In this article I present empirical work that investigates what, if any, harmonic characteristics are found to typically associate with standard form categories in rock music. Specifically, I use statistical analysis to compare and contrast the harmonic traits of verse, chorus, and bridge sections in a corpus of two hundred rock songs. I begin with an overview of the corpus itself, followed by a discussion of my methodology. I then present the results of my study, which quantifies harmony via two main approaches: the proportion of time spent on a chord root and the average duration of a chord root. I also consider which chord roots tend to open or close a section, as well as the distribution of chord qualities across sections. It is found that verse and chorus sections differ most strongly with respect to the length and proportion of tonic harmony, whereas verse and bridge sections differ with regard to the proportion of tonic, the average duration of nontonic chords, and the typical opening and closing chords. Fewer significant differences are found between chorus and bridge sections, the exception being the closing harmony.
Interactions between Harmony and Form in a Corpus of Rock Music
Trevor de Clercq is assistant professor in the Department of Recording Industry at Middle Tennessee State University, where he coordinates the musicianship curriculum and teaches coursework in audio theory and music technology. He holds a Ph.D. in music theory from the Eastman School of Music.
Trevor de Clercq; Interactions between Harmony and Form in a Corpus of Rock Music. Journal of Music Theory 1 October 2017; 61 (2): 143–170. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00222909-4149525
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