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Classroom Music I autumn term 2 I 2010/11

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KS5
KS5
Edexcel AS: 20th-century vocal music (2011)
by Simon Rushby
INTRODUCTION
The Vocal Music set works for 2011 include three songs from what might loosely be called the 20th-century
popular tradition, but each song could also be seen as an example of indigenous folk music, representative
of the society, culture and people of its region. Summertime by George Gershwin comes from Porgy and
Bess, which Gershwin himself described as a folk opera an opera about the lives of African-Americans set
in the ctitious Catsh Row in the deep south of 1920s USA. You Can Get It If You Really Want by Desmond
Dekker and the Aces comes from the island of Jamaica, whose local musical tradition became global in the
1960s and 1970s. And nally, Oasiss anthem Dont Look Back In Anger comes from the heights of Britpop,
a 1990s phenomenon that celebrated British culture and took the country by storm.
Section A of the Unit 3 paper is the listening section, and candidates will have to answer two questions,
one on each of the areas of study. This means that even if they focus their study on the Instrumental Music
topic, they will still have to know these Vocal Music set works well enough to answer the listening questions.
A good, broad overview of each work should sufce for this.
Section B asks two questions about the stylistic and analytical detail of the set works, and for this candi-
dates choose to specialise in either the Instrumental or Vocal Music area of study. They will need to be able
to write about the important musical features of each work, identify the social and historical context and
possibly compare works with one another. In this article I will suggest possible Section A and Section B
questions for each song.
The fusion of folk music in America
At this point, it would be good to read the section of my article on the 2010 vocal set works (published in
Classroom Music spring term 1 2009/10) entitled The popularity of vocal music. It provides an overview
on the development of vocal music through the 20th century, and examines the reasons for the explosion in
popularity of song in this modern age.
One of the biggest inuences on American composers and songwriters in the early years of the 20th century
was the fusion of the folk music of African-Americans with that of European Americans the coming to-
gether of black and white musical styles. This most notoriously manifested itself in the meteoric rise of jazz, a
generic term for a wealth of genres from blues to ragtime, and Dixieland to swing. By the 1920s and 1930s,
jazz was the most popular style of music in America, and jazz styles could be heard in dance halls, theatres
and on the radio all over the country.
Rhinegolds Edexcel AS Music Study Guide provides detailed background and analysis of these three songs,
and this is content that I do not intend to repeat in this article. Instead, we will look at each song from the
perspectives of the two types of questions that will come up in the 2011 summer AS examination.
Simon Rushby is
director of music at
Reigate Grammar
School in Surrey,
and was a principal
examiner for A-level
Music for a number
of years. He is also a
published songwriter
and a composer of
TV and production
music, and is the co-
author of Rhinegolds
Edexcel GCSE Listen-
ing Tests (Book 4).
Classroom Music I autumn term 2 I 2010/11
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SUMMERTIME GEORGE GERSHWIN
George Gershwin was already an established composer of jazz, symphonic music and musical theatre
shows when, at the height of the popularity of jazz and folk-inuenced music, he embarked upon his only
opera, Porgy and Bess. He had read a book by DuBose Heyward entitled Porgy, set among the black com-
munity of Heywards hometown, Charleston, and spent a number of years intending to collaborate with the
author on a musical version. Eventually, Gershwin began work on the opera in 1934, and Heyward wrote the
libretto and many of the song lyrics.
Porgy and Bess was rst seen in New York at a tryout concert performance, and then opened on Broadway
in October 1935. The run was reasonably successful but the opera did not gain the status it enjoys today
until some years after the composers death. Gershwin, however, considered it his best work.
Summertime is probably the best known of the songs from Porgy and Bess,
though other numbers such as I Got Plenty of Nuttin and It Aint Necessarily So
have also become staples of the jazz repertoire. Like other arias in the opera, it is
written in the style of a spiritual in an attempt by Gershwin to capture the folk style
of the African-American characters. It appears very early in Act 1, as part of the
opening scene, and is sung by the character Clara as a lullaby to her baby. Parts
of the song also appear later in the act and the song is reprised by Bess in Act 3,
following the death of Clara and her husband, Jake, as she sings it to Claras baby
once more.
Suggested Section A listening questions
Here are a number of possible questions that might be asked if an extract of Summertime were to come up
in Section A of the Unit 3 paper. Answers are provided below.
In what ways does the orchestral introduction (bars 17) capture the sense of a lullaby? (a)
What is the harmonic device heard in bars 37? (b)
What is the key at bar 8? (c)
One which type of scale is the vocal melody based? (d)
Between bars 8 and 24, give a bar and beat number where an example of syncopation (e) can be heard in
the vocal melody.
Between bars 8 and 24, give bar numbers where the following can be heard: (f)
Chromatic passing notes (i)
An added 6th chord (ii)
A swung quaver rhythm. (iii)
What changes in texture are there at the start of the second verse (bar 25 onwards)? (g)
What name is given to the harmonic progression heard in bars 4044? (h)
What is the form of this aria? (i)
The composers
brother and long-
time lyricist, Ira
Gershwin, supplied
additional lyrics.
There are hun-
dreds of versions
of Summertime in
existence, recorded
by singers and
instrumentalists
from many different
genres. The one in
the New Anthology
of Music is sung by
the soprano Leona
Mitchell.
TIP
Bear in mind that a skeleton score of the extract in question would be provided, and students would have a
total of five playings of the extract to answer approximately eight to ten questions. Additionally, it is likely
that only an extract of the song would be used for a Section A question.
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Classroom Music I autumn term 2 I 2010/11
ANSWERS
Expressive, legato phrases; falling arpeggios; rocking oscillating notes in the clarinet and bells. (a)
(Dominant) pedal note. (b)
B minor. (c)
Pentatonic scale. (d)
Bar 12 beat 1; bar 15 beat 3; bar 16 beats 1 and 2; bar 21 beat 1. (e)
(i) Bars 12, 13, 14, 15, 21 (f)
Bars 7, 8, 9, 10, 16, 17, 18, 19, 24 (ii)
Bars 9, 13, 17. (iii)
Womens wordless choir added; solo violin countermelody. (g)
Circle of 5ths. (h)
(Modied) strophic form or verse form. (i)
Suggested Section B question
This question asks students to identify those features that can be found in the jazz and folk styles of the
1920s and 30s. In their answers, students could mention the following points:
Pentatonic melody (as in folk music) the C
#
in bars 14 and 15 is the only non-pentatonic note in the whole
of the vocal melody
Swing rhythms , such as the way an the livin is easy is sung
Syncopation often to emphasise words such as jumpin and phrases like Oh yo daddys rich
Decoration and embellishments such the grace note on cry in bar 22
Overly embellished long notes (such as the last note of the song reminiscent of gospel singing)
Blue notes (such as the E against E
#
in bar 14)
Chromatic chords and passing notes particularly found in the orchestral part and adding colour
Colourful harmony such as the added 6th chords in bars 811
Portamento or slides in the vocal part such as in bar 21
Strophic song form.
YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT
DESMOND DEKKER AND THE ACES
This iconic Jimmy Cliff song is one of four that featured on the sound-
track to the 1972 lm The Harder They Come, which helped to popu-
larise reggae in America. By the time the lm came out, reggae was
an established popular music style heralding from the island of Ja-
maica, and both Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Dekker (who recorded the
song in 1970, two years before Cliff released his own version) were
well-known reggae singers both in their own country and, increas-
ingly, in the US and Britain.
Describe the stylistic features of Summertime that show that there is a strong influence from jazz and
African-American folk music.
Jimmy Cliff


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W
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They were perhaps
the artists who laid
the foundations
for the best-known
reggae singer of all,
Bob Marley.
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Classroom Music I autumn term 2 I 2010/11
REGGAE
The genre known as reggae was quite new at the time that this song was recorded, in 1970, but the roots
of reggae went a long way back into Jamaican folk culture. In the early 1960s, an indigenous Jamaican folk
genre known as mento began to be adapted by young emerging musicians who were heavily influenced
by the rhythm and blues that they heard on the radio from American stations. The resultant style became
known as ska and was known for its off-beat chords, walking bass and melodic brass riffs. It was popular in
both Jamaica and Britain and leading artists such as the Skatalites sold many records.
Later in the 1960s many Jamaican musicians preferred to slow down the frenetic ska beat, emphasising
the bass line and the off-beat chords (the playing of which was known as skanking). This slower, tougher-
sounding music became known as rocksteady and it was in this genre that Dekker and Cliff first began to
make their names.
However, this slower music was somewhat short-lived and it was not long before the tempi became
faster again, and more rhythmic interest such as shuffle beats were added. The term reggae was applied
to this broader genre, probably after the Maytals 1968 hit Do the Reggay, which in itself came out of the
Jamaican term streggae which means ragged (and was usually applied to people who dressed or behaved
poorly!).
You Can Get It If You Really Want was Dekkers second UK hit after his rocksteady single Israelites topped
the charts in 1969. It still bears all the hallmarks of the rocksteady style, though it is clearly more commercial
in its outlook and therefore could be seen as one of the earliest reggae hits. It reached No. 2 in the UK charts,
and has been used in recent times by political parties, though not always to Jimmy Cliffs delight!
Suggested Section A listening questions
Here are a number of possible questions that might be asked if this song were to come up in Section A of
the Unit 3 paper. Answers are given below.
What instruments play the melodic riff at the very start of the song? (a)
The key of the song is D (b) b major. What are the two chords used between bars 5 and 10?
Which new chord appears in bar 11? (c)
The verse begins in bar 18. What harmonic differences are there between this verse and the preceding (d)
chorus?
What rhythmic device is used in the chorus on the words really want? (e)
What scale is heard in the horn section in the instrumental between bars 36 and 43? (f)
Describe in as much detail as you can the role played by the drums in this song. (g)
Describe the word setting throughout this song. (h)
ANSWERS
Trumpets. (a)
IV and I, or G (b) b and Db.
Chord V, or A (c) b. In the nal bar of the verse this becomes a 7th chord.
The same three (primary) chords are used, but in a different order, starting with the tonic; the harmonic rate (d)
increases, with some bars having two chords; the new chord of Fm (iii) appears in bar 22.
Syncopation. (e)
Whole-tone. (f)
In the introduction the drums establish a strong beat with emphasis on every crotchet; once the vocals (g)
enter, the drums take on a regular rhythm, with constant hi-hat quavers and rimshot/kick drum on beats
2 and 4, which is typical of reggae; there are complex drum lls to link sections, usually involving triplet
FURTHER RESOURCES
A clip of Desmond Dekker performing this song can be found on YouTube here.
A fantastic live version of this song by Jimmy Cliff himself, backed by Jools Hollands Rhythm and Blues
Orchestra, can be found on YouTube here.
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Classroom Music I autumn term 2 I 2010/11
semiquavers on the toms; the snare is played on its rim almost all the time.
Mainly syllabic and rhythmic; there are some (h) melismatic fall-offs at ends of phrases; phrases like try and
try are sung as triplet crotchets across the beat.
Suggested Section B questions
This question simply asks students to identify the reggae or rocksteady characteristics of the song, and
since they do not have to answer in continuous prose, a bullet-point list (with bar numbers, if they can re-
member them) would probably be the best way to approach this question:
Strong backbeat in the drums, with emphasis on beats 2 and 4 and use of cross-stick (or rimshot)
Small number of (mainly primary) chords used
Short, repetitive melodic phrases (such as the title hook)
Instrumental riffs (such as the trumpets in the introduction)
Close-harmony backing vocals (typical of much pop music of the time, but also a feature of Bob Marleys
music later)
Rhythmic guitar and organ parts, with emphasis on syncopation
Lyrics about the struggle against oppression and persecution
Heavy, rhythmic bass part (typical of rocksteady)
Verse/chorus structure, with a central instrumental section and instrumental links between choruses and
verses.
Points mentioned above can be compared with those on Summertime to come to an answer on this ques-
tion, with the following observations perhaps the clearest:
Both songs use a mainly pentatonic melody
Both are strophic songs
The word-setting is mainly syllabic for both songs, though Summertime has more melismatic and embel-
lished phrases
Both singers use the higher parts of their register for climactic effect
Both vocal melodies are repetitive, but the phrases in You Can Get It If You Really Want are much shorter
and are repeated more often
The melodies in Summertime are more chromatic and colourful
Both melodies contain gospel and folk inuences, though of course in Summertime this is from the perspec-
tive of a white composer
Both melodies contain syncopation and cross-rhythms.
DONT LOOK BACK IN ANGER OASIS
In 1996 Oasis were in their heyday. Following the enormous success of their rst album, Denitely Maybe,
they had released their even more successful follow-up, (Whats the Story) Morning Glory? This album had
already spawned three hit singles in the shape of Some Might Say, Roll With It and Wonderwall. The release
of Roll With It, deliberately timed to coincide with that of Blurs Country House, prompted a media-driven
Battle of Britpop with the two bands vying for the No. 1 spot (Blur won, and cheekily wore Oasis T-shirts
when performing Country House on the TV show Top of the Pops).
Describe the stylistic features of You Can Get It If You Really Want that are typical of the rocksteady or
reggae style.
Compare the melodic writing of Summertime and You Can Get It If You Really Want.
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Classroom Music I autumn term 2 I 2010/11
With these three singles all reaching either No. 1 or No. 2 in the charts, and the album spending ten weeks
at No. 1 (and also doing extremely well in the US), Oasis decided to release Dont Look Back In Anger as the
albums fourth single. It reached No. 1 and its sales achieved platinum status. The song has remained a
staple part of Oasiss live act, with its anthemic qualities making it popular with the crowd.
The song was written by Noel Gallagher, Oasiss guitarist and, unusually,
sung by him rather than brother Liam who is the bands front man. As soon
as he had written it, Noel felt that he had a potential hit, describing the
song as a cross between All the Young Dudes (a Mott the Hoople song
written by David Bowie) and a Beatles song. In fact, the opening chords
are very reminiscent of John Lennons biggest hit, Imagine, a similarity that
Noel Gallagher said was deliberate. Additionally, Gallagher includes a John
Lennon quote in the lyrics.
Suggested Section A listening questions
Answers to the following questions are provided below.
Describe the music played by the piano and guitar in the opening four bars of the song. (a)
Complete the chord progression shown below, which is from bar 5 to the rst beat of bar 8: (b)
C (I) G (V) C (I)
Describe in detail the texture from bar 5 to bar 12. (c)
How does the texture change in bars 1318? (d)
Identify the two chromatic chords used in the section from bars 1324. (e)
Compare the harmony and melody of the chorus (bars 2532) with that of the rst part of the verse (bars (f)
512).
Describe the melody of the guitar solo from bars 33 to 43. How does it relate to the vocal melody of the (g)
song?
The section from bar 58 to the end of the song has some signicant changes to it. Outline these changes. (h)
ANSWERS
The piano plays alternating broken chords of C and F (I and IV), and the guitar plays short, resonant lls at (a)
the end of the second and fourth bars.
The complete chord progression is: (b)
C (I) G (V) Am (vi)
E (
#
III)
F (IV) G(V) C (I)
The texture is (c) melody-dominated homophony, with a dense wall of sound created through low registers,
strummed, distorted guitars, organ and bass, with a busy drum kit part.
The guitars play shorter (or muted) chords, the piano plays more sustained notes, the drums switch from (d)
hi-hat and cymbals to toms, and a strings part enters (probably played on a mellotron). The net result is
a less dense texture.
Fm (e)
7
in bar 13, 15 and 17, and G
#
diminished in bar 20.
The chords are the same as the verse, so the harmony is unchanged. The melody moves to a higher pitch (f)
and is rhythmically slower, making it sound more anthemic. Both melodies are balanced, consisting of two
four-bar phrases, split up into shorter, repetitive phrases.
The guitar solo is based on the chords of the second part (or bridge part) of the verse. It starts each of its (g)
rst two phrases (in bars 33 and 35) with a similar melody to bars 13 and 15, but embellishes it with note
bends and lls (very similar to what it has been doing during the verses and choruses). As the solo contin-
ues it moves further away from the original melody and rises higher in register, becoming more emotionally
charged and exciting. The last few bars of the solo are based on the high note E, which is the rst note of
the nal vocal phrase of the corresponding section (bar 21 beat 1).
This coda section starts with a complete reduction in texture and drop in tempo, after the climax of the (h)
previous chorus. The vocal repeats the phrase Dont look back in anger (the title hook), and then pauses
before the nal phrase (I heard you say). Additionally, an extra chord (Fm
7
) is played to emphasise this
A good example of
a live performance
of this song can be
found on YouTube.
Noel Gallagher


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f
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W
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C
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Classroom Music I autumn term 2 I 2010/11
repeated line. Three guitars sustain notes to make an interestingly textured part, and the chord progression
shown in question (b) nishes the song, with a G
#
diminished chord substituted as the penultimate chord.
The drums are restricted to small splashes of colour, though the tambourine resumes in bar 61 to drive the
rhythm to the end of the song.
Suggested Section B question
A number of features of Britpop can be found in this song, including:
Its instrumentation, which is very guitar-heavy; organ and strings (mellotron) are restricted to sustained
chordal parts; the drums are prominent and play complex rhythms
A song-style and structure that is heavily inuenced by the music of the 1960s particularly the Beatles
Emphasis on melody, with regular four-bar phrases and repetition
A verse-chorus structure with a guitar solo
Chord progressions that rely on root positions and circles of 5ths, with an emphasis on primary chords.
Other Section B questions may ask students to compare this song with one of the others covered above, in
terms of melody, harmony, rhythm, structure or texture, or even to compare it with others from the 2011 vocal
set works.
Describe the stylistic features of Dont Look Back in Anger that are typical of a 1990s Britpop song.