One of the better books I read this summer was Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad. The book is a series of chapters about numerous overlapping characters, and each chapter has to do with music in one form or another. One of the last chapters, “Great Rock and Roll Pauses,” is a PowerPoint presentation by an adolescent character who is trying to illustrate for her parents an obsession her older brother has with pauses in music. The characters discuss and graph multiple variables: The Relationship of Pause-Length to Haunting Power, Proof of the Necessity of Pauses (which graphs pause power to song excellence), and The Persistence of Pauses Over Time. They provide examples, such as “Bernadette” by The Four Tops (it had their highest pause length to pause power ratio), “Young Americans” by David Bowie (short pause length, low pause power), and “Foxy Lady” by Jimi Hendrix (short pause length, high pause power). They also conclude that “pause power” is related to “song excellence,” listing The Zombie’s “Time of the Season” and The Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Running” as having the strongest overlap between those variables. The characters also debate the differences between pauses, rests, and “interruptions” (an example of the latter being “Supervixen” by Garbage).
Now, if two fictional adolescents are able do this, I think we at RTH can, too. What are some songs that have noticeable pauses? Are pauses different than rests? Or “interruptions?” Does it matter if you hear ambient noise in the background of the pause? Would the song be better without the pause? What is a pause for?