My yearly lecture on the relationship of the elements of music and musical form took a different approach this year. The lecture began by playing a number of examples taken from the current UK top 10 – that adhere to ‘the rule of 4’ (where the verse and chorus consist of multiples of 2/4): These songs included ‘All About the Bass’ by Meghan Trainor, ‘All of Me’ by John Legend, ‘I’m Not the Only One’ by Sam Smith and ‘Bang Bang’ by Jessie J. It is interesting to point out how the ‘formulas’ of these songs link to the past (For example ‘Your Song’ by Elton John and ‘We’ll Meet Again’ by Vera Lynn both use exactly the same structure), but create an expectation in the listener – who intuitively knows when specific sections are coming (do you agree?). The lecture then proceeded to discuss how some music carefully breaks these rules: the examples are countless – but I used ’20 Years’ by The Civil Wars and ‘Yellow by Coldplay’ as examples. I could just as easily have used a Motown track from the 60s – or just about any track by mr Zappa! We then continued to discuss how the elements can be used to create interest when the form is basic on the surface – for example listen to ‘Sloop John B’ (1966). The lecture then linked how tracks such as ‘Stand by Me’, ‘Creep’ and ‘All Along the Watchtower’ all use the same chords for all of their ‘sections’. This obviously places a responsibility on the songwriter/arranger to ensure the other elements create interest. We then listened to ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ as an example of a piece of music that simply changes meter between sections. So – the task for this week if for students/anyone to provide examples of all of this –
- Examples of pieces of music with unusual bar numbers between sections
- Examples of how rhythm delineates form between sections
- Examples of pieces of music which has the same chords for both verse and chorus
- Examples of texture/instrumentation delineating form
- Examples of how meter delineates form between sections
I am particularly interested in the following challenge – does a piece of music exist which has the same melody for the verse and chorus?????????
Finally – how does all of this link in to Adorno’s idea of ‘Standardisation’ (for those of you that are aware of it)? Does the ‘production line’ mentality of popular music pressure songwriters to stick to these ‘rules’. More significantly – does listening to music like this encourage us to sit in our chairs and watch XFactor – not using our intellect to question the world we live in etc etc etc etc????