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3.   Methodology


3.2.2   Scores and Notation

In their Rolling Stone analysis, de Clercq and Temperley avoid sheet music, including lead-sheets, transcriptions or scores.2 Instead, the analysts relied on their ear and musical intuition. There are two likely reasons for this choice.

The first is practical. As Richard Middleton points out, popular music scores, when they exist, often reduce the music into a “kind of ‘thickened

heterophony’” that provides only a basic sketch of the song.3 Chord voicings and instrumental textures are often neglected or misrepresented.4 This occurs because scores are often arranged for beginner instrumentalists. Further,

internet-based chord charts or guitar tablatures are sometimes inaccurate, having been transcribed by amateur musicians. Therefore, there is little guarantee that any popular music score would be reliable, let alone beneficial.

This observation informs the second issue. The presence of a score may influence the analyst to ‘hear’ the music in a particular way, especially for passages in which musical details are obscured. If an analyst is stuck, it may be tempting to treat the score as authoritative. However, if the score is marred by the problems mentioned above, then it is likely that the analyst’s ‘answer’ will be erroneous.

2 Trevor de Clercq and David Temperley, “A Corpus Analysis of Rock Harmony,” Popular Music 30, no. 1 (2011), 57.

3 Richard Middleton, Studying Popular Music (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1990), 104.

4 A partial exception would be the Hal Leonard series of keyboard transcriptions, such as Note for Note Keyboard Transcriptions: Classic Rock (Milwaukee, WI..: Hal Leonard, n.d.).

De Clercq and Temperley overcame this issue by conducting separate analyses.

Differing results were, thus, self-attributable and easily resolved. Unfortunately, this approach is not possible here due to the lack of a research assistant with whom analyses can be compared. Consequently, scores and lead-sheets from published sources were consulted; only thirteen songs were analysed entirely by ear.5

Although the transcriptions were occasionally inaccurate, they provided a useful second opinion of sorts. In line with much popular musicology (e.g. Moore, Walser, Everett), the sound recordings of the Nature’s Best songs were

considered the primary text, rather than the traditional musicological approach in which recordings are interpretations of a notated text. Any scores or lead-sheets, therefore, functioned as secondary sources.

Having decided to use sheet music, the issue of notation is raised. This also concerns the presentation of analysis in subsequent chapters. Traditional notation is problematic because it does not always account for timbre or performance details. Of greater concern in this analytical context is what the pitch-rhythm elements of notation can and, importantly, cannot convey.

In terms of pitch, standard notation refers to discrete pitches in accordance with the equally tempered scale as heard on a tuned keyboard instrument. Obviously, however, more than twelve fundamental pitches exist; a violinist with poor intonation may produce notes that are fractionally flatter or sharper than one of the discrete notes. Similarly, the rhythmic structure of Western music is

predicated upon the division of single bars by multiples, most commonly, of two and three. Thus, a bar of 4/4 divides into two minim beats, or four crotchet beats, or twelve triplet quaver beats, and so forth. Like pitch, rhythm notation is

5 The following sources were consulted: Dave Dobbyn, The Songbook (Nelson, New Zealand:

Craig Potton Publishing, 2009); Nature’s Best: New Zealand’s Top 30 Songs of All-Time (Roseberry, N.S.W.: Wise Publications, 2002); Nature’s Best 2: More of New Zealand’s Top Songs of All-Time (Sydney: Wise Publications, 2004); Bic Runga, Bic Runga Songbook (Taren Point, N.S.W.: Alfred Publishing Ltd., 2006); The Little Black Kiwi Songbook (Sydney: Wise Publications, 2007).

mathematically oriented and does not, in itself, admit much flexibility or freedom.

The issue is whether this model is appropriate for popular music. Shepherd and Vulliamy argue, with regards to popular music, notation and education, that

When the radical potential of an oral-aural musical language is defused in the classroom by a notational filter derived from functional-tonality, the students are…socialised into fundamental epistemological assumptions underpinning industrial, capitalist society.6

There are several problems with this extreme view, primarily relating to the authors’ links; essentially, notation equals tonality, which equals dominant ideologies, which equals education, which equals capitalism, ipso facto, notation equals capitalism. Swanwick later responded that no causal relationship between the variables has ever been established. Furthermore, popular music, the non-notated “radical” idiom, is closely bound to capitalist markets.7

Nonetheless, Shepherd and Vulliamy rightly point out that “the improvisatory and inflectionary characteristics of Afro-American musics are not capable of being notated analytically.”8 In short, standard notation does not record vocal melismas, microtonal pitches, and pitch bending and slides; nor does it account for subtle rhythmic displacements slightly before or after the beat divisions.

Peter Winkler’s transcription of Aretha Franklin’s ‘I Never Loved A Man’

engages these issues.9 Guiding the reader through the transcription process, Winkler attempts to notate Franklin’s vocal inflections and to “measure the groove” through precise rhythmic calculations that go far beyond triplets and

6 John Shepherd and Graham Vulliamy, “A Comparative Sociology of School Knowledge,”

British Journal of Sociology of Education 4, no. 1 (1983), 10.

7 See Keith Swanwick, “Problems of a Sociological Approach to Pop Music in Schools,” British Journal of Sociology of Education 5, no. 1 (1984), pp. 49-56.

8 Shepherd and Vulliamy, “A Comparative Sociology of School Knowledge,” 5.

9 Peter Winkler, “Writing Ghost Notes: The Poetics and Politics of Transcription,” in Keeping Score: Music, Disciplinarity, Culture, eds. David Schwarz, Anahid Kassabian, and Lawrence Siegel (United States of America: University of Virginia Press, 1997), pp. 169-203.