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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"That’s the way I groove" : repetition and meaning in Ani Difranco’s Evolve Attas, Robin Elizabeth Sturton


Ani Difranco is a contemporary singer/songwriter who draws musical influence from folk, rock, pop, jazz, and funk to create a unique personal style. Her music employs short, repetitive grooves as the primary means of song structure, while her lyrics explore a broad range of themes and are more poetic than most popular lyrics. This thesis examines three songs from her 2003 album Evolve, "Evolve", "In the Way", and "Slide", which incorporate Difranco's musical idiom of voice and guitar as well as a more expanded instrumentation of lead and backing vocals with a seven-piece band. These songs will facilitate both an exploration of Difranco's music specifically and a consideration of some general analytical issues in popular music. Difranco's musical style suggests a dual analytical focus. The first consideration is the concept of repetition in popular music, manifested most prominently in the repetitive grooves that structure each song. Each groove is examined in isolation for salient qualities that promote or inhibit repetition, and studied in context for instances of variation and development. Changes to the structure of the groove itself, its orchestration, and the interaction between the groove and other musical elements are also considered. The second major focus is text-music relations in popular music: the ways in which a listener's interpretation can be shaped by music and lyrics together. To this end, the lyrics are considered as a poetic object, and all musical parameters (including texture, vocal timbre, meter, hypermeter, pitch form, and the groove). Themes or images in the text may be reinforced by one or more of these musical features, and vice versa. Each of the three song analyses focuses attention on different issues within these two domains. "Evolve," orchestrated for voice and guitar, presents a strongly autotelic groove frequently varied in terms of rhythm, pitch, and timbre for meaningful effect, and also showcases Difranco's diverse range of vocal timbres. "In the Way" is orchestrated for a full band, engaging issues of instrumentation and texture. The discussion will also demonstrate the role of the musical setting in suggesting or reinforcing a certain reading of the lyrics. Finally, "Slide" presents a more varied groove structure in which a linear groove alternates with a homophonic progression, and also recasts repetition, in multiple musical parameters, as an interplay between expectation and reality.

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