Songcraft

Makes you think…..

THINKING ON MUSIC

Jonathan L. Friedmann, Ph.D.

The roots of popular music can be traced to eighteenth-century Britain. Publishing houses sought to entice customers with sheet music of the era’s catchiest tunes. In those pre-recording days, reproduction of favorite songs was a do-it-yourself affair. The music industry has since exploded into a multi-billion dollar international business. “Popular music” is itself an economic term applied to commercially distributed songs with wide appeal. It extends to multiple genres, making any unifying characteristics difficult (impossible?) to identify. The most that can be said is that popular songs exhibit some degree of formulaic writing.

Sure, there are trailblazers and experimentalists that occasionally appear in the homogenous landscape of pop, but taking risks is usually bad for business. By definition, popular music has to be popularly successful, and doing so requires following patterns and upholding conventions. Oftentimes what separates one band or vocalist from the next is timbre—the distinctive quality of “the sound”—rather than the music itself.

The conservative nature of pop…

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