Radiohead Essay

Radiohead Essay-67
I hadn’t purchased a ticket; unfamiliar with their music at the time (minus the ubiquitous “Creep” due to heavy radio play) but encouraged to attend by numerous friends, students, and professional colleagues, I wandered out into the rain from my university apartment only three blocks away and stood, umbrella in hand, for the full duration of the show just outside of the northern wing of the arena.I was in good company—a large group of students, families with children, and tourists had similarly amassed for the free musical strains—and in spite of the bad weather and bass-heavy sound making its way over the stands, I was intrigued enough to purchase their entire oeuvre on CD and begin to work through their songs, one at a time.As the responses in my sample will clearly illustrate, audiences are no longer homogenous (if they ever were) due to the eclectic nature of modern listening, continued travel and immigration, and exposure to and knowledge of non-Western musical genres and rhythmic constructions.

I hadn’t purchased a ticket; unfamiliar with their music at the time (minus the ubiquitous “Creep” due to heavy radio play) but encouraged to attend by numerous friends, students, and professional colleagues, I wandered out into the rain from my university apartment only three blocks away and stood, umbrella in hand, for the full duration of the show just outside of the northern wing of the arena.I was in good company—a large group of students, families with children, and tourists had similarly amassed for the free musical strains—and in spite of the bad weather and bass-heavy sound making its way over the stands, I was intrigued enough to purchase their entire oeuvre on CD and begin to work through their songs, one at a time.As the responses in my sample will clearly illustrate, audiences are no longer homogenous (if they ever were) due to the eclectic nature of modern listening, continued travel and immigration, and exposure to and knowledge of non-Western musical genres and rhythmic constructions.

Similarly, Daniel Levitin has made the analogy between such resolutions and joke telling, since in both cases the listener enjoys being led (temporarily) astray and realizing that there is more than one way to proceed through a piece/passage/story (2009, 110).

[7] The analysis and insights in this article complement and develop ideas from Mark Butler’s Unlocking the Groove (Butler 2006), particularly in his focus on metrical ambiguity, audience participation, and the specific role that underdetermination (metrical vagueness)—the form of ambiguity featured in “Pyramid Song”—plays in fostering interpretive multiplicity.

(2006, 4) Huron goes on to note that our capacity (and desire) to predict confers very specific biological advantages, including our preparedness for advantageous opportunities and the avoidance of potentially dangerous situations; accurate expectations also optimize our expenditure of energy and help focus our attention in economical ways (2006, 3, 176).

We see such factors at play in the writings of music theorists who have long noted that musically ambiguous or even suspenseful events are often pleasant for a listener, depending on how long it takes for clarification or resolution to occur (e.g., Meyer 1956, 27–28).

ABSTRACT: This article demonstrates how the confluence of ambiguity and rhythm in a pop/rock song creates a powerful force for audience participation.

Focusing on Radiohead’s “Pyramid Song” (2001) as a case study, I document in detail the myriad ways listening audiences have made sense of its meter and how this knowledge has informed their interpretations of compositional intent.Knowledge of this foundational structure—including what the beat of a song is and how to predict its recurrence—is a key ingredient in creating (positive) musical emotions, with our human concern or preoccupation with seeking out a regular pulse in musical sound most likely based on an evolutionary adaptation (Levitin 2006, 168–9, 171–80; Patel 2006; Sacks 2007, 240).In the context of the typical pop/rock song, it is the beginning or intro that creates that pregnant moment when listeners attempt to engage in the groove, to be rewarded by the “promise of entrainment” (London n.d., 10).I conclude with further thoughts on the roles and possibilities of ambiguity and the directions it points towards mass participation and collaborative problem solving in the realms of aesthetics and music theory.Introduction [1] I first heard Radiohead perform live on August 19, 2008 at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Arena.[2] I made the decision early on to tackle their albums in chronological order, listening to each one a minimum of three times (and at different times of the day), without any reference to guides or record reviews, before moving on to the next.And so it took me a while to make it to their fifth full-length studio release, Amnesiac (2001).Emotions encourage organisms to pursue behaviors that are normally adaptive, and to avoid behaviors that are normally maladaptive.In this regard, the emotions evoked by expectation do not differ in function from other emotions.Butler engaged in ethnographic fieldwork, an approach he openly credits to his studies in ethnomusicology (2006, 26–29); this article similarly draws upon ethnography (as well as fan reception studies) and its application to music theory and analysis.My research diverges from Butler’s, however, in the following ways: (1) the responses of my studied subjects are drawn almost exclusively from the internet; (2) these responses form the central text in my analysis (whereas in Butler’s work such remarks serve more as occasional commentary); and (3) my focus is on active listeners, who may or may not be dancing as they experience the music.

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