A Day In The Life English Literature Essay

Published: 2021-07-04 21:40:04
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Analyse two songs of your choice from contrasting genres. Your analysis will need to:
Compare chord sequence, tempo, time signature, structure, arrangement, lyrical content and vocal delivery.
Discuss what makes both songs effective.
Song 1
Artist: the Beatles
Track: A Day in the Life
Album: Sgt Pepper, 1967
Composer: Lennon & McCartney
Analyse two songs of your choice from contrasting genres. Your analysis will need to: compare chord sequence, tempo, time signature, structure, arrangement, lyrical content and vocal delivery. Discuss what makes both songs effective.
A day in the life
Tempo: Remains constant through the first section
Because it was recorded before click track there may be slight fluctuations of around 5 bpm but it cannot be considered a tempo change around 80 bpm during the orchestral crescendo to the middle section the tempo is double timed by the drums playing snare on the offbeat to around 160 bpm also the rhythm is slightly swung in the refrain where Lennon sings ah, ah the tempo returns to 80 bpm again noticeable by the pattern on the drums and also returns to the more straight rock feel
Bohemian rhapsody
Tempo, even with the opening acpaella there is a tempo of 80 bpm and this is confirmed upon the arrival of the piano at bar5 and further reinforced by the entry of the drums at bar -12 tempo remains either at 80 or double timed in the opera section and through to the rock section only here the rhythm moves from straight eights to a shuffle feel and finally with transition to the finale the tempo returns to 80 bpm or half time where it remains apart from a slight pause on the phrase nothing really matters to me and finally goes to rubato during the piano solo just to return to a steady pulse with the phrase any way the wind blows.
A day in the life
Time signature remains the same throughout
Bohemian rhapsody
Tim signature changes
4/4 on intro
5/4 at bar
Opera section
4/4
3/4
4/4
6/4
Rock section
4/4
End section
2/4
4/4
A day in the life
Arrangement
ADITL
No a typically pop or rock song and at over 3 minutes not really considered radio play friendly the opening does conform to a pop ballad style but there is no real constant rhythmic pattern being played by the drums rather a series of syncopated fills and rhythms and it is the guitar and or piano that provides the pulse. Even the bass is not playing root notes again playing around the scale and using syncopation to ad interest.
BORAP
A story song again with many meanings No verse chorus structure but in essence constructed of movements The title not used in the lyrics Not considered radio friendly again because of the length
Vocal delivery
ADITL
Soft, dreamy like from Lennon the story is shocking but the delivery is not harsh but sad McCartney’s is happy. Upbeat urgent but matter a fact back to Lennon which continues in the same vein it left of
Double tracked to add thickness and texture
BORAP
Angelic, powerful, melodically, theatrical, and In your face,
What makes both songs effective?
A day in the life it’s a story song with many meanings there is no real verse chorus structure but rather 2 ideas connected together by the then innovative use of orchestra and technology A day in the life is never used in the lyrics and at 5.34 was defiantly not radio friendly but now is considered to be
This really is two songs married together by an orchestral crescendo over an octave underpinned by a rhythmic pulse from the bass, drums piano and to a lesser degree because it I lost in the mix the rhythm guitar. Interestingly there are no electric guitars in the piece at all.
With the climax of the crescendo we are planted firmly in the middle section. Change of key and a crotchet pulse from the piano in a major key with sound effects and a double time feel all of which contribute to the feeling that the dream for the moment is over and we are now in reality "woke up, got out of bed..."
Key: G Major / e minor -» E Major
Meter: 2/4
Form: Intro | Verse | Verse | Verse | Bridge |
| Middle vocal section |
| Middle instrumental section |
| Verse | Bridge | Outro (with complete ending)
CD: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band",
Track 13 (Parlophone CDP7 46442-2)
Recorded: 19th, 20th January, 3rd February 1967, Abbey Road 2;
10 February 1967, Abbey Road 1;
22nd February 1967, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 1st June 1967 (LP "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band")
US-release: 2nd June 1967 (LP "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band")
 
4
General Points of Interest
 
Style and Form
 
Next noteThough it deals with much of the same theme of existential Weltschmerz focused on in "Good Morning, Good Morning", the whole production of this following song is so much more powerful for its being so comparatively low key in mood, non-preachy in choice of words, with a visually deeper perspective if for no other reason than the wide angle created by the large form.
 
Next noteThis large form furthermore has a high-level ABA classical clarity that is ironically belied by its avoidance of perfect symmetry.
 
Next noteThe rather avant-garde-like deployment of a mid-sized orchestral makes it totally impossible to categorize the "style" of this track, as if it would have been all that much easier to pigeon hole without the orchestra :-)
 
Next noteFor years, we've been fortunate to have widely available a precious outtake of this song, the master tape of which was wiped, but which was miraculously preserved in acetate form. It is as if we are privileged in this recording to listen to something that fate would otherwise have not permitted to be heard in this world; pretty mystical :-)
 
More recently, "Anthology", Volume 2 has provided us with a melange that includes the middle section of the acetate combined with two different outtakes of the outer sections; the first of which was first aired, in part, on the PBS/George Martin "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" anniversary TV special. The more seriously musicological part of me is offended by this willy nilly playing around with primary sources, but the insatiable collector part of me is happy enough to hear the new material in whatever form we can get it. I still say the acetate in its pristine entirety is something which you must hear.
 
Melody and Harmony
 
Next noteThe song opens in the key of G Major though its true center of gravity is in the parallel minor and Major keys of E. Take a look as far back as "Not A Second Time" for a really early example of the same gambit; I direct this comment especially those of my friends and students who take a condescending attitude toward anything produced by the Boys prior to "Rubber Soul", all of whom know exactly who you are. Even the verses, which are nominally in an optimistic G Major, wilt within their very first measures over to the sadder e minor, nicely underscoring the sense of the words.
 
Next noteThe curiously jumpy melodic material is the least of anybody's concern here; not John's, not Paulie's, not even ours; an interesting lesson in how over-rated, in some cases, is the importance of having a catchy tune in order to have a successful song. Think this over.
 
Arrangement
 
Next noteThe backing of the outer two main sections is made up of acoustic guitar, piano, electric bass, and drums, all four of which stand out in terms of tasteful restraint; but especially the drums.
 
Next noteThe orchestra appears intermittently throughout the track, seemingly out of nowhere. Keep in mind how, in the recorded medium, you have no visual clue to its presence. Your whole reaction to this track would be somewhat different if your first exposure to it was live with the full instrumental forces sitting before you.
 
Next noteThis sparing, overlaid use of the orchestra keeps the track from sounding over produced; it's good to have a large part of the time of the song consist of more unadorned pop/rock combo; but its cleverly repeated deployment is a subtle force of unity. The great effect at the end of the two verse section, a sweeping crescendo up a scale of indeterminate pitches is potent while also being obvious. More subtle is the orchestra's reappearance for the transition from the end of the middle section back to the return of the verse. This additional entrance keeps the use of it in those crescendi from sounding too contrived and isolated. What I'm trying to say here is that while the content of this orchestra part is novel and powerful, you should not under-estimate its formal contribution.
5
Section-by-Section Walkthrough
 
Intro
 
Next noteThe tempo is relatively fast; I parse it as one measure per sugarplum fairy. In spite of it, though, the leisurely harmonic rhythm (with chords changing every two measures, on average) instills a moderately measured pace for the proceedings.
 
Next noteThe bassline is predominantly a walking one, though Paul does a nice job of disguising it in places with the trick of jumping down a fourth and then filling it back up step-wise. On the acetate outtake he plays out the scale minus any adornment.
 
Next noteFrom a harmonically analytical perspective, I prefer to treat many measures in this song as a continuation of the chord in the previous measure combined with a passing note in the bassline. Yes, I know the "tab" of each measure is different, but we're not looking for the tabs per se in these studies.
 
Next noteThe intro is a neat eight-measure long, and anticipates the music of the verse without completely stealing its thunder. You'll note that the chord progression only partly matches the verse, and the complete scalar bassline is not yet fully exposed. You might be surprised to note that the underlying chord progression is an old-cliché-friend of ours; none other than I -» vi -» IV -» V:
 
|G |b |e |- |C |- |- |- |
G: I v6/4- vi IV
of-vi
[Figure 117.2]
 
Next noteIt would have been somehow neater to synchronize the downbeat of this intro with the final chord of the reprise. The slight delay of the downbeat until after the reprise's end is more "off-beat", both literally and figuratively.
 
Verse
 
Next noteAll the verses start off with the same sixteen-measure (four-times-four, ABAC) classic floor plan. I'm willing to go as far as describing the harmonic motion as including a modulation to e minor:
 
|G |b |e |- |
G: I v6/4 vi
1 & 2 &
|C |- |a | D |
G: IV ii V
|G |b |e |- |
G: I v6/4 vi
e: i
|C |F |e | |
e: vi flat-II i
[Figure 117.3]
 
Next noteHowever, there are three (collect 'em all!) different variations in how the verses finish off this same sixteen-measure beginning. The first verse is unique in the way it cycles back for a repetition of the chord progression with the piquant F-Major chord before pivoting back to the home key:
 
"I saw the photograph ..." 2 &
|C |F |e |C D |
e: vi flat-II i
G: vi IV V
[Figure 117.4]
 
Next noteThe second verse is shorter by two measures. Its harmonic pivot back to G is more passive than that of the first verse. Note how here there is no V chord at the very end:
 
"... House of Lords"
|C |- |
e: vi
G: IV
[Figure 117.5]
 
Next noteThe third and fourth verses, both of which lead into the orchestral bridges, are similar to the second verse, but one extra measure is added. Here, to the extent that the bridge does not cycle back to the key of G, there is no modulation to speak of:
 
"... book. I'd love to||turn ..."
"... Hall. I'd love to||turn ..."
|C |- |- ||e ..... E
e: vi i -» I
[Figure 117.6]
 
Next noteThe intro and first verse are scored for acoustic guitar, piano, bass, and maracas. The full drum kit is added in the second verse.
 
Bridge
 
Next noteThe bridge is twenty-four measures long and consists of the orchestra's free-form, glissando-like sweep from low E to the same pitch several octaves higher. It's quite a nitrous-oxide-like rush.
 
Next noteRemnants of the original backing track heard on the acetate outtake, with its four-in-the-bar rhythm and Mal Evan's counting aloud, can be heard almost all the way through this section on the finished track. In spite of this, there are cymbal crashes in the last few measures of the orchestra track which come seemingly at random to challenge your sense of meter. Try counting twenty-four-times-four in this section and see what what happens to you.
 
Next noteOn both the acetate outtake and the finished track, Mal starts counting in the measure following the third verse as I outlined it above; i.e. on the word "turn". The outtake used for the first half of the version of this song presented on "Anthology" Volume 2, shows him starting the count off in the previous measure; huh?!
 
Middle Section
 
Next noteAs with the "Reprise" segue at the beginning of the track, it would have been "neater" if the start of this middle section was synchronized with the downbeat of the bridge's twenty-fourth measure, as it does on the acetate.
 
On the finished version, again avoiding foolish neatness for its own sake, it appears as if the middle section is begun approximately one beat before the end of the bridge; either that, or the bridge is cleverly extended approximately a beat past the downbeat of measure twenty-four.
 
It's not easy to figure out which is the case because the challenging meter of the bridge's final measures mentioned above, is complicated by the alarm clock and a snippet of Paul counting "One" both of which are heard off the beat as the middle section begins. The one thing that is clear is that the intro of this middle section contains four measures of vamping on the E-Major chord, and on the final track, a couple of these measures pass by you before you quite reclaim your sense of where the downbeat has gone to.
 
Next noteThe "song" portion of the middle section is melodically as jumpy as John's outer sections. It is nineteen measures long and contains an ABAB quatrain, each of whose phrases except the last one is an unusual, rhetorically motivated five measures long. Both the lyrics and sound effects here reinforce the "Good Morning ... but what a day" theme:
 
|E |- |- |D |- |
E: I flat-VII
|E |B |E |B |- |
I V I V
|E |- |- |D |- |
I flat-VII
|E |B |E |B |
I V I V
[Figure 117.7]
 
Next noteThe orchestra portion of the middle section is twenty measures long and consists of two long parallel phrases whose harmonic rhythm is unvaryingly slow. This enhances the "dreamy" note upon which the middle section song abruptly terminates. The harmony of the section primarily shifts back toward G Major though the end of the first long phrase surely feels as if it is back in e minor.
 
|C |- |G |- |D |
G: IV I V
|- |A |- |e |- ||
V-of-V vi
|C |- |G |- |D |
IV I V
|- |A |- |e d |C D ||
V-of-V vi IV V
[Figure 117.8]
 
Final Verse
 
Next noteOnly a single verse is used to balance out the weight of all that precedes it.
 
Next noteThe tempo remains the same as it is throughout the track, though the more active drumming fools you into thinking that this section is somehow "faster" than the verses in the first half.
 
Outro
 
Next noteThe repetition of the bridge is virtually a carbon copy, but its destination is very different, ending with the balance of one measure's worth of dramatic silence followed by that ready- made classical cliché of a final E-Major chord.
 
Next noteComing as it does, at the end of the repeat of the bridge which the first time around had led into that cheery middle section in the same tempo, that final chord resounds with a frightful sense of bleak hitting-a-wall finality, further emphasized and exaggerated by the surprise element and the long fade-out to silence.
 
6
Some Final Thoughts
 
Next noteThe outer groove can be seen, beyond mere prank, as further twist on the gesture of the final chord. By coming so suddenly out of total silence after you've assumed the show is over, it only serves to heighten in retrospect the sense of eternal desolation created by the final chord's dying away.
 
In the final result, though, this outer groove is arguably another wake-up call of sorts to so-called reality; fits right in with the supersonic dog whistle :-) No joke: given the alternative of blowing your mind in one kind of vehicle or another, what's your preference?
Intro
400 words
Chorus
400 words
Pre chorus
400 words
Middle section
400 words
Chorus
400 words
Refrain
400 words
Song 2
Intro
400 words
Ballad Bit
400 words
Rock Bit
400 words
Opera Bit
400 words
Guitar solo Bit
400 words
Outro Bit
400 words
Artist: Queen
Track: Bohemian Rhapsody
Album: A Night at the Opera, 1975
Composer: Freddy Mercury
Meter: 4/4 (9/8 during first phrase of the intro)
Keys: Bb-major, Eb-major, A-major, F-major
Form:
Intro | "Ballad" | "Opera" | "Rock" | Outro
Ballad" = Spacer | Verse | Spacer | Verse' - solo |
"Rock"= intro riff | sung section | intro riff - connector |
Bohemian Rhapsody is probably the biggest ever radio and chart triumph of the artistic and "extreme" songwriting across Europe. Don't be fooled: even if it seems fairly logical, one should not explain the incredible chart success (No1 for 9 (+5) weeks in UK) of this (and any) song directly with the undeniable musical values built in it. How then could you explain, say, the only-No11 charting of Bicycle Race, or the No1 charting of tracks like Flat Beat (Oizo, 1999)? Definitely important factors of success were the state-of-the-art promotional video-clip, the heavy airplay, the media-hype, and of course the music that was not just attractive but more extreme in a few respects than any hit song before and ever since.
The piece could not turn the rock-trends upside-down (except in making "modern" video clips), but it still enjoys cultic popularity among "air-guitar" players and bathroom-singers. The US single-market, as so many times in Queen's history, was not too thrilled due to interest in the more dance-oriented singles That's The Way I Like It (KC The Sunshine Band) and Fly Robbin Fly (Silver Convention).
Bohemian Rhapsody is particularly remarkable for several reasons:
-The production was pobably more complex than any hit-record before (read Philipp's article).
-The song covered more styles, including a stylized opera-choir unprecedented on the single-market, maybe also in prog-rock circles.
-The net melody content of the lead melody (see the theory-tutorial for details) is about 165 seconds, which is an all time record among hit-singles. This value is so extremely high (among hit-singles), like a skyscraper in a small town. In the world of progressive music it's not an unprecedented fact, but this genre failed to impress the pop-crowd for some reasons.
- The song is relatively (but not uniquely) long: six minutes.
The band, with their earlier albums (and particularly with songs like "The March Of The Black Queen"), manifested themselves as musical geniuses, and a great effort like this was not very surprising to come, retrospectively looking. Freddie himself had wanted to write a song "like this" for a long time. With its beauty, extremity, and high standard, "Bohemian Rhapsody" represents the whole Opera album perfectly. The composing and recording process took three weeks, and the song went through major changes until the final cut, especially the "opera" section.
Section-wise, the piece is nearly acyclic; in progressive music they call this type of song-chains a "suite". Having said that, Bohemian Rhapsody is relatively short compared to most prog-rock suites. Similarly to "The March Of The Black Queen" but to a much greater extent we can find distant reprises of some sung/played/lyrical phrases and motifs. Only the "Rock" section is kept out of this game. The "Ballad" section is built up from two verses, the only section-repetition in the song.
The arrangement features the classic "Queen combo": electric bass, drums, piano, double-tracked rhythm guitar, multitrack guitar choirs (only in the Outro), multitrack vocal harmonies (sometimes up to six parts), and twelve tracks. Nothing extra except the special percussion gong and the bell-tree ("...down my spine"). John was not given too much freedom for his bass part as he hardly lets his bass-line "walk away" in this particular song.
Freddie was the only composer (including the famous rock-riff); he arranged the vocal harmonies as well. The solo and the guitar harmonies in the Outro must have been arranged by Brian, though. Freddie's affection for opera became apparent here and peaked with the "Barcelona" album in 1988. What particular composer influenced Mecrury is another interesting question.
Queen used to perform the song on stage without the Intro, and the "Opera" section was played back from tape providing a perfect spot for a light-show.
Walkthrough
Intro
The album version is preceded with a short mysterious multitrack guitar-trill with similar function to the trademark-shots that start big movies and computer games. This trill oscillates between Bm and C#m chords in their first inversion. One possibility is that it comes from the outro of "Good Company".
The "real" intro starts off a-capella: tight harmonies of four parts. The leading part is the second from top, as it is usual in barbershop harmonies. Piano enters in the fifth measure. The harmony during the "easy come..." part is only three-parted, and this is the motif that will show up in the Opera section in both this and an altered form. The intro (without the pre-intro and the pre-verse) is 14 measures long (4+3+2+2+3). The rubato-flavor of the first phrase originates from the syncopations
without rhythmic backing and the 9/8 meter. The latter switches to 4/4 for the second phrase. Except the Spanish guitar section of "Innuendo", this is the only phrase in non-traditional meter in a Queen song.
Beat map of the first phrase:
1 2 3 4 +1 2 3 4 +1 2 3 4 +1 2 3 4 +
**** *   ***.-*   **** * ********
The basic harmonies:
 |Gm7/D| C7   | F7  | Bb  |
Bb: vi |V-of-V|  V  |  I  |
  | Gm7 | Bb7 | Eb  |
Bb: vi  | I   | IV  |
Eb: iii | V   | I   |
 | Cm7 | F7  |
Bb: ii | V   |
|B Bb A Bb|B Bb A Bb|
.. I .. I .. I .. I
|Eb Bb|Dbdim7 F7| -   |
|IV I |iiidim V | -   |
The first phrase features a chain of fifths root-motion. Note the heavy use of seventh chords here and throghout the section. Second phrase adds piano, measure 6 features pre-downbeat accent (on the word "see") followed by an on-downbeat entrance of a piano motif that is a shortened version of what will close the first Verse, but also will show up in the Outro (both in Eb-major). The lyric line "doesn't really matter (to me)" in modified form will show up both in the Verse ("as if nothing...") and in the Outro ("nothing really..."). The chromatic oscillation around the tonic in the fourth phrase in a modified form (see exactly how) will recur in the "Opera" section ("I see a ..." and "I'm just a ..."). The progression has a vague "IV > I > V > I" flavor created by the cross relations Eb-D and A-Bb. The open ending is nicely resolved by the opening chord of the next section.
"Ballad"-Spacer
It's a twice played one-measure piano arpeggio, the same that starts the Verse and features appoggiatura on the 6th degree. The first Spacer is overlapped by the closing sung phrase of the Intro ("to-o me"). On the downbeat enters the bass guitar.
"Ballad"-Verse
The first Verse is 15 and half measures long. The phrasing is square except last phrase, which features a half measure.
Bb:
| Bb6 | Gm9 | Cm9 | Cm F |
| I   | vi  | ii  | -  V |
| Bb6 | Gm9 | Cm* | -    |
| I   | vi  | ii  | -    |
          Eb: vi  | -    |
Eb:
|Eb Bb/Db| Cm9 | Fm* | Bb  |
| I   V  | vi  | ii  | V   |
                    half
|Eb Bb/Db| Cm9 Abm | Eb |(Ab...)||Bb...
| I   V  | vi   iv | I  |(IV...)||
The harmony is built upon cliches:
1) First phrase features the I > vi > ii > V that is characterized by the chain of fifths root-motion. (See also Love Of My Life and Spread Your Wings). This cliche is spiced up with appogiaturas (the hand-crossing lick, simple but effective), the harmonic rhythm is varied in the last measure, and the "repeat" of the cliche is aborted by another commonplace lick, a line-cliche.
2) This line-cliche (marked with Cm* in the harmony-map) is built upon the Cm chord and a chromatic descending bass-line from C to G (see also Death On Two Legs and The March Of The Black Queen). Similar line-cliche is used in measure 11 with the Fm chord, only the descent is shorter: from F to D.
3) Measure 9 features the I > V > vi progression with scale-wise descending bass. (See also It's A Hard Life and Good Old-Fashioned Lover Boy). Omiting the Bb/Db leading chord, the third phrase features the same cliche-progression but in a different key.
4) The last measure features a semichromatic line-cliche with two descending lines combined with a fix note on top. This is the motif that appeared in shortened form in the Intro and will again pop up near the end. Although it's a cliche, you can't often find it in pop-songs in exactly this variant.
Having so many cliches compressed into only one section is unusual. Even the drum follows a cliche-like pattern first. The cliches and the square phrasing are the factors that keep the song in touch with the pop-traditions. On the other hand, we can find some special features: modulation, a half-measure, thickening texture, and quickening harmonic rhythm (last phrase).
The similarity between the two halves of the section is easy to see: first phrase of the couples has a more or less straight-ahead progression, and the second one is a variant. The closing of this section is very similar to the closing of the verse in Love Of My Life: the last sung word (BR: "...matters", LOML: "...means to ME" ) is overlapped by a half measure piano-arpeggio motif that introduces another piano-phrase. In spite of the basically identical harmonic shape of both halves of the Ballad, the lead tune shows less similarity. Except the "mama" measures, we can find only one pair of variant phrases: "Put a gun against his head", "Didn't mean to make you cry".
We don't have the feeling of a key-shifting going on, partly because the modulation is executed so smoothly that it's hardly detectable (in contrast with the return to Bb). On the other hand, the gravity center of the tune steps up with the key.
The backing arrangement is quite spare in the first Verse: only piano and bass, no guitars or backing vocals. The entrance of drums is held back until the end of the second phrase, exactly where the double tracked rhythm guitars enter; in the second Verse they mostly double the bass-line one octave above. During the solo Brian plays extra fills. Backing vocals enter on the downbeat of the third phrase: solo and antiphonal solo (probably double-tracked each). The latter ("anyway the wind blows") imitates the piano-line. This bit of lyrics will also close the song. Freddie's vocals showchaseexpressive special effects: vibrato and change of tone measure by measure.
The second Verse is different from the first. Starting from the third phrase:
Eb:
/----------- x2 -----------\
|Eb Bb/Db| Cm9 | Fm* | Bb  |
| I   V  | vi  | ii  | V   |
|Eb Bb/Db| Cm9 | Fm* | Db... (Bbm)|| A
| I   V  | vi  | ii  | chromatic  || I
In the fourth phrase the guitar solo starts, backed by the harmony of the third phrase. In the fifth phrase the guitar plays extra counter-melody in the second measure. The last measure continues the chromatic descent of the third one (i.e. F - D), resting for a moment on Db, then reaching A through a dramatic triplet on the downbeat of the next measure that already belongs to the Opera section. The harmony of the last measure is predominantly chromatic-driven, not functional. The closing A-chord is the new tonic of A-major, a key very distant from Eb-major, as you can sense.
The solo itself takes over the leading role from the vocal at its climax. Its tune climbs higher and higher with momentary step-backs while the rhythm guitars play downward figures. Note the short motif appearing in both half of the solo. The solo reaches the peak in the 18th measure, and then descends as the step-backs are longer than the ascending gestures. Long descending scale (with numerous hammer-on / pull-offs) can be found in the 16th measure. Similar soloing approach is applied in songs like It's A Hard Life and You Don't Fool Me. Octave-long ascending Mixolydian scales (here: Bb to Bb' in the key of Eb) are also featured in Bicycle Race.
"Opera"
This is definitely the most extravagant section of the song and a real compositional "tour de force". The much-discussed lyrics are about nothing although we can feel something veyr emotional going on "before our eyes/ears" due to the dramatic choir dialoges/trialoges. Some Italian words and names let the listener associate with the world of (Italian) opera of the 19th century.
The multitrack choir parts sometimes are backed with piano, bass, and drums, the latter two applied during the fortissimo parts only. There the choirs are mixed more stereo as well. This section starts with a double-time feel: the tempo of quarters is doubled up; note the recycled motifs are also played/sung in double velocity.
Walktrough subsection by subsection:
From start to "Galileo"
Here we have eight measures (2+4+2). The first two measures present a mini-intro exposing the home-key and the doubled tempo. The abrupt simplification of the arrangement is remeniscent of the intro of Death On Two Legs and the middle break of The Millionaire Waltz, also the intro of The Miracle.
A:
| A   | -   |
| I   | -   |
| D A Adim A | D A Adim A | D A D A | Adim A D A |
|.. I ...    |.. I ...    |.. I ... | ...  I ... |
|C#/G# G#7 | C/G E7 || A...
|chromatic...    V  || I
The second phrase features the variant of the third phrase of the Intro. This time the oscillating harmony (measure 3 and 4) is closer to IV > I > V > I.
Harmonized vocals enter on the 4th beat of measure 4. Note the lack of syncopation. The last phrase adds extra voices in both the low and the high range, and the rhythm section (bass & drums) kicks in.
The harmony of the last phrase has some built-in chromatic cross-relations.
Sketch:
   Top: F  F# G  G# A      BTW, Freddie also used to notate his home-arranged
      : F  D# E  E  E           vocal harmonies in this format (matrix of letters).
      : C# C  C  D  C#
Bottom: G# G# G  E  A
Besides the five-piece chromatic ascent (six if we add the preceding A chord) in the top vocal part, we can find four more chromatic steps omitting the C-B cross-relation of C > E7 as the latter chord seems to drop the B (5 of E), at least in the vocals. The functional analysis of this chromatic-driven harmony would result in a mess except the V > I closing. Note the lack of minor chords, and the soprano voice added in the last measure.
"Galileo-Figaro-Magnifico"
The metric structure of this subphrase is hard to follow because:
- there's no rhythm track guiding.
- the opening "Galileos" enter on a fourth beat. The strong beats also get some emphasis ("Gali-LE-o"), by a melodic spike.
- the "Magnifico" puts accents off-beat.
- the subsection is four an a half measures long.
beat-map:
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 1
  ****    ****    *******           I'm just ...
      ****    ***********
                         ***** * **
Arguably we could use different division to measures, but I'm afraid, the disorienting flavor of this phrase cannot be eliminated. The first two measures feature echo/hocket-like vocal arrangement with Roger singing one octave and a fifth above Freddie. They go into harmony in the third measure, very unusual parallel twelves. There's no chord support; the piano only doubles the open fifths. Note that before this sub-section we were in A-major and soon we find ourselves back in Bb-major. In pop-music the normal way for such a modulation is to simply shift the key. Freddie provides something more adventurous this time.
Looking at the pitch-set, Roger's part (five neighbour notes) is moving along the a-minor/C-major scale. The minor flavor is stronger especially when compared to the "mamma mia" phrase yet to come. So the first step was a "weak" modulation to the parallel minor key (granted we can't speak about proper modulation in a scalar enviroment like this) and its relative major. Freddie's part moves along the neighbour scale of the d-minor/F-major key, with a touch of Bb-major as Freddie (cleverly or incidentally) closes his "Figaro" on E-flat instead of E-natural (played by the piano). And here we are again in the key of Bb-major: the "magnificos" create an unusual downward chord build-up on Bbadd6 spiced with alternate panning.
"I'm just... - ...monstrosity"
This six-measure subsection cleverly uses elements heard previously in the song. Note: no syncopation. The lead vocal in the first phrase speaks in first person, and the choir, like it does in ancient Greek tragedies, comments in the third person (see also Somebody To Love).
Bb:
|B Bb A Bb|B Bb A Bb|
|  I    - |  -    - |
|Eb/Bb Bb Bbdim Bb|Eb/Bb Bb Bbdim Bb|
|(IV)  I  ("V") I |      I        - |
|   Ab    Eb/G | F7 Bb |
|IV-of-IV  IV  | V  I  |
In the first four (2x2) measures we can hear the two already familiar variants of the third phrase of the Intro next to each other. The first two measures repeat the melody of this third phrase, while the first measure takes the lyrics from the second phrase of the Intro. This time the lead vocal is not harmonized, but the piano plays the same chromatic chord progression; the tempo is doubled. The second two measures feature the transposed (A > Bb) progression of the first sung phrase of the "Opera" section ("I see a..."). The recitative fixed note on bottom (Bb) is doubled on the top of the harmony. One of the the inner voices is also octave-harmonized, and each part is sung by more voices (or doubletracked? Read Philipp's article for details!). Note the "vivace" vibrato applied in the voices ("...famiLY"), and the drums and bass' backing.
The last two measures feature a pattern-driven rhythm, a special IV-of-IV chord, a cliche IV > V > I cadenza, and a descending scale in the bass (last measure).
The next subsection is preceded by the same one-measure piano figure (in double time) that we heard at the end of the first Verse.
"Easy come... - ...no no no!"
This subsection starts similarly to the previous one,
Bb:
|B Bb A Bb|B Bb A Bb|
|  I    - |  -    - |
The following choir part is completly different, though. The rhythm is disorienting to an extent where we can't speak about syncopations at all. Before speaking about measures and phrases, let's look at the beat map first (from "BISmillah"):
4 1 2 3 ? 1 ? ? ? 1 ? ? ? 1 ? ? ? 1 ? ? ? 1 ? ? ? 1 ? ? ? 1 ? ? # ?
* * * *             * * *           * * *
         ******          ******          ******   *****   *****_
               ***             ***             ***     ***
                                                        ***********
continued from "never LET me go" at "#".
# 1 ? ? ? 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2
**** * **              *****...
          * * * * * * *
The first "no" marks the first more or less clear downbeat. Until this point the downbeats cannot really be located, although retrospectively we can find them: "let me GO" and "WILL you let...", but going back further in the middle part the whole thing is very baffling: off-beat starts and stops, only the Bismillah-s are on beat (save the first Bismillah starting on a fourth beat); some downbeats get no accent. On the other hand the 4/4, 8/4 periodicity is clear to see most of the time throughout the subsection.
The vocal harmonies of the first measures are built upon simple I and V chords (ie. Bb and Eb). Except "let me/him go", the sung phrases are backed with drums, bass, and piano. The harmonies are four- or five-parted, each double-tracked (probably). The Bismillah's are unisono. The "never, never..." (m.7) phrase (stereo floated left to right) follows the pattern: step down, third up. The chord build-up uses the same syncopated rhythm as the first Magnifico-o, but the chord is different: Gb7/Db. The "no-no" harmonies are among the craziest that Freddie ever arranged:
   Top: Gb  G   A   B   E   F   G       octaves are indicated with '
Middle: D   E   Gb  Ab  Bb  Db' Eb'
Bottom: B,  A,  D   Db  Gb  Bb, Eb      A7 and Db7 omit their 3rd,
Chords: Bm  A7  D   Db7 Gb7 Bbm Eb3     Gb7 omit its 5th degree.
Just play each of these parts separately on an instrument! Crazy, isn't it? It's incredible how these three insane tunes go into one nice polished harmony. Also surprising is that each chord of the harmony is in root position. The bottom part is doubled by the bass and oscillates. Note that the middle and the top parts cross at the 5th beat.This harmony is non-functional, but it's not driven by a straight chromatic line, either, like we saw in the "thunderbolt" harmony. On the other hand, the middle part is dominated by successive whole steps playing major role in the unusual feel. The Bbm chord deceptively sounds like it had a major third (D instead of Db) giving the last two chords a flavor of V > I progression similarly to "frightening me". Indeed the Eb chord turns out to be the new tonic.
"Mamma mia" - end of Opera section
The "Mamma mia let me go" motif is familiar: it's the major variant of the "Galileo" with different arrangement and in different key (Eb-major), Note Freddie's rough voice here.
The three-eight upbeat is very disorienting, but the melodic peak (mammaMIa) marks the downbeats, like we saw with the Galileos. The "let me go" part is harmonized. One of the parts goes againts the descent, and the following "Beelzebub" phrase also has some walking tones among the six parts (twelve voices, as Roger mentioned in an interview). The harmony features an unusual tritone leap (Ab > D), strict root-following bassline, and a chromatically ascending middle voice:
Eb:
| Eb   | Eb Bb |
| I    | -  V  |
middle
voice: G   Ab    A      Bb
     | Eb  Ab |  D      Gm | Bb7 | -   | -   |
     | I   IV |V-of-iii iii|  V  | -   | -   |
The dramatic climax is articulated by the ascending-desending lead part, and the rhythm guitars fading in. The sustained dominant seventh chord and the crescendo drum figure raise the tension that explodes on the downbeat of the next coming "Rock" section. Again, simple but most effective. Note Roger hits the high Bb note, in close contest it is the highest sung note in the Queen-catalog.
The drum part changes the meter to triplet driven 4/4 (12/8).
"Rock"
The intro-riff subsection is four measures long (phrasing: 2+2 AA'). Double-tracked guitars and bass play the tune and somewhere in the background piano provides backing chords.
Eb:
| Eb  | Eb  | Eb  |  F   |
| I   | I   | I   |V-of-V|
The rhythm of the riff features triplets (more accurately: hemiolas) in sympathy with the soon to enter lead vocal. Hemiolas dominate the lead vocal throughout the Rock section and create a strong feel of a 6/4 meter, while the drums play a steady 4/4 backbeat. This is an example, although not a great one, of polyrhythm (see also "The March Of The Black Queen"), where the "common denominator" (12/8 beats) is present.
The fourth measure is the shifted version of the second measure. The closing V-of-V chord and the much air-time given to the Bb chord create a feel of modulating to the key of Bb-major for the next phrases, but note the b7th appoggiatura in the lead vocal with a modal flavor in context of Bb-major key.
The "body" of the section (with lead vocal) is 12.5 measures (3.5+3+4+3) long with AA'BC phrasing where the B segment has an AA' (2+2) inner structure.
The guitars play mostly power chords (i.e. no thirds), but the piano or the lead vocal (like in the third phrase) makes it clear whether we have a major or a minor chord. The guitar figures that fill the space between the sung phrases (and half-phrases) seem to be in the hemiola-driven 6/4 meter.
                 half
  | Bb  | Bb Eb | Bb | Db* |    The Db* chord is articluated by a triadic
Eb: V   | V  I  | V  |bVII |    figure and emphasized stop on the root.
Bb: I   | I  IV | I  |bIII |
  | Bb  | Bb Eb | Ab  |
Eb: V   | V  I  | IV  |
Bb: I   | I  IV |bVII...
Eb:
| Fm  | Bb  | Fm  | Bb  |
| ii  | V   | ii  | V   |
| Fm Bb | Fm Bb | intro riff
| ii V  | ii V  | I...
The last measure of the first phrase is a mini-break with syncopated rhythm and a chord borrowed from the parallel key.
The ii > V progression of the last two phrases converge to the homekey (Eb), especially the last phrase with its doubled harmonic rhythm. This dilated resolution is reminiscent of this section's introduction - with a sustained dominant chord (although that was more effective). The figures of the lead vocal converge to F, then finally resolve to Eb.
The section closes similarly to how it started. The fourth measure is now the shifted version of the first/third measure of the riff. This riff expands into a connector filled with scale-wise ascending figures, in the triplet-driven rhythm. The first measure of this expansion (m.5) still belongs to the riff-phrase in terms of rhythm and melody development:
m.4         m.5
1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4  1  : drums and piano chords in 4/4
1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 3 1  : triplet beats
* * * * *** *** *** ***    : guitar figure in measure 4-5
The tonality of the connector part is ambiguous throughout.
Measure 5 is backed with piano chords F# > G# > A, while the guitar uses the pitch-set of G# Mixolydian major (C# major).
Measure 6 is backed with B5 powerchord and the pitch set of B-Mixolydian
Measure 7 is backed with Ab5 powerchord and the pitch set of Ab-Mixolydian
Measure 8 is backed with Bb5 powerchord and the pitch set of Bb-Mixolydian or Eb-major.
These scales are still triplet-driven (1/12).
Eb:
| Eb  | Eb  | Eb  |  F   | Gb Ab A|
| I   | I   | I   |  II...        |
                         half
|  B  | Ab  | Bb  | -   | -  |
| bVI | IV  |  V  | -   | -  |
The missing thirds can be found in the lead-part. Note the unusual chain of major chords: Eb > F > Gb > Ab > A > B. The chord progression of the fifth measure is not "functional"; it seems to shift along the ascent of the guitar figure. The chords in the second phrase support the step-wise moving lead guitar figures using the Mixolydian scale upon the root of the actual chord (see "Bicycle Race" for the same gambit). Still, the second phrase seems to have a functional chord progression, and the closing Bb-Mixolydian scale can be interpreted as a regular Eb-major scale. For the last two measures the piano takes over the lead with parallel-octaves (foreshadowed by the parallel octaves guitar harmony in measure 8) and slows down to the beat of the Verses (half-time feel), creating a high-level ABA tempo-structure.
Outro
The first measures reprise the harmony of the second half of the Verse, but it changes very soon. The quick harmonic rhythm does not reinforce the half-time feel I talked about, but toward the end of the section it settles down. The first phrase is just instrumental:
Eb:
| Eb Bb/D | Cm   G/B Cm|G/B Cm Bb Eb |  D     Gm  | Ab Eb |
| I   V   | vi    *  vi  *  vi V  I  V-of-iii iii | IV I  |
                V-of-vi  -
The G > Cm > G > Cm progression creates a feeling of half-measures applied but also a touch of a modulation to the relative minor key. The fanfare-like ascending guitar fills go into a (two-part) harmony in the second measure (third beat) for the first time in the song. The last beat of the third measure adds three-part guitar harmonies in the treble range featuring bent notes and vibrato. The fine parts are picked with finger as Brian often does when he wants to aviod the noise of the sixpence (used as plectrum) attacking the strings. The arrangement features piano, drums (the pattern is reminiscent of the Verse), bass (note the downward run in measure 3), "ooh" vocals, and guitar harmonies. The "ooh" vocals (omitting some octaves) go in parallel third with the descent of the bass in measures 1 and 2. Lead vocal enters in measure 6:
Eb:
m.6
| Cm  Gm | Cm  Gm | Cm Abm | Abmaj7/Bb |
| vi  iii| vi  iii| vi iv  | IV - V   |
The lyrics reprise the familiar "nothing really matters" line. The guitar harmony in measure 6 is mainly the repetition of measure 5, but the backing chords are different. The rhythm slows down a bit (rubato) in measure 8. Drums stop permanently just before measure 8.
Measure 9 features a five-piece chord with strong dominant flavor. The major 7th (that also sounds as 6th of Bb) and the 3rd degrees are provided by the lead vocal. The last word of the sung phrase marks the downbeat of the next phrase.
m.10-14:
inner line: G   Ab     G   Gb       F   F   | E
inner line:            Eb  Eb       D   Db    C
inner line:            Bb  A       Bb   Ab    G
  chords: | Eb Ab/Eb | Eb Ebdim7 | Bb/D Db6 | C  add7,#8 | C  F  |
      Eb: | I   IV   | I  idim7  |  V
                                F: IV  (bVI)| V  (bvidim)| V  I  |
The piano figure of measure 10 is taken from the 7th measure of the Intro, but this time it's developed differently from what we saw in the first Verse, where it was followed by the same semi-chromatic line-cliche that will re-appear soon in measure 15 (this time in F-major). The harmony of mesaures 10-14 is built upon chromatic lines, providing a smooth modulation to F-major where the song finally closes.This key was not used until this point of the song. Note Freddie's fine volume and tempo control (rubato). Brian joins in with finely picked guitar fills from the third beat of measure 12, partly doubled by the piano (built-in tune).
The very last phrase features the line-cliche that ended the first Verse where the last resolving step was missing; this time it's complete. The lead vocal picks up three notes of the chromatic descent (shades of "I'm just a poor boy") then jumps up to F instead of slipping down to the lower F. The lyrics as mentioned before appeared in the second Verse section.
|(Bb F Fdim ...)| F      |
The final note is supported by a gong. Its sustaining sound leads to the album's grand finale: God Save The Queen.
Repeated/reprised/foreshadowed motifs
In a hardly-cyclic song like this the use of reprises is a crucial element to unify the number and make it "virtually" more appealing. I belive this is a factor that subtly made BoRhap work as "pop-song", in contrast with say "The March Of The Black Queen" and many other suites of the progressive rock genre.
"I'm Just a poor boy"/Intro : lyrics re-appear in "Opera"
"Easy come easy go"/Intro: both lyrics and melody re-appear several times in the Opera section in double time. Variations include altered harmonization and different lyrics like "I'm just a poor boy".
piano motif/intro, 7th measure: re-appears at the end of the first Verse completed with a line-cliche. Also appears in the Outro: the line-cliche follows it five measures later (in a different key). The line-cliche also appears in the Opera section in double tempo.
"Doesn't really matter"/Intro: lyrics re-appear in varied form in both second Verse and Outro.
Three-chord progression/Verse: re-appears in the Outro with the same drum pattern.
"Anyway the wind blows"/Verse/backing vocals: lyrics re-appear in the Outro.
"Galileo Figaro"/Opera:  reappear in the same section in major version ("Mamma mia letme go")
Chord build-ups/Opera : both of them descend and use the same rhythm, only the chords and the step-intervals are different.

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