Allan Moore

Addressing Meaningfulness in Popular Song

The ‘what?’ of musical detail and relationships addressed by analysis too frequently stops short of following what I argue is its necessary consequence: so what? This paper takes that further step as read, but begins by repositioning this consequence, in its suggested opposition of the term ‘meaning’ to ‘meaningfulness’. Discussion of the ‘meaning’ of any particular song, leading us necessarily, as it does, down semiotic holloways, is as apt to alienate as many listeners as it gathers in. In refusing the precision of meaning, approaching the ‘meaningfulness’ of any particular song opens up other possibilities.

The paper will briefly explore the combination of discourses of environmentally accountable embodied meaning (combining Gibson with Lakoff, Johnson and Fauconnier), of authenticity and intertextuality, and of the persona which I have developed in order to provide a methodology for accessing this issue of meaningfulness in the analytically-aware listening experience. It will then utilise this methodology in order to address the possibility of meaningfulness held in two songs already addressed by earlier speakers: Rainbow’s Since You Been Gone [Griffiths] and Suede’s Pantomime Horse [Smith]. A starting-point for my exploration is the very different realms of the familiar each appears to inhabit, with dominant reference to timbre, texture and harmony.