In this article we make an exhaustive analysis of one of the most important works in the history of progressive rock.
For the first time, the appreciation of this classic will come more from a discussion of extra-musical elements, than a detailed analysis of the music per se. The main reason for this, is that what bounds the pieces together to form a conceptual album is not so much musical material, but the story.
Since this is music to a stage play, we must analyze the work, from a musical point of view, based on motives (leitmotifs) and the evolution of the plot, rather than trying to find an overarching form to the overall structure of the piece.
Therefore, we must start by understanding the plot.
This second part of the program takes us from “Willow Farm” all the way to the end of the piece. We will take a close look at how Apocalypse in 9/8 is built, following the different metrics involved. The analysis includes an interest comparison with “Close to the Edge”.
There is no better way to start this analysis than by quoting Mark Spicer from his paper: “Large-Scale Strategy and Compositional Design in the Early Music of Genesis”:
“Supper’s Ready chronicle a young Englishman’s twisted vision of the apocalypse – the classic contest of good against evil – as seen through a decisively British lens”.
“Supper’s Ready” is formed by 7 scenes or tableaux. I will analyze each “portrait”, discussing the music and the lyrics as they appear. In doing so, the story behind the piece will unfold, and with all the pieces of the puzzle in their place, we will be able to appreciate the greater design of the piece.
In each section, interspersed with the lyrics, I will include the program notes written by Gabriel himself in order to help fans understand the story. These notes were distributed among the audience during Genesis concerts in 1973.
There is one structural aspect of the whole piece that needs to be highlighted now. If you are familiar with Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” (both the original and ELP’s version) you will know that [….]
Starless uses a couple of harmonic resources that are very common in progressive rock (and in classical music as well): harmonic pedals and a couple of cadences known as “deceptive” and “suspended”. But before we describe how these resources are used in the piece, we need first to make a crash course in basic principles of tonality and harmony.
This article offers a musical and conceptual analysis of one of the most important works of this genre. The drawings in the albums inner fold, by William Neal, are used to described the conceptual framework of this piece. This excerpt can give you a good idea of the contents of the audio program, over 30 minutes long.
As we saw in the first part of the program, sections A present a sort of “metrical dispute”. In A, the rhythm section first dilutes the 12/8 rhythm played by the melody and sitar, in A’ a more profound metrical confusion is achieved by overlapping out of sync meters. In A’’, the bass line is trimmed on purpose in order to go in sync with the rest of the band. They finally achieve what we could call a sort of rhythmic harmony.
In my opinion, this is the musical representation of what is being expressed in the lyrics. For the sake of this argument, consider the rhythmic section to represent the physical aspect of our being, and the harmonies and melodies, the spiritual one.
Before starting section A, out of the nature sounds emerge a very chaotic musical passage. Full of …
This section in Phaedrus features a combination of audio and text. This allows you to take the program with you and listen to it at your convenience. Then, you can always come back to the text section and continue your exploration of each classic.
Our first analysis of the Classic of the Month features “Close to the Edge” from Yes. There is a lot to say about this classic, both from a purely musical point of view and also its lyrics, packed with mystical content, and how they relate to the novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Therefore, this classic will span over 2 programs. This first program will be devoted to the Structural Analysis strictly from a musical point of view. On the second program, I will concentrate on the lyrics and its relationship with Siddhartha.
Program 1 includes an introduction to some key music concepts: form, time signatures and phrases. These concepts are used during the structural analysis of the piece.
Here’s a short extract of Close to the Edge – Part I: