Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis

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

One of Brown's analytical concerns is the question of blues adaptation in rock style; in Dave Headlam essay, Blues Transformations in the Music of Cream," this becomes the central issue. Headlam approaches the blues-rock interface through one of its most important manifestations, the late-1960s British power trio Cream. Tracing its versions of such blues classics as Cross Road Blues and Rollin' and Tumblin' back to the original sources in Delta and Chicago blues, he illuminates the stylistic transformations in analytical terms and assesses their significance. With these analyses in mind, he then turns to consider the style of Cream's own blues compositions.

Graeme Boone, finally, takes a song by the Grateful Dead as the focus of his essay, Tonal and Expressive Ambiguity in 'Dark Star.' Countering a common perception of the Dead's music as aimless or disorganized, he uses harmonic, contrapuntal, and melodic analysis to reveal the means by which the Dead achieve musical and expressive cohesion, even as they incorporate extended and, to some extent, unpredictable improvisations into their music. The Dead's approach is, in conclusion, measured against the broader context and significance of the Deadhead movement.

Ultimately, the justification for any analytical program stems from one's own experiences. Like many now in the fields of musicology and music theory, the authors in this book were born in the decade of the birth of rock 'n' roll and grew up with it. Introduced to the serious study of organizing structures in art music, we naturally asked similar questions of popular music. Of what materials is it made? What makes it the way it is? Today's climate of heightened self-consciousness discourages scholars from taking their likes and dislikes for granted; but these are also times when people are making new and important discoveries simply by turning things around inside their own minds and connecting different parts of their own fragmented experience. This book is precisely the result of such a personal, interior movement, and for each author, it has yielded a different discovery. Ultimately, we find no better justification for analyzing rock music than this: it is part of us, and we like it.

Cambridge, Mass. G. M. B.

Chapel Hill, N.C. J. C. January 1997


Notes
1.
Lester Bangs, "My Night of Ecstasy with the J. Geils Band", in his Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, ed. Greil Marcus ( New York: Vintage, 1988), 142-45. This review originally appeared in Creem ( Aug. 1974).
2.
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), 68-81.
3.
According to a subject search in Books in Print, the percentage of books devoted to popular music in the years 1980-89 represented 4% of the total of books on music. In the years 1990-96, this figure has risen to 7%.
4.
Among recent arguments for the importance of the study of popular music, see Susan McClary and Robert Walser, "Start Making Sense! Musicology Wrestles with Rock", in On Record: Pop, Rock, and the Written Word, ed. Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin ( New York: Pantheon, 1990), 277-92; Susan McClary, "Terminal Prestige: The Case of the Avant-Gardein Music Composition"

-ix-

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Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Notes ix
  • Notes xi
  • Contents xv
  • Contributors xvii
  • 1: Progressive Rock, "Close to the Edge," and the Boundaries of Style 3
  • Notes 25
  • 2: After Sundown the Beach Boys' Experimental Music 33
  • Notes 54
  • Notes 59
  • Notes 89
  • Notes 111
  • 5: Swallowed by A Song Paul Simon's Crisis of Chromaticism 113
  • 6 155
  • Notes 166
  • Notes 171
  • Notes 206
  • Index 211
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