Session/Séance 1e: IASPM Panel 3 Juxtaposing Methodologies and Genres: From Metric Analysis to Transfictionality

Session/Séance 1e: IASPM Panel 3. Thursday/jeudi 25 May 2017. 10:30AM-12:30PM, EJB 215.
Juxtaposing Methodologies and Genres: From Metric Analysis to Transfictionality
     Moderator: JONATHAN OSBORN (York University)


1. Transfictional Popular Music: Eminem’s “Bad Guy” (2013)
     Serge Lacasse, Université Laval

In 2013, Eminem released the song “Bad Guy” on The Marshall Mathers LP 2. “Bad Guy” is described as a sequel to “Stan,” a song featuring on The Marshall Mathers LP launched in 2000. “Stan” relates the story of a disturbed fan of Slim Shady who murders his own (pregnant) wife in a way inspired by another story, one related in Eminem’s “'97 Bonnie and Clyde” (from The Slim Shady LP, 1999). Eminem’s characters, such as Slim Shady, appear and interact in many other songs recorded by Eminem, but also by other artists (such as Tori Amos). How can we account for the relationships within this network of songs? How can recording practices contribute to the cohesion of these related phonographic narratives? Indeed, although popular music has sometimes been approached as narrative (e.g. Frith 1996, Sibilla 2003; Lacasse 2006), and despite the fact that most popular music is founded on one form or another of storytelling, it seems that no theoretical model has approached recorded popular music from the angle of fiction. Fiction theory is a vast domain that could help us better understand and reinterpret a lot of the practices (including practices of recording) observed in recorded music. Using Richard St-Gelais’s concept of transfictionality (St-Gelais 2011) this paper will unpack and characterise the different ways in which a group of Eminem recorded songs relate to each other on the level of fiction: “captures,” “sequels/prequels,” “interpolations,” or “systems”; these transfictional practices shed an alternative and revealing light on a corpus that is in need of a theoretical model for better analysing its effects on us. Moreover, recording technologies directly contribute to the establishment of these transfictional relationships, notably in terms of phonographic staging (Lacasse 2000; Zagorski-Thomas 2014).


2. The Emancipation of Metric Displacement Dissonance in Hip-Hop Music
     Ben Duinker, McGill University

This paper investigates the perception of metric displacement dissonance between hip-hop music’s main textural layers: flow (the rapped vocals) and beat (the instrumental track). Metric displacement dissonance refers to identically grouped metric patterns of equal duration whose start and end points are temporally misaligned (Krebs, 1999). In hip-hop music, displacement dissonance can occur between syntactic units of the flow and metric units of the beat. By considering examples from songs by Nas, A Tribe Called Quest, and Kool Keith, I demonstrate that a listener’s perception of displacement dissonance in hip-hop music can depend on the following musical factors:

  • Prior familiarity with sampled material. Hip-hop music often repurposes borrowed musical material; the original metric structure of this material might be perceivable, even if repurposing violates that structure.
  • Initial conditions. A perceivable metric hierarchy may be unclear during the opening of a song but become clear once more aural clues are present.
  • Structure of lyrics. The structure of lyrical stanzas might contradict the metric structure of the beat, depending on where rhyming syllables or lyrical caesuras occur.
  • Textural changes. Addition of instruments or momentary dropping out of the drums may be used as aural clues to form a perception of metric hierarchy.

Each song example studied here suggests metric displacement dissonance between its flow and beat. I construct multiple hypothetical hearings of these examples by considering metric cues suggested by the aforementioned musical factors. Depending on how a listener aurally entrains to the flow and beat, certain musical factors might suggest one perception of metre over another. In the examples presented here, the displacement dissonance does not always re- solve convincingly, exemplifying what Mark Butler calls the “emancipation of metric dissonance” (2006) and sug- gesting the need for further investigation of metre which situates the listening experience as the object of analysis.

Keywords: musical time, metre, music perception, hip-hop music, metric dissonance

3. Metric Irregularity and the Tresillo in Songs by Tool
     Scott Hanenberg, University of Toronto

Los Angeles progressive metal group Tool is widely recognized for musical originality, and especially for innovative irregular grooves (e.g., Biamonte 2014). One point of rhythmic commonality between Tool and mainstream rock is the pervasive use of the tresillo (3,3,2), double tresillo ((3,3),(3,3),(2,2)) and related patterns (whose Afro-diasporic, Latin-American roots are traced by Mauléon 1993, Chor 2010, etc.). This paper is based on a survey of 34 Tool songs that feature tresillo-family rhythms or more distant relatives. In tracing Tool’s uses of these rhythms, I high- light an evolution from strikingly disjunct metric patterns towards a less volatile – though no less distinctive – style. While fans embraced the former metric rhetoric for its transgressive qualities, the latter has allowed Tool greater popular success while retaining compositional eccentricities. Two examples demonstrate a range of tresillo-based metric play and reflect the chronology identified above. In a repeated instrumental from “Intolerance” (1993), bars of 13/16 are formed by the omission of one of the double tresillo’s three-pulse groups – i.e., (3,3,3,2,2). The alternation of 13/16 bars with common-time double-tresillo bars (forming a 29-sixteenth-note pattern) is jarring; moving to the groove can feel somewhat forced. This uneasy feeling may explain why the vocals are relegated to more metrically comfortable (common-time) grooves. By comparison, in “The Pot” (2006), we find a complex interaction of tresillo and double tresillo patterns (some reversed) between voice and bass guitar. While the resulting multi-layer rhythmic fabric can be disorienting upon first listening, the metre – eventually clarified in the drum part – is a familiar 4/4. As a listener entrains to the underlying metre, their metric attention moves in and out of alignment with the tresillo syncopations, providing a complex and potentially rewarding embodied experience. Thus, in “The Pot” and other recent recordings, Tool successfully marries metric idiosyncrasies with intuitive, even danceable, grooves.

Keywords: Tool, tresillo, metre, irregular, groove

4. Returning, Remembering and Re-Awakening: The Composer and the Poem
     Kalli Paakspuu, York University

Toi has been one of the most influential personalities sustaining and articulating a collective Estonian identity in exile. At his 100th birthday celebrations in Toronto, choirs sang a retrospective of his works and filmmaker Kalli Paakspuu recorded them for a documentary. The Estonian language, like Livonian, is a Finno-ugric language that for centuries has been threatened by wars – and more recently by the decades long Soviet occupation. The life story of composer and maestro conductor Roman Toi has had a profound effect on Estonian cultural survival. In 1990 an alliance was marked with maestro Gustav Ernesaks when both Ernesaks and Toi were chosen to be the first honoured conductors in a free Estonia for Laulupidu, the Estonian Song Festival which that year featured over 30,000 singers and audiences of 80,000 . These two charismatic personalities were the most active in reviving an Estonian nationalism through the singing revolution. Ernesaks song “Mu isamaa on minu arm”/“My fatherland is my love” became the unofficial anthem of Estonians during the Soviet occupation. Ernesaks and Toi’s songs are now standard Estonian choral repertoire. Like Toi’s younger and more famous Estonian contemporary Arvo Pärt, the older song traditions are Toi’s inspiration for cantatas, symphonies and choral works. Toi, however, selected poetic texts from an earlier generation of Estonian writers for his compositions. This presentation will explore the poetic texts of Roman Toi’s songs and Toi’s use of writers of the Estonian cultural awakening in a tradition now followed by new generation: Canadian born composer Riho Esko Maimets, whose mesmerizing work, “Kolm igatsuse laulu”/ “Three Songs of Yearning” was dedicated to Roman Toi at his hundredth birthday in a world premiere in Toronto on June 18, 2016. This presentation will include filmed recordings.



Thursday Schedule | Programme - jeudi
(Session 1 | Séance 1)

MusCan Office

MusCan is led by a committed community of volunteers from across Canada. You can contact our secretariat by mail, phone, or email.

10 Morrow Avenue, Suite 202
Toronto, ON
M6R 2J1
office [AT]