The Words and Music of Paul Simon

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007 - Biography & Autobiography - 205 pages

Paul Simon is commonly acknowledged to be one of the most successful singer-songwriters of the pop-rock era. His work has flourished in the context of Simon and Garfunkel as well as in his own solo career. Starting with the folk-rock style that marked his earliest significant success, he has drawn on a wide variety of influences, including many American traditions and, later, many international ones as well. He has won multiple Grammy awards in both the duo and the solo phases of his career. His songwriting has also provided the impetus for brief forays into film and musical theatre. After providing a brief biographical overview, this work examines Simon's songwriting work in depth, providing a critical discussion of each song as a fusion of text and music so as to help the reader to identify elements that enhance appreciation.

A particularly valuable contribution in this context is the discussion of the wide variety of musical elements that contribute significantly to the value of Simon's work. These include such easily-understandable issues as verse-chorus structure, melodic variation, selection of particular instruments and even performers, variation of musical style within a song, general harmonic characteristics, relationships among keys, rhythm and pacing of text, etc. While the book proceeds chronologically through Simon's recorded output, specific threads are developed throughout, and the discussion of individual songs takes place in the context of these threads, both drawing on them and developing them further. The diversity of Paul Simon's work reflects his very American background, and no discussion of American music is complete without accounting for his influence.


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1 The Urban Folk Influence
2 Establishing the Voice of Simon and Garfunkel
3 The Mature Simon and Garfunkel Albums
4 First Solo Albums after Simon and Garfunkel
5 New Directions
6 World Music
7 Explorations
8 Identity
The Musical Languages of Paul Simon
Discography of Discussed Albums and Songs

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About the author (2007)

James Bennighof is Professor of Music Theory and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Policy at Baylor University. His articles and essays on twentieth-century music theory and composition, and on the analysis of American popular, ragtime, and blues music have appeared in journals such as American Music and the Journal of Music Theory. His choral compositions have been published by Oxford University Press and Heritage Music Press.

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