Restriction lift date: 2026-09-30
Music analysis: Erasure and beyond
University College Cork
This thesis considers the practice of music analysis as it pertains to various popular musics outside the classical canon. Starting with an analysis of Indian fusion rock song Kandisa, by Indian Ocean, the author demonstrates a methodology rooted in traditional transcription and analysis (in Western notation, and via voice-leading graphs). Her subject position – an Indian ethnomusicologist and analyst in Ireland – allows her to consider tonality through the lens of decolonisation debates and literature, by first focusing on a case-study from her home culture India. In chapter two, the thesis explores the scholarly literature on (Western) popular music analysis, via a survey of texts, debates and arguments that have helped shape the field. By again reminding the reader of her subject position (BBIPOC; non-elite, Western, educated, democratic, Indian scholar of “Western” tonal music), the author sets the stage for the main act of the thesis: a study of Vince Clarke and Andy Bell’s synthpop band Erasure (pictured above), spanning approximately the thirty-year period outlined in the literature review. In chapter three, the author presents an ethnographic reading of Erasure that is sensitive to the culture-bearers’ own competencies, musical abilities, ideas, and reflections, captured via in-depth interviews with Clarke and Bell. These interviews are paired with ideas and frameworks provided by Aaron A. Fox in his seminal text “Real Country” (Fox 2004). In chapter four, a large number of Erasure songs (all composed and performed by Vince Clarke and Andy Bell) are presented in a language of popular criticism, that can be understood by readers of varied musical backgrounds: the band members, the music academics, the Erasure fans. While there is some re-engagement with score-based techniques of chapter one, the author presents fertile new ground from which to study Erasure's popular music that has suffered neglect in music academia, by demonstrating how the English language (minus too much technological or graphic representation) can be a viable means for (BBIPOC) music analysis of Clarke and Bell's work, since it is also the national language of India, and the language of academic musicology in Ireland, where she is based. The anti-elitist approach to music analysis does not only pay lip service to the idea of diversity, accessibility, and inclusion, to say nothing of anti-racist, decolonial strategies themselves. Rather, it advances the idea that the serious study of popular music, and living musicians, is essential to a wider understanding and acceptance of many different cultures more generally – for example, LGBTQ, mixed-race, working-class, anti-ageist, anti-ableist, to name a few. Ultimately, the thesis advances ethnographically-nuanced “music analysis” as a way of proving that ‘musical art — is not an exceptional domain of culture; it is the very heart of culture’ (Fox 2004: 17).
Ethnomusicology , Erasure , Music analysis , Schenkerian analysis , Popular music
Felfeli-Crawford, K. 2021. Music analysis: Erasure and beyond. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.