An Exploration of Melody, Harmony, and Improvisation in the Music of Stevie Wonder

by Jeffrey Lovell

Institution: University of Oregon
Year: 2013
Keywords: Pop & Jazz Music Analysis; Stevie Wonder
Record ID: 2013157
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1794/12947


In this dissertation, I examine Stevie Wonder's compositional style from his celebrated "classic period," (1972-1976) focusing specifically on the concentrated two-year time span from 1972-1974 marked by his unparalleled creative output that launched him into superstardom. My study operates on the premise that most melodic relationships are governed by a fundamentally pentatonic process and that harmonic relationships are largely governed by jazz-influenced tonal processes. I have transcribed dozens of examples from the time period under review in order to survey the expressive interaction between these two related but distinct systems and the resulting effect their usage has on melody and harmony. Using Schenkerian reductive analysis as my primary tool, I uncover recurring patterns that shape and shed light on his style. The final chapter of this study focuses on the ways in which Wonder's improvised melodic lines relate to the voice-leading framework of the basic melodic ideas in his performance of "I Love Every Little Thing About You" and also the ways in which his improvisation impacts forward motion in the course of this song.