In this particular article, taken from a compilation of essays on popular music titled On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word, the authors discuss the difficulties musicologists face when wishing to devote their time and energy to the analysis and interpretation of popular music, from rock to heavy metal to the blues. Popular music is very often at a disadvantage due to the fact that it is traditionally seen as the enemy of classical music. Musicologists who have a genuine interest and appreciation for rock and pop music typically are presented with a unique dilemma in that, since analysis of popular music according to the typical criteria used in classical music is typically far less insightful, they have to look at the music from a different perspective, drawing up their own criteria. the understanding in traditional musicology of the superiority of Beethoven, Strauss, Mozart, Bach, etc. to popular music has largely been due to the attempts to judge popular music according to the rules and practices of classical music. For example, classical music is typically analyzed according to tools such as pitch centers, a method which falls flat when applied to most popular music. This is decidedly unfair, calling to mind a quote from Albert Einstein which reads, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Similarly, if musicologists judge popular music according to its exploration of pitch centers and tonal goals, it’s going to be found wanting. Furthermore, an analysis according to pitch centers is only one way to discuss the content and the value of music. Popular musical styles can be just as meaningful and complex as Beethoven, Strauss, and Stravinsky, but in different ways. Musicologists cannot deny the attraction and the emotional impact that this music is able to evoke, whether it is Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, the Beatles, Coldplay, or heavy metal.
|Down the Abbey Road, The Beatles|
|Apollo Belvedere/Pythian Apollo|
|Paul Scofield as St. Thomas More, 1966.|