Form as Harmony in Rock Music

ISBN : 9780190948351

Drew Nobile
320 Pages
178 x 254 mm
Pub date
Jun 2020
Oxford Studies in Music Theory
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Overturning the inherited belief that popular music is unrefined, Form as Harmony in Rock Music brings the process-based approach of classical theorists to popular music scholarship. Author Drew Nobile offers the first comprehensive theory of form for 1960s, 70s, and 80s classic rock repertoire, showing how songs in this genre are not simply a series of discrete elements, but rather exhibit cohesive formal-harmonic structures across their entire timespan. Though many elements contribute to the cohesion of a song, the rock music of these decades is built around a fundamentally harmonic backdrop, giving rise to distinct types of verses, choruses, and bridges. Nobile's rigorous but readable theoretical analysis demonstrates how artists from Bob Dylan to Stevie Wonder to Madonna consistently turn to the same compositional structures throughout rock's various genres and decades, unifying them under a single musical style. Using over 200 transcriptions, graphs, and form charts, Form as Harmony in Rock Music advocates a structural approach to rock analysis, revealing essential features of this style that would otherwise remain below our conscious awareness.


1. Harmonic Syntax
2. Verses
3. Choruses
4. Prechoruses, Bridges, and Auxiliary Sections
5. AABA and Strophic Forms
6. Sectional Verse-Chorus
7. Continuous Verse-Chorus
8. Verse-Prechorus-Chorus

About the author: 

Drew Nobile is Assistant Professor of Music Theory at the University of Oregon. His research on the analysis of popular music has appeared in several publications, including Music Theory Spectrum, the Journal of Music Theory, and Music Theory Online.

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