Congratulations to GC Professor Mark Spicer, who has been awarded this year’s Outstanding Publication Award by the Society for Music Theory!
The recipient of this year’s Outstanding Publication Award examines the harmonies of pop and rock music. Through a plethora of meticulous transcriptions and analyses, the article outlines the ways in which chord inversions, repeating progressions, and melodic shapes lend ambiguity as to the identity of the tonal center. It thus asks the intriguing question: in a usually tonally centric genre, can the tonic actually be absent? The article posits a continuum of stability in understated tonics, from fragile, to emergent, to absent, and considers the ways in which such tonalities support the meaning and dramatic effect of a song. It thus provides a conceptual framework for understanding the expressive qualities of pop tonality over the past fifty years. The 2020 Outstanding Publication Award goes to Mark Spicer for his article, “Fragile, Emergent, and Absent Tonics in Pop and Rock Songs,” published in Music Theory Online.