U2's creative process: sketching in sound Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Harris, K. Paul
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Music
  • The music of Irish rock band, U2, evinces a compositional process developed by musicians of exceptional inexperience who underwent an equally exceptional insular development, to become one of the most critically acclaimed rock bands of all time. This dissertation uses a variety of resources-principally demos of mature songs from U2's seventh studio album, Achtung Baby (1991), recordings of early performances surrounding the recording of their debut album, Boy (1980), and video documentary sources chronicling the recording of songs from The Unforgettable Fire (1984) and The Joshua Tree (1987)-as a comparative basis for an assessment of U2's signature musical style, their aesthetic of song, and their use of the recording studio in the realization and development of that aesthetic. U2 arose from the post-punk milieu of the late 1970s, that took its lead from the slightly older punks, (the Sex Pistols and the Clash), to forge a style distinct from mainstream pop. The members of U2 had widely divergent musical tastes and abilities (some bordering on no ability at all) which compelled them to begin writing their own music from the outset, typically through interminable rehearsal-a form of live sketching. This musical naiveté was expressed through highly idiomatic instrumental ensemble styles and aesthetics of song. Their conception of song form was broad, accommodating standard forms, but also unusual binary forms where ostensibly standard verse/chorus songs mutated into substantially new or modified material around a song's midpoint, with no, or limited, return of earlier material. They freely combined discrete realizations of simple harmonic patterns, in essence combining multiple versions of basic material within a single song, often as sections which conventionally should contrast one another. These early acquired habits served them well as their musical sophistication grew. The initial live sketching process, the products of which were committed to vinyl with Steve Lillywhite producing, gradually moved more into the recording studio which became, under the direction of producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, U2's primary creative venue, and the situs for their multiple stylistic reinvention
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  • Covach, John Rudolph
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