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Music and Popular Culture: Lecture Notes
Lecture 8 Continuation: March 6th, 2012
Hippies Culture Music in the 60s
- Hippie culture’s raison d’être in the late 1960s was to challenge the tenets of
mainstream society through 1950s beat literature, Eastern spirituality, and
experimentation with drugs.
- The hippies began to change the basic unit of recorded music from the song to the
album They came to prize the singer-songwriter, artistic approach to music over the
Brill Building production-line model.
- Artists showed an interest in blending elements of classical music, especially the
modernist avant-garde techniques, with pop and rock music.
- There is also rise virtuoso musician who is almost always a guitarist and almost always
- While the virtuoso performer has been a feature of classical music for hundreds of
years, the rise of the virtuoso in rock may also have been an influence of jazz, another
genre that prizes technical and expressive excellence in its performers.
Studio Rivalry: the Beach Boys vs. the Beatles
•Music Example: The Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations”
oProduced by Brian Wilson
oThis song is an example of psychedelic pop.
oInstrumental elements include the Jew’s harp (also called the jaw harp) and the
oThe electro theremin is a box that produces a simple sine wave electronically. The
sine wave’s volume is controlled by a knob on the box and the pitch is controlled
with a slide that runs along a rod.
oThe sound of an electro theremin is similar to another electronic instrument, the
theremin, but the control of pitch and volume is very different switch.
oThe song was created by splicing together different tapes of recorded material.
Using pre-recorded material and manipulating it through splicing the tape was a
technique in use by avantgarde art-music composers since the 1950s (also done
with “Tomorrow Never Knows” by the Beatles.
oThe technique creates sounds that cannot be reproduced live, moving a group’s
endeavours away from touring and into the studio.
•Music Example: The Beatles – “A Day in the Life”
oThis song is another example of psychedelic pop.
oIt is a compound ABA form. A “compound” form is a form within form; i.e., each
section A, B, and A is subdivided by a smaller form. The use of compound forms
is very common in “classical” or art music.
oThe vocals begin with an echo added. At 2:49, the vocals have heavy reverb added,
perhaps to signify the “dream,” fallen into by the singer.
oAt 1:41 and again at 3:46 there is a huge orchestral crescendo
oThe crescendo was created by having the various instruments of the orchestra begin
on their lowest notes and then move at their own speed, note by note, to their
highest notes within a given number of bars, increasing the dynamic level (volume
level) as they went.
oThis technique of leaving the tempo (speed) up to the musicians meant that there
was an element of chance in the crescendo: it was not controlled by the composer.
oAvant-garde art-music composers had been using the element of chance in their
composed works since the 1950s. Such music was called “aleatoric” music, derived
from the Latin word alea, which means “a dice game” or “a gamble.”
oThe use of the aleatoric orchestral crescendo was a conscious choice by the Beatles
and was inspired by avant-garde art music, especially that of Karlheinz
oThe alarm clock sound is amodernist avant-garde technique intended to challenge
the traditional sound palette of the symphony orchestra.
oIn the 1940s, modernist composers began to record everyday sounds that were not
considered musical and to incorporate them in their works. The movement was
called musique concrète.
The San Francisco Counterculture
- The hippie counterculture was inspired writers called “The Beat
- Generation,” who were active in the 1950s and included William S. Burroughs, Allen
Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac.
- These writers were interested in exploring drug use, sexuality, and Eastern spirituality:
interests subsequently taken up by the hippies.
- The beatniks rejected the materialism and authority structures of North American
culture and provided an alternative to the conservative, white, middle-class culture to
which most of the hippies belonged.
- Psychedelic rock, also known as acid rock or “head” music, was intended to recreate
the trance-like effects of an LSD or “acid” trip.
- To this end, the music:
1. Was hugely amplified, so it could be felt as well as heard. The point was to engage
the whole body, not just the ears.
2. Was heavily distorted, especially the guitars.
3. Included very long improvisatory solos or jam sessions, reflecting process over
goal-directedness along with the meaninglessness of time.
4. Included elaborate light shows during live performances to engage the sense of
- Live concerts could be hours long and individual songs could last 15 minutes or more,
making them unsuitable for both the recorded single and for traditional AM radio.
- The normal time slot for radio play was about 3 minutes. This difficulty prompted the
move of acid rock onto the FM dial and the tendency for acid groups to sell full-length
albums instead of singles.
- Drug and drug use references are common in the music. The references are often coded
•Music Example: Grateful Dead – “Dark Star”
oExample of psychedelic rock
oOriginally released as an unpopular single, but appeared in much longer forms
on albums and in live performances.
oThe song has no goal, no climax: it reflects the process of working out a variety
of musical ideas. It is essentially a loose structure for an extended,
improvisatory jam session
•Musical Example: Jefferson Airplane – “White Rabbit”
oAnother example of acid rock
oNote the lick in the guitar in introduction: it is based on Spanish bolero dance
oThe piece is one long crescendo and echoes Maurice Ravel’s Bolero
oThe use of the snare drum in White Rabbit is also a direct reference to Ravel’s
work. Ravel was a more traditional classical-music composer from the early
oThe drug references in the song include the title, “white rabbit” which was a
euphemism for psychedelic drugs; “chasing rabbits,” eating mushrooms, and
the phrase “feed your head” all refer to taking drugs.
oThere some distortion on the lead guitar and it wanders somewhat aimlessly
around the vocals. There is also heavy reverb on the vocals. Both are intended
to recreate the distortion of reality that takes place during a “trip.”
The London and Los Angeles Countercultures
•Musical Example: Cream – “Sunshine of Your Love”
oExample of psychedelic blues
oThere are no unusual instruments here
oThis is a traditional electric-blues combo
oThe lick in the guitar and the bass at the beginning: the song is built around it.
The lick is immediately picked up by the vocals when they enter
oThe building of a musical work from a lick or riff has been common feature of
classical music since the late eighteenth century, however, in classical music
licks and riffs are called “motives.”
oEric Clapton performs an improvisatory guitar solo at 2:00, similar to the “rave-
ups” performed by the Yardbirds. The solo is technically challenging for the
soloist, a characteristic similar to traditional classical music as well as jazz
oClapton adds two electronic effects to his guitar through foot pedals: distortion
and wah-wah to create raw and gritty timbre as seen with blues