Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Semantic Shifts": Analyzing The Greatest Band's Music

Bob Dylan once said "their chords were outrageous...just outrageous" while describing the Beatles' music.

Just in case the word "outrageous" does not impress the serious musicologist in you, here's a fantastic scholarly analysis of the the band's work. (If the site is down, read it from the cache.) Via Digg.

A question that often pops up when reading such papers is "did the Beatles themselves understand the musical underpinnings of their songs like these scholars do?" The implicit assumption there being pop music is all about "feel" and "instinct" and pop songs are not written or composed like classical music. I find that hard to accept. Demo tracks on "Anthology" ("I'll be back" is a great example) are proof that only rarely did the songs "arrive" fully realized. Besides, a musician, like any creative artist, has to make good choices. So whether or not John and Paul understood the technical implications of using incidental chords or starting a song in one key and the verse in another, they certainly had to know what choices made for a great pop song.

Soundscapes has an entire section titled "Beatles' Studies", with papers like "A flood of flat-sevenths" :)

For a "music-only" analysis of the Fab Four, nothing comes close to the great Alan W. Pollack's "Notes On" series.


Space Bar said...

Now this is how days should begin. (not that much of it makes sense to me!)

. said...

Someone said something about the potency of pop music. I forget.

km said...

yes, Space Bar, I am sure someone with a blog called "The Spaniard In the Works" might enjoy a little Beatlefest :)

.said: yeah, like, totally.

MockTurtle said...

Nice. Did you also read the sepia mutiny bit on Indian music not being popular in the West since the micro-tonal scale is not appreciated here?

BTW - I think your last commenter was ".", and not ". said".

Puppy Manohar said...

Dear KM,

You bastige. So much for trying to be productive today.



km said...

MT: I can see why. Certain other kinds of music also employ some (really strange) intervals that make it hard for me to get into them. Case in point being Chinese and Japanese music.

PM: Music, sweet music, man.

Puppy Manohar said...

Dear KM,

Argh. It's lunch time. I'm going home for lunch and I'm going to try out some of these chord progressions.



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