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Let us examine the stylistic
incongruity that occurs in Spinal Taps Heavy Duty
(from their 1976 LP Bent for the Rent). 
Example 1 provides sixteen measures from the songs
chorus: the style is that of mid-Seventies heavy-metal rock.
The final occurrence of this chorus is followed immediately by
the music shown in Example 2.
Clearly we perceive the insertion
of a classical-style minuet in this instance the well-known
minuet from Boccherinis
String Quintet in E major into a heavy-metal song
as incongruous, not to mention the additional incongruity of
the power chords that accompany the melody, which
is itself played by the lead guitar. These incongruities are
the key to the humor here: in a tune that aspires to heavy-duty-osity,
an instrumental interlude in the classical style is desperately
out of place. This example might be viewed as a musical analogue
to Schopenhauers horse story and confirms that incongruity
can produce specifically musical humor.
Here the incongruity resides
between two very different, even antithetical, musical styles.
Heavy Duty, then, depends for its humorous effect
on an obvious stylistic incongruity. Consider, on the other hand,
Cups and Cakes, a single produced in 1965 when Spinal
Tap still called themselves the Thamesmen. The humorous effect
of Cups and Cakes is achieved somewhat differently
from that of Heavy Duty. Here, the entire number
is in a single style: the so-called British-invasion
style, prevalent in popular music between 1963 and 1967.  Unlike Heavy Duty,
there are no passages in Cups and Cakes that produce
incongruity by radical stylistic juxtaposition. In fact, most
of the songs musical characteristics are congruent with
the norms of the British-invasion style. In order to understand
the role played by stylistic incongruity in Cups and Cakes,
we need to first explore in some detail the ways in which the
tune matches the style.
Let us turn to the music.
The song begins with a five-measure introduction employing piano,
string quartet, and trumpet, with electric bass entering at the
end of the fifth measure to lead into the first verse. One notices
immediately the use of trumpet and string quartet, instruments
more often associated with high-brow music, and their
pseudo-Baroque scoring. The first and second verses are shown
in Example 3.
The text of the first verse is sung solo to the accompaniment
of pseudo-Baroque piano, along with electric bass, and tambourine.
A cello line in the eighth measure of that verse leads into the
second verse, which is sung by a second solo voice to the same
accompaniment, augmented now by harpsichord.
At the bridge (see Example
4), the voice, piano, and electric bass are joined by the
string quartet, and the tambourine is replaced by snare drum
and tom-toms (played to sound like tympani). This is followed
by an instrumental interlude featuring the trumpet, accompanied
by piano, electric bass, and tambourine. The harmonic progression
in this five-measure interlude is identical to that of the introduction
until the fifth measure, where a modulation up one whole step,
from C major to D major, occurs through the introduction of the
new dominant sonority. The final verse, though transposed to
D, is identical to the second verse up to its seventh measure.
The harmony in measures 8-10 of the last verse progresses as
D: vi - bVI | iv - bVII | I ||
The instrumentation is identical
to the first verse with the addition of string quartet.
As Susan McClary and Rob Walser
have pointed out, the music of ones own culture often seems
completely transparent and requires very little mediation to
achieve its effect. 
While the listener who knows the British-invasion style will
surely recognize it in Cups and Cakes, describing
how one can identify such a style often poses a number of difficulties.  The ability of listeners
to identify a particular style results from what will be termed
a specific stylistic competency. At a low level of
competency one can merely identify the style; at a higher level
of competency, one can acutely identify the significant incongruities
from the style within a single work. 
Stylistic competencies are
frequently tacit: a listener is able to perceive a stylistic
incongruity in fact, the incongruity may seem obvious
but is often unable to articulate the perception in a
systematic or technical way. While the stylistic incongruity
that occurs in Heavy Duty requires that the listener
possess a low-level competency in two styles one needs
to know only that the juxtaposed styles are Seventies heavy metal
and classical-period art music, not that there are any deviations
within those styles the fullest appreciation of the humor
in Cups and Cakes depends on a rather advanced British-invasion
stylistic competency. This claim is supported by the fact that
so many features of Cups and Cakes are congruent
within the style.
One way of identifying the
ways in which Cups and Cakes is congruent with the
British-invasion style is to compare it with genuine tunes from
the style. Figure 1 enumerates some of the correspondences
between Cups and Cakes and a number of other songs
in the British-invasion style. 
The introduction to Cups and Cakes uses
string quartet and trumpet. Classical-sounding instruments
are typical in mid-Sixties British-invasion music, and one need
look no further than the Beatles Yesterday
or Eleanor Rigby for strings and their Penny
Lane for trumpet. The eighth-note rhythm of the strings
in the introduction to Cups and Cakes is especially
reminiscent of the eighth-note strings in Eleanor Rigby,
and the trumpet solo of Penny Lane might easily have
been the model for the one here. 
The harmonic root-progression
is common enough in this style; the use of inversions lends a
certain learned aspect to the movement, further reinforcing
the pseudo-Baroque aspects of the arrangement. The melody features
the characteristic eighth-note syncopation found in many pop
styles. The lyrics are silly, but so are the ones to Mrs.
Brown Youve Got a Lovely Daughter or Im
Henry the Eighth, I Am by Hermans Hermits.  Both those numbers also
feature the heavily accented voice of Peter Noone, making him
the likely model for the overdone accent in Cups and Cakes.
In many ways, however, Cups
and Cakes is most reminiscent of Peter and Gordons
Sunday for Tea. 
To begin with, both sets of lyrics deal with tea time and use
instruments commonly associated with high-brow music. The five-measure
introduction to Sunday for Tea, for instance, is
played by harpsichord solo in a pseudo-Baroque style. The first
and second verses are each eight measures in length, but are
in a pop-folk style, with vocal duet accompanied by strummed
acoustic guitars and acoustic bass (see Example 5).
The eighth measure of the
first verse features an interjection from the harpsichord, and
the second verse adds a xylophone, which does not constitute
a strong reference to high art, to the accompaniment. The eight-bar
bridge introduces a pop-style tambourine to the ensemble, while
the twelve-measure third verse incorporates a now chord-comping
harpsichord throughout. An eight-measure instrumental interlude
follows with the music from the second verse scored for traditional
piano trio only.
The remainder of the song
consists of a repetition of the bridge, followed by verse three;
concluding with the introduction, which is used as a codetta.
Thus one may note the use of classical music instrumentation
throughout the song, with the instrumental interlude for piano
trio and the introduction and codetta for harpsichord the most
obvious references to high-brow music. Considering the correspondences
enumerated here, both in comparison with the British-invasion
style and with an original British-invasion tune like Sunday
for Tea, it is not at all clear how incongruity could be
at work creating humor in Cups and Cakes.
The British philosopher-aesthetician
Roger Scruton, in considering Schopenhauers theory of incongruity,
cites caricature as a counterexample. In discussing a caricature
of the former British prime minister, Scruton writes
amuses, not because it does not fit Mrs. Thatcher, but rather
because it does fit her, all too well. It is true that it must
also contain an exaggeration: but the exaggeration is amusing
because it draws attention to some feature of her. If one wishes
to describe the humor of a caricature in terms of incongruity
it must be added that it is an incongruity which illustrates
a deeper congruity between an object and itself. 
Later, Scruton adds that .
. . satire at least possesses, when successful, the quality of
Scrutons remarks further refine the incongruity model by
introducing the notion that a dialectical tension exists between
congruity and incongruity, and his observations on satire and
caricature shed important light on the questions that arise in
comparing the Spinal Tap number with one by Peter and Gordon,
as well as with the British-invasion style generally. Cups
and Cakes does fit the style and this accounts for the
correspondences which are found in Figure 1 (the number
of correspondences could be increased quite easily). But, to
follow Scruton, does Cups and Cakes contain some
kind of exaggeration?
Let us again consider Sunday
for Tea. The lyrics poke fun at conservative and affluent
British high society. The use of harpsichord and piano trio is
motivated by the use of these instruments in drawing rooms and
gardens of the elite (or, at least it is rooted in the popular
association of these instruments with aristocracy). This interaction
of lyric and instrumentation produces a kind of gentle irony,
and the tune is surely meant tongue-in-cheek. The music hall
element is not far off in this number, and the music-hall style
played a prominent role in Peter and Gordons previous single
Lady Godiva, which made use of tenor banjo and tuba.
 The irony of Sunday
for Tea amounts to a criticism of high society albeit
a not-so-direct one and one can find many songs from the
same period that took a more direct aim at their targets. 
When the Thamesmen/Spinal
Tap adopt this style there are indeed exaggerations. Trumpet
and string quartet do not really interact with the lyrics, which
are even plainer and sillier than those of Sunday for Tea.
Further, how do we make sense of the tympani-like drumming in
the bridge, especially when the lyrics are milk and sugar/bread
and jam/yes please sir and thank you maam/here I am?
There is no gentle irony or underlying social commentary here.
While Cups and Cakes abounds with features typical
of the style, certain ones are exaggerated or are combined with
others in ways that produce an exaggeration within the style.
These exaggerations, to follow
Scruton, draw attention to particular and real features in the
style features that are, nonetheless, ripe for a humorous
treatment. None of this produces an amused response, however,
unless the listener can tell the difference between the real
thing and the exaggeration; it is the listeners stylistic
competency that permits this crucial discrimination. Without
the ability to make such a judgment (no matter how tacitly or
overtly this is done), Cups and Cakes could pass
for a legitimate song in the style (though probably a below-average
one). While one knows that in context of the film Cups
and Cakes is supposed to be funny, the listener highly
competent in British-invasion music can detect the stylistic
incongruities even when the song is heard in isolation. 
One might also posit that
there is a kind of threshold region within a listeners
stylistic competency. An incongruity that is easily perceived
falls below this threshold, one that is too difficult to perceive
falls above it. When an incongruity falls into the area where
it challenges the stylistic competency, without boring it or
confusing it when it balances on this threshold
then the greatest amused response is aroused; the key to eliciting
the amused response would seem to depend on just the right kind
of dialectical tension between congruity and incongruity. In
short, what is obvious is not as funny as what requires a little
more thought; or as our two Spinal Tap guitarists say during
a philosophical moment in the film, Theres
a fine line between stupid and . . . clever. With regard
to the satire of Spinal Tap, the movies most effective
numbers are those that nearly pass for authentic ones; the stylistic
exaggerations offer a challenge to the listeners powers
. None of the three Spinal Tap numbers under consideration in
the present study occurs in its entirety in the film. References
are always to the complete versions that appear on the soundtrack
LP. All examples are transcribed and arranged by the author.
 . For more about the British invasion, see Ed
Ward, Geoffrey Stokes, and Ken Tucker, Rock of Ages: The Rolling
Stone History of Rock & Roll (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Rolling Stone Press/Prentice-Hall, 1986), 277-89; and Charlie
Gillett, The Sound of the
City: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 2nd. ed. (New York: Pantheon,
1983), 261-84. British-invasion is an American term;
the British refer to the same style as beat music.
 . Susan McClary and Rob Walser. Start Making
Sense! Musicology Wrestles With Rock, in Frith and Goodwin,
On Record, 277-92.
 . In fact, I am always surprised, when I ask
pop musicians to identify the possible targets of this gag, how
many different responses I get.
 . The term stylistic competency is
used in a way similar to Robert Hattens usage. See Robert
Hatten, Toward a Semiotic Model of Style in Music: Epistemological
and Methodological Bases, (Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana
 . These are, of course, only suggestions and
everyone will have his or her own set of associations. Please
note that the chart includes correspondences in instrumentation,
an area that is generally thought to fall under the auspices
of arranging or production, and which is, to follow Meyer, non-syntactic.
The aspect of production is crucial to the perception of the
style in this instance, however, and could be thought of as one
of Meyers secondary parameters. See Meyer, Toward
a Theory of Style, 41.
 . It is the use of a trumpet in a British-invasion
style tune that is most significant. The trumpet melodies in
both Penny Lane and Cups and Cakes imitate
classical music, but that is as far as the resemblance
goes. In the documentary film The Compleat Beatles
(videotape, Delilah Films Inc., 1982), Beatles producer and arranger
George Martin states that Paul McCartney heard the piccolo trumpet
in a performance of Bachs Brandenburg Concerto (no. 2)
and wanted to make use the instrument in music the Beatles were
recording at that time. For an account of the composition of
the trumpet part in Penny Lane, see George Martin
with Jeremy Hornsby, All You Need is Ears
(New York: St. Martins Press, 1979), 201-2. I cannot resist
pointing out that the trumpet solo also uses a particular riff
that strongly resembles one in the theme music to the 1980s
TV series Dynasty.
 . Both of these songs are found on the compilation
Hermans Hermits XX, Their Greatest Hits (Abkco, AB 4227,
 . Sunday for Tea is found on the
Peter and Gordon compilation cassette A World Without Love
(Capitol Records, Inc., 4XL-9288, 1985).
 . Roger Scruton, Laughter, reprinted
in Morreall, Laughter and Humor, 161.
 . Scruton, Laughter, 162.
 . Peter and Gordons Lady Godiva
may also be found on A World Without Love, cited above.
 . The Kinks A Well Respected Man
(1965), the Beatles Nowhere Man (1966), and
Penny Lane (1967) are just three examples of many
that can be cited.
 . This is confirmed to a certain degree by the
fact that in the film one hears only the very end of the tune;
on the soundtrack LP, however, one finds the entire song. Most
of the features of Cups and Cakes discussed here
are not obvious from the short excerpt of the tune one hears
in the film itself.