Expressive Use of Triple Scansion in the 1960s British Invasion

David Heetderks, University of North Texas

In 1960s rock music, a song's rhythmic profile is formed in part by its textual scansion -- that is, the sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables its lyrics form when spoken -- and this scansion's relation with metric patterns and vocal rhythms. In this presentation, I argue that triple scansion, combined with recurring types of vocal rhythms, often conveys unusual, marked states, kspecially in songs by "British-Invasion" artists. In what I call a "climactic triple," a marked triple scansion is associated with heightened emotional arousal at the end of a bridge. In a "rolling rhythm," a module opens with a triple scansion and is associated with images of circularity and a lack of future-oriented goals, echoing broader themes found in 1960s counterculture. This presentation reveals previously undiscussed formal and expressive schemasĀ  in popular music, and it shows the influence of the rhythms of everyday speech on popular songwriting.