I have just given a lecture on the development of musical personae (mainly influenced by academics such as Cone, Auslander and Moore) and its resonance with musical texture. We began by suggesting the following two types of musical texture
- Texture can be ‘physical’ (descriptive sound) and/or ‘rhetorical’ (carry extra-musical meaning).
- What is the need to consider the relationship between the singer (or lead instrument) and the ‘environment’ (the backing)
Based on Allan Moore’s 5 point scale (2013) – I suggested a more concise 3 point typology of musical environment:
1.Inert: No real impact on meaning. Sets the Style, Genre and Time only – no ‘extra lyrical’ impact on the personae singing it. Examples listened to included ‘Crazy’ by Patsy Cline (1962) and ‘A Million Love Songs’ by Take That (1992)
2.Active: Supports the position of the singer/lead: Examples discussed included Annie Lennox ‘Walking On Broken Glass’ (1992), Feist ‘The Water’ (2008), Joe Cocker ‘With a Little Help from my Friends’ (1969), ‘Machine Gun’ Jimi Hendrix (1970), ‘Every Breath You Take’ The Police (1983)
3.Oppositional: Where the background environment conflicts with the lyric. We used some of Sting’s songwriting as indicative examples – but I am interested very interesting in other examples anyone can offer.
Regarding musical personae, we also spent some time considering how the person singing a song can be categorized as follows:
- The ‘Real’ Person/Performer singing a song: For example David Jones, Reginald Kenneth Dwight, Gordon Sumner, Saul Hudson, Robert Plant, Michael Jackson and –
- The Performance Persona: The character the performer ‘puts on’ when performing – distinct from the ‘real person’. David Jones = David Bowie, Reginald Kenneth Dwight = Elton John, Gordon Sumner = Sting, Saul Hudson = Slash, Robert Plant, Michael Jackson and –
- The Protagonist/Character: A character that is portrayed in a song – often no identity outside of song.
We discussed the relationships between these factors, and how their union or lack of union can impact notions of authenticity.
An interesting discussion point was the early images of Bob Dylan – who to most peoples minds conjures up notions of authenticity. These images portray lack of record industry mediation, lyrics than have real concerns, no gimmickry etc. However, it is interesting to compare these to Woody Guthrie – how does this impact our view of Dylan’s ‘authenticity’?
I am interested in any examples of
- Examples of ‘Inert’, ‘Active’ and in Particular ‘Oppositional’ Environments
- Discussions of songs which involve ‘Real Person’, Persona’ and ‘Protagonist. How do they work together? How does the real person display elements of their self via a personae and protagonist/character?
Listen to the lecture below for more detail:
Also – here is a Spotify playlist with some of the music discussed.