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UBC Theses and Dissertations

At the "Crossroads” : the interaction between speech rhythm and musical rhythm in Tom Waits's spoken-word song Lemire, Chantal


In this study I will analyze the spoken-word song, “Crossroads,” by singer-songwriter Tom Waits. “Crossroads” combines natural speech and metrical music, which highlights the rhythmic similarities and differences between speech and music. My analysis combines analytical tools developed in linguistics and music that can examine the rhythmic sensations created through spoken word. Christopher Hasty’s theory of metric projection represents the rhythmic structure of the musical accompaniment, and Bruce Hayes’s theory of metrical stress represents the rhythmic structure of Waits’s speech. The combination of the two theories explores how the presence of natural speech changes my sensation of the musical accompaniment, and vice versa. In my analysis of “Crossroads,” I propose that combination of speech and metrical music can generate a unique sensation of rhythm and structure akin to an optical illusion. This approach offers one possible way that the analysis of spoken word can prioritize its performance aspects to the same degree as the artists who use the form.

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Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada