Dr Nancy Murphy (Houston)

SMA ZOOM Colloquium, 5th May 2022, 6.30pm UK Time


In 1960s and 1970s singer-songwriter music, some artists used malleable metric settings alongside other features of self-expression in performance. This resulted in songs with extremes of self-expressive timing flexibility that cannot be accounted for by using a single conception of meter. My proposed theory of flexible meter recasts meter as able to encompass the variety of metric scenarios presented by these singer-songwriters, from metric regularity to metric ambiguity, and vacillations between these two possibilities. In this talk, I explore performances by Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Paul Simon, and Cat Stevens to investigate the individual metric style of each artist and how their flexible metric techniques contribute to the self-expressive singer-songwriter performance practice.


Nancy Murphy is currently an Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Houston, having previously taught for two years at the University of Chicago. This fall, she will be starting a new Assistant Professor position on the Theory faculty at the University of Michigan. Her research studies singer-songwriter music, metric flexibility, self-expression, music-text relations, and transcription. She has published articles and reviews in Music AnalysisMusic Theory Online, and Music Theory Spectrum, and her book on flexible meter as self-expression in singer-songwriter music (the subject of her talk today) is currently under contract with Oxford University Press.