Roger Matthew Grant
The History of Extra, or the Sound of Hyperbole in Three Scenes
Does hyperbole have a characteristic sound? Is hyperbole a musical topic? This paper examines the sounds of musical hyperbole in three scenes drawn from opera, Hollywood, and queercore experimental film. Analyzing hyperbole outside of language proper—in a different but equally rich domain of signs—ultimately reveals structural characteristics of hyperbole as an aesthetic mode. Hyperbole exaggerates extravagantly in order to tell the truth, but because it involves a play with levels, degrees, and ranks, it also has the ability to demonstrate how aesthetic objects articulate the hierarchies of social power. Listening for musical hyperbole as parody, melodrama, and camp, the paper illustrates how hyperbolic performance can be used as a strategy to resist social power’s normative force.
In this seminar we’ll focus on the idea of the compound (or “compounded”) measure in eighteenth-century music theory. Although today we talk of compound meters as those with triple subdivisions, the term did much different work in the eighteenth century. Generally, it described a wide range of phenomena in which two measures (of any type of cardinality or subdivision) were said to have been joined into one. Together we’ll explore the complex ramifications of this idea for the theory and analysis of eighteenth-century music. I’ve attached the readings here and listed them below. For each I’ve included both the original (which I encourage you to read if you can) and translations for all, except for the Mattheson (which you can either skim or skip). Read primarily for theorists’ remarks on the compound measure and be ready for a spirited discussion!
Mattheson, Dasneu-eröffnte Orchestre (1735) [no translation: skim or skip]