We’ll close the class by studying my area of expertise of more closely: visual analysis of spectrograms. We will also discuss the relationship between timbre and genre.

This topic is here also because I am exceptionally busy these few weeks, between Holy Week and extra performances with my church job, and a “mini-residency” at Utah State University. My communication may be slower this week.

Week 11 (Mar 25)

I will not be holding a class meeting this week because I have to go to a choir rehearsal. If you like, you can meet without me. (Is that too dorky for anyone to do? I don't know.) Anyone is able to start the meeting on Teams. So maybe optionally, if you'd like to still have discussion, you can log on without me. But that is absolutely optional!

But as you can see, the reading is my own article, so I will be especially adept at answering any questions you have! Please post questions in the homework help channel on Teams. Maybe we can have a nice asynchronous discussion that way.

We can also discuss this week's reading during next week's class.

Reading due Tue, Mar 26

Lavengood 2020

Assignment due Fri, Mar 29

In this assignment, you will use Auralayer to visualize different instrumental layers in ”Toxic” by Britney Spears.

  1. Navigate to Auralayer.
  2. Paste YouTube URL for “Toxic”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOZuxwVk7TU
  3. Expand the “Media” collapsible and click on the video to initiate playback. You can pause again immediately if you like—you just need to click it to get playback initialized.
  4. Create layers (N) and name them (click on layer, click gear, click pencil). Make a different layer for each instrument/voice you hear. You will have to listen closely to determine what instruments are present. I very highly recommend using high-quality headphones for this. There are subtle details you’ll miss if you can’t hear clearly.
  5. Color-code the layers based on their functional layer type (explicit beat layer, functional bass layer, harmonic filler layer, melody layer, novelty layer). Change the color of a layer by clicking on it, clicking the gear, and clicking the paint bucket icon.
  6. Optional: create spacers between layers to further separate them.
  7. Hold shift and click all the layers until they are all selected. Listen to the song and press S whenever you hear a layer enter or exit. This will create a split in all the layers. This is a nice way to get started.
    1. Create splits with S
    2. If a split is entered but not needed, merge the segments to remove it.
    3. Delete segments where the layer is not present.
    4. Make a note of the dynamic level of the layer with the “presence” slider.
  8. Add a layer to indicate form.
    1. Create splits where you hear section changes.
    2. Enter text in each segment that names the formal section (verse, chorus, etc.). Double- click the segment to add text.
    3. Select all segments and left-align them so it’s clear where sections start.
    4. Make the background color white.

After you’ve completed your analysis, take a screenshot of it and insert it into a document. Then, answer the following questions (shorter answers are ok, I know this was probably a lot of work):

  1. When do layers enter and exit, and how does that relate to the form?
  2. Are any layers missing altogether? What is the effect of omitting that layer from the song?
  3. How do the rhythmic profiles of the layers differ?
  4. How do any of the answers to the questions above relate to genre or cultural context?

Save your analysis as a PDF (begin filename with 11) and upload to your homework submit folder.

Week 12 (Apr 1)

Reading due Tue, Apr 2

Lavengood 2019

Assignment due Fri, Apr 5

Write a mini-essay that answers the following questions/prompts:

  • Building off the idea of the DX7 E. PIANO 1 as the quintessential ’80s sound, think of other examples of instruments or timbral qualities that seem to capture the essence of a particular genre or era of popular music.
  • Can you think of any techno-historical explanations for why this sound dominates in that context?
  • How do laypeople talk about the timbre of this sound? How much of this language is based on physical, acoustic properties of the timbre, and how much of it is perceptual cultural association?

Week 13 (Apr 8)

Reading due Tue, Apr 9

Wallmark 2018b, Neal 2018

Discussion leaders: Megan Shin, Parker Neal

Assignment due Fri, Apr 12

Work on the final project worksheet.