Art of Record Production Conference
May 17-19, 2019
Berklee College of Music, 921 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215
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Saturday, May 18 • 11:30 - 12:00
Textural Stratification, The Rise of Multitrack, and Yes’ Classic Recordings

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It is common for musicologists and analysts to conceive of a musical texture as “coordinated,” meaning that all parts in a texture can be seen to have direct bearing on one another at any given moment the analyst might choose. But much rock music since the mid-1960s also employs a different, more layered texture, which I have termed “stratified texture” (Covach 2018). In a stratified texture, parts are seen primarily as layers, and the points at which they coordinate is variable within, as well as between sections.

There are many factors that led to the rise in stratified textures in rock, but this paper will focus primarily on two: 1) the interaction/collaboration of musicians, both with one another and with the producer, to “negotiate” the textures in a given track; and 2) the importance of multitrack recording in making such textures possible to create in the absence of a notated score.

The British progressive-rock band Yes regularly employs stratified textures, often in dialogue with traditional coordinated textures. This paper will focus on two of the group’s classic recordings, Fragile (1971) and Close to Edge (1972). These albums were recorded at London’s Advision Studios with Eddy Offord sharing production credits with the band. This paper will explore not only the textures in several of the tracks from this album, but also the ways in which Offord’s mixes interact with these textures, at times highlighting the stratified qualities of the music (Covach forthcoming). Offord’s mixes will be compared with the recent remixes by Steven Wilson. The paper will also employ my idea of “positional listening” to compare what he terms the “ideal listening position” with various other listening positions available within the texture, exploring how these textures and mixes may encourage or facilitate alternate positionings.
John Covach. forthcoming. “The Performer’s Experience: Positional Listening,” in G. Borio and G. Gioriani, eds. Investigating Music Performance: Towards a Conjunction of Ethnographic and Historiographic Perspectives (Ashgate).
John Covach. 2018. "Analyzing Texture in Rock Music: Stratification, Coordination, Position, and Perspective," in Pop weiter denken: Neue Anstöße aus Jazz Studies, Philosophie, Musiktheorie und Geschichte, Beiträge zur Popularmusikforschung 44, ed. Ralf von Appen and André Doehring (Transcript Verlag), 53-72.

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John Covach

Professor of Theory, Eastman School of Music and The University of Rochester

Saturday May 18, 2019 11:30 - 12:00 EDT
Classroom 311 (3rd floor)