26 Jan 2014

Chapter 1.1: The Vocal-Subject

This post is part of my series on Pop, Power & the Vocal-Subject

In the Introduction, I outlined three theses concerning the way in which pop music is experienced as meaningful by its audience. The first part of this series focuses on the first of these theses:

On recorded pop tracks, the vocals constitute a distinct 'vocal-subject' in relation to a non-vocal, musical 'situation'.

For each thesis, I will try to demonstrate a) how they are implicated in notions of power and control, b) how they can be used in analysis and criticism of pop music, and c) how this can inform hearings of political music, as well as political hearings of music. Part One is by far the most theoretical, philosophical section of the series, in that I try to explain what I actually mean by these terms, and how they might compare to existing theories of musical phenomenology: not only in the academic realms of musicology, philosophy and cultural studies, but also in everyday fan discourse and journalistic pop criticism.

3 Jan 2014

Pop, Power & the Vocal-Subject: Introduction

Around half a year ago, I began to draft a blog post outlining some ideas that had been floating around my head for ages. I kept writing and writing, one essay split into two and those two split into four, and the argument kept escalating until I had something book-length planned out. I was excited enough about my ideas not to want to give them too short a shrift. As it happens, by this point, the shrift is very long indeed, but I’m happy enough with the results to stop writing and start editing, and the results will appear on this blog over the next few months. This first post is the introduction, then, to what I’ve been calling my blogbook. Copyright fees are far too expensive for song lyrics and music examples, which are central to most of my arguments, for any hope of paper publication in the near future, and I’m keen on the idea of open culture publishing anyway. I hope to put together a downloadable PDF version of this book, and ideally some podcasts with real-time analyses; while the essays do make incursions into some pretty dense and wide-ranging academic domains from time to time, I would like to keep it as accessible as possible. I hope it also might provide some nice jumping-off points some very exciting texts that I’ve been enjoying over the last year or two (since I started my MA).

I intend to publish a new chapter every week, and I will link them all to a new index page, which will also feature a bibliography that grows as each new chapter is added. By the time all eighteen chapters have been published, it should constitute a pretty comprehensive Night Mail reading list for anyone interested in my key musicological, theoretical and critical influences. Many of the essays and reviews that I have already published on this site since 2010 have contributed to this study in some way or another, and I revisit a few of these old ideas within the new, more codified context of my larger project. It is certainly possible to read individual chapters separately – some are more 'academic' in style than others – but in order to fully comprehend my critical position, it's probably best to work through the chapters in order, or at least familiarise yourself with the three theses I outline at the end of this introduction.