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Emotional tones and emotional texts: A new approach to analysing the voice in popular vocal song

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posted on 2021-10-28, 22:03 authored by Kristal Spreadborough
This paper in its current form has been accepted for publication in Music Theory Online,

It is scheduled for publication in Volume 28, no. 2, June, 2022.

This document will be updated with the preferred citation for the published work in June 2022. In the meantime, please cite this work as follows:

Spreadborough, K. (2021). Emotional tones and emotional texts: A new approach to analysing the voice in popular vocal song. University of Melbourne Figshare.

Abstract: Vocal tone quality is a highly emotive musical resource in popular vocal songs. However, it is also one of the most difficult aspects to analyse due to the complexity and variety of the voice. This paper presents a novel analytical approach to the sung voice by considering how emotion is conveyed through tone quality and text. The aim of the approach is to provide a system for annotating vocal tone quality and for analysing its emotive content. The approach is informed by findings from psychology, music studies, and the social semiotics of sound – taking into consideration how our everyday experience of voice in communication contributes to our emotional perception of singing. Different modes of annotation, from static annotation to real-time annotation, are demonstrated. This paper first presents the theoretical underpinnings of the approach, followed by an outline of the approach itself, and finally demonstrates the approach through an analysis of the vocal line in Kris Kristofferson’s 1970 song “Casey’s Last Ride”.

Key words: Voice quality, tone quality, emotion, song, popular music, music psychology, social semiotics, analysis