Aspects of Popular Music, Prof. Allan Moore

Professor Allan Moore delves into matters of texture in popular music, touching on the ‘feel’ that listeners often identify as most important in their response to a song. In so doing, Moore speaks to bigger questions about analysis itself, distinguishing between the analysis of sound entities and the analysis of their representation in notation, and emphasising the subjective component of the analytical enterprise. This video outlines nine areas in which to ask questions when analysing popular music. We begin with the commonly understood areas of harmony, form and rhythm/metre; to these we add the voice, lyrics and melody/articulation; and finally end with the soundbox, textural layers and timbral modification. We will work through three examples where the consequences of the relationship between melody and harmony are instructive: ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ and ‘A Day in the Life’ by the Beatles, and the Police’s ‘So Lonely’. One final example addresses a feature of the soundbox in ‘Run’ (both versions by Snow Patrol and Leona Lewis), leading to a reading of Lewis’ avoidance of a particular melodic note. All of the above examples illustrate the imperative of moving from the ‘what’ of analysis to the ‘so what’ of interpretation of its results.

Music Examples

Suggested Reading

Moore, Allan. Song Means. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. Moore, Allan. ‘An interrogative hermeneutics of popular song.’ El oído pensante 1, no.1 (2013). Available at Moore, Allan. ‘Where is here? An issue of deictic projection in recorded song.’ Journal of the Royal Musical Association 135, no. 1 (2010): 145-82.