Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Wragg, Jeff. “Playing with Medium: Intertextuality and Phonomatic Transformation.” Popular Music 41 (February 2022): 97-111.

Serge Lacasse’s model of transtextuality requires expansion in order to account for referential practices involving transformations of medium in recorded popular music, as demonstrated by analysis of several songs by trip hop band Portishead. Lacasses’s distinction between syntagmatic (subject) and paradigmatic (style) transformations is expanded by the addition of phonomatic transformation, a transformation of medium or technology. Three types of phonomatic transformations can be found in the music of Portishead: retronormativity, vinyl aesthetics, and analogue allusion. These transformations can further be characterized as either allosonic, an abstract recreation of a musical passage from another musical work, or autosonic, a concrete insertion of an actual recording of a musical work. Retronormativity is the mechanism of referencing a combination of stylistic traits emblematic of a certain era. An example of autosonic retronormativity—inserting a specific recording to evoke the past—is found in Portishead’s Strangers (1994), which begins with a sample of Elegant People by Weather Report. An example of allosonic retronormativity can be found in Half Day Closing, which alludes to The American Metaphysical Circus by The United States of America, recreating the bass line, drum fill, and distinctive transformation of the vocal track, but not directly sampling the recording. Vinyl aesthetics refers to the sense of authenticity and humanity attributed to vinyl records by enthusiasts. Autosonic vinyl aesthetics can be found in Humming (1997), the drum track of which includes conspicuous vinyl pops and crackles as a result of its recording process. Analogue allusion describes brief sonic references to historical recording technologies, particularly when juxtaposed with contemporary technologies. An example of autosonic analogue allusion can be found in Only You (1997) in the juxtaposition of a crackling vinyl sample of She Said by The Pharcyde with clean digital silence, grounding the track simultaneously in both past and present. Lacasse’s model can be further expanded to include self-quotation as practiced by Portishead, wherein the group composes and records a private library of musical ideas in order to sample them as if they were external works. For example, the string loop, drum track, and outro of the song Western Eyes were recorded by Portishead, but were manipulated to add sonic markers of old recording technology (low frequency response and tape hiss). A fake sample credit was even included in the liner notes. This method of self-quotation allows musicians to engage with the creative process of sampling while retaining the legal and aesthetic implications of sole authorship.

Works: Portishead: Strangers (102-3), Only You (104-5), Half Day Closing (105-6)

Sources: Weather Report: Elegant People (102-3); The Pharcyde: She Said (104-5); The United States of America: The American Metaphysical Circus (105-6)

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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