Course Description

Our team-taught course will explore the issues related to three musical categories -- voice, groove, song -- as elements of popular music, and their potential to be engaged through other musical frameworks. The course will fuse a workshop environment for compositional and performative experimentation with an intellectual environment of reading, discussion, and critical inquiry. For our creative work with students, we plan to make three software platforms available—Ableton Live, Audacity, and GarageBand—which will allow students to create and modify sound files. These applications have adistinct benefit in that they do not assume students can read Western notation, thus allowing for a diverse student body (i.e., not only trained music students). All such creative assignmentswill be carefully designed, within precise parameters, so that students are at once able to experiment with diverse sonic combinations, but are not left at sea with no creative constraints. Glenn’s drum kit would also be a fixture in the classroom, allowing students to learn firsthand about various grooves—from “Cold Sweat” to the Purdie shuffle.  

Students will also learn how to analyze song forms using the software Variations Timeliner. Regular analytical assignments will help students to sharpen their sensitivity tovarious conventions of song structure and craft.

Steven Rings has taught and written extensively on voice and popular music, and he has begun to assemble a reading list for the class, ranging from Simon Frith’s “Why do Songs Have Words?” to Mark Butler’s "Unlocking the Groove", from Allan Moore’s Song Means to Roland Barthes’s “The Grain of the Voice.”