Thursday, August 18, 2005

Abusing Google, Part One: Stylistics

Betcha By Golly Wow:
The Stylistics as a Semiautonomous Discipline Beyond Normative and Prescriptive Descriptions of Styles and Towards an Analysis of Language


Treatises devoted to the study of style can be found as early as Demetrius's On Style (C.E. 100). The Stylistics, however, were formed in 1968, from the fragments of two Philadelphia groups, the Monarchs and the Percussions. At their peak, the Stylistics were perhaps the most consistent hitmakers in Soul Music: while most pre-twentieth-century discussions of style appear as secondary components of rhetorical and grammatical analyses or in general studies of literature and literary language, the Stylistics definitely staked out their own musical territory, largely due to the fact that they had the best producer in the business in Thom Bell, some of the most infectious material of the early 70s, and perhaps the smoothest falsetto lead vocalist in Russell Thompkins, Jr.

The appearance of the Stylistics as a semiautonomous discipline is a modern phenomenon, an ongoing development in linguistic description that is closely tied to the similar rise of literary criticism and linguistics as academic subjects and departments, as well as the American public's need for some sweet, sweet Soul music. The Stylistics first achieved some regional attention in 1971 with the simplistic “You’re A Big Girl Now,” most notable for its contrast to the luscious work they would record a year later with Bell. Whatever the limits of previous approaches to style, or the difficulties that have arisen from the practical application of linguistic methods to stylistic analysis, the desire to begin with a set of well-defined terms and procedures lies at the core of the initial formation of Stylistics as a discipline, not to mention a set of individuals possessed of sufficient talent and experience to deliver the goods to an eager listening public.

Their Avco Records eponymous debut was a masterpiece, containing marvelous compositions by Bell and co-writer Linda Creed that would become soul standards covered by other artists for the next 30 years. “You Are Everything,” “Betcha By Golly Wow,” “Stop Look Listen” and “People Make the World Go Round” all rocketed up the Pop and Soul charts, and immediately made the Stylistics the most sought after Soul balladeers. The group’s seamless harmonies and Thompkins' silky falsetto blended magically with Bell’s lush production. Such work in Stylistics reflected a larger trend occurring within literary criticism as a whole during this period: Riffaterre's particular interest in a systematic, formal description of literary style mirrored a growing awareness among literary critics in general of the possibilities provided to literary study by trends and theories available from formal linguistic study, as well as the infectious Philly Soul sound.

Material for this nonexistent term paper was stolen from here, here and here.

3 comments:

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