15 Apr 2014

Chapter 2.1: Taking the Initiative: An Introduction to Musical Power Analysis

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

> The key terrain of power struggle in the pop song is the moment of transformation between verse and chorus.

>> There are no stakes higher than this moment.

>>> To control this transformation is to control the direction and meaning of the song, and to subjugate it to particular goals or interests.

Over the course of Part 1 of this essay series, I’ve tried to lay out the fundamental opposition – between ‘vocal-subject’ and ‘objective musical forces’ – that produces what we know as songs. I have introduced the notion of a power relationship between these two elements, instrumental in creating meaning and even political potency, but so far I have focused on a power relationship that effectively works in only one direction. The elements which come together to form the band track, accompaniment track, backing, beat, riddim etc. – the ‘objective musical forces’ – constitute a monolithic environment, flow, space-time, lifeworld, habitus, etc., within which the vocal-subject exists, to which it is subject and against which it can resist with varying degrees of success.