Conference Paper – Rush’s “Hemispheres” – Progect 2021

Here’s a link to my online conference paper bio, abstract, and video for “Rush’s ‘Hemispheres’: Uniting Heard and Mind (and Progressive Rock with Heavy Metal)”. May 2021 Progect Conference, hosted by the University of Ottawa.

https://progectconference2.wixsite.com/website-5/durrell-bowman

Abstract:

If progressive rock and heavy metal sometimes appropriate ideas from classical music—instead of, say, the blues—would that be enough to explain their appeal? Of course not. If they’re often musically and lyrically “complex,” are these complexities straightforwardly more so than the underlying grooves and vocal practices of funk and hip hop? Well … no. On the other hand, even though they may not reach a particularly diverse audience, progressive rock and heavy metal actually espoused eclecticism right from the start. 

The Canadian rock band Rush (1968-2018)—one of the godfathers of progressive metal—would not have developed an eccentric, eclectic progressive/hard style without the example of musicianly progressive rock from 1969-77. However, the band’s music also relates to the influence of blues-oriented hard rock and power-oriented heavy metal from the same period. Rush’s 1978 album Hemispheres begins with its title-track, and with it the band provided its last of three album-side-length compositions. “Hemispheres” establishes a conflict between the left (thought or “reason-oriented”) and right (emotion or “feelings-oriented”) halves of the human brain. The band anthropomorphizes these according to classical/mythological references to the gods Apollo and Dionysus, respectively. 

The paper explores the large-scale design of Rush’s “Hemispheres,” including its sections, form, metrical construction (including 12/8 and 7/8), lyrical features, and tonal complexities. The latter include extended chords, inversions, cross-relations, chromaticism, modes, ambiguous progressions, and various solutions to a particular cadential figure. Among other things, Rush uses nearly identical music to equate a pair of extended lyrical frames as equally inadequate ideologically. The band then converges on additional musical and lyrical frames that themselves become a reconciliation. In this manner, Rush mythologizes the post-counterculture of needing to unite heart and mind into something new.

Academic Work for Free

Spending hundreds of hours every year doing academic work on book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers when I don’t even have an academic job — and am thus doing it all for free — is highly exploitative. So, after my current projects wrap up in the next couple of months, I’m not going to do these things anymore. I want to do more academic research and writing, but the system is not set up to pay anyone directly. That needs to change.

“Cut Every Corner: Intertextuality and Parody in the Music of The Simpsons” (journal article)

My journal article, “Cut Every Corner: Intertextuality and Parody in the Music of The Simpsons,” appears in the 2020 “Parody: Intertextuality and Music” issue of MUSICultures.

https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/MC/article/view/31402

“Shary Bobbins”
“Cut Every Corner”
MUSICultures, Vol. 47 (2020)

Abstract

This article reworks ideas about parody, postmodernism, and television from such critical and cultural theorists as Linda Hutcheon, Jason Mittell, and Jonathan Gray to contextualize the wide variety of parody and intertextuality in the music of the animated TV show The Simpsons. It explores several categories of the show’s music, such as: variations of cartoon themes, songs, instrumental underscoring, and guest musicians. This article particularly uses specific episodes of The Simpsons to highlight parodies of the show’s own theme, movie music, themes from other TV shows, and so on. The show’s music thus functions as a kind of court jester or king’s fool.

Academic Research and Writing

Of the eighteen people contributing to the forthcoming Cambridge University Press book on progressive rock, sixteen are university-affiliated academics (so it would be reasonable for them to expect to do such things as a part of their employment), one is VP of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and one is a computer technology order support specialist making the equivalent of about $11 U.S. per hour. Guess which one resents doing academic research and writing for free, given that it has nothing to do with his employment?

The Piranha Scholar

[With all due apologies to Monty Python!:]

Denied the opportunity to use his talents in the paid service of his profession, the unaffiliated musicologist began to operate what he called ‘The Operation’… He would select a book or journal editor and then threaten not to send in his chapter or article if they paid him. Four months later, he started another operation, which he called ‘The Other Operation.’ In this racket, he selected another victim and threatened to send in his work if they didn’t pay him. One month later, he hit upon ‘The Other Other Operation’. In this, the victim was threatened that if they didn’t pay him, he wouldn’t send in his work. This, for the unaffiliated musicologist, was the turning point.

The Piranha Brothers (Monty Python, 1970)
The Piranha Brothers (“Ethel the Frog,” Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 1970)

Neil Peart, RIP

I always sort of hoped that Rush’s drummer-lyricist Neil Peart and I would cross paths at some point and have an interesting conversation. We both first lived on family farms in Ontario, our fathers both worked at International Harvester dealerships, we both wrote multiple books (much of my work being about Rush’s music), we are both Canadians who lived in Los Angeles for a time, he was nicknamed “The Professor,” and I actually once was a Visiting Assistant Professor. Rush’s music is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the complexity (definitely present in the drumming), the constant stream of influences (lyrical and musical), and the work ethic were remarkable. Please consider giving a monetary gift in his memory to a cancer charity of your choice. RIP, Neil.

“Be Sharp: ‘The Simpsons’ and Music”

My book chapter, “Be Sharp: ‘The Simpsons’ and Music,” appears in: The Simpsons’ Beloved Springfield: Essays on the TV Series and Town That Are Part of Us All (McFarland, 2019)

The White Album

TheWhiteAlbumOn the 50th anniversary of The Beatles (a.k.a., The White Album, 1968), I’ve just listened to the whole album for the first time in years. My first thought is that it’s inconsistent and far too eclectic. It sometimes tries to one-up earlier Beatles’ songs but never really succeeds at that. For example, “Glass Onion” and “Honey Pie” both try way too hard. Similarly, the album is so long and sprawling that it even quotes itself several times, but never in a good, thematically-unifying way. The album also wants to help establish the potential of the individual Beatles’ solo careers, and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Don’t Pass Me By” do that pretty well for George Harrison and Ringo Starr. However, even with “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” “Blackbird,” “Julia,” and “Helter Skelter,” John Lennon and Paul McCartney both still arguably have better material elsewhere. Half of the double album could have been (and probably should have been) B-sides. However, they decided not to release any singles from the album (let alone B-sides), in favour of releasing a single of the same period’s “Hey Jude” and the faster, more pop-oriented version of “Revolution”–neither or which is on the more than 93-minute album. It’s hard to imagine that the 50th Anniversary, “Super Deluxe,” special edition of the album comprises up to seven discs of material. Very few people are going to need to hear a “bright new mix,” obscure demos, abandoned versions, and an eventual guitar solo hummed by Paul McCartney. Besides, Revolver (1966) and Abbey Road (1969) are much better albums.

Help Me Get Better LinkedIn!

LinkedIn seems to be mainly useful for people who have had fairly straightforward job experiences within limited industries. It also helps if one has easily highlighted skills, with useful endorsements and recent recommendations by people who know what you’re trying to do.
Numerically to date, my top endorsements are: Music, Singing, Writing, and WordPress, followed by other IT/Computer things (but Software Development?!) and Music things (but Music Theory?!). There’s almost nothing else about my academic work in musicology (just Editing) and absolutely nothing about my work in Library & Information Science.
I’ve added some categories, deleted others, and am trying to get some more recent, relevant people to help me update my skills endorsements and recommendations. I find that very few academics and librarians actually use LinkedIn, but please help me out if you are able to. Thanks!