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 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.


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.

PopMAC day 3: Applying melodic analysis to infer the extent of plagiarism #popmac

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.

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).

Melodic Similarity: Concepts, Procedures, and Applications. Computing in Musicology 11. MIT Press, 1998.

Temperley, David. Music and Probability. MIT Press, 2007.

PopMAC Day 3: 42 years of Popular Music Analysis Teaching in 21 minutes #popmac

Tagg screenshotPopMAC Day 3: 42 years of Popular Music Analysis Teaching in 21 Minutes (2 years per minute). Philip Tagg #popmac

Philip accepts the ambitious timescale of today’s title, so states his intention to take an historical overview. Overview – Background and aim; ‘Tonality’; ‘Time’; ‘Totality’ or ‘form’; and ‘Que faire?’. He provides a brief CV in three acts – from practitioner and teacher with an increasing analytical approach since the 1970s. EPMOW articles came out 1998-2001 (encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World). He then notes the different undergraduate courses available (e.g. at Liverpool) – and highlights the problem of classification (using a wonderful ‘precipitation’ analogy). The history of tonal language, comparing variously ‘modal’, ‘pre-tonal’, ‘euroclassical’ and various arguably ‘post-tonal’ languages, which he asserts are not linear, observing that this is less a spectrum than an orbit as regards the analytical language of tonality.

Tonal terminology was naturally historically developed to define monometric music whose pitches divide tonally/chromatically into the octave, and that this is its strength and its limitation. We see some basic definitions with etymological language derivatives;

PopMAC day 3: Yes, the Psychedelic-Symphonic Cover, and ‘Every Little Thing’ #popmac

Yes, the Psychedelic-Symphonic Cover, and ‘Every Little Thing’. John Covach (University of Rochester)

[abstract] The 1969 debut album of the British band Yes contains a cover version of the Beatles ‘Every Little Thing’. The original Beatles version runs just over two minutes, while the Yes version extends the song to almost six minutes. The practice of taking a short pop song and developing it into more extended piece was perhaps made most famous by the American band, Vanilla Fudge, whose 1968 version of the Supremes ‘You Keep Me Hangin On’ (1966) clocks in at well over seven minutes. Inspired by Vanilla Fudge, Yes created a series of psychedelic-symphonic cover versions of this type, including ‘I See You’, ‘Something’s Coming’, ‘No Opportunity Necessary’, ‘No Experience Needed’, ‘Everydays’, and ‘America’.

This paper will examine how Yes’s version of ‘Every Little Thing’ is developed from the Beatles’ song, at times jamming on a static harmony, at other times developing melodic and harmonic ideas from the song itself, and ultimately recasting the actual sung parts of the original tune to amplify some of the characteristics present in the original. The practices found in this song will be compared to passages from the other Yes covers, as well as to the Yes originals that would soon dominate the band’s output. It will be argued that the practice of the psychedelic-symphonic cover becomes a part of the band’s composing process for epic numbers such as ‘Close to the Edge’ and ‘Awaken’, complex numbers that grow out of simple pop songs.

John’s paper opens with an outline of his approach – that he intends to focus exclusively on cover versions by Yes. Their practice in this early work was to develop complex extended arrangements based on very simple pop song originals; this approach was modelled on the covers of Vanilla Fudge.

PopMAC day 3: Analyzing Bad Music. Willemien Froneman #popmac

Analyzing Bad Music. Willemien Froneman (Stellenbosch University)

[abstract] Boeremusiek, a genre of predominantly white folk music in South Africa, is in many respects a fascinating topic of study. Its weird and wonderful anecdotal tradition and vibrant events offer rich opportunities for the analysis of postcolonial politics, race and class. Accordingly, my previous work on boeremusiek has focused mainly on the social, cultural and political contexts of boeremusiek. Kofi Agawu s 1997 attack on the new musicology, however, keeps ringing in my ears: that new musicologists have so far not found a use for the surplus of detail that theory-based analysis produces . Although Agawu was speaking about Western art music here, his arguments are no less relevant for the analysis of popular music. In the case of boeremusiek this surplus of detail is especially problematic. In many ways, boeremusiek aspires to an aesthetic of amateurism: participation is more important than tuning, for example, and loudness trumps the importance of careful sound engineering. Even accomplished musicians seem to hide their musical prowess in group contexts. Although the badness of boeremusiek has distinct and interesting socio-cultural meanings, there is no precedent for analyzing the musical surface of bad music. In this paper, I am after a hermeneutics of badness. To this end, I am willing to go against the grain of ethnomusicological ethics. By focussing on flaw rather than merit, I hope to draw new connections between ethnographic and musical analyses.

PopMAC day 2: Computer Assisted Analysis of the Music of Elton John #popmac

Elton JohnComputer Assisted Analysis of the Music of Elton John. Rupert Till & Phillip Allcock (University of Huddersfield)

[abstract] This paper explores what part computational methods can play in the analysis of popular music, and how they can be combined with other approaches to form a better understanding of the analytical subject. This project investigates the use of Humdrum, a powerful computer toolkit that in the past has mostly been used to analyse classical music. Although it uses musical scores as its source, It offers a high level of flexibility, and can provide valuable objective data about musical content.

The music of Elton John is used as a case study, and the use of traditional musicological analytical tools is compared with computational methods, as is what other approaches might be required to deal with cultural issues such as gender, identity, and sexuality. The value of Humdrum in exploring the changes in musical style between the four distinct eras of Elton John s music is discussed.

PopMAC day 2: This Record is Dedicated to Me: Rufus Wainwright’s Ego. Katherine Williams #popmac

RufusThis Record is Dedicated to Me: Rufus Wainwright’s Ego. Katherine Williams (Leeds College of Music)

[abstract] Canadian-American singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright comes from a long family tradition of publicly expressing emotion and anxiety through song. While Wainwright does not explicitly continue the pattern established by his mother (folk singer Kate McGarrigle) and father (folk singer Loudon Wainwright III), the majority of his songs use the first-person singular pronoun. In combination with the increasing prominence of his voice in the production of subsequent albums, this adds up to an overblown sense of ego and identity. This exaggerated ego is emphasized by the visual and musical flamboyance of Wainwright’s musical performances and output. Many of his songs contain explicit or indirect references to opera and the classical music tradition, which offers another avenue for drama and excess. His 2009 opera Prima Donna brought his name and music to new audiences, and is revealing (in subject matter and idiom) of his perception of himself as a leading figure in multiple musical styles.

In this paper, I will explore my hypothesis that the increasing prominence of Wainwright’s voice in the produced mix through his seven studio albums can be attributed to his ego and his growing comfort with his place in celebrity culture. By combining detailed analysis of his output with the philosophical perspectives of Barthes and Freud, alongside Allan Moore’s and Ruth Dockwray’s work on the ‘soundbox’ and the spatialisation of recorded sound, I will relate Wainwright’s sense of self to his music, providing a new perspective on the role of autobiography in indie rock.

Katherine’s paper begins biographically, describing Rufus personal and cultural background. We hear ‘Danny Boy’ – a track from the eponymous debut album (1998), and see an analysis of its soundfield (after the work of Dockwray and Moore). By 2001, with the second album Poses RW had embraced the ‘pop star lifestyle’; the vocal is higher in the mix and this is inferred to be a representation of a rising egocentricity in the approach. Katherine notes many different producers for Poses and we hear an audio excerpt of the title track. The number of in-jokes on the album’s credits are noted and briefly discussed.

PopMAC day 2: Into the Mythic. Richard Parfitt #popmac

Bob and WoodyInto 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.

PopMAC day 2: The Structural Role of Distortion in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal #popmac

MagazineThe Structural Role of Distortion in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Ciro Scotto (University of South Florida)

[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.

PopMAC day 2: Structure and Unity in Norwegian Black Metal. Mark Johnson #popmac

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.

DarkthroneHowever, 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.

PopMAC day 2: Elevating Form and Elevating Modulation. Dai Griffiths #PopMAC

Westlife: Shane helpfully indicates the probable direction of the impending T2 dominant-tonic juxtaposition modulation.

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.

PopMAC day 2: Pentatonic Scale Fragments in Pop-Rock Harmony. Christopher Doll #popmac

Pentatonic Scale Fragments in Pop-Rock Harmony. Christopher Doll (Rutgers University)

[abstract] The harmonic practice of much Anglophone popular music from the past fifty years represents a fusion of pentatonicism and diatonicism that resists analytical techniques designed with only the latter in mind. This paper offers both a theoretical and historical account of this kind of mixed pentatonic-diatonic harmony, starting with an analysis of ‘Green Onions’ by Booker T. and the MGs (1962), an early soul hit that is likely responsible for sparking an explosion of this harmonic practice in the mid-1960s. In ‘Green Onions,’ the harmonic framework is the traditional 12-bar blues, but embellishing this structure are chords with roots derived from the minor pentatonic scale, as heard in the opening motion F-Ab-Bb-F, or I-bIII-IV-I. Transpositions of this scalar fragment to the subdominant (Bb-Db-Eb-Bb) and dominant (C-Eb-F-C) result in still more embellishing chords (IV-bVI-bVII-IV and V-bVII-I-V), which, when taken altogether as a group, can easily be misinterpreted as having roots based in diatonicism. (The only ‘missing’ chord would be II, on G.) Using ‘Green Onions’ as a model, this paper shows how the transposition of pentatonic scale fragments can be a powerful explanatory idea when analyzing pentatonic-diatonic harmony from the mid-1960s onward, even when there is no clear connection to the blues (the style in which this practice originated), and even when the scales are not fragmented in an obvious way. Numerous artists from the past fifty years will be discussed, from The Temptations to Ozzy Osbourne, from Loverboy to The White Stripes.

Christopher Doll is Assistant Professor in the Music Department of the Mason Gross School of the Arts, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. He teaches theory, analysis, and composition, and his research focuses on recent popular and art music, particularly in regard to tonality and intertextuality.

Chris’s paper begins with the Sex Pistols’ Submission (1976) – he shows the power chord harmony loops of C-Eb-F-G-Bb, then C5-Bb5-Eb5-C5 and the chorus Eb5-F5-C5. He comments that the chords are built on an underlying pentatonic scale, noting that it is unusual in popular music to build the entire harmony’s root notes purely on pentatonics in this particular way. He gives us a ‘pentatonic effect’ equation that can be used to quantify the extent of pentatonicism in a work. The second example is All Day And All Of The Night (1964) and directs us to listen for the major thirds in some of the moving barre chords. This song is used as an illustration of the pentatonic/diatonic mixture that underpins much rock harmony. He asserts that pop-rock diatonicism is often therefore coloured by implicit chromaticism [I agree, and also with the way he nuances this point by observing that the resultant chromaticism is an artefact of the underlying pentatonic scale driving the root notes).

PopMAC day 2: System vs. Self. Jim Dickinson #popmac

FountainSystem vs. Self. Jim Dickinson (Senior Lecturer. Bathspa University)

Stockhausen once described the Beatles as ‘Do Re Mi with Electricity’. This simplification of the standard western 12 tone approach, misses another fundamental component of popular music performance and composition, that of context. This paper will seek to expose the hidden complexities that exist between the notes of a given scale, by looking at harmonic, temporal and cultural difference as a compositional tool. In addition it will explore the juxtaposition of sonic material plundered from multiple sources. This approach has become the norm for a new generation of composers and in this post post-modern free-for-all of cut up audio and sampling, it would be easy to assume that all the creative possibilities of these techniques had been exhausted. This paper will challenge that assumption, by suggesting a more systematic approach to analysing and exploring the creative potential of harmonic, cultural and temporal dissonance, both in the traditional organisation of pitch and rhythm and in the use of plundered audio. Using musical examples taken from released records and pedagogical practice this paper will suggest that these techniques offer an alternative view of the perceived sonic, harmonic and temporal perfection of much of popular music’s current output.

Jim Dickinson is a senior lecturer in Commercial Music at Bath Spa University. As a recording artist he had numerous hit singles and albums, including a U.K number 1, as well as composing for television and computer games. Recent performances include Download festival 2012 and The Isle of Wight festival, main stage, June 2013. His main research interest is visual music, with a focus on the influence of the painter Paul Klee on the work of specific composers.

Jim’s first slide is of a Paul Klee painting, representing his research interest in ‘visual music’. He discusses (from PopMAC day 1) commonalities between papers, and cites the apparent paradox of popular music’s surface musical simplicity and how difficult it is to achieve excellence within it. He notes, citing Anne Danielsen’s keynote on microrhythm, that as popular musicologists we speak not of the ‘grid’ but of the ‘bits in between’. He notes Klee’s work as being musician-like, given that the picture on display is a single gesture (a one-line drawing of a human face).

PopMAC day 1: Temporality and Microrhythm in Groove-Based Musics. #popmac

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.

PopMAC day 1: Prosodic (Intonation) Rhythm in Popular Music. Svetlana Chashchina #popmac

The Development of a System of Prosodic (Intonation) Rhythm in Popular Music. Svetlana Chashchina (Vyatka State University, Russia)


The notion of ‘prosodic rhythm’ was introduced in science by Russian musicologist Miron Kharlap in the 1960-80s. At that time his fundamental rhythmic conception was hardly accepted by traditional Soviet musicology, but was accepted in rhythmological researches and showed its efficiency in ethnomusicology too. In the post-perestroyka period (beginning from the end of 1990s), Kharlap’s conception of the development of rhythm in historical retrospective outlasts the true scientific Renaissance. At the same time this conception is little known abroad.

The aims of this paper are: 1) to introduce the basic position of Kharlap rhythmic conception, with the particular attention to the system of prosodic rhythm, which is well adapted to analyzing archaic musical cultures, cultures of different forms of improvisation and many contemporary genres both in academic and popular avant-guard; 2) to illustrate different ways this kind of temporal-rhythmic organization can be used various popular-music genres, focusing on free jazz, hip-hop (recitative party), new age and alternative music. The compositions of Miles Davis, Dan Gibson and Björk will be analyzed as varied instances of prosodic rhythm.

Svetlana Chashchina Was born in 1966, Kirov (Russia). She has two master’s diplomas in art criticism from Nizhniy Novgorod State Conservatory, (MA) and the Russian Academy of Fine Arts. In 2000, Svetlana defended the thesis ‘Conception of musical duration (on an example of Claude Debussy’s instrumental works)’ at the Russian Institute of Art History, St-Petersburg. Her main research interests are: 1. Twentieth-century art, particularly music, media-art, architecture; 2. Issues of reflection of time and space in human culture (chronobiological, psychological, anthropological, cultural aspects); 3. Using the synergetic paradigm in social and humanitarian sciences. She has more than 50 published papers.

[JB note with apologies to Svetlana – the slides went by very fast and I missed quite a lot of the analytical detail. I will publish a link to her full paper if/when it appears online]

Svetlana begins with a discussion of the qualitative and quantitative types of rhythmic prosody.

PopMAC day 1: The Words that Maketh Murder: Voicing Trauma in the Work of PJ Harvey #popmac

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.

PopMAC day 1: The Matrix & Cultural Diagnostic Concepts in Analyzing Recordings of the Beatles… Craig Morrison #popmac

Single labelUsing 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.

PopMAC day 1: Incredible Regularity & Fast Evolution in the Beatles’ Harmonic Progressions. Philippe Cathé, Sorbonne #popmac

RainPopMAC 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.

PopMAC 2013 – introduction

UOLI’m here (with fellow Bath Spa popular music scholars Jim Dickinson and Richard Parfitt) at the PopMAC conference at the University of Liverpool – see Our opening ceremony, from hosts Kenneth Smith and Michael Spitzer, opens with the observation that this conference addresses the problem so often asked (of cultural studies) by popular musicology – “Yes, but what about the music?”. IASPM 2013 took the most inclusive possible approach to popular music study – psychologists, law scholars, cultural theorists, sociologists and musicologists. This week at PopMAC, it’s all about the analysis of the music. As Kenneth puts it –“what happens at PopMAC… happens.” Guest speakers are Anne Danielsen (University of Oslo – who presented at IASPM last week); Walter Everett (University of Michigan); Allan Moore (University of Surrey). So let’s see what, er, happens!