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Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method and Practise

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‘Analysing popular music: theory, method and practise’ (Tagg, 1982) is an article that illustrates brilliantly the issues and nuances of analysing and discussing popular music. It lays out a scientific method for achieving analytical goals, using some of Tagg’s previous work to help explain his methodology and process. In the first part of this essay, I will discuss the analysis of ‘Kojak Theme’ (Goldenberg, 1973) and ABBA’s ‘Fernando’ (ABBA, 1976) that Tagg writes about in his work.

Tagg’s method on analysis is based on hypothetical subsitition of musical material to provide a background to make an analysis. An example of this is when applies his model for analysis of museme stacks on page 89 to the ‘Kojak Theme’. He seperates the melody from the accompaniment to break down the piece, and breaks the accompaniment down to bass and ‘other parts’ by their relation to the melody. He makes the point that the most important relationship is between the melody and accompaniment, and the subordinate is the relationship between the bass and other parts, making the metaphor of the first relationship being between ‘individuals(s) and enviroment’ to illustrate this point. These relations are one of the first tools used to obtain an analysis of the song, with Tagg drawing out esthesic meaning from the different parts and their relationships. Probably the most important analysis at this point is of the melody, that Tagg draws a narrative from:

“A call to action and attention, strong, individual movement, up and outwards: virile, energetic and heroicm leading to undulating swaying calm and confidence – something individual, male, martial and heroic.”

He then applies this narrative to the main melodic, four bar, musical phrase of the p...

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...andscape contextually, which gives his analysis an importantce in not just understanding the music, but its practical impact.

Works Cited

Andersson, B., & Ulvaeus, B. (Composers). (1976). Fernando. [B. Andersson, B. Ulvaeus, & A.-F. Lyngstad, Performers]

van Beethoven, L. (Composer). (1808). Symphony No.5 in C Minor. Vienna.

Cook, N. (1987). A Guide To Musical Analysis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Forte, A. (1973). The Structure of Atonal Music. London: Yale University Press.

Goldenberg, W. (Composer). (1973). Kojak Theme. [W. Goldenberg, Conductor]

Hanson, H. (1960). Harmonic Materials of Modern Music: Resources of the Tempered Scale. London: Yale University Press.

Schoenberg, A. (Composer). (1911). Opus 19, No. 6. [A. Schoenberg, Performer]

Tagg, P. (1982). Analysing popular music; theory, method and practise. Popular Music (2), pp. 71-101.
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