Dissertation Index

Author: de Clercq, Trevor O.

Title: Sections and Successions in Successful Songs: A Prototype Approach to Form in Rock Music

Institution: Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester

Begun: February 2010

Completed: January 2012


This dissertation tackles the open question of how listeners perceive form in rock music. Extant theories of form offer only limited explanations as to how we categorize the various components of a rock song and how these choices affect our overall understanding of form in this repertoire. Research in the field of cognitive psychology shows that our categorization process involves prototype effects. Consequently, this dissertation employs a prototype-based approach to form in rock music. A central task in this regard is the development of a broader understanding of the prototypical instantiations of section roles, including verse, chorus, refrain, bridge, solo, prechorus, intro, outro, and link. Using this information, we can see how these section roles interact with different organizational schemes. Three main organizational schemes are used as points of reference: the 12-bar blues, the 16-bar SRDC, and the 32-bar AABA. As various attributes of these schemes change from song to song, we see conversions of these schemes from one section role to another. As a result, we expose possible paths in the historical development of form within rock music. During this conversion process, various types of ambiguities between section roles can be found. Often, in fact, the choice between one section role and another inherently represents a false dilemma. The notion of blends — which describe amalgamations of two or more section
roles — becomes useful to track these ambiguous cases. Ultimately, this research appraises those factors that drive analytical practice and attunes us to the complex ways that real-world songs engage with our expectations and sustain our fascination.

Keywords: popular music, cognition, verse, chorus, bridge, rock, categorization, AABA, blues, form


Chapter 1: Prologue
Chapter 2: Background
2.1: Introduction
2.2: Cognitive Science and Categories
2.3: Prototypes and Music Theory
2.4: Music Theory and Form
2.5: Music Cognition and Form
2.6: Form, Music Theory, and Rock Music
2.7: Summary
Chapter 3: Roles
3.1: Introduction
3.2: Verse and Chorus
3.3: Refrain
3.4: Bridge and Solo
3.5: Prechorus
3.6: Intro, Outro, and Link
3.7: Summary
Chapter 4: Conversions
4.1: Introduction
4.2: The Blues
4.3: SRDC
4.4: AABA
4.5: Summary
Chapter 5: Blends
5.1: Introduction
5.2: Verse Blends (Part 1)
5.3: Bridge Blends
5.4: Chorus Blends
5.5: Verse Blends (Part 2)
5.6: Summary
Chapter 6: Epilogue


Trevor de Clercq

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