Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis

By John Covach; Graeme M. Boone | Go to book overview
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6

"Little Wing"
A Study in Musical Cognition

MATTHEW BROWN


1

After considerable resistance from the scholarly community, rock music has recently emerged as a legitimate subject for academic discourse. This newfound prestige has stemmed partly from a wave of pluralism and interdisciplinary research that has swept across campus, and partly from the sheer importance of the music. Given its popular origins and broad appeal, discussions of rock music have tended to avoid detailed musical analyses and have focused their attention, instead, on issues of social function and meaning. To quote Simon Frith: "For the last fifty years, pop music has been an important way in which we have learned to understand ourselves as historical, ethnic, classbound, gendered subjects." 1

One area, however, in which rock music remains largely ignored is music cognition. As David Hargreaves observes: "Psychologists have woefully neglected the 'mundane,' or 'lay' aspects of musical experience. They have dealt largely with serious 'art' music, which is a minority interest relative to the many different forms of 'folk,' or popular music." 2 This state of affairs is regrettable because rock music is an important resource for evaluating and perhaps even refining current theories of musical behavior, both for listeners and composers. Among other things, it can help us test our explanations of how listeners acquire and use musical skills, how they perceive and remember music, how they discriminate between musical styles, and

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