This week was the first of a series of lectures on how music REFERS meaning. What I am interested in is any examples of how music imparts meaning using – Saussures simple dyadic model as a starting point. The question is – How does the musical signifier relate to the signified in music? As you will see in the powerpoint – I try and differentiate between the often connotative power of music – and the denotative impact of image and text. However, I do accept that if we take at face value some of Tagg’s thoughts in his new book – the meaning that music pervades can actually be considered more precise than words – an example of which I will refer to below.
In order to get students to consider some of these ideas – I initially asked them to listen to extracts of the following two pieces of music – annotating the feelings the music had on them.
After asking them to document some of the emotions and impacts the music had – I then played the following two videos.
The Goricki piece was particularly interesting. Many students stated the obvious descriptors such as ‘sad’, ‘disruptive’, ‘melancholic’ etc. Then came one answer that at first instance appeared off the wall – ‘Disney’ ! At first call – it appears that this is not an accurate descriptor. Then – one student pointed out the fact that Disney is often cited as a Nazi sympathizer – it all then begins to make sense!! As Tagg suggests far more eloquently that me – it is not the music that is conveying ‘vague’ meaning – but the words we use to describe it. It is therefore not as polysemic as we think.
Anyway – read through this – give it some thought – and message me/leave comments as usual if of interest
<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”https://www.slideshare.net/carrp/session-5-the-reception-of-music-part-1″ title=”Session 5 the reception of music part 1″ target=”_blank”>Session 5 the reception of music part 1</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/carrp” target=”_blank”>Paul Carr</a></strong> </div>
Posted in Musicology | Tagged adagio for strings, gorecki, music analysis, musicology, paul carr, saussure, signified, signifier, tagg | Leave a Comment »
Where as my blog last week focused on horizontal melodic analysis – this session concerned the vertical movement of melody. More specifically, the session was related to how tension and release operates when specific note types come up against a chord. These paradigms are achieved via the following techniques.
•Chord Tones: (CT) – short or long duration,. Essentially notes in the chord
•Colour Tones: (ct) ( most common 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th, Sharp 11th) Usually long in duration
•Passing Tones : ( Not chord tones and Always Short). Consists of two types:
•Accented Passing Tones (APT) On the Beat
•Unaccented Passing Tones (UPT) Off the Beat
•Colour tones and to a lesser extent accented/unaccented passing notes provide Tension
•Chord tones provide the Release
As with horizontal analysis – it is possible to engage with these techniques either aurally or visually via notation. When using the later – an indicative example could be as follows. Note – this example also has some notes that relate to horizontal analysis.
What I have not mentioned here is how to discuss the tension and release. It could range from color coded notes – which could then be backed up with more in depth discussion.
So – as last time, I am interested in comments. This is also something that will result in a published paper at some point relatively soon.
Posted in Musicology | Tagged horizontal analysis, melodic analysis, music analysis, musicology, paul carr, vertical analysis, vertical melodic analysis | 3 Comments »
This weeks musicology lecture examined ways in which it is possible to analyse popular music melody – specifically from a horizontal perspective. As will be seen in the PowerPoint and the audio stream of the lecture – I get some of these ideas from traditional music theory – while some are considerations of my own that I have developed over the years. To begin with – I have found the following techniques/descriptors to be useful for analysing melody.
- Question Phrase plus Answer Phrase = Sentence
- Sentence plus Sentence = Section
- Sections (For example verse plus chorus) build up to form Structural Form (for example AABA) and eventually Compositional Forms
Firstly – here is a Spotify playlist of the music used in the lecture.
A large part of the lecture was given over to considering how Question Phrases relate to Answer Phrases, and/or how Sentences relate to each other. For this – I devised the following vocabulary – please see the PowerPoint and audio stream for more detail – in particular for indicative musical examples.
- Rhythmic Sequence: Where the rhythm stays the same but the melody changes
- Tonal Sequence: Where the melody is repeated up or down a pre determined pitch.
- Direct Repetition: Where the Question Phrase is simply repeated
- Contextual Placement: Where the melody stays the same but the harmony changes.
- Rhythmic Displacement: where the melody is repeated, but commencing on a different beat.
- New Material: Where the Question Phrase is different to the Answer Phrase.
For me, much of the discussion centres on how many songs mix repetition with new material – something which is arguably an intuitive process for established songwriters/composers. If there is too much ‘sameness’ the work it would be boring – or if there is too much variation it could sound disjointed. These are generalizations of course – not hard and fast rules.
Once these techniques are more fully developed – I am going to spend some time considering (via a journal article) how they resonate with particular artists, styles, genres, etc, but in the meantime, I am interested in any comments, in addition to any interesting musical examples anyone may have. Also – are there any techniques that I have not covered in terms of the relation of Question Phrase to Answer Phrase?
More on this next week
Posted in Musicology | Tagged answer phrase, melodic analysis, motif, music analysis, musical form, musicology, paul carr, question phrase, repetition, section | 2 Comments »
I read an article the other day which asked the question, somewhat problematically for me – ‘Is Christian Music Dying’. Inspired by another, much earlier post by Michael Gungor – it focuses upon the relationship between using Art as a message to reflect the Gospel (Christians making great music) – or what Gungor originally described as ‘formula driven music’ – which has the potential to lack authenticity due to a potential disjuncture between the words of the music and the ‘emotion’ of the singer. I am writing this as a Christian, who performs and listens to the music being criticized – so am sort of sitting on the fence on this one – asking for other opinions.
What I would suggest, is that when considering this, one needs to be clear regarding the distinction between the multiple instances of a recorded piece of music being sung in the local church (which according to my own experience is in the main very authentic) – and that of the Christian music industry – and it’s potential, like any industry, for incorporating mediation in order to sell product. I have to say that I have personally found the songs themselves to be genuine conduits in leading a congregation into the presence of God. However, I do concede that like all music – some evangelical songs have a tendency to be more ‘formula driven’ than others: but is it an equatable thing to assert that ‘worship music’ as an entity is riddled with inauthenticity – I would suggest not, although I do understand (in places) where Michael Gungor is coming from.
I would also suggest that some music written by non Christians can also act as a conduit to God. For example, I was listening to Supers Ready the other day by Genesis – a piece that has always impacted me on this level – which was made more profound when I recently discovered it was inspired partly by the Book of Revelation. I would be interested in examples of other pieces of music that has had this type of impact on people.
Posted in Academic, Musicology | Tagged Christian, christian music, Genesis, Michael Gungor, paul carr, Supers Ready | Leave a Comment »
I have just returned from a great couple of days in Nottingham – giving a keynote address to coincide with Geoffrey Farmer’s amazing sound sculpture – Let’s Make the Water Turn Black. Alongside my two colleagues - Prof. Richard Hand and Dr Richard Hemmings – we each discussed a pertinent angle of how Frank Zappa’s music resonates with the sculpture – before opening the discussion up to the floor. A full recording of the event can now be accessed below
It was fantastic to see so many people interested not only in the sculpture, but also the ways in which Farmer used Zappa’s creative processes as a template for the work. Aside from the more obvious indicators such as cactus plants, pumpkins and a penguin – the relationship between the two artists was very subtle. I think what fascinated me the most was the sound track consisted of over 60 hours of recorded material – so each time you visit the ‘event’ - the combination of sculpture, sound and lights is different!
So – enjoy the discussion. Here are a few other pics that may also encourage your appetite to visit the work. It is open until early January.
Posted in Musicology | Tagged Frank Zappa, geoffrey farmer, let's make the water turn black, Nottingham Contemporary, Object, paul carr, project, Text, Work | Leave a Comment »
Last weeks post commenced with a discussion of the ways in which the background of a musical mix can resonate with the persona in a song – describing it as ‘Inert’, ‘Active’ or ‘oppositional’ (I still need more examples of this last one). I also discussed the three potential; sides of a musical persona – the ‘Real Person’, the ‘Persona’ and ‘The Protagonist’. All of this is influenced by Allan Moore’s excellent new book Song Means – a book which I recommend to anyone interested in the analysis of songs.
This weeks post takes some of these paradigms a step further – still considering the distance between the singer and the background environment (ie the instrumentation), but also the distance of the musical persona to ourselves. Indeed this begs the question which is related to Kant’s famous maxim – ‘we can’t know the thing in itself’. Although I tend to agree with this perspective – these are techniques which enable the musicologist to move a step closer.
The first thing we worked on in the class today was listening to a variety of examples related to the ‘social space’ a singer finds themselves in a mix. Moore describes them as outlined in the grid below
Although the ‘distance between the ‘intimate and personal’ and the ‘social and public’ may be open to some debate – these factors provide an interesting starting point when considering the impact of the use of texture and dynamics in a mix – and more importantly – how a vocalist sits within it.
We then moved onto the ways in which we as listeners can engage with the ‘characters’ in a mix - the ‘Passive Observer (where we have no emotional relationship), what I describe as ‘the possessed protagonist’ (where we not only have a relationship with the character in a song – but can actually ‘become’ that person. I think this also works with instrumental music – for example in ‘air guitar’!), and finally the ‘Antagonist’ – where we can relate with who the protagonist of a song is addressing. I have found in my own listening that I can fluxuate between the possessed protagonist and the antagonist very easily. What is especially intersting – is the ways in which a vocalist or indeed ourselves can work with all of these paradigms as outlined below
In conclusion – I have recently started to put together a proposal for a book on Sting – and here is a short section which considers some of these factors
These considerations are useful when analysing Sting’s portfolio. As an indicative example, a song such as ‘Dead Man Boots’ from his most recent album The Last Ship (2013) can be seen to include a number of ‘protagonists’, all of which are related to Sting’s past. The song commences with a father speaking to his son Gideon, directly using first person narrative. However, although this dialogue is on one level part of the ‘script’ of The Last Ship, it can also be considered autobiographical – with the father easily being read as addressing the young Gordon Sumner. This parallel dialogue can therefore be considered as either fictional – where the father to son dialogue can be seen to be between two protagonists, or autobiographical – where the interchange is an allegory of a conversation between two actual people – Sting and his father.This father to son perspective continues into the first chorus of the song – where the ‘advice’ the father is giving continues. Interestingly, The 2nd verse progresses from what is thus far a private conversation between father and son, to a narrative which is more social in nature – in which the performer/persona (be it Gordon Sumner or his alter ego Sting), or indeed the fictional protagonist (the son/Gideon) is now telling an audience (the listener) the story which commences “he said I’m nearly done in asking this, could you do one final thing for me”. This shift in emphasis, which is essentially a recollection of a father, has the impact of including the listener in the narrative more profoundly – as either a passive ‘observer’, or, if our connection with the personas are more profound, as a ‘possessed protagonist’: in this case leading to we as listeners becoming the father or the son. This is something which as impacted me personally – having a similar social background and North Eastern heritage to Sting – it is easy to identify with either the son (as myself) or the father (as my grandfather). After the 2nd chorus is repeated, the narrative then shifts to a Bridge section, once again delivered by the son who this time asks the audience “why the hell would I do that, why would I agree?”. As this statement is asking at least a rhetorical question, it can once again be considered a development of the ‘social’ nature of the dialogue – although once again it can be considered to be a statement from Gideon, Gordon Sumner, Sting or indeed ourselves –depending on how one interprets.
Posted in Musicology | Tagged Allan Moore, analysis, Dead Mans Boots, musicology, paul carr, Song Means, sting, The Last Ship | 2 Comments »
This week, I have asked students to consider the ontological gap between a singer and the ‘environment’ or textual backing. We started with two simple points:
- Texture can be ‘physical’ (descriptive sound) and/or ‘rhetorical’ (carry extra-musical meaning). It is the ‘extra- musical’ aspect that we focused on today.
- What is the need to consider the relationship between the singer (or lead instrument) and the ‘environment’ (the backing)
Based on Allan Moore’s 5 point scale (2013) – I suggested a more concise 3 point typology of musical environment:
1.Inert: No real impact on meaning. Sets the Style, Genre and Time only – no ‘extra lyrical’ impact on the personae singing it. Examples listened to included ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline (1962) and ‘A Million Love Songs’ by Take That (1992)
2.Active: Supports the position of the singer/lead: Examples discussed included Annie Lennox ‘Walking On Broken Glass’ (1992), Feist ‘The Water’ (2008), Joe Cocker ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ (1969), ‘Machine Gun’ Jimi Hendrix (1970), ‘Every Breath You Take’ The Police (1983)
3.Oppositional: Where the background environment conflicts with the lyric. We used some of Sting’s songwriting as indicative examples – but I am interested
We also spent some time considering how the person singing a song can be categorized as follows:
- The ‘Real’ Person/Performer singing a song: For example David Jones, Reginald Kenneth Dwight, Gordon Sumner, Saul Hudson, Robert Plant, Michael Jackson and -
- The Performance Persona: The character the performer ‘puts on’ when performing – distinct from the ‘real person’. David Jones = David Bowie, Reginald Kenneth Dwight = Elton John, Gordon Sumner = Sting, Saul Hudson = Slash, Robert Plant, Michael Jackson and -
- The Protagonist: A character that is portrayed in a song – often no identity outside of song.
We discussed the relationships between these factors, and how their union or lack of union can impact notions of authenticity.
More on this next week, but in the meantime I am interested in any examples of
- Examples of ‘Inert’, ‘Active’ and in Particular ‘Oppositional’ Environments
- Discussions of songs which involve discuss ‘Real Person’, Persona’ and ‘Protagonist. How do they work together?
Posted in Musicology | Tagged Active, Inert, musicology, Oppositional, paul carr, performance persona, performer, protagonist, real person | 6 Comments »