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Analysis - Unsquare Dance and Strawberry Fields Forever

Essay by   •  December 31, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,730 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,475 Views

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(Start with hand clapping rhythm and tap the bass rhythm with foot from Unsquare Dance)

Good afternoon everyone. I am Tom and today we will be looking at how great composers use fascinating rhythm. Let's take a look at two fantastic songs, The Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever, and the other by Dave Brubeck, Unsquare Dance.

In 1961 American Composer Dave Brubeck wrote a piece called Unsquare Dance. Unsquare Dance is a jazz piece in 7/4. The fact that it is in 7/4 is very strange, as this is an uncommon time signature. This piece falls under the genre of free jazz, allowing the soloist to play whatever they want. Free jazz has no set structure to it, although Unsquare Dance does have a blues structure, this can be found in the bass line. Free jazz is the typical jazz of the early 60's.

The time signature 7/4 has seven crotchets in it, and the pulses, or stronger beats fall on the 1st, 3rd and 5th beats. When counting 7/4, it is structured 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, 3, for each bar. The stronger beats fall on the 1's.

Unsquare Dance is exactly that, the opposite of a square dance, which is in 4/4. A square dance is a very rigid and structured dance with one beat per step, whereas Unsquare Dance is very free, sounding spontaneous.

Unsquare Dance has a slight swing to it. The swing is in the piano part, and also in the drum rhythm. The swung beat is not there all the time; it only starts at bar 13 with the piano, and then continues throughout the rest of the piece. The piano drops out at bar 18, the drums take up the swing beat and as the piano re-enters at bar 31 the drums drop out.

Unsquare Dance makes good use of syncopation. When music is syncopated it means that is puts stress on a weak beat or has rests on the strong beats. Syncopation is fundamental in and jazz piece. An example of syncopation is at bar 13 in the piano line, with the accent off the beat, also the hand clapping rhythm is syncopated because it has rests on the strong beats. An even better example of syncopation is in the drum line at bar 19, where the drummer is hitting the sticks on the side of the drum, with an accent on the off beat on 5 Ñ*. The long short rhythm confirms the syncopation.

Triplets can be found in both the piano and the drum lines; the first triplet is at bar 13, there are others in the piece, for example bar 15 has a triplet. These triplets create movement.

Repetition of phrases creates motivic repetition, in each instrument, with the exception of the drums. An example of this is the hand claps that continue throughout the entire song, as well as the bass line, which only alters for 12 bars starting at bar 31. The piano too repeats phrases. At bar 31 the phrase from bar 13 is repeated.

Acciaccaturas, also known as grace notes, are a common feature of this piece and can be found in the piano line, on numerous occasions, for example bars 13 and 17 have grace notes.

When looking for displaced accents it is not very hard to find them in this piece as they are in 22 of the 42 bars. These accents can be found between bars 13 and 42, excluding a couple of bars in between. The first displaced accent is at bar 13, in the piano line and is on the 'five &', which is off the beat, therefore it is displaced. Displaced accents throw out the performer's sense of strong and weak beats, adding to the syncopated feel of the piece.

Juxtaposition is very prevalent in this piece. Juxtaposition is different rhythms being played at the same time. This is the reason the song is so interesting. There are four different rhythm patterns in this piece, a maximum of three occurring at the same time. The piano part is on the beat at the start of the bar, and by the end of the bar it is syncopated, this continues throughout the song. The hand clapping is always on the off beat, yet still accented, and the bass line is constantly on the beat. These layers of rhythm being played simultaneously create juxtaposition. This gives the atmosphere of energy in the piece.

Now, moving on to Strawberry Fields Forever first performed by The Beatles in 1967. The composition is credited to both John Lennon and Paul McCartney. There are arguments to support that Lennon is the soul composer, but this unconfirmed. This piece is classified as a psychedelic pop song. Songs of this genre used strange recording techniques such as playing the tape backwards, and using unusual instruments. Strawberry Fields Forever made use of these techniques, the end of the song is played in reverse and a sitar is used. This is a very typical song of that era and culture.

Upon hearing the opening of Strawberry Fields Forever you will notice that it sounds very lethargic. There are many reasons for this. At the end of most phrases there are tied notes across the bar; therefore the listener is not hearing the first beat of that bar, which is the strongest beat in a bar, an example of this is bar 5. It is interesting to note that some in phrases, the melody line drops in pitch on the last note, almost like a sigh. Long droning notes in the background add to the lazy feel. Finally, there are sections where a solo instrument is playing. These solo sections are crucial to keeping the relaxed feel of the piece. An example is in bar 24, with an arpeggiated run of quavers in a downward motion, relaxing the listener.

Strawberry Fields Forever makes use of the rhythmic element, changing metre. This means that it changes time signature. The song alternates between 4/4, 3/4 and 2/4, each of these time signatures has their own feel.

4/4 - most commonly used in both classical and popular music

3/4 - used mainly for waltzes and dances,

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