Why Is Popular Music Different?

How does the slippery pitch of Marvin Gaye’s voice suggest particular types of emotion? How do we interpret the ‘abstract’ electronic sounds of EDM?
What makes the production of a recording sound ‘expensive’?

Most of the tools of traditional musical analysis are based on notation and are concerned with studying composition rather than performance. With popular music, the interest lies more frequently in the way performers slide on and off a pitch or how they vary the tone colour of their instrument or voice rather than in the harmonic structure that is central to classical analysis.

What kinds of analyses can be devised to study the unique characteristics of popular music styles? Using several examples, Professor Zagorski-Thomas will go through a range of features that need to be understood in order to make the study of popular music as rigorous as its classical counterpart.

Simon Zagorski-Thomas 
Simon Zagorski-Thomas recently organized a London & SE research network on 21st Century Music Practice that involves many of the TCCE partners in a group of over 20 higher education institutions. He is a professor at the London College of Music, University of West London. He is the founder and co-director of the annual Art of Record Production Conference and co-chairman of the Association for the Study of the Art of Record Production (www.artofrecordproduction.com). His publications include The Musicology of Record Production and The Art of Record Production (co-edited with Simon Frith). Before becoming an academic he worked for twenty-five years as a composer, sound engineer and producer with artists as varied as Phil Collins, Mica Paris, London Community Gospel Choir, Bill Bruford, The Mock Turtles, Courtney Pine and the Balanescu Quartet.

Image courtesy of London College of Music