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Bruce Springsteen and the Wave Model of Development


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The idea of artistic progress is under-theorised in an academic context, despite being central to general critical discourse on popular music (e.g. Riley 1988, Macan 1997). This paper forms part of a wider study of Bruce Springsteen’s career output in terms of musical development; this quality is often ascribed to Springsteen’s work, but with little consideration as to the nature of his evolution (Masur 2012). Rather than examine compositional and stylistic attributes, I focus on the studio elements of Springsteen’s songs and his use of technology. I suggest that one cannot observe a linear model of progress, so much as increments of change within identifiable frameworks.
Springsteen’s career can be divided into segments of two to four albums, each of which presents a distinct textural layout—thus, between from Born to Run (1975) to The River (1980), there is the ‘classic’ E Street Band sound, defined primarily by the high register piano lines of Roy Bittan and the glockenspiel of Danny Federici; between Born in the USA (1984) and Human Touch (1992), ringing guitars or padded synthesizers dominate Springsteen’s sound-world.
Through to the present day, I argue that Springsteen’s career can be understood in terms of a ‘wave’ model (Moore 2001), whereby an initial crest is succeeded by a short period of continuity, before the cycle restarts. Furthermore, just as waves are never discrete entities, there remain fluid connections across Springsteen’s career, namely, the persisting elements of the E Street Band sound in the 2000s. Finally, one can identify a number of albums (Nebraska, The Ghost of Tom Joad, Devils and Dust) that appear between successive waves; these albums are notable for their ‘stripped back’ textures and lo-fi production values. Somewhat paradoxically, then, it is these moments of apparent technological regression that prompt the next wave of evolution.
The powerpoint slides for this presentation are attached.

Item Type: Paper presented at a conference, workshop, or other event which was not published in the proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords: Analysis, Style, Production, Historiography
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Schools > School of Media Arts
Depositing User: Nick Braae
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2016 22:43
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 04:25

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