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Studio B • Friday evening, 9:00–10:30

Music Analysis in Comparative Perspective

Justin London (Carleton College), Chair

Aaron Carter-Ényì (Morehouse College) and David Àiná (Lagos State University)

A Corpus Study of Pitch Polarity in Praise-Singing and Hip-Hop

Somangshu Mukherji (University of Michigan) 

Logical Form, Musical Internalism, and Form-Functional Theory

Abstracts

A Corpus Study of Pitch Polarity in Praise-Singing and Hip-Hop

Aaron Carter-Ényì (Morehouse College) and David Àiná (Lagos State University)

Tonal counterpoint is a common device in the oral improvisatory tradition of Yorùbá oríkì (praise-singing), first documented by Ọlátunji (1984). Both tonal and counterpoint are terms familiar to musicians, but the meaning here is the linguistic tonal, not the harmonic, and the rhetorical counterpoint, not polyphonic. Ọlátunji describes couplets in which each phrase is parallel if not identical in terms of phonic content and the first sets up a tonal expectancy for the second. The contrast might also be between words within a single phrase. There are three primary categories of tonal counterpoint in Yorùbá oríkì: parallelism of similar words; homophone change; and non-lexical contrast providing paralinguistic affect. Through the application of computational analysis to a broad corpus, we provide substantial documentation for a phenomenon that may be as ubiquitous in Africana (Black) vocal arts as rhyming is in Indo-European cultures. Analysis of an American hip-hop subcorpus suggests diachronic change in the use and complexity of pitch polarity over the last three decades. Over the decades American hip-hop has evolved away from couplets to include patterns involving three or more phrases, or even marked contrasts within a single phrase. During the same period, pitch polarity has remained more stable in examples of traditional vocal arts from Kenya and Nigeria despite varying degrees of exposure to emerging global hip-hop. This presentation incorporates concepts from music theory and linguistics with signal processing techniques to analyze a newly gathered and annotated corpus of recorded music.

Logical Form, Musical Internalism, and Form-Functional Theory

Somangshu Mukherji (University of Michigan)

Like language, music is often believed to refer to external, worldly realities. Just as words refer supposedly to thoughts, things, and actions, music is said to refer to extra-musical programs, topics, gestures, and so on. In this paper, however, I will share a recent proposal, originating in mid-20th century philosophical debates, and refined in contemporary linguistics, according to which language does not inherently refer to, or communicate, anything at all—which therefore rejects the above externalist view of language altogether. Instead, this proposal argues that meaning in language arises from how a sentence’s surface structure (i.e. its “Logical Form”) is generated, through language-internal, grammatical procedures. In this light, I will defend a similar, internalist attitude to music, which I will do by reconsidering William Caplin’s theory of formal functions. Formal functions are beginnings, middles, and endings, which, as Caplin has said himself, are a musical piece’s internal (or “introversive,” following Agawu) meanings. And as I will illustrate, these form-functional meanings depend on how a piece’s surface is generated through music-internal, grammatical procedures. This suggests a connection between music’s form-functional structure, and linguistic Logical Form. So, I will end by discussing a striking implication this has for music theory: linguists argue that all languages share a universal grammar, and differ only in the varied Logical Forms this grammar generates. Therefore, stylistic differences in music could be just (semantic) differences in their form-functional structures too, which mask a potentially universal musical grammar – suggesting that form-functional theory is a universal semantics of music.