Dissertation Index

Author: Barna, Alyssa

Title: Examining Contrast in Popular and Rock Music

Institution: Eastman School of Music

Begun: August 2017

Completed: June 2019


The balance of similarity and contrast is essential to the structure and coherence of music. Analytical treatment of similarity in music theoretical and analytical scholarship has been thorough, whereas the study of contrast and difference remains somewhat undefined and informal. This dissertation provides two analytical tools for analyzing contrast: the first, in Chapter 2, is rooted in techniques and terminology adapted from color theory that unfold dynamically in time. The second methodology, in Chapter 3, takes a static approach, analyzing a complete song and exploring the most contrasting musical parameters and domains. The repertoire for this study is popular music construed broadly—beginning with classic artists from the 1960's through Top-40 music released in 2018. Chapter 4 extends the tools to an unusual formal layout described as "modular form," in which songs that do not conform to prototypical formal types are analyzed with respect to their (often highly) contrasting elements.

Keywords: Music scholarship; Modular form; Musical parameters; Musical domains


Chapter 1: Introduction—How is Contrast Defined?
Chapter 2: Analyzing Contrast Dynamically
Chapter 3: Analyzing Contrast Statically—A Model
Chapter 4: Modular Form


Alyssa Barna (barna@umn.edu)

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