Volume 8 (2022)
Abe Road: Kuwata Keisuke’s Beatles Parody
Noriko Manabe (Temple University)
Volume 8.1 (January 2022)
In May 2009, when the Japanese LDP government was in a weakened position, Kuwata Keisuke, lead singer of popular rock band Southern All Stars, performed a parody of the Beatles’ Abbey Road on his weekly television show. Backed by a band performing an uncanny cover of the album, he rewrote the lyrics into commentary on corruption in Japanese politics, fiscal problems, the death penalty, and other political issues.
This performance was highly unusual: Japanese recording artists rarely engage in politics. The recording and broadcast industries disallow lyrics on controversial topics, and management discourages artists from engaging in politics. Kuwata staged his rebellious gesture as a “mishearing” of a well-known album.
Kuwata transformed Abbey Road into political parody through linguistic sleight of hand. Kuwata chose Japanese lyrics with similar vowels and consonants (as demonstrated by their proximities on the International Phonetic Alphabet) to make them sound like the original English lyrics. By presenting his acrid commentary as a parody of this much-loved album and thus framing it as humorous entertainment, Kuwata was able to publicly criticize Japanese politicians.
Keywords: Parody, cover, Beatles, Abbey Road, Japan, linguistics, rock, Kuwata Keisuke, music and politics
Clara Schumann’s op. 16 no. 3 and “Fifth Above, Third Below”: Discerning Inverted Canonic Potential
Scott Murphy (University of Kansas)
Volume 8.2 (March 2022)
This video equips the viewer with a method to determine if a melody can support tonally idiomatic inverted canonic combinations, detecting not only diatonic consonances but also prohibited parallel motions. This method reveals that the subject for the third fugue from Clara Schumann’s op. 16 can form two dubious combinations at a particular time delay; she concludes her fugue with an ameliorating hybrid of these two combinations.
Keywords: canon, stretto, fugue, counterpoint, inversion, Clara Schumann
The Feel of the Guitar in Popular Music Performance
Nicholas Shea (Arizona State University)
Volume 8.3 (May 2022)
Popular-music guitarists frequently reference the physicality of the fretboard when discussing songwriting and performance. Brittany Howard, for example, advocates that the feel of her guitar and physical gestures — chord shapes, licks, and riffs — are more critical to her craft than theoretical knowledge regarding pitch and harmony. However, in-depth gestural perspectives on musical organization are underrepresented in popular-music scholarship. This video article responds by investigating the relationship between fretboard gestures and popular music’s features in two contexts. First is a close analysis of “Short and Sweet” that focuses on how Howard coordinates chord voicings and larger left-hand shifts with important rhetorical moments reflected in the song’s lyrics. A following motion-capture study then surveys how similar gestural trends might generalize to performances by other guitarists. Data from performances by 14 local practicing guitarists demonstrate that the musicians typically prefer to articulate moments of formal transition with the largest physical gestures. Such findings suggest a degree of gestural intentionality and strategy amongst guitarists and clarify the contexts in which a guitarist might choose to maintain or abandon fretboard affordances.
Keywords: Britney Howard, guitar, popular music, performance analysis, motion-capture
“Appropriating Copland’s Fanfare”
Stanley V. Kleppinger (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) Volume 8.4 (June 2022)
This video explores the stylistic and associative evolution of the emblematic sound Aaron Copland forged in his Fanfare for the Common Man (1942). This style, called here the triumphant exordium, consists of a constellation of specific musical features that has been imitated and troped by other composers—and by Copland himself—to carve out musical landscapes with evocative expressive qualities that include both clear and ambiguous connections with Americana. After summarizing the Fanfare’s original musical and extra-musical contexts, this video illuminates this legacy through three case studies.
Keywords: Aaron Copland, Fanfare for the Common Man, Americana, John Williams, James Horner
Flat 2 as Hotness in Post-Millennial Pop
Eron F.S. (Eastman School of Music) Volume 8.5 (August 2022)
In post-2000s pop, particularly synth-driven, dance-style pop, Flat 2 has become a sonic signal of hotness. Drawing on a collection of 75+ songs, this video explains how Hot Flat 2 usually appears in this style of music, the meanings associated with its sound, and what happens as we approach the boundaries of these sounds and meanings. Usually, Flat 2, defined as “the note a half step above the home note,” typically appears in isolation as part of a bassline or backing track rather than as part of a triad. In most of the songs where it appears, the lyrics center on “hotness,” defined as an expression of confidence, sexuality, or both. One possible reason for this is the “exotic” association with Flat 2—pop songs sometimes use “foreign” sounds to connote a non- specific other and conjure fetishizing stereotypes about Black and brown women’s bodies. This legacy of Orientalism and racism becomes even more apparent when songs reinforce Hot Flat 2 with lyrics, timbres, and augmented seconds. The sparser the pitch context, the less a note might sound like Flat 2, and as we approach or leave the boundaries of the pop genre, the hotness associations can fade altogether. With all this in mind, what starts as noticing a distinctive note becomes a way to notice genre boundaries and cultural connotations in the music we hear around us.
Keywords: Flat 2, hotness, exoticism, pop, scale degree