Paper for Dylan Course

Dylan's Song Sequencing in Albums and Concerts

Andy Hertzfeld 3/11/97
Music 47

I received my grade on 4/22/97: A-


The song sequencing of an album or concert can have a major effect on the overall perception and impact of the work. It is also an interesting window into the artistic values of the creator. This paper will examine Bob Dylan's typically idiosyncratic use of song sequencing in both his albums and concerts to help break free from the burden of his audience's expections. It will also discuss a number of other persistent trends.

While Dylan was evolving rapidly in the early stages of his career, each album was a distinct watershed and unique statement that showcased a new style and worldview. The first song on each album was usually an anthemic announcement of his current stance while the last song of the album tended to be a song of farewell and transition, pushing back against the expectations of his audience while freeing himself to move on to his next stage of growth.

As Dylan's evolution inevitably slowed as he matured, he no longer had the same need to use the last song to make space for radical changes ahead. He began to use the last song differently, often setting it apart from the rest of the album to enrichen the work by reflecting upon it from a different angle.

When performing in concert, Dylan likes to suprise his audience. He has a tendency to choose a relatively obscure song for the opening number, often with some special significance to the occasion of the performance. He also tends to structure his sets flexibly in a well-defined framework; some song slots are almost always the same each night while others are constantly changing. There is almost always an acoustic mini-set toward the middle of the concert, a kind of show within the show with a different emotional feel from the main portion.


[EDLIS Notes]

While we do not intend to make a habit of posting individual academic studies of Dylan's music on this blog, we decided to include just two of the papers that were submitted to Professor Rehm by students on the course. This paper can be read in full on the website of the student who wrote it.