Dissertation Index

Author: Murphy, Nancy E.

Title: \"The Times They Are A-Changin\'\": Flexible Meter and Text Expression in 1960s and 70s Singer-Songwriter Music

Institution: The University of British Columbia

Begun: October 2012

Completed: December 2015


The 1960s and 70s saw the flowering of the singer-songwriter style, which featured acoustic performances by artists who were the composers and lyricists of their own music. Reflecting their culture, their songs carried messages of personal and political significance. But their music is of technical as well as of social interest. Like classical art song, it often highlights lyrical meaning with various sorts of metric irregularities. In this dissertation, I closely analyze twenty-seven songs by Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joni Mitchell, and Cat Stevens, in order to characterize the metric style of their songwriting and demonstrate their use of meter as an expressive device.

To describe meter in this music requires theories more flexible than those usually applied to groove-based music. The analyses in this dissertation draw not only from theories of meter as a hierarchy of beat streams, but also upon theories of metrical process and prosody, in order to create transcriptions, to describe precisely listeners\' sensations of meter, and to propose expressive rationales for metric settings.

As an introduction to the style and the theoretical issues, Chapter 1 considers the problems of conceiving of meter in the expressively timed context of Mitchell’s “The Fiddle and the Drum.” Chapter 2 examines the existing methods for analyzing meter in music and poetry, in order to find some productive ways to analyze this metrically fluctuant repertoire. Chapter 3 considers transcription as analysis, showing that one\'s conception of meter informs and constrains musical representation, and therefore interpretations of lyrical meaning.

In Chapter 4, I position 1960s and 70s songwriting in its cultural and political environment, reviewing some stylistic precedents to understand their influence, and determine its original metrical techniques. In the remaining analytical chapters, I examine meter-text expression in songs by Simon, Sainte-Marie, and Stevens (Chapter 5), the expression of character and lyrical personae in the narratives of three solo-piano- accompanied songs by Mitchell (Chapter 6), and how Dylan adapted text-expressive metric techniques of earlier genres in a variety of original ways (Chapter 7).

Keywords: meter, popular music, music and text, transcription, singer songwriter


Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Meter and Popular Music

Chapter 2: Metric Theories and the Aspects of Meter
2.1 Meter as Measuring
2.2 The \"Architectonic View\"
2.3 Meter as Process
2.4 Poetic Meter: Prosody and Textual Stress
2.5 Aspects of Meter and their Applications in Analysis

Chapter 3: Popular Song Transcription as Analysis
3.1 Transcription and the Analysis of Meter
3.2 Poetic Meter; Grid-based Musical Meter
3.3 Projective Meter and Multiple Performances

Chapter 4: Metric Style in the Music of Five Singer-Songwriters
4.1 The \"Singer-Songwriter\" Style, 1962-1972
4.2 Bob Dylan: Origins and Influences
4.3 Buffy Sainte-Marie: Art and Activism
4.4 Paul Simon and Political Songwriting Trends
4.5 Joni Mitchell and the Rise of \"Confessional Songwriting\"
4.6 Cat Stevens, Introspection, and Religious Themes

Chapter 5: Irregular Meter in the Singer Songwriter Repertoire
5.1 Metric Irregularities Across Multiple Recordings of \"The Sound of Silence\"
5.2 Metrical Illustrations of Time in Cat Stevens\' Songs
5.3 Expressive Interaction Between Voice and Accompaniment in Buffy Sainte-Marie Songs

Chapter 6: Expressive Meter in Selected Songs by Joni Mitchell
6.1 \"Lesson in Survival\" and the Technique of Metric Text Painting
6.2 \"Blue\" Imagery and Flexible Timing
6.3 Rhetorical Emphasis in \"The Last Time I Saw Richard\"

Chapter 7: Stylistic Influence and Metric Process in Selected Songs by Bob Dylan
7.1 Folk Sources and Dylan\'s \"Restless Farewell\"
7.2 Flexible Timing and Blues Progression in \"Down the Highway\"
7.3 Folk Style and Politics in \"Only a Pawn in their Game\"

Chapter 8: Conclusion



Nancy Murphy
The University of Chicago
Goodspeed Hall
1010 E 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

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