PT 9

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Studying the Beatles


(c) Ian Hammond 1999
All rights reserved

This is the ninth article in a series examining Lennon's Revolution 9. Conventions are explained at the end of this article.

The Beatles As Musicians (BAM) Update
In his recent book The Beatles As Musicians, Walter Everett identifies two new sources, including their exact recordings (a magnificent achievement).

Everett treats the initial dialog between Martin and Taylor as a prelude, rather than as the beginning of the first section, and thus starts counting 10 seconds later than I do.

The Backward Piano, L4, at 0:31 in section 1.1 is identified as a fragment from Schumann's Symphonic Etudes for piano, recorded by Myra Hess on EMI. It's scored in Db minor (which is why I missed it when I hunted through my Schumann scores: I was looking for sections of c# minor).

The Fanfare at 1:06 etc is identified as Vaughan-Williams motet O Clap Your Hands, recorded by Kings College Choir.

Everett does not identify the Landler at 3.11 as coming from Beethoven's Choral Fantasy. I noted the differences in orchestration of that passage in part six of this series (string bass instead of piano bass).

BAM includes a transcription of Lennon and Harrison's dialog text. I haven't had time to cross-check it. In fact, because of pressure of time I've omitted most of the text in these last articles.

Section Three
The third section was initially planned as the coda, with Lennon finishing on the words take this brother. However, Lennon appended a new closing section (you become naked) and reworked this area as a second development.

The work has been progressing for five minutes at this point. It's worth noting that Lennon's energy is not fading. On the contrary, he's starting to pick up. Structurally, this section does what the best pieces of dramatic music do: it starts to make sense within the system of logic that it has itself built up.

Section three is formed of three 40 second strips rather than the two one minute strips we might expect. Truncation is not unusual toward the end of a longer piece. These strips omit some of the usual detail, partly because they are shorter, and because each has a very well defined function:

Strip Time
3.1 5.00 Hoses
3.2 5.40 Fire & Shooting
3.3 6.20 Stretto & Close

4.1 7.00 Coda
4.2 8.00 Outro

Lennon adapts the first strip to serve as a brilliant extension of the stretto climax of section two. The Hoses dub is a stroke of simple genius. The strip ends on a remarkable unison of disparate voices (again). A typical Home area leads to the second strip.

The second strip deals with shooting and being shot. I don't think I need be accused of being 'programmatic' when I say that is obviously a dramatic point in a piece that deals with armed conflict. Lennon's voice imitates the shooting. Another Home section leads to the third strip.

The third strip finishes up. What does Lennon need to do here? First, to say goodbye to some of the major motives. Second, close the body of the work down. Third, lead into his new coda, Section 4.

The goodbye function is handled with a short stretto recombining some of the well-known voices. In particular the major seating figures and the last appearance of "Number nine".

The close function is handled with a brief march cadence and the spoken words: "Take this brother, may it serve you well."

The link to the new coda is dealt with by the piano, adopting a new role, and some shooting. It's freely composed and very effective.

What I truly admire about these two minutes is that one has the feeling here that the music has a job to do. Something like, gotta finish up the climax, handle the shooting issues, say goodbye, close down and pass control to the coda. In this sense, Lennon's work is vastly more cogent than many, if not most, of the school music pieces I've studied, probably because he brings the skills in compression and erasure, that are so central to pop, to bear here.

So, if you want to measure Lennon up as a composer, I'm saying that this two minutes is one of the best places to do that.

Section 3.1 [5.00-5.400] Hoses strip
The first 38 seconds are dominated by repeated notes or noise. It opens without tonal base, using white noise. When the bass and guitar do enter, they play only pedal notes of D major. After the close in Section 2 on Bb, D major appears as a strong bright mediant tonic.

The one or two bits of melody that do occur early on (I've marked them with "m" in the leftmost column below) are oblique to the pedals. It's as if the pedal "sprays" them across the aural landscape.

5.0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
p @@Hoses@@@@@ | | | | | |
- | @@John&George@@@@@ | | | |
m | ##Crab#ooooooooo | | | |
m | | Whoa | | | | | |
p | | ##Bass###########################|
p | | |##Guitar############# | | block = block that kick
p | | | #Block | | @@@@@@@@| | w = whistle
- | | w |tid | | | | | | tid = tiddle
m | | | ch| |beet| | plung | ch = chug
m | | | | | @@Geoff@@@@@@@@@@| beet = beethoven
p | | | # S k i p # # #|# # # # | plung = plunge
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40

5.00 Fire/hoses
5.04 "so the wife called"

I'm not sure how the Hoses voice was produced. It sounds like water cannon blasting the piano at 5.05 and the "whoa" at 5.09.

The Hoses are first introduced toward the end of the preceding stretto, which shouldn't surprise us. Lennon links the major sections with an overlapping dub.

5.05 C: Crab piano rocket
b a c b d c# f d |g f g# f# a g a g |
a f# g# f . . a bb|b b? a a g# g f# g |

The Crab piano rocket is constructed from a step-wise pattern on a distorted piano.

5.07 D Pedal bass

The electric bass guitar pedal enters. The throbbing D represents the clearest indication of tonality in the whole work. Following the Bb stretto, this is clearly a mediant modulation. Very effective and at the same time, standard stuff. The high pedal guitar (A) and other parts reinforce the bright D major.

5.08 "whoa" rocket
a-----a b a g f# g g# a

5.11 A Pedal unison guitar
-- Tiddle
The high pitched "tiddle" is the Beethoven figure, sped up by about four octaves.
5.13 (F-F#) Pedal crowd noises
"Block that kick"
-- Whistle
D Guitar chug on D5 chord.

5.15 -- "Skip"
The sound of a record skipping or in a loop. Not easy to hear this sound.
5.21 C: Beethoven figure
5.23 -- "Geoff"
5.27 F#? "hold that line"
5.34 C: Plunge

Bass and guitar clearly outline D major.

5.21 D Pedal bass left
G? "hold that line"
5.38 pedals stop
(B)C plunge

The drop-off close at the end of this strip is magic. Here's a look at some of the fine detail that I've been ignoring:

5.33 (G?) "Drop that kick" -- finishs
5.34 (D) Bass guitar -- throughout
(B)C Plunge -- throughout
(A-E) Metallic pluck
bb: Clarinet doodle

Listen in particular to the way the electronic interference bulge from the Geoff voice combines with the brass plunge to create a perfect cadence.

5.35 (D) Electronic interference
(C) Brass (from Plunge)
5.38 (E) Honk

At 5.40 the strip is over.

In the next article I look at the Shooting Strip.

Filling me up with your rules... I have employed a number of conventions in these articles.

You will need to use a fixed size font to read these posts sensibly.

In the first column I indicate the time, in minutes and seconds, as it occurs on CD. I'm not always exact to the second when referring to the time in the main text. This is not physics.

1.50 (A) This is something that happened at 1 minute 50 seconds

In the second column of titles I use "D" to indicate dubs (e.g. D1) and "L" to indicate loops.

In the second column of examples I indicate the notes, chords or key of a section, using the following conventions:

(A) the note A. (ABC) implies the notes A, B and C.
a the chord a minor
A the chord A major
a: the key a minor
A: the key A major

[A] square brackets enclose almost inaudible sounds

The third column may have quoted text, which is preceded by the initials of the speaker, if known. JL, GH, YO and GM are obvious. AT: is Alistair Taylor. The text is highly conjectural in places.

In melodic examples, "'" and "_" are used to indicate non-intuitive jumps. "a' b" indicates the "a" is above the following "b". "b_ a" indicates that "b" is below the following "a".

Copyright (c) Ian Hammond 1999. All rights reserved.

IAN HAMMOND'S BEATHOVEN: PAGE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, - Back To Revolution Number 9

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