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Songs In Flux

Christine Boone (University of North Carolina Asheville), Chair

Exploring A Rhizomatic Model of Engaging Non-Canonic Music with Teresa Teng’s “Hai Yun” as Intertext

Clare Sher Ling Eng (Belmont University)


To avoid tokenism as we diversify our canon, I explore a model for comparative study that is based on rhizomatic networks through Teresa Teng’s 1974 pop song, “Hai Yun.” Specifically, I consider connections arising from intertextuality: “Hai Yun”’s pre-history as a 1928 classical choral work and subsequent transformation into an Indonesian pop song, “Mila.” Two rhizomes organize my discussion: one focuses on musical/performative aspects, the other explores textual issues. 

Musically, structural similarities between the 1928 work and its commercial incarnation include pentatonic melodies, beginning and ending in a minor key, and modulations or ambiguous motion towards the relative major. There are also more specific similarities in terms of the works’ vocal openings, melodic writing and cadences. 

Textually, the poem in the 1928 work was adapted differently in Teng’s Chinese and Indonesian songs. Although iconic words are retained, the pop Chinese lyrics change the nature of the dialogue—instead of a lady resisting societal advice, we have a romantic exchange. The pop lyrics also convey a lighter tone. Teng’s Indonesian lyrics are not simply a translation from Chinese, even though both sets of lyrics make the lady’s role more passive. The Indonesian lyrics eliminate both the dialogic and romantic nature of the text, and a particularly puzzling decision is to name the lady “Mila”, an unusual name in Bahasa Indonesian. Considered together with the song’s modified repetition scheme, the Indonesian song strikes a much bleaker note, which I suggest can be heard in Teng’s performative nuances. 

Supplementary Material(s)

Improvised Structures in the Music of the Dave Matthews Band

Micheal Sebulsky (University of Oregon)


Jambands do not stick to the script. Rather than base their live performances off of fixed studio recordings, they continually reimagine and recompose their songs through live-performance improvisation. Songs with no single version acting as Urtext are problematic for formal analysis; how can we describe a song's form if that form is constantly changing? Current methodologies for analyzing form in popular music treat the studio recording as the song’s basic form. However, this approach proves insufficient for the jamband repertoire, where studio recordings are, at best, snapshots of a particular performance and, at worst, nonexistent. 

In this paper, I offer new perspectives on jamband musical form. Using the music of the Dave Matthews Band as a case study, I analyze the formal fluidity present in their live-performance jamming—the combination of groove and improvisation. This methodology elicits three prototypes: jams that utilize a single groove as the accompaniment for improvisation, jams that contain multiple grooves, and jams that interpolate known pieces as new grooves. The Dave Matthews Band’s April 20, 2002 performance of their song “#41” demonstrates all three types within one, thirty-two-minute-long performance. 

When applied to multiple iterations of the same song, form-jam analyses demonstrate both synchronic (focused on a single performance) and diachronic (how one song has changed throughout multiple performances) perspectives. Concertgoers remember both previous live shows and studio albums. Their pre-conceived expectations will be both confirmed and denied with each new live show, a paradox that galvanizes the jamband sub-cultural community.

Textural Problematics in The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy

Stephen A. Spencer (The Graduate Center, CUNY)


Throughout the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Pyschocandy (1985), impenetrable walls of distortion, abrasive feedback squeals, and excessive uses of reverb seem to thwart listeners’ attempts to mentally represent a “virtual performance space” (Moore 2012). Instead, the album encourages an acousmatic orientation by which sounds are heard as disembodied or somehow “floating free” of their worldly causes. Taking this apparent rupture of sound and source as a jumping-off point, this paper investigates the perception of texture in rock through close analysis of three representative tracks from Psychocandy: “Just Like Honey,” “Never Understand,” and “You Trip Me Up.” Supporting my observations with spectrograms and audio feature analysis, I confront existing approaches to texture, such as “accumulative form” (Spicer 2004), the “sound box” (Moore 2012), and “functional layer” analysis (Moore 2012, Lavengood 2020), emphasizing how these approaches are both productive and problematic for the analysis of texture in Psychocandy. I conclude by considering some larger questions about perceptual uncertainty and its role in the aesthetic appreciation of recorded experimental rock music.