Is music analysis interesting for regular folks?

October 15, 2009

I struggle writing my book analyzing songs by Rufus Wainwright because I keep forgetting who I am writing the book for. I simplify the language so that regular music lovers can appreciate it, but then I address issues that are more appropriate to graduate music analysis seminars for composers or music theorists.

What is it that non-musicians want to know about music? I fear that these music lovers don’t know the questions to ask––so I need to ask interesting questions.

What do classical musicians want to get out of a book that analyzes songs by a pop songwriter? My guess is that we want to see that there are similar compositional methods a classical composer might use, showing up somewhere in the music. Good voice leading along with an organic use of a theme in a pop piece impresses a classical musician.

Who am I writing for? Both audiences.


[Early American doll, photo by RB]

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November 3, 2009 at 1:32 am

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

thalkowski October 16, 2009 at 7:38 am

As you write, please don’t think just about non-musician music lovers, but also the people somewhere in between (amateur-musician music lovers). I think these folks might be a bigger audience than you might expect. Such folks (I am one) are deeply fascinated by the ways that musical structures can move us, and want to learn how those bits of music that make your scalp tingle are able to do that.

Roger Bourland October 16, 2009 at 8:24 am

Thanks for this thalkowski. It is a tricky balancing act.

thalkowski October 16, 2009 at 10:46 am

I know – just like teaching a large college course. You have the folks who already know quite a lot, the motivated middle crowd, and people who are not sure they even belong in the class. We try, at our best, to say something to all three groups, and to help each of these folks move further down the road.

Hyperufusensitive October 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm

I agree with thalkowski, the people in between (like myself) are a big and important audience. Just remember it’s love for music that binds us all, music lovers, professional musicians and amateurs in between. If you focus on that middle ground, I believe there will be enough to enjoy for everyone interested!

I really really look forward to your book 🙂

kacattac October 17, 2009 at 11:36 pm

“Is music analysis interesting for regular folks?”

My question: since when was it interesting to musicians?

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