Friday, December 4, 2009

Going For Baroque

“Baroque pop,” commonly understood to refer to any ornate, or heavily arranged, pop song, seems to me to be a subgenre of what is sometimes referred to as “Art Songs,” meaning highly ambitious pop songs. Note that I say pop songs, not folk songs or rock songs. In contrast to folk music, the primary mode of which is ritualistic and participatory, that is, for singing and dancing, Art Songs are non-participatory, that is, they are primarily designed for consumption, as commodities to be purchased within the marketplace, not for singing and dancing (see Chris Cutler, “What Is Popular Music?,” in File Under Popular, Autonomedia, 1993, pp. 12-13). It is therefore unlikely, although not impossible, for a folk singer/songwriter (or a rock singer/songwriter for that matter) to find his or her songs referred to as “Art Songs,” a designation generally reserved for pop-based ones. Cutler explains the reason for this by claiming that the Art Song is always “wholly conscious of itself as an aesthetic exchange” (p. 12). The intrinsic aesthetic interest in the art song is the pop song form itself. Baroque pop emerged during the 1966-67 period, and its commercial zenith was probably most fully realized in albums such as the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed (1967), and in Love’s Forever Changes (1967).

Ten Baroque Pop Classics, 1966 – 67
The Association – Requiem For The Masses
The Beach Boys (with Van Dyke Parks) – Heroes and Villains
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
The Electric Prunes (with David Axelrod) – Kyrie Eleison
The Left Banke – Walk Away Renee
The Merry-Go-Round – You’re A Very Lovely Woman
The Moody Blues – Nights in White Satin
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shader of Pale
Love - Old Man
Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood – Some Velvet Morning

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