Form as harmony in rock music / Drew Nobile.
- New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 
- Oxford studies in music theory
Oxford studies in music theory
xxii, 268 pages ; 26 cm.
- Rock music -- 20th century -- Analysis, appreciation.
Rock music -- Analysis, appreciation.
- "There's a moment in Janis Joplin's rendition of "Piece of My Heart" that anyone who has heard the song even once will recall vividly. I'm referring of course to Joplin's explosive cry of "take it!" about a minute in, right at the beginning of the chorus. This moment seems to embody all of rock's essential elements: freedom, power, personal expression, heartache, rebellion, etc. But that moment, iconic as it is, is more than a moment. Its strength is completely lost if we remove it from its musical context. Imagine playing someone just that second or two of music and expecting an emotional reaction you will more likely be met with bewilderment than excitement. The powerful effect of Joplin's cry derives as much from the material surrounding it as from what happens at that particular point in time. To understand that moment we must therefore consider it in relation to the song's organization as a whole. That central question how a song is organized in time underlies the concept of musical form. Form is often presented in opposition to content, the latter referring to more tangible musical elements such as notes and rhythms. The two are not so easily separated, though; as the "Piece of My Heart" example attests, we perceive content through the lens of form, each moment's meaning dependent on its role within the song's temporal organization. Music builds its communicative capacity upon its formal foundation; studying form is thus not a matter of zooming in on one particular musical aspect, but rather sets the stage for understanding all of a song's various expressive elements. Form, in other words, is the gateway to interpretation. This book offers a comprehensive theory of form in rock music. My basic premise is that rock songs are cohesive entities, gradually unfolding through time a unified musical structure. Their formal components are not merely discrete elements arranged in succession but interdependent, dialogic utterances, each fulfilling a particular role in relation to the whole. Seen this way, rock form is inherently a process, an active, temporal journey, not a series of musical containers; "a self-realizing verb, unspooling itself through time, not a static noun," as James Hepokoski and Warren Darcy put it (2006, 616). In other words, form is something a song does, not something it is. A conception of form as process underlies much contemporary discussion of classical form (Schmalfeldt 2011, Hepokoski and Darcy 2006, Caplin 1998); discussions of form in rock, though, tend toward an object-oriented approach, focusing on dividing a song into labeled sections rather than describing its temporal development.1 Rock-oriented studies that reflect a more processual approach, such as Robin Attas's 2015 article on buildup introductions and Allan Moore's 2012 monograph Song Means, generally eschew large-scale thinking in favour of moment-to-moment interpretations; Moore specifically states that he \see[s] little to be gained from [discussing more global formal terms] . . . it implies a `god's-eye perspective,' which does not seem to be part of the popular song experience, where what matters is exactly where one is at a particular point in time" (84). I do not believe a focus on process is incompatible with large-scale thinking, though. My aim in this book is to bring a process-based approach to the study of rock's large-scale structures"-- Provided by publisher.
- Includes bibliographical references and index.
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