Weeks 10–12: Traditional Theory and Pop Music

April 1: Form in pop music

Be sure you know how pop music formal terminology is used in academic settings, which can differ a little from vernacular settings. Read quickly through these two chapters in the new version of Open Music Theory: AABA and Strophic Form and Verse-Chorus Form.

Read .

Due Monday at noon

In Slack, find your thread in #partner-responses. Discuss one or more of de Clercq’s examples of ambiguity. State the formal label you would give this section and discuss the degree to which you agree with de Clercq that it is ambiguous. Has your opinion changed before/after reading?

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.


April 8: Harmony

Even though most pop harmony is triadic, and is “simple” in that sense, its unique treatment of harmony can provide analytical interest.

Reading: .

Due Monday at noon

Find your thread in #partner-responses and post a response essay, about 500 words long.

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.


April 15: Rhythm

Rhythm is one of the ways in which pop music regularly offers greater complexity than art music.

Reading: .

Due Monday at noon

Find your thread in #partner-responses and post a response essay, about 500 words long.

More on response essays
A response essay is your personal take on the readings, and thus you shouldn’t be trying to write the “right answer,” but rather your opinion and reaction to what you’ve read. Remember that these are graded pass/fail, so anything you write is valuable in that sense. Feel free to use I/me pronouns and to freely express yourself (while remaining professional) and your opinion of the reading.

Due Wednesday at noon

Respond to your partners’ essay with a statement of about 100 words.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library.

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.
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.
Clercq, Trevor de. 2017. “Embracing Ambiguity in the Analysis of Form in Pop/Rock Music, 1982–1991.” Music Theory Online 23 (3). https://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.17.23.3/mto.17.23.3.de_clercq.html.
Nobile, Drew F. 2015. “Counterpoint in Rock Music: Unpacking the ‘Melodic-Harmonic Divorce.’” Music Theory Spectrum 37 (2): 189–203. https://academic.oup.com/mts/article-abstract/37/2/189/1083396.

Weeks 1–3: Foundations

Jan 22: Why study pop music?

We’ll confront the idea that pop music does not deserve to be studied seriously. Our discussion will be based on .


Jan 29: Intertextuality and Mashups

This week, we continue to absorb the lessons on intertextuality from the week prior as we study mashups. Our primary reading will be .

Due Monday at noon

In Slack, find your thread in #partner-responses. Link to a mashup that you enjoy. Write ~250 words that relate your mashup to .

Due Wednesday at noon

In partners, discuss each of your mashups and your writeups about them.


Feb 5: 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. In class, we will have discussion based on .

Due Monday 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—agree on one with your partner, and do the same song. Work out as much detail as you can. You may use lead sheet symbols instead of attempting to exactly transcribe harmony parts. .mp3 files available in the readings folder.
  • Upload a .pdf of your transcription to your thread in #partner-responses.
  • Write a paragraph or so about your experience transcribing the music. What was your process? What was difficult for you? Is there anything you were unsure about? Be brief but clear.

Due Wednesday at noon

Compare your transcription to your partner’s. Discuss the differences, focusing primarily on meter and rhythm.


Bibliography

Readings are either in the Readings folder or are available online through the library.

Adams, Kyle. 2015. “What Did Danger Mouse Do? The Grey Album and Musical Composition in Configurable Culture.” Music Theory Spectrum 37 (1): 7–24.
Burns, Lori. 2002. “‘Close Readings’ of Popular Song: Intersections among Sociocultural, Musical, and Lyrical Meanings.” In Disruptive Divas: Feminism, Identity and Popular Music, by Lori Burns and Melissa Lafrance, 31–62. New York: Routledge.
Murphy, Nancy. forthcoming. “Expressive Timing in ‘With God on Our Side.’” Music Analysis.