Fink, Robert, Melinda Latour, and Zachary Wallmark (eds). 2018. The Relentless Pursuit of Tone. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lavengood, Megan L.

It’s almost a platitude to mention that timbre is the most important musical dimension in popular music; the statement is so often repeated. Take one example from Mark Spicer, writing in 2005: “for the experienced listener and analyst, it is often the particular timbres featured on a pop or rock record that allow us to position that track historically and which, in turn, render the track most meaningful for us.” Spicer also wrote in the same article that “unlike pitch and rhythm, timbre remains the one musical parameter that popular music scholars have found almost impossible to convey” (Spicer 2005, 14). But now, thirteen years later, dozens of musicologists have risen to meet this challenge. The Relentless Pursuit of Tone: Timbre in Popular Music, edited by Robert Fink, Melinda Latour, and Zachary Wallmark, presents an expertly curated series of essays that analyze the role of timbre in a wealth of different genres, using a great diversity of approaches. This book demonstrates that timbre is a subfield that is positively booming with activity, as it collects fifteen different authors providing many paths that an aspiring timbre analyst might follow.


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August 18, 2022