More Ways to Break Down Songs

Some overlap with the previous post here. Same things said a different way, but some new things, too.

Look at the song as a whole. Which phrase is the most important phrase in the entire song? Why? How many phrases lead up to it? Do any of them repeat, either in the words or in the notes, or both? Where? Look at the highest note in each phrase, locating where it is in terms of the phrase (beginning, middle, end) where it is in terms of the words (most to least important), look at how long it lasts and whether or not it has any dynamic markings. Compare this phrase to other phrases in the song, especially in terms of the form of the song (ABA, ABAB, ABC, ABCA, etc.) Make a diagram of this entire structure.

Notice the shape of the song in terms of the phrases. How many phrases lead up to the climatic moment? What happens as you go through the phrases (do they vary, and if they do, in what way)? What might the composer be suggesting in setting the music this way? Be sure to notice the density of the musical accompaniment (not a lot of notes underneath; moderate amount, but broken chords or running notes; moderate amount, but thick block chordal movement; lots of notes, lots of density with block chords, arpeggios, double octaves, extended range; a lot of notes, but not doubling the vocal line — mostly above or below the notes being sung). If the song is CCM then, can this be changed or adjusted in terms of an arrangement? Notice the dynamic markings in the accompaniment, paying attention to where they are and whether they differ from what is in the vocal line. How does this effect the overall tempo?

What other music has this composer written? Is this a typical piece? Is this typical of a certain period in the composer’s life? What do you know about the lyricist? When did they both live? What was happening then in the world, and in the area they were from? How might that have effected what they wrote/composed? What have other people done with this song in terms of how they performed it? Do you like what they have done? Why or why not?

What is the landscape of this song? If you were in a place, what place would you be in and why would you be there? Can you “walk around” (literally) in the room and see the landscape as you walk? Where is the stream, where are the rocks and trees? Where is your friend? Where is he sitting/standing? What does he have on? Where did he come from and how did he get there? Why are you there? When will you leave? Where will you go? Why will you go there?

Can you dance to this song? If it were a piece that was to be choreographed, what kind of choreography would be best? Ballet, modern, jazz, tap, ethnic music? Would you be dancing alone or with others? If you were to orchestrate it, what kind of instruments would you use?

If this song were to be painted, what colors would you use? What style — realistic, surrealism, impressionistic, romantic, cubist? If it were a sculpture, what materials would you use — clay, wood, stone, found objects? How big are they? Where did they come from? How do you react to those stimuli?

If the music were background for a film or video, can you “storyboard it” (that means make it into a cartoon, with blocks or squares for important points to illustrate the story)?

Are you tired yet?

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