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The High Art of Trip Hop: Extending the Bristol Sound by Incorporating Compositional Approaches from Classical Music

‘The High Art of Trip Hop’ defines the Bristol sound and extends it through new composition techniques. The two-part thesis combines musicological and practice-led research. Part one analyses the Bristol sound, a style of popular music that developed in Bristol, England during the 1990s and is also known as ‘trip hop’. It offers an historical overview of the style’s evolution, and identifies the principal composition, performance, and production traits. Part two is a portfolio of seven original songs that demonstrate ways of extending the style by incorporating compositional approaches from classical music. The thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter one discusses the impetus behind the research and the historical factors that influenced the development of the Bristol sound. It concludes by framing the research goals of the thesis and articulating how the two areas of research are connected. Chapter two discusses the relevant literature that informed the thesis and is divided into five sections. Section one discusses previous examples of popular music that incorporated elements of classical music. Section two addresses previous writings on trip hop, noting the ambiguity of the terms ‘trip hop’ and ‘Bristol sound’, and discusses the problems that arise when these terms are used interchangeably. It also notes the lack of musicological analysis in current writings. After discussing current theories of style and genre in section three, the fourth section clarifies the ambiguity of the terms ‘trip hop’ and ‘Bristol sound’ by positioning the Bristol sound as a style that relates to the trip hop genre. The final section discusses current theories of intertextuality in recorded popular music, and notes these are insufficient in detailing all of the intertextual references commonly found in the Bristol sound. The chapter concludes by offering an expanded model for addressing intertextuality in recorded music. Chapter three outlines the methodologies used in the thesis, beginning with the analytical methods used to elucidate the Bristol sound style. It then discusses practice-led research and offers a brief overview of the various compositional approaches that were drawn from classical music as a means of extending the Bristol sound style, before discussing how audience feedback was used to consider the merits of each approach. Chapter four provides detailed musicological analysis of a select corpus drawn from the Bristol sound style, explicating the main recurring composition, performance, and production patterns. Chapter five presents the original compositions. Each composition is accompanied by a written analysis specifying how the work draws from both the Bristol sound and classical traditions, as well as a discussion of audience reactions to the work. The accompanying CDs contain recorded versions of each of the works, as well as fully notated scores. Chapter six offers some conclusions about the musical character of the Bristol sound, as well as ways in which the style can be extended. The chapter also explores the nature of the relationship between the Bristol sound and classical music within the creative works, before raising potential areas for further research. This thesis contributes to popular music literature in four ways. First, it provides comprehensive musical analysis of the Bristol sound. This research supplements current historical, cultural, and sociological writings to provide a holistic overview of the Bristol sound style. Second, it explicates the relationship between the Bristol sound and trip hop, providing a practical example of side-by-side comparisons of style and genre in relation to a single musical tradition. Third, this thesis builds on current theories of intertextuality in recorded popular music, and provides a new model for addressing the novel referential practices commonly found in the Bristol sound. Finally, this thesis demonstrates numerous ways compositional approaches from classical music can be incorporated into the Bristol sound to extend the style in a new direction. This makes an original contribution to the evolution of the Bristol sound style, and provides a model for others to explore when incorporating classical elements into popular music.
Type of thesis
Wragg, J. S. (2018). The High Art of Trip Hop: Extending the Bristol Sound by Incorporating Compositional Approaches from Classical Music (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11850
The University of Waikato
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