2019 Workshops

The planning committee for the 2019 SCSMT conference is excited to announce two workshops for the our 2019 meeting, open to scholars at all career stages. The first workshop, led by Trevor de Clercq (Middle Tennessee State University), is entitled “Tonal and Harmonic Ambiguity in the Analysis of Popular Music.” The second workshop, led by Daniel Shanahan (The Ohio State University), is entitled “Incorporating Computational and Corpus Methods into Your Research.” Each workshop will be limited to 12 participants. To sign up for one of the workshops, send an e-mail to Clare Eng (clare.eng@belmont.edu) expressing your interest in one or both workshops (with order of preference in the case of interest in both). A brief description and preliminary reading list for each workshop is included below.

“Tonal and Harmonic Ambiguity in the Analysis of Popular Music”
Trevor de Clercq (Middle Tennessee State University)

Description: Although harmonic syntax in popular music often follows common-practice conventions, it often does not: IV chords frequently appear to act in a cadential role, chords built on the subtonic scale degree are far more common than chords built on the leading tone, and “retrogressive” root motion seems equally as prevalent as classical “progressive” root motion. Despite decades of research, though, an overarching explanation for the harmonic logic of popular music remains a work-in-progress. Perhaps the most complicating factor in this regard is the tonal and harmonic ambiguity of many songs. Without a clear sense of what key a song is in (or parts of a song are in), for example, it is difficult to confidently assign functional labels and thus develop theories about harmonic patterns. Even if we are confident about the key of a song or passage, Nobile suggests that harmonic function can be dissociated from the Roman numeral, which creates a further layer of possible complexity. In this workshop, we will engage with recent approaches to this issue. Our focus will primarily be not on how any particular approach affects the analysis of a single song (even though that is an interesting question), but rather how any given approach affects the analysis of popular music in general, and how we might expect to consistently use any of the existing work towards the development of a broader theory of harmony in popular music.

Preliminary Reading List (in roughly chronological order):
• Capuzzo, Guy. 2009. “Sectional Tonality and Sectional Centricity in Rock Music.” Music Theory Spectrum 31 (1): 156–174.
• Schultz, Rob. 2012. “Tonal Pairing and the Relative-Key Paradox in the Music of Elliott Smith.” Music Theory Online 18 (4).
• Nobile, Drew. 2016. “Harmonic Function in Rock Music: A Syntactical Approach.” Journal of Music Theory 60 (2): 149–180.
• Spicer, Mark. 2017. “Fragile, Emergent, and Absent Tonics in Pop and Rock Songs.” Music Theory Online 23 (2).
• Richards, Mark. 2017. “Tonal Ambiguity in Popular Music’s Axis Progressions.” Music Theory Online 23 (3).
• Doll, Christopher. 2018. “Ambiguous Effects.” In Hearing Harmony: Towards a Tonal Theory for the Rock Era, 215–261. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

“Incorporating Computational and Corpus Methods into Your Research”
Daniel Shanahan (The Ohio State University)

In this workshop, we will discuss the incorporating corpus methods into your own research. Here, we examine the role of the “distant reading”, in which an analysis of multiple texts complements the close reading of a single text, and we discuss the various stages of including a corpus study into your own project. These stages include the sampling of musical pieces, the encoding of a corpus, the computational searching for patterns, the examining of the most common musical features, and an introduction to the analysis of the data. Participants are encouraged to send Daniel Shanahan (shanahan.37@osu.edu) project overviews ahead of time, so that this workshop can be individually tailored to the needs of the participants. It is not necessary to have a project in mind, and all participants are also welcome.

Suggested Downloads:
The R Statistical Toolkit
The Humdrum Toolkit

Suggested Readings:
• Gjerdingen, R. O. 2014. “‘Historically Informed’ Corpus Studies.” Music Perception 31 (3): 192–204.
• Huron, D. 2013. “On the Virtuous and the Vexatious in an Age of Big Data.” Music Perception 31 (1): 4–9.
• Moretti, F. 2013. “‘Operationalizing’: or, the Function of Measurement in Modern Literary Theory.” Literary Lab Pamphlet 6. Stanford, CA: Stanford Literary Lab.
• Savage, P. E., Brown, S., Sakai, E., & Currie, T. E. 2015. “Statistical universals reveal the structures and functions of human music.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 112 (29): 8987–8992.

Leading up to the workshop, we will also be posting discussion topics, tips, supplemental links and readings, and other miscellaneous points to the workshop’s wiki page, which can be found at here.