[Smt-talk] Heavy metal and set-class analysis

Justin London jlondon at carleton.edu
Sun Dec 11 17:28:27 PST 2011

Dear Scott & all,

Here's where, it seems to me, that typical music-theoretic labeling of "harmonic" structures falls short.  Power chords are harmonically just bare 5ths, but are often nuanced with varying degrees of distortion and other timbral inflections (such as those produced by different kinds of pickups and/or pickup settings).  What we really need, then, is not harmonic analysis but timbral analysis (though, acoustically/psychoacoustically, these are the same thing).

Rock guitarists, of course, have many discussions of amps, distortion pedals, pickups, and so forth.  But not much theory.  Psychoacoustic literature on timbre and distortion doesn't say much about distortion of amplified instruments.  But I'm betting there is a lot in the sound engineering literature--and I'd be curious to know if someone on the list has delved into it, and/or has a good idea where to look.


On Dec 11, 2011, at 9:30 AM, Nicole Biamonte wrote:

> Hi Scott,
> I don't think there's much out there. The last section ("diatonic vertical dissonances") of this dissertation is worth a look:
> Lilja, Esa. "Characteristics of Heavy Metal Chord Structures." University of Helsinki, 2004.
> http://ethesis.helsinki.fi/julkaisut/hum/taite/lt/lilja/characte.pdf
> All best,
> Nicole Biamonte
> McGill University
> nicole.biamonte at mcgill.ca
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Fri, Dec 9, 2011 at 2:49 PM, Murphy, Scott Brandon <smurphy at ku.edu> wrote:
> I would like to point a student of mine toward any published research on recurrent, or even "signature," chords in heavy metal or punk rock music that are (arguably) better designated with set-class labels (e.g. 0156, which, for example, is the best Forte set name I can think to give to the beginning of Dillinger Four's "Noble Stabbings") than with root-based tertian labels. I've come up with little to nothing in my preliminary bibliographic digging, although, since I'm not as familiar with this field of study as with others, I may be digging in the wrong places. Any ideas, o wise collective?
> Thank you in advance,
> -Scott
> --
> Scott Murphy
> Associate Professor, Music Theory
> University of Kansas School of Music
> President, Music Theory Midwest
> smurphy at ku.edu
> _______________________________________________
> Smt-talk mailing list
> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
> http://lists.societymusictheory.org/listinfo.cgi/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org
> _______________________________________________
> Smt-talk mailing list
> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
> http://lists.societymusictheory.org/listinfo.cgi/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org

Justin London
Affiliated Researcher, Centre for Music and Science, University of Cambridge
Professor of Music (and other stuff), Carleton College
Department of Music
One North College St.
Northfield, MN 55057 USA
fax 507-222-5561
jlondon at carleton.edu

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.societymusictheory.org/pipermail/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org/attachments/20111211/924ab352/attachment-0003.htm>

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list