Songs for Middle America : Burt Bacharach and Hal David in the sixties
Small, Stephen Keneth
This work describes the extent to which the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, written and recorded between 1962 and 1970, reflect significant challenges to the norms of pop music in that decade. It delineates unique and consistent qualities of lyricwriting and musical composition in a sample group of the most commercially successful songs. It also seeks a connection between the challenges presented by the complexities and irregularities of the songs with the challenges presented to Middle American morals, beliefs and value systems by the events of the Sixties. The images of sophistication in the music are compared to images of sophistication in Middle American lifestyles. The introductory chapter presents a brief biographical account of the backgrounds of Bacharach and David, and the songs to be studied along with comments from recognised performers and songwriters. Chapter One describes post-war Middle America, the consumer society and the development of suburban areas. The impact of predominant political, social and racial tensions upon Middle America is broadly described. Chapter Two establishes a musical context for the period investigated in Chapter One. Bacharach' s music is discussed in the context of the prevailing popular adult musical styles of the post-war period. Chapter Three discusses the song texts of Hal David, their language, perspective, form and irregularities. Chapter Four introduces the recording as an equal part in the creative process, and establishes this as the popular mark of the "Bacharach Sound." It describes the studio recording as an essential component in Bacharach's sophisticated mix of art and commodity. The shift in emphasis in recording practises towards the creation of an independent art form is described as a Sixties phenomenon. Chapter Five describes the stylistic components of the Bacharach Sound, his background, and musical influences cited by him. Bacharach's favoured instrumentation and orchestration devices are also discussed. Chapter Six lists compositional techniques employed in the songs, focussing on those that depart from the norms of pop music. A comparison between Bacharach's earlier more conformist songs and the much less traditional works of the years 1962 - 1970 is made. Chapter Seven, the conclusion, establishes a connection between the songs and the Middle American audience that consumed them.
Advisor: Drummond, John; Downes, Graeme
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Music
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis