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Tuesday, December 6 • 10:00am - 10:20am
Keepin' It in the Groove - A Study of Contemporary Fusion

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Music critic and social theorist Simon Frith’s (1996) examination of genre provides a framework to examine how genres may emerge discursively from contemporary society more widely.  I use this framework to examine the relationship between contemporary composition and performance, specifically in Contemporary Fusion, and how the audience’s perception of this performative relationship affects the way in which they define the music and thereby come to define themselves. The emergent genre that I call “Contemporary Fusion” (CF)—a set of compositional and performative practices with a potential lineage tracing back to 1970s acts Return To Forever, the Headhunters, or Weather Report, which Kevin Fellezs (2011) understands as Fusion—provides a rich opportunity for me to confront this emergent “genrefication” process empirically, analyzing the breadth of conceptual musical influences it compromises.  A telling exemplar of this emergent CF genre is Snarky Puppy.  Their “rabid fanbase”, as Chinen (2015) calls it, attends to their musical performances in many different and revealing ways.  Snarky Puppy (along with similar bands) manages to appeal to the pretentiously complex jazz snob, the party-oriented jam band junkie, and the extraordinarily average pop-radio guy all at the same time within the same song (three terms derived from Frith’s three discourses considered in detail below). My research, which includes sociological fieldwork, theoretical analysis, and original composition, analyzes which of these groups’ compositional choices (i.e. harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic ideas) and performance practices (i.e. song choice, conversation with audience, performative energy level, etc.) create an environment where many kinds of listening can occur.


Tuesday December 6, 2016 10:00am - 10:20am PST
018 Lipinsky Hall

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