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About the Book

The Musical Language of Rock puts forth a new, comprehensive theoretical framework for the study of rock music, addressing topics such as tonality, harmony, rhythm/meter, melody, phrase structure, form, and emotional expression. Rock is defined broadly to include a wide range of late 20th-century Anglo-American popular styles, from 1950s rock & roll to Motown to 1990s alternative rock. Combining a conventional music-analytic approach with statistical corpus analysis, the book brings together ideas from the author’s previous articles as well as substantial new material. A central premise of the book is that the study of individual rock songs can be advanced by paying greater attention to the ways that they engage with the conventions of the style—conventions whose complexity and richness has not always been fully appreciated. A major innovation of the book is a three-dimensional model of musical expression—representing valence, energy, and tension—which proves to be a powerful tool for characterizing songs and also for tracing expressive shifts within them. The theory features novel approaches to issues such as cadences, melodic-harmonic coordination, the handling of sectional boundaries, and the classification of formal types. The final two chapters present analyses of six songs, and a broader consideration of rock in its historical and stylistic context. The book includes many musical examples, with sound clips available on the book’s website. The book will be an invaluable resource for scholars of rock and serious rock fans, and may also be useful as a text for graduate or upper-level undergraduate courses on rock.

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