Special Topics in Music Analysis:
Melody and Form in Popular Song
UC Santa Cruz, Spring Quarter 2012
Instructor: Ben Carson (Ben is fine. Dr. or Professor Carson is also fine.)
Meetings: Music Center 138 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
Section 01 (class# 62267): 9:30 AM to 10:40 AM
Prerequisites: MUS 30 C or equivalent
Office: Music Center 148 (on the lower floor, just past Professor Paiment’s office).
Office hours: Mondays 12:30-1:30 pm, and Fridays 12:30 am - 1:30 pm, or by appointment.
Phone: 9-5581 (I do not check voicemail frequently!)
Correspondence: benja dot carson at gmail
Elisse La Barre Kumiko Ueda
Course Catalogue Description for the 150 series: Special Topics in Music Theory & Analysis. Labs in musicianship emphasize basic performance skills and advanced reading skills in music from a particular cultural or historical practice, or in relation to a particular theory or style of analysis.
150P Course Overview: Study of melodic forms and their harmonic support in a variety of key genres of 20th-c popular music. Blues forms; AABA forms associated with parlor song, “Tin-pan Alley,” and “Brill-building” pop; postwar verse-chorus forms, and through-composed song-forms will be emphasized. Students complete analytical or compositional work on a weekly basis, using clear and thoroughly detailed Western music notation. In addition, students work with TAs to develop their practical musical skills in relation to these course materials.
1. Clarify and distinguish twentieth-century conventions in song melodies.
2. Understand principles of harmonization in popular music, in relation to standard song forms.
3. Introduce performance and listening skills that relate to popular music.
4. Introduce extended tertian harmony associated with post-war jazz practices, and understand the role of that harmony in the composition and improvisation of popular song.
TBA, available for download from this page.
Miscellaneous Aspects of the course:
1. Being there: Regardless of any reason for absence, students are responsible for completing whatever work they have missed when they are gone. Please let me know about absences that result from health conditions, family emergencies, or major transportation accidents, and so on. However, in any case of absence, be sure to check with a classmate for information about what was discussed on that day, and get a clear sense of all new assignments. If you can’t get that information from a classmate, please contact me via email. More than five unexcused absences from class and lab combined, or three unexcused absences from lab, will result in a grade of NP. See “Course Credit and Grading” (below) for more details.
2. Performance anxiety: In class, we’ll work on your skills and your knowledge in a direct and conversational way. But I’m never interested in getting you to prove anything on the spot. You will find that if you can’t get the answer right away, I’ll take lead the conversation differently so the class will work on it together. I hope you’ll find I’m pretty good at diffusing any public sense of student deficiency.
3. Deadlines: Please complete your homework in clear hand-written notation, with a pencil, and get them in on time! Late assignments will be accepted but they will not receive full credit and I cannot guarantee that I will give them thorough comments. This can be a problem because I expect to see improvement from one assignment to the next, so one late assignment can affect your later grades if you don’t take the initiative to get my informal comments on your progress, and keep the “conversation” going.
4. Communication: I respond to most email, IM, and text-messaging within 12 hours or so, to answer important questions about course material, the assignments and so on. I love getting emails with questions about music and the actual content of the course. I also want to hear from you if you’re having any trouble getting the concepts, getting the homework in, or getting to class. But please limit the use of email for excuses about already-past absences of unfinished assignments – there’s no hurry to give me that information so it’s better to focus on your work and think about what you need to do for the next class.
Course Credit and Grading:
Weekly exercises, including composition and analysis: 27%
Mid-term exam: 9%
Final composition project: 15%
Final Exam: 12%
Musicianship Lab: 27%*
*A grade of 50% or less in the combined scores of musicianship “lab midterm” and “lab final” (dates TBA) will result in a credit of zero percent under this heading. You must also pass the musicianship portion of the course in order to pass the course as a whole, even if your coursework is excellent.
More about grading:
Grades are an evaluation of your accomplishments, not your intentions, your sincerity, or my sense of your potential. That might make some grades seem cold or harsh, but if you think about it, it’s actually the warmest possible arrangement: anything else requires me somehow to pretend that I can look into your soul and qualify myself to judge what I see. I don’t want to judge your character—if I tried to do that, it would take all the fun out of the everyday challenge of learning about music. I hope you’ll be comforted to know that a C- doesn’t mean I’m annoyed at you, and an A+ doesn’t mean I’m your newest fan. It’s not personal.
If you are ever uncertain about why I’ve given any particular evaluation, please come to me with questions about it. I’ll be happy that you want to understand the assignment, or the concepts, in greater detail. It helps this course a great deal if you try to build a conversation around my written feedback about your work.
ASSIGNMENT WEEK 1:
Part 1, due Friday, April 6. Read my introduction to evolving musical styles of the 1940s and 1950s, titled “An Archaeology of Rock and Roll.” Choose one of the three reading assignments, and complete it. Then choose three songs under the appropriate listening list, and analyze three of them in terms of their melodic organization. Follow the model of this analysis of “Bei mir bist Du schoen,” which we discussed in class on Monday.
Part 2, due Monday, April 9. Choose one of your three analyses turned in Friday, and complete it by transcribing the melody, bass line (one note per chord in its progression, with occasional NCTs (passing notes especially), if they are non-repetitive), and Roman-numeral harmonic analysis. You will be following a model discussed in class on April 6.