“The Times They Were A-Changin’”: A Database-Driven Approach to the Evolution of Musical Syntax in Popular Music from the 1960s

Hubert Léveillé Gauvin

Abstract


The goal of this research is to investigate the pitch structures of popular music in the 1960s through a large corpus study in order to identify any consistent changes in harmonic and tonal syntax.  More specifically, two studies based on the Billboard DataSet (Burgoyne, Wild & Fujinaga, 2011; Burgoyne, 2011), a new corpus presenting transcriptions for more than 700 songs, is presented. The first study looks at the incidence of multi-tonic songs throughout the decade, while the second study focuses on the incidence of flat-side harmonies (e.g. bIII, bVI, and bVII) over the same period of time. While no difference was observed in the frequency of multi-tonic songs, the study showed a significant increase in the incidence of flat-side harmonies during the second half of the decade.

Keywords


popular music; corpus; Billboard; harmony; modulation

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/emr.v10i3.4467

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Copyright (c) 2015 Hubert Léveillé Gauvin

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