Instructor Insights

Why The Beatles?

In this section, Teresa Neff shares why she selected the Beatles as the topic for this music analysis course.

"When you want to engage with music analysis, you either have to have people who are conversant, or you have to have a lot of good scores that can help bridge any gaps for participants who feel unsure about doing this kind of work."
— Teresa Neff

I wanted to teach a course about the Beatles because of their popularity today and their influence on the 1960s. I hoped that by looking at the Beatles’ body of work, students could see where these musicians came from, how they were open to new influences, and how they influenced each other. 

We also had ample materials that could support the course. Hunter Davies’ The Beatles and The Beatles Anthology served as the mainstays of the class. We had other texts about the Beatles owned by the MIT Lewis Music Library. These materials allowed us to supplement our studies beautifully.

The Beatles’ bronze statues in Liverpool, England. Artist: Andrew Edwards. (Image courtesy of lwr (Leo Reynolds) on Flickr. License:  CC BY-NC-SA).

The plethora of available materials helped equalize the skill sets that students brought to the course. This was important because when you want to engage with music analysis, you either have to have people who are conversant, or you have to have a lot of good scores that can help bridge any gaps for participants who feel unsure about doing this kind of work. The Beatles anthology provided that kind of support: it had all of the music, text, and individual lines. It also had the guitar tabs. So even if a student could not distinguish a tonic from a dominant, they were still able say, “This note is a D and this note is G.” It allowed me to open the class to an audience wider than that of only students with prior music analysis experience. I love the Beatles. But having materials that could support the music analysis work was incredibly important in selecting the Beatles as the topic of the course.

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