Mathematical Music: Bob Dylan's Extra-Lyrical Artistry
Dr. Justin Tremel
Ever since Bob Dylan’s appearance on the New York folk scene in the early 1960’s, critics have been at odds in their assessments of the performer.
The marked split in viewing Dylan critically that Meehan brought forward was not soon resolved, continuing some five decades on, with Dylan having picked up an Oscar, a Pulitzer, a few doctoral degrees, and most notably the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. Having been crowned a Nobel Laureate the question of Dylan’s “worth” has been put to rest. Or—given the intense controversy surrounding the award— has it?
When pressed, in a 1966 interview, for a description of the kind of music he wrote, Dylan responded cryptically, “mathematical music.” This lecture delineates the difficult musical equation of Dylan’s artistry, how he has transformed himself from “the voice of a generation” to “the voice of every generation. This lecture will examine how Dylan studies are characterized not so much by the controversy as to whether or not Dylan merits academic study, but rather as to what form, theory, and methodology one should employ in grappling with Dylan’s artistry.