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MUS111H1 Lecture Notes - Signify, Otis Redding, You Really Got Me

Course Code
Joshua Pilzer

of 3
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
I. Key Issues:
Publicity and intimacy with popular music (love songs), personal feelings are always presented
as opposed to regular, everyday life, where it can be harder and/or less „important‟ to do so
You identify with the songs as they use pronouns
Media, mediation
Revolution of sense consciousness; discreteness of the senses, music as sound only
Mediation and authenticity; „place‟: „North American Popular Music‟
II. Social Poetics and Tools for Close Listening
How music reflects, critiques, references social life, how it imagines alternatives
Social Poetics”
Poetics: „The creative principles informing any literary, social or cultural construction, or the
theoretical study of these; a theory of form‟ (OED)
Social poetics: such creative principles that pertain to (reflect, reference, etc.) social life
How an expressive form is organized
Billy Chambers, “Fallout Shelter” (1962)
o Signifying terror or paranoia of the Cold War, or any other kind of threat
o Certain times when a social condition is very new (Cuban Missile Crisis 1961) keep
paranoia in check as we go through the 50s-70s, by the time we get to the 80s, we
have songs where the nuclear terror has made everything impossible…wormed its way
more deeply into the quality of cultural life
Pere Ubu: “Nonalignment Pact” (1978)
o „Nonalignment Pact‟ = the pact of countries that didn‟t want to ally with the Soviet
Union or the United States and Nato
o Becomes an expression for a love relationship not that you have the autonomy to say
“I‟m going to stay outside and die with you”, but the tragedy of an individual that‟s still
an individual; the conditions of your love relationship (need signatures); Cold War has
become a condition for your love
o These songs show how a New social condition such as a nuclear threat becomes a
regular part of normal, everyday life
Tools for Discussing the Social Poetics of Music
Parameters of Musical Organization
Instrumentation (physical musical instruments and voices)
Pitch (melody, song-speech relations, etc.)
Timbre (tone colour not shown on a regular music staff)
Rhythm (the time element in music; most popular music breaks down into groups of beats =
Texture (horizontal melodies within parts) melodic texture: relationship between parts
happening simultaneously
Text/non-lexicality (words in songs that aren‟t actual words – i.e. nananana, obladi-oblada);
words that don‟t necessarily suggest a meaning; regular words that are used as sounds
Performance manner, costume, etc.
Possible in each of these: iconicity
Lambs in the Greenfield The Chieftains & Emmylou Harris
Timbre: scratchy, thin, clear voice to signify pain; changes in vocal presentation contrast
between lower and higher notes, total purity and clarity of her voice then straining it to an
almost breaking point in this song‟s context, the change in timbre can be seen as
expressing different things (evocation of open space; pain; age; loneliness, etc.)
I‟ve Been Loving You Too Long – Otis Redding
Begins with a certain clarity of the voice then allowing it to break; expresses some kind of
heightened emotionality
You Really Got Me The Kinks
Famous rhythmic figure, beginning riff important: timbre of guitar solo extremely thin
and cutting by contrast to the bass-heavy drums
(the relations between parts)
o Monophony one melodic line
o Homophony melody is concentrated in one voice with a secondary accompaniment
diversity with respect to pitch level but agreement in rhythm (harmony)
o Polyphony many melodic lines, each of which retain its identity as a line
o Call and response
o Interlocking
o Homorhythm
o Polyrhythm
o Syncopation deliberate contrast in the regular flow of rhythm (4/4 time with ¾ time)
*Relationships in performance vis-à-vis (other parts of) social life
Social poetics social relationships = music brings people together into collective behaviour and
makes people do things in coordinated ways the way that the coordinated behaviour is
patterned tells a lot about music
III. “Culture Industries”
The production of cultural forms
The production of taste
The production of consent
o (Difference between coercion and hegemony)
o Sometimes social order is based in coercion (some ruler has power and if you defy that
ruler, then they will come and do something bad to you) = we don‟t live in this kind of
Capitalist societies we assume that we‟re free
The commodification of music
Music as practice
Music as thing
Music as commodity
It‟s displacing our pursuit of life, liberty, the good, the just with pleasure one that is never
entirely fulfilled and must be continually satisfied
*A&H: The culture industry DEPENDS on newness newness is required, or else you don‟t
have trade the newness, particularly the rebellion, proved the truth of the system = we are
free because we can break the rules
Response 1: Rebellion
i.e. rebellious punk songs where fashion, lyrics, ideologies are very anti-anything
Miller Beer commercial: contradiction in terms of the commercial telling you to „make your own
choice‟, yet it‟s endorsing and telling you to drink Miller Beer
The Commodification of Rebellion
Tells you to rebel, but that rebellion is already a part of the system
Other responses:
2. Noise (Ghosts in the Machine)/Discrepancy
3. Parody
4. Neo-primitivism/authenticity discourses
5. Confrontation, agonistics
6. Personalization
Take an artist, probably focussing on a particular song, and write an essay „agonistics‟ of
popular music = you know there are all these cultural stamps placed on you, so how do you deal
with it write about how people struggle with this in their own music
= deal with the fact that the parody, the rebellion is folded into the system