University of North Texas College of Music

Text Setting a Breakout: Scansion, Rhyme, and Vowel Repetition in 1960s Choruses

The 1960s pop/rock chorus is described in one of two ways. Biamonte, Temperley, and Nobile often describe it as the region that achieves regularity and resolves musical tension through its hypermeter and tonal resolution. At the same time, it is described as the most climactic or intense: as noted by Everett, Nobile, and Osborn, it contains dramatic harmonies, the shortest motives, and the thickest texture. These two descriptions highlight two opposed features of the chorus: the section can covey stability, freedom, and sometimes both simultaneously.
Previous authors have paid little attention to chorus text's prosodic features—that is, their textual rhyme, assonance (repeated vowel sounds), and sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables. My presentation argues that these features similarly reinforce both the freedom and liberation that others have noted as part of the chorus. I demonstrate this claim through analysis of rhyme placement, scansion, and rhyme/meter relation in rock and R&B artists such as The Supremes, and The Temptations, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Jefferson Airplane. The analyses refine our understanding of the chorus and show how prosody plays a significant formal role in popular styles.


Conference Photo Nicholas Hunter.jpg

David Heetderks