. This paper uses sources like the British Library’s 19th century newspaper archive, the British Newspaper Archive, Ancestry and Digimaps historic maps, to reconstruct one British music hall performer’s, Vesta Tilley’s, touring schedule across five decades – 1870s to the 1910s – in order to show what a music industry structured around live performance, rather than record production, looked like. The data allows an extensive view into Vesta’s working and touring life: how often she was on tour, how far she went, and how her work patterns changed from childhood to adulthood to retirement, and how her repertoire interacted with these developments. In brief, without an album release schedule it was relentless. Furthermore, the data illustrates how a large number of independent venues gradually gave way to a series of syndicates (Moss, Stoll, De Frece, and others), changing the shape of the tour, providing us a view of the birth of the equivalent of the 21st century Academy circuit in the UK: the evolution of the business of entertainment up to the earliest days of sound recording.

Nancy starts by outlining that her research, though historical, is nonetheless digitally powered, and that the 19th century music industry might have much to tell us about how later music industry models evolved.

Latin-American popular music: “Paraguay Purahei” #iaspm2017

Gabriel S. S. Lima Rezende – UNILA (Brazil)

The problem of Latin-American popular music: an analysis of “Paraguay Purahei” album (2014)

Paraguay Purahei.jpgABSTRACT: This paper aims to discuss the problem of modernization of popular Latin American music genres from the analysis of “Paraguay Purahei” (2014), the first CD released by the eponymous trio. The theoretical framework that defines the approach belongs to the field of sociology of music, specifically the branch that takes the sound-musical materiality as an essential dimension of social analysis. As part of a broader research on the problem of modernization in popular musics of Latin-America, this proposal focuses on the analysis of the phonograms that constitute the CD mentioned above whereby the effort to understand the meaning of the “modernizing action” is established. This action configures itself in the intertwining of the choice of repertoire, composed exclusively by referential pieces of the traditional repertoire of Paraguay’s popular music, with the compositional-performative procedures used in the treatment of the traditional material. Understanding the meaning of this action implies the identification of idiomatic elements that link the chosen pieces to the traditional repertoire, the types of procedures used in redesigning this traditional material, and the interpretation of how these are interlaced.

Blame It on the Boogie – criteria for good pop music? #iaspm2017

Presenter: Dirk Stederoth – Universität Kassel, Institut für Philosophie

Mick Jackson
Mick Jackson, who wrote and released the original version of Blame It On The Boogie in 1978.

ABSTRACT: The presentation focuses on the question of whether there are criteria for measuring the quality of a pop song that go beyond the scope of a mere musical structural analysis. As many examples demonstrate, such structural analysis, which, according the criteria thereof, is derived from the aesthetic study of classical art music, offers rather unsatisfactory results when applied to pop music. In addition, it is questionable whether harmonic or rhythmic complexity, for example, is even a suitable criterion for the analysis of pop music. Against the background of this problematic situation, the presentation proposes an approach based on musical aesthetics, which assumes a fundamental tension between ideational musical structures and their categories (tonality, rhythmicity/the study of meter and composition) as well as the realization of music. The thesis of this approach proposes that pop music can not so much be considered from the structural perspective of this debate but instead from the perspective of realization. However, studying pop music for the perspective of realization requires comparable categories. These categories in the presentation at hand are sound, groove and performance. After this approach has been presented, I will also apply these categories of realization by means of a comparative analysis of the two versions of the pop song “Blame It on the Boogie” by Mick Jackson and The Jackson Five in order to establish the heuristic value of these categories.

Dirk opens his presentation with these historically concurrent versions of ‘Blame It On The Boogie’. We hear The Jacksons’ more famous version, then the earlier German version by original songwriter ‘Mick Jackson’ (no relation). Dirk tells the apocryphal story of how the song was discovered at the MIDEM show in the 1970s, and then immediately debunks this legend, stating that it was actually a more straightforward publishing deal because The Jacksons needed a more successful hit than their previous one.