Understanding Through-Composition in Post-Rock, Math-Metal, and other Post-Millennial Rock Genres *

Brad Osborn

KEYWORDS: form, through-composition, rock, experimental rock, post-millennial rock, art rock, post-rock, math-metal, progressive rock, Radiohead, Animal Collective, The Beatles

ABSTRACT: Since the dawn of experimental rock’s second coming in the new millennium, experimental artists have begun distancing themselves from Top-40 artists through formal structures that eschew recapitulatory verse/chorus conventions altogether. In order to understand the correlation between genre and form more thoroughly, this paper provides a taxonomic approach to through-composition in several post-millennial experimental rock genres including post-rock, math-metal, art rock, and neo-prog. Combining the presence or absence of two salient formal parameters (hierarchical grouping structure and thematic unification) generates four possible through-composed archetypes. Representative examples from the post-millennial rock corpus are provided for each archetype, and accompanying analyses identify the specific musical elements that engender such formal divisions. Included interviews suggest that this taxonomic model is congruent with the language musicians use to describe their own compositional strategies. Throughout the article, a case is made for the substantive link between specific types of through-composed forms and the genres in which those forms regularly appear, as well as for the difference between formal designs found in post-millennial experimental rock and those found in conventional rock music.

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Received February 2011
Volume 17, Number 3, October 2011
Copyright © 2011 Society for Music Theory