Dissertation Index

Author: Spicer, Mark

Title: British Pop-Rock Music in the Post-Beatles Era: Three Analytical Studies

Institution: Yale University

Begun: unspecified

Completed: December 2001


This dissertation explores—through a series of three case studies—a sampling of the rich and diverse body of popular music that has been produced in Britain during roughly the last thirty-five years, a period which I describe as the "post-Beatles" era. The Introduction situates my analytical approach within the current state of the larger field of popular music studies. Chapter 1 lays the groundwork for the dissertation by focusing on the Beatles’ late period (from 1966 onwards), particularly their widespread practice of drawing upon the resources of pre-existing works in the course of writing new songs. I argue that the Beatles’ consistent use of stylistic or strategic intertextual references became the defining feature of their late compositions, a feature which has had a profound influence on all subsequent composers of popular music. Building upon the intertextual approach developed in the first chapter, Chapter 2 turns to the early music of Genesis, one of the most influential among the British "progressive" bands that emerged around 1970 in the wake of the Beatles. Focusing on their 23-minute epic "Supper’s Ready" (1972), I trace the work’s unifying harmonic and thematic/motivic elements through an array of intertextual references to earlier styles and specific other pieces in order to highlight the important similarities and differences between multi-movement progressive rock works and large-scale works of the classical tradition. In what is probably the most overtly "music-theoretic" of the three case studies, Chapter 3 examines a variety of compositional procedures that give rise to what I call "accumulative" and "cumulative" forms in recent British pop-rock, formal processes which are directly linked to the rapid advances in recording technology that occurred mainly from the late 1960s through the 1980s. The dissertation includes numerous transcriptions and graphic analyses of pop-rock music across a wide range of styles and genres. In addition to the customary bibliography, a detailed discography and filmography/videography are provided at the end of the dissertation.

Keywords: popular music, rock, Beatles, Genesis, Britpop, intertextuality, postmodernism, form analysis, style analysis


List of Musical Examples, Figures, and Tables
1. Intertextuality and Meaning in the Late Songs of the Beatles
2. Large-Scale Strategy and Compositional Design in the Early Music of Genesis
3. (Ac)cumulative Form in Recent British Pop-Rock


Mark Spicer
Dept. of Music
Hunter College of CUNY
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10021
Office phone: 212-772-5024

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