Corpus Studies of Harmony in Popular Music: A Response to Gauvin

Authors

  • Trevor deClercq Middle Tennessee State University

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.18061/emr.v10i3.4842

Keywords:

popular music, rock music, harmony, modal mixture, corpus study, modulation

Abstract

This paper responds to the research presented in Gauvin’s paper on the evolution of harmonic syntax in popular music from the 1960s.  I begin by situating the findings from his second study (on flat-side harmonies) within the context of my corpus work with David Temperley on harmony in popular music.  Gauvin’s results are similar to ours, although some important differences are worth noting.  I also provide an interpretation of the results from his first study (on modulation), which Gauvin found to be inconsistent with his proposed hypothesis.  Specifically, I conjecture that modulation and harmonic palette may be in balance with one another, in that listeners may prefer songs where harmonic content is at a medium level of complexity.  Gauvin’s study also brings forth some basic issues with regard to harmonic encoding, in terms of both the subjectivity of the analytical process as well as the ease by which harmonic analyses are shared with and verified by other researchers.

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Published

2015-04-09

Issue

Section

Commentaries