Friday, 29 January 2010

1:6 There's A Place

Ian MacDonald loves this one - “music of pride and poignancy … a minor milestone in the emergence of the new youth culture” (RITH 65). That’s as maybe but the song is average though the performance is great. Like Ask Me Why this is a bunch of good ideas, rather than a good song.

Once again the first thing to notice is the Beatles relentless economy (early Beatles at least). At the same place where any other band might have been tempted to give us a four bar harmonica solo we get one bar then - Kablam! Back into the verse! Hardly seems worth putting the thing in your mouth, but boy does it keep the song moving along.

Tickets To Write

We end the B section (and the bridge) on the vi (C#m) instead of the I (E). this is the legendary ‘Aeolian cadence’ written about in William Mann’s 1963 Times article and is featured in From Me To You.

The B section yields lots more good bits.

First the whole band joins the vocals on the lead in (“and it’s my mind”) emphasising the triplet rhythm.

The vocal harmony on “mi—nd” and “ti—me” are in contrary motion (that’s to say while Lennon’s lower part drops down from a D# to a C#, McCartney’s higher part goes up from G# to A). The majority of parts in pop music, whether vocal harmonies, bass parts or whatever, are in similar motion. "Wherever you go I’m goin’ too". Boor – ring!

On the same section Lennon’s “mind/time” D# C# D# C# is sung over a G#m A E A chord progression. In relation to the chords that comes out as 5th, 3rd, 7th, 3rd. Wow! That D# (7th) really, really wants to resolve to the E sooo badly, but he hangs on that sucker for a WHOLE BAR! The reason he gets away with it is partly because the melody is a straight repeat, only the chords have changed. But still it’s a gutsy move. Hanging out on non-chord tones was definitely a Lennon favourite. For example on Help he sings “Help me if you can” on an E over a Bm chord, (a 4th) and “do appreciate” is E on top of a G major chord (a 6th).

Finally the bridge.

The chord sequence is vi (C#m), II(F#), I (E), III (G#). We’ve shifted into the relative minor (C#m) but then the II (F#) strongly implies we’re now in the Dorian mode, the I (E) doesn’t contradict that but the III (G#), borrowed from the Harmonic minor scale says “No. We’re definitely minor, in fact we couldn’t get any more minor if we tried” and leads you doggedly back to the old “Aeolian cadence again”. At the same time the melody carries on as if nothing untoward is happening by staying in the original scale, avoiding any clashes and dropping the harmonies or reducing it to octaves on “Don’t you know that it’s so.” (Phew! Theory overload! Sorry). So what make this so cool? Well, for one thing, we’ve got a diatonic melody (it stays in the key of the song) over a progression with a few non-diatonic chords (the F# major and G# major) in it. The reason they get away with it is that they avoid using any notes that will clash with the chords.

Ticket 2 – is this section/repeat really necessary? Remember the song is finished when there's nothing more to  take away, not when there's nothing left to add.

Ticket 10 – End a phrase/section/song on the vi instead of the I. Don’t be so predictable.

Ticket 11 – Emphasise key lyrics by reflecting it somehow in the backing - copy the rhythm, drop out, change chords…

Ticket 12 – Use some contrary motion (especially in the vocals).

Ticket 13 – Try staying on non-chord tones for longer than you would normally do. Be brave!

Ticket 14 - Try to write an in-key melody over some out-of-key chords, avoiding any notes that clash.