Event Title

Rhyme Scheme in Musical Theater and its Relation to Phrase Structure

Presenter Information

Alex Ngo, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 127

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-27-2019 7:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2019 8:00 PM

Abstract

The use of rhyme in song is often addressed from a linguistic perspective, but seldom from a musical one. Furthermore, while theorists and scholars frequently discuss individual rhyme pairs, few have addressed songs’ overall rhyme schemes, especially their relation to phrase structure. Analytical methods used in poetry prove inadequate for analyzing rhyme scheme in songs because music exists in time. Two songs with the same rhyme scheme and scansion often sound vastly different depending on where rhymes fall in a measure or phrase. My goal is to develop a framework to analyze rhyme scheme in song and use it compare the work of three composer-lyricists. While this could be done in any genre, musical theater is ideal to develop a framework, as its rhymes are perfect and often consistent each time through the form, making rhyme schemes easy to identify. By focusing solely on composer-lyricists, I will eliminate any variability that would occur from a lyricist working with different composers. For my research, I will study the composer-lyricists Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Frank Loesser, as they wrote in a similar time period and used similar song forms. This will allow me to make direct comparisons of AABA songs written by the three writers, as well as ABAC songs written by them.

Keywords:

Musical Theater, Tin Pan Alley, Rhyme Scheme, Lyric Writing, Phrase Structure, Music Theory

Notes

Session VIII, Panel 27 - Theatrical | Analyses

Moderator: James O’Leary, Frederick R. Selch Associate Professor of Musicology

Major

Musical Studies

Advisor(s)

James O'Leary, Musicology

Project Mentor(s)

Kathryn Metz, Ethnomusicology
James O'Leary, Musicology

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Apr 27th, 7:00 PM Apr 27th, 8:00 PM

Rhyme Scheme in Musical Theater and its Relation to Phrase Structure

King Building 127

The use of rhyme in song is often addressed from a linguistic perspective, but seldom from a musical one. Furthermore, while theorists and scholars frequently discuss individual rhyme pairs, few have addressed songs’ overall rhyme schemes, especially their relation to phrase structure. Analytical methods used in poetry prove inadequate for analyzing rhyme scheme in songs because music exists in time. Two songs with the same rhyme scheme and scansion often sound vastly different depending on where rhymes fall in a measure or phrase. My goal is to develop a framework to analyze rhyme scheme in song and use it compare the work of three composer-lyricists. While this could be done in any genre, musical theater is ideal to develop a framework, as its rhymes are perfect and often consistent each time through the form, making rhyme schemes easy to identify. By focusing solely on composer-lyricists, I will eliminate any variability that would occur from a lyricist working with different composers. For my research, I will study the composer-lyricists Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Frank Loesser, as they wrote in a similar time period and used similar song forms. This will allow me to make direct comparisons of AABA songs written by the three writers, as well as ABAC songs written by them.