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2023

Weeks 3–4: Transcription

Because there is usually no written score for pop songs, transcription is an essential skill for pop analysis. You will practice transcribing on your own. The analytical readings all rely on transcription to communicate their points. We will discuss how to use transcription effectively. Readings: Biamonte (2010), Temperley (2007), Murphy (2020), and Biamonte (2014).

Because there is usually no written score for pop songs, transcription is an essential skill for pop analysis. You will practice transcribing on your own. The analytical readings all rely on transcription to communicate their points. We will discuss how to use transcription effectively.

Possible useful programs: Audacity, Sonic Visualiser, The Amazing Slow-Downer.

February 9

Reading (due Thursday before class)

  • (Tyler discussion leading)
  • (Vinny discussion leading)

Writing (due Sunday at noon)

  • Transcribe the first verse and first chorus of “With a Little Help from My Friends,” either the original by the Beatles or the cover by Joe Cocker. .mp3 files available in the readings folder.
    • Focus on the pitched material (although obviously you need to be rhythmically accurate as well.)
    • Work out as much detail as you can.
    • You may use lead sheet symbols instead of attempting to exactly transcribe harmony parts.
  • Write a paragraph or so about your experience transcribing the music. What was your process? What was difficult for you? Did the readings inform your process? Is there anything you were unsure about? Be brief but clear.
  • Save both files as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.

February 16

Reading (due Thursday before class)

Special guest! Dr. Nancy Murphy will join us to discuss her article.

Writing (due Sunday at noon)

You have two options for transcribing (MP3 available in the readings folder):

  • Sufjan Stevens, “Concerning the UFO Sightings…”. Ignore the flutes and focus on piano and voice.
  • Robert Johnson, “Terraplane Blues.” (This one is the more difficult option!)

For either selection:

  • Transcribe the first minute or so.
    • Pay special attention to rhythmic accuracy.
    • Consider annotating your transcription to show any places where there are metric ambiguities (following ).
    • Work out as much detail as you can.
    • You may use lead sheet symbols instead of attempting to exactly transcribe harmony parts.
  • Write a paragraph or so about your experience transcribing the music. Can you apply any specialized terminology from the readings to these examples? Did knowing these terms help you recognize the aural phenomena? Is there anything you were unsure about? Be brief but clear.
  • Save both files as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.

Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library (or both!).

Biamonte, Nicole. 2010. “Triadic Modal and Pentatonic Patterns in Rock Music.” Music Theory Spectrum 32 (2): 95–110. https://doi.org/10.1525/mts.2010.32.2.95.
Biamonte, Nicole. 2014. “Formal Functions of Metric Dissonance in Rock Music.” Music Theory Online 20 (2). http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.14.20.2/mto.14.20.2.biamonte.html.
Murphy, Nancy. 2020. “Expressive Timing in Bob Dylan’s ‘With God on Our Side.’” Music Analysis 39 (iii): 387–413.
Temperley, David. 2007. “The Melodic-Harmonic ‘Divorce’ in Rock.” Popular Music 26 (2): 323–42. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261143007001249.