The Sound and Society Workshop Presents:

Steven Rings

University of Chicago

Sounding “Hard Rain”

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Logan 802

4:45 – 6:15 PM

This chapter draft from my book-in-progress on Bob Dylan explores multiple versions of the song “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” As this is (currently) chapter one, it also lays out some of the book’s central themes in its first dozen or so pages. Central to the chapter is an argument about the largely aleatoric relationship between words and music in Dylan’s practice, a product of what I call his “generative inconsistency.” I sketch this argument in the first section and then seek to exemplify it in the four analytical “soundings” that follow, on performances from 1962, 1971, 1975, and 1994 (a brief fifth one on a 2003 performance, not yet ready for prime time, will conclude the chapter).

I have tried to make discussions of musical detail as accessible as possible to non-musicians, so I’m especially interested to hear from folks outside of the music department whether or not I have succeeded. All figures and examples (audio and video) are available at

I welcome discussion on any and all aspects of the chapter, especially as regards the relationship between the big-picture argument and the case studies (I have found this hard to balance, given the wealth of material). There is a lot here—indeed, probably more than most will have time to read—so feel free to skim and sample (both from the text and from the online materials).

Click here to view the paper here.

Special thanks to Tien-Tien Jong Zhang for serving as respondent

Persons who believe they may require accommodations to participate fully in this event should contact the coordinator, Bradley Spiers at or Amy Skjerseth at in advance.

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