Research seminar

Wednesday 27 January 2016, 4.00PM

Speaker(s): Richard Elliott (University of Sussex)

Be-bop-sh-boom-a-langa-langa-doo-wop: Pop’s Love of Nonsense

In this paper I explore popular music’s obsession with nonsense, focussing on the relationship between words, voice, sounds and sense. I discuss scat singing, vocalese, doo wop, early rock n roll, yodelling, sampling, hip hop, ‘arty’ popular singer-songwriters (Bob Dylan, Robert Wyatt, David Byrne), and artists such as Magma and Sigur Rós who have created their own languages in which to sing. Pop’s fondness for self-reflexivity, parody and wordplay is considered via the work of ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, in particular his song ‘Bob’, which offers a parody of Bob Dylan’s already nonsensical ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ consisting entirely of palindromes. This presentation draws upon research undertaken for my current research project ‘The Sound of Nonsense’ and I will explain how this specifically pop-focussed element connects to the broader exploration of nonsense literature, experimental writing, sound poetry, comedy and music.

Richard Elliott is a cultural musicologist working primarily in the discipline of popular music studies. He graduated from the University of Warwick in 1997 with a BA in Comparative American Studies and completed his MA with the Open University, having turned his attention to the study of popular music. He moved to Newcastle where he completed a PhD investigating aspects of loss in popular music under the supervision of Richard Middleton and Ian Biddle at Newcastle University. He has taught courses on popular music, cultural and critical theory, urban musicology, music, memory and technology, and the politics of authenticity in pop. Richard has also worked as a teacher of English for Academic Purposes. He is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and a member of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM).


Location: I/D003