A MUSICOLOGIST'S ANALYSIS ON BEATLES ...

A MUSICOLOGIST'S ANALYSIS ON BEATLES MUSIC Pt. One

Posted in the The Beatles Forum

Greg

Greece

#1 Nov 26, 2007
Synopsis
On the Music of the Beatles and the Rise of Youth Culture
In the sixties a new sound conquered the world of popular music. It was the sound of beat music, which laid down the foundations for most of nowadays rock music. The sound was different from that of its predecessors in rock 'n' roll and rhythm and blues. And its origins did not lie in the United States but on the other side of the Atlantic: in Great Britain. Undoubtedly the Beatles operated in the front lines of this British invasion, which changed the face and sound of popular music for the next decades. About the same time youth manifested itself as an important social and cultural force.
Rock music and youth culture appeared almost simultaneously. Was this connection only superficial or was there more to their relationship? Beat music clearly exerted a mysterious attraction on youth. But how did it do this? In vain the song texts have been researched over and over again to find the reason for this fascination. Now the study The Sound of the Beatles, written by Ger Tillekens, dives deep into the musical style marks of the Beatles' songs to find some clues for their cultural power.
The songs of the Beatles and their fellow musicians of the British beat explosion are typical in many ways. The harmonic accompaniment counts a great number of chords. In addition to that those chords form peculiar combinations. Moreover, the melodic lines follow the harmonic patterns in a way, which makes the songs remarkably melodious. The Sound of the Beatles looks carefully into the first songs of the Beatles for the structure that is lying behind all those characteristics. The outcome of this sociological research project: the curious chord combinations of beat music are based on a new and self-reliant musical system. This system also explains why and how each song could function as a cultural driving force for social change.
Ger J. Tillekens (1949) studied sociology at Leiden University and is now working at Groningen University in the Netherlands. His research and publications cover the topics of education, youth culture and its expressions in rock music, television and comics.
Greg

Greece

#2 Nov 26, 2007
Listen to the bird,
who sings it to the tree.
And then when you've heard him,
see if you agree.
(Nobody I Know, 1964)
1 The sound of the Beatles. Like an old-fashioned marriage, it cannot be undone. With some kind of emotional super glue the sound of the Beatles and their fellow musicians of the British beat explosion now forever sticks to the image of that curious decade of the twentieth century, which has become known as the swinging sixties. For many people, old and young alike, that sometimes momentous, sometimes hilarious period of cultural change came rather unexpectedly. At that time even social scientists sat and watched bewildered by a cultural rebellion they had neither expected nor predicted.
In the nineties amazement has made room for explanations. From the vantage point of the present many sociologists look back at this period as the beginning of a new phase in the process of modernisation of western society. According to them, it opened up a new mentality of consumption, offered a new look at individuality, introduced new and more egalitarian attitudes and replaced the old cultural elite with a new cultural vanguard of middle class youth. Moreover, it expanded this new cultural outlook and its practices to a transnational, global scale. All this has become textbook knowledge. Even the economic, demographic and social conditions of this cultural transformation have been studied extensively. Nostalgia remains, where astonishment has disappeared. But not everything has yet become clear. The all-important role — literally — played by beat music still awaits an explanation. Though some have tried, little can be found in early rock music to explain the way it is so closely tied to the sixties. The adolescent love songs of early rock music just seem too plain and simple to account for such a complex cultural transformation.
Compared with the musical and textual idiom of their more classical predecessors, pop songs indeed appear to be rather simple. The usual rock song is just a string of love words, set to a catchy tune which in turn is accompanied by a few easy chords. On this point most experts agree wholeheartedly. Usually even rock musicians and rock fans themselves honour their favorite music as plain three chord songs. Still, are rock songs really all that simple? Often even experienced rock musicians find it hard to choose the right chords to the great songs they want to cover. Singers often have a hard time striking the right note for the texts they are interpreting. Actually it is not an easy thing to play and sing a rock song the right way.
Contrary to popular belief most rock songs require far more than three chords. Yet this fact is not the only reason for the peculiar difficulties of performing rock music. In almost every single song the chords also show a strange, unconventional relationship with each other, just as there exists a close connection between harmony and melody. To perform rock music properly one has to have a certain feeling for those musical relationships. It calls for a talent which aptly has been described as pop sensibility. Like all kinds of musical feeling, this gift for rock music seems a magical ability, given to some by birth and denied to others despite all training. Pop sensibility, however, does not depend on feeling alone. The smooth transitions between chords and the tight relationship between harmony and melody can be explained in a more rational way. This is the first objective of The Sound of the Beatles. But that is not all. Its second, more important goal is to show in which way the style marks of beat music relate to the rise of an autonomous youth culture in the sixties.
(Pt. 2)
Greg

Greece

#3 Nov 26, 2007
The name of the Beatles, the short designation of the legendary musical unity of George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Richard Starkey, figures prominently in the book's title. The main reason is that the characteristics of rock music are explained by means of a thorough analysis of the forty-six songs this group wrote and sold in their first years as a recording band. This restriction is justified by the fact that early beat music cleared the way for the almost volcanic eruption of rock music that followed in its wake. The musical foundations of rock music were almost fully formed in these first few years. Of course the Beatles were not the only group to discover and explore new pathways in the soundscape of popular music. Surely a very similar story could have been written around the songs of other British groups from the same period: the Animals, Herman's Hermits, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Zombies, to name just a few. Unquestionably, however, the Beatles are the most appropriate choice. They not only made some of the most popular songs of the period, but many of these songs also offer excellent examples of the musical characteristics and peculiarities of rock's particular musical idiom. Besides, these songs are amply known and still widely available.
2 Curious chord combinations. Really how simple is rock music from a musicological perspective? Apart from originality one needs few talents or training to become a rock star: one must be able to hold a guitar and be just smart enough to learn three chords. That is a recurrent statement when rock's artistic ambitions are under attack. Those three chords are not even the most difficult ones. They are the familiar basic chords of all western music. In the key of C these three chords are the tonic C, the subdominant F and the dominant seventh G7. A guitarist who sets his mind to playing the Beatles' songs, however, has to master a lot more chords. To show this, a short example will do.
Listen to: Nobody I Know by Peter and Gordon (© Lennon and McCartney, 1964; 30 seconds).
Greg

Greece

#4 Nov 26, 2007
The quote above this summary was taken from Nobody I Know, a song written in 1964 by John Lennon and Paul McCartney for their friends Peter Asher and Gordon Waller. Behind the four measures of these text lines we hear on the record the chord progression:| C | Em | Am | As |. Right away we've found three additional chords next to tonic C. But that is not the real difficulty. These chords are not really hard to play and for the average guitarist they are no particular problem. For the minor chords Em and Am the finger settings on the guitar are even utterly simple. The difficulty of the chord sequence lies in the unusual combination of chords: the way in which the tonic C is followed directly by the minor chord Em is rather unconventional, the fact that the minor mode is maintained in the step toward Am is slightly strange, and even more curious is the introduction of As immediately after the A-minor chord.
Theoretically this chord progression is not easy to explain. The additional chords pose an explanatory problem because they introduce polysemous tone material. Elsewhere In Nobody I Know we find, as another example, the seventh chord E7. In the lines of the melody the singers sing the gis. Again, that is not the real problem. The gis is one of the regular tones of the E7 chord and as such it fits perfectly with this chord. However in modern western music the gis is the enharmonic equal of the as, the same tone we find in the harmonic singing under the As chord. That is where our problem starts. On instruments tuned in equal temperance like the piano both tones share the same key on the keyboard. Nevertheless, they really are different tones. Sung as pure intervals — the gis as the major third of e and the as as the minor third of f — the two tones differ a bit more than a quarter of a tonal distance. Polysemous tones like this must be interpreted by singers and their public by ear. If by chance something goes wrong, then the music tends to sound false and sometimes even the tone centre threatens to shift.
In rock music the danger of such false tones and tone shifts looms dangerously over the musical soundscape. In a rock song all twelve tones of the chromatic scale can make themselves heard in two different shapes. The reason is that rock songs hold more chords with tones which are enharmonic twins. In an individual rock song the number of chords can even be extremely large. Once again Nobody I Know offers a good example. Next to the four chords of the quoted part, another five chords make their appearance in the remainder of the song. Apart from the E7 these are the Dm7, the D7, the G7 and the Bes. All in all the accompaniment of the song includes nine different chords, of which at least seven — the subdominant F is absent — fall outside the range of the basic chords. The sum of nine chords, however, is not exceptionally large.
Greg

Greece

#5 Nov 26, 2007
It is only one more than the average of all the chords in the early songs of the Beatles, which is eight chords.
Though the number of chords in individual rock songs can sometimes be large, such a harmonic diversity is not unique for rock music. In earlier forms of popular music one can easily find songs with chords other than the three basic chords. In fact this kind of song is the rule, rather than the exception. In these songs, however, polysemous tone material usually is kept in place by so-called cadences — standardised chord progressions to which both the public and composers have grown accustomed. The chord progression in Nobody I Know, however, shows no trace of any known cadence. It cannot be explained by any existing conventions in the field of popular music, nor by any accepted theories on classical music. Seen from a classical musicological perspective the chordal move can be interpreted as a short modulation or a tone shift, for example to the tone center of e minor. The song, however, clings tightly to the tone center of c: a modulation cannot be heard and can only be deduced from sheet music. Nobody I Know is not an outstanding song, but in this respect it is exemplary for many other songs in the field of rock music. The casual way in which major and minor chords are combined under the same tone center is typical for rock music, and certainly for the Beatles' song repertoire. And that is only the start of it. Almost arbitrarily, it seems, all kinds of chords can appear in their songs.
From an orthodox musicological point of view the Beatles' songs ignore all accepted rules. They seem to be built out of a chaotic pack of chords and tones. Striking as it is, this phenomenon has been noted before. According to most experts the songs are the result of a willful theoretical ignorance and a determined practical incompetence in musicological matters. Nevertheless even the most stubborn adversaries and vicious critics of rock music admit to the musical qualities of the Beatles' songs. Joined together by ingenious melodic lines and backed by perfectly tuned harmonious singing, the chord transitions create an obvious-sounding and naturally flowing stream of music. Step by step the songs introduce their listeners to their remarkable chord and tone material. In this way each song becomes a coherent musical unity. Theoretically this artistic achievement remains a riddle and therefore most musicologists ascribe the musical consistency of the songs to the unequaled genius of the Beatles. The perfect fit of all musical elements in each individual song, as one can read in many a book on this subject, is the unique result of the symbiosis of four exceptional individuals, who brought their own musical talents into a close-knit cooperation and so repeatedly succeeded in accomplishing the impossible in each new song. For that reason most musicological studies of the Beatles' songs devote a separate analysis to each individual song.
3 A diagonal tone grid. The book The Sound of the Beatles offers another explanation for the musical consistency of the Beatles' songs. The extensive analysis of the book unearths the common structure that is lying hidden under the various chord combinations of all the different songs. That harmonic structure is based on a system of tones — a tone grid — in which each of the basic chords can be replaced at will by several other chords. Instead of the tonic C we regularly find, for instance, its relative minor Am, more than once the Es and A and sometimes also the Cm. By the same token the appearance of the D7, Dm7 and As in Nobody I Know compensates amply for the absence of the subdominant F in that song. Likewise the dominant G finds its counterparts in the Bes, Gm, Em, E and Cism, all of which can be enriched with their sevenths.

awc

“Pepperland”

Since: Dec 06

Pepperland

#6 Nov 26, 2007
greg, that was wonderfull to read. i realy enjoyed it.
LJC sometimes toof

United States

#7 Nov 26, 2007
This forum just gets better and better. I seriously hope you two guys apply for editor, I mean that. You'd have the power to chase the trollers out. Think it over. G'nite

.
great stuff
Jetson

AOL

#8 Nov 26, 2007
The Beatles were very innovative. I have to laugh when some people who have some strong dislike for them say stupid things. Got this from a website.
www.acclaimedmusic.net/
27 number one songs in seven years in Britain and America
14 number one albums in six America.
The Most covered songwriters in music history
Number one selling rock act ever in America and most likely the world.
The first number one rock album with no covers A Hard Days Night.
The most influential music act the past 45 years
The British Invasion
Can't Buy Me Love and Hard Days Night early examples of power pop
She's A Woman- early influenced ska song.
Influencing the Byrds to mix folk with rock.
Ticket to Ride- uses guitar drone before the Kinks See My Friends
Influences Briand Wilson to create Pet Sounds
Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and the White Album in three years.
Popularizing feedback- I Feel Fine
World Music- Norwegian Wood, Love You To, Within You Without You and the Inner Light
Automatic Double Tracking
Revolver- first extensive use of backward guitar in rock
Eleanor Rigby- no rock instruments just string octet and vocals
Tomorrow Never Knows- progressive rock
Strawberry Fields Forever- Avant Rock/ Sypmphoic Prog
Love You To- Classical Indian with rock
Norwegian Wood- First released song with sitar
Revolver- First number one psychedelic rock album
A Day in the Life- progressive rock/ avant
Rain- Backward music with psychedelic music.
Tomorrow Never Knows- Tamboura Indian Drones
Revolver- extensive use of tape loops with rock
Revolver- extensive use of mixed meters with rock
Yesterday- the most covered song by a rock artist
Tomorrow Never Knows- one of the first uses of mellotron
Beatles For Sale- conscious use of folk with rock and country rock before the Byrds
The Beatles use of 12 string influences McGuinn and Townsend to use the intrument.
Revolution and Helter Skelter- considered by many the first heavy metal or punk songs
The Beatles perform in the first global telecast.
Tomorrow Never Knows and Love You To early examples of deconstruction of rock and roll creating new types of music for rock music.
White Album- First double album to go numnber one in America and Britain at the same time
Help Started the classic rock era
Made the rock band bigger than the solo or Elvis clones
Helped the album as a art form
Songwriting
Mundo

Seattle, WA

#10 Aug 16, 2010
Michael Jacksons 1 Fan wrote:
I hate the Beat-less British Screamers
Go MJ
Always some floon coming on here to talk nonsense but the real screamer was freak boy MJ he grabbed his crotch and screamed like a girl heeee heeeee what's up with this type of freak anyway?
Allan

United States

#11 Aug 16, 2010
Forgot this thread, very good work Greg,shows how REAL musicians work.
Greg

Athens, Greece

#12 Aug 17, 2010
Allan wrote:
Forgot this thread, very good work Greg,shows how REAL musicians work.
Thank you my friend. It is not mine of course(it's written by Ger J. Tilekens), but you, "some other guys" and a little bit me were trying to upgrade the level of this Forum. And we still are trying.
Shaddi Kamel

Cairo, Egypt

#13 Jan 21, 2011
Hey Greg my name is Shaddi. I am american Egyptian but I actually live in Egypt. Im a senior student and Im currently studying the IB diploma if you heard of it. Anyways I have to write an Extended Essay as a requirement of the diploma. its basically a 3000-4000 word essay about a subject of your choice. I picked music and so there are certain guidelines I have to work with. My topic is about the Beatles and the argument is basically whether technological advancements in recording and sound processing of the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour and Sergeant Pepper... were what really made the albums a success. However I have to focus on one or two pieces and analyse their music even if Im talking about recording stuff. Im done with half of it and the deadline is coming up and I was wondering of I can get some help with analyzing the music because Im really stuck. Please check this out and see if you can help me!
Shaddi Kamel

Cairo, Egypt

#15 Jan 22, 2011
hey thanks a lot i'll try to find them but I doubt I can get them here..but if anyone has any ideas please feel free to post. I wanted to know some stuff about the Beatles' use of music layering and sound processing...Thanks again though!
Greg

Psichiko, Greece

#16 Jan 23, 2011
Hey Shaddi all the luck to you. Have another link:

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME01/...
Greg

Psichiko, Greece

#17 Jan 23, 2011
Shaddi Kamel

Cairo, Egypt

#18 Jan 25, 2011
Thanks for your help Greg! Il check them out.
Greg

Psichiko, Greece

#19 Jan 25, 2011
Shaddi Kamel wrote:
Thanks for your help Greg! Il check them out.
You are very welcome. Don't forget that Fischer was the first one who volunteered to help you. Like a good guy, you should thank her first.
Greg

Psichiko, Greece

#20 Jan 25, 2011
Those books Fischer suggested are great. I don't know which one is better for you than the other, you will check it for yourself, Shaddi.
Greg

Psichiko, Greece

#21 Jan 25, 2011
Shaddi, Fischer I hope that you will meet someday.

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