KEY C# (modal) METER 4/4 et al FORM Intro -> Verse -> Verse' -> Refrain -> (Instrumental) 2-times Verse' -> Intro -> Verse' -> Refrain (fadeout)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
- This intense and musically complex synthesis of Beatles pop, summer-of- '67-sensibility, and classical Indian music is not to be taken lightly, and certainly not with ease. Along with "Love You To" and "The Inner Light," it represents George's most unabashed, full-blown, and unadulterated embrace of the Indian musical style.
- The song appears to remain strangely fated, for many, to fall between two stools. Granted, it has a sinuous/sensuous and sweeping tune, and the fusion of styles is technically elegant and clever. By the same token, I'm sure that for those already initiated to the intracacies of Indian music, this piece must seem a bit "kosher style" rather than "Kosher;" an attempt to popularize which, no matter how unquestionably sincere and well intentioned, is willing to settle for sentimental over simplification at the risk of misunderstanding and at the expense of accuracy. And then there's the folks who thought they bought a rock album and simply find this track to be an irritating, impatience- inducing interruption of the dynaflow.
- Lewisohn speaks of how the song was conceived in three large sections from the start, and indeed, this conception survives clearly in the finished product; a sprawling A-B-A structure, with two vocal sections that surround a central instrumental break.
- One thing I'll say is that this song displays a tremendous melodic gift; with many long arch-like phrases as well as a sensitivity to the need for carefully paced passionate peaks; all of which is brought off with almost textbook-like proficency but never a hint of the pedantic.
- Our Western concept of differing "modes" yields an almost one-to-one mapping between scale patterns and "mode" names. In contrast, the Indian melodic system of "ragas" goes beyond this and involves a one-to-many mapping between scales and "ragas"; in which case, each of the latter is to be identified by its unique points of melodic emphasis and characterizing riffs.
- In our current song we find that the predominant "scale" is very much like the Western "Mixolydian mode"; i.e. the scale with a Major third at the bottom and a flat 7th at the top. But it goes deeper than that.
- The verses have their melodic floor on the 3rd degree of the scale and present the so-called 1st degree only in its incarnation at the octave above. Furthermore, the refrains feature a conspicuous emphasis on the 2nd, 4th, and 6th degrees, and, best of all(!), the extended verses feature a break with the scale pattern by featuring the flat melodic 3rd; the latter, motivated by imitating a motif heard in the regular verse (5-flat 7-8; i.e. minor third followed by whole step) but transposing it to start on the 1st scale degree (i.e. 5-flat7-8-flat3-4). And I *adjure you* to stretch your mind to understand what I'm describing, even if you never took a music theory course. It's not that difficult; I promise, trust me :-)
- On the harmonic side, of course, we have a very traditional Indian drone; in Western terms, the "I chord" sustained throughout; the philosophical ramifications of which are as profound as they are obvious.
- The somewhat floating rhythmic/metric feeling one associates with traditional Indian music is conjured here by non-traditional means. Indian music uses a fixed rhythmic pattern, called a "tala," which may contain an uneven number of measures, not all of which are in the same meter, but as a rule, the pattern itself is repeated over and over. The soloists create the floating feeling by the extent to which they, jazz-like, bounce off or fight against the underlying pattern. In this song, the meter simply seems to be quite unpredictably changeable, especially so in the instrumental section.
- The instrumental forces are primarily Indian: tamboura drone (recorded close up to accentuate its gritty, grinding metalic texture), tabla drums, dilruba (a bowed string instrument), and sitar, coupled with a fussy arrangement for Western bowed (and plucked) strings.
- The Indian instruments are used primarily in their traditional roles of ornamentally doubling the lead vocal and more freely improvising on the melodic material when given the chance to fly solo. The Western strings, by contrast, are deployed in their own indigenous manners of antiphony and canonic imitation.
- The track opens with a slow fade-in on the drone followed by a leisurely exposition by the dilruba of one of the main arch-shaped melodic riffs of the song:
*3*-4-5-*7*-*8*-*7*-5 *4* 1
- Melodic points of emphasis are the floor on 3, the 7-8-7 wavering at the top, the avoidance of 6, and the prominence given to 4 on the way down.
- The end of this section feature an atmosphere-setting glissando on the swordmandel (remember SFF?), and a couple pickup measures worth of action on the tabla.
- The opening verse is cast in an AAB pattern where the first two parallel phrases are each six measures long, followed by a third phrase whose rhythm is more freely irregular.
- In contrast to the intro, the first part of the tune in this section retains the emphasis on 3 and 7 but delays reaching to the octave into late in the final phrase. Again, 6 and 4 are given emphasis.
- The tabla provides a continuous accompaniment, the dilruba doubles the lead vocal while making small subtle variations on it, and the Western strings enter at the very end in preparation for the next section.
- The second verse starts off very similarly to the first one, but its third phrase is extended in a way that leads naturally to the Refrain section. Interestingly, this formal trick is something we've seen in other more traditionally pop songs of the Beatles.
- The B-phrase here stretches all the way up to a full 11 notes above the melodic root with a last-minute modification of the scale; as we mentioned, the topper-most lick here include flat 3 for the first time.
- The instrumentation of this section is similar to that of the first with the addition of bowed Western strings in counterpoint to the lead vocal, and in some small cases, doubling it.
- The Refrain is in an even freer meter than the last phrase of the verse; indeed, the number of beats in a measure seems to change as frequently as you'd encounter them to in a piece by Stravinsky or Bartok!
- This section *appears* to be built out of two iterations of a single phrase, but closer inspection shows the two phrases are not quite identical; think of those "Twins" of Diane Arbus :-) I'd spell this point out in painstaking detail but you'd get bored, and besides, I'd prefer to get this song done with and move on to the rest of this album. If you ask me for collateral, I've got the gory details pencilled out literally on the back of an envelope which I'll show you if you drop over some time.
- The melody here places continued emphasis on 6 and 4 which are allowed to resolve to 5 and 3 respectively. At the end, though, the tune leaves off with a fleeting hold on 2 which it leaves to the dilbruba to resolve with its backward-resonating reference to the 8-7-slow-slide-to-8 riff.
- The higher Western strings provide antiphony in this section, while the lower pitched of them sound like they reinforce the drone.
- Freedom of meter reaches its extreme in the instrumental middle section. I have listened to this section with my feet tapping like a metronome and fail to discern any kind of tala-like fixed high-level pattern. I'll grant this may be my weak failure, but somehow, I kind of doubt it :-).
- The instrumental features two free variations on the complete Verse' section. In the first, the dilruba leads with antiphonal interjections from a sitar, while Western strings provide a percussive pizzicato accompaniment. In the second, the strings take over the prerogative of the dilruba while the sitar's role remains antiphonal, yet assumes a pizzicato-like percussiveness of its own.
- The section ends with a reiteration of sorts of the intro which nicely sets up the final Verse'/Refrain section.
- Formalistically, this last section consists of a repeat of the Verse' and Refrain, but the arrangement is changed around this time in a number of respects, the most significant of which is that the dramatic sweep up to high 4 (f#) is given to the bowed Western strings *minus* the lead vocal; none of this "if they only knew"/ unbearable-tension this last time around; Yet another still more novel demonstration of avoiding foolish compositional consistency.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- So what about the laughing at the end? I'm aware of at least two schools of thought on the matter:
- But, don't you think it's a combination of the two?
Regards, Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org) --- "You want stop being so scornful; it's twisting your face." 031096#113 --- Copyright (c) 1996 by Alan W. Pollack All Rights Reserved
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