You are on page 1of 19

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Digital WPI
Major Qualifying Projects (All Years) Major Qualifying Projects

January 2004

Arrangements for strings of music from the sixties


Irma M. E. T. Roberts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Follow this and additional works at: https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/mqp-all

Repository Citation
Roberts, I. M. (2004). Arrangements for strings of music from the sixties. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.wpi.edu/mqp-all/6037

This Restricted-WPI community only is brought to you for free and open access by the Major Qualifying Projects at Digital WPI. It has been accepted
for inclusion in Major Qualifying Projects (All Years) by an authorized administrator of Digital WPI. For more information, please contact
digitalwpi@wpi.edu.
Project Number: MU-DGW-VIOL

Arrangements for Strings of Music from the Sixties

A Major Qualifying Project Report:

submitted to the Faculty

of the

WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the

Degree of Bachelor of Science

by

_______________________________
Irma Servatius

Date: April 29, 2004

Approved:

_________________________________
Professor Douglas G. Weeks - Major Advisor

1. Beatles
2. Simon and Garfunkel
3. Rolling Stones
1 Table of Contents

1 TABLE OF CONTENTS................................................................................................................ - 2 -
2 INTRODUCTION AND PURPOSE ............................................................................................. - 3 -
3 THE SONGS ................................................................................................................................... - 4 -
3.1 THE BEATLES ........................................................................................................................... - 4 -
3.1.1 Norwegian Wood ................................................................................................................ - 4 -
3.1.2 Eleanor Rigby ..................................................................................................................... - 5 -
3.1.3 While My Guitar Gently Weeps .......................................................................................... - 6 -
3.1.4 Yesterday ............................................................................................................................ - 7 -
3.2 SIMON AND GARFUNKEL .......................................................................................................... - 8 -
3.2.1 Bridge Over Troubled Waters ............................................................................................ - 8 -
3.2.2 El Condor Pasa .................................................................................................................. - 9 -
3.2.3 Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover ....................................................................................... - 10 -
3.2.4 The Sound of Silence......................................................................................................... - 12 -
3.3 THE ROLLING STONES ............................................................................................................ - 14 -
3.3.1 Paint it Black .................................................................................................................... - 14 -
3.3.2 (I can’t get no) Satisfaction .............................................................................................. - 15 -
4 CONCLUSIONS ........................................................................................................................... - 17 -
5 REFERENCES .............................................................................................................................. - 18 -

-2-
2 Introduction and Purpose

The sixties was a pivotal time in the United States—politically, socially, as well as
musically. The decade was marked by the Vietnam War, the Hippie Movement, the
passionate protests of the younger generation, and, of course, Rock and Roll.

The purpose of this project was to take compositions from the 1960s and turn them into
arrangements for strings. I used music from three of the most popular musical acts of the
era: England’s Fabulous Four—The Beatles, the folk singer duo of Simon and Garfunkel,
and the band known for making sex and drugs synonymous with Rock and Roll—The
Rolling Stones.

Arrangements for string quartet of music for this era are not unheard of, but also not
common. In doing this you are taking a lot of trademarks of this type of music and simply
ignoring it. This means that one has to find a way of making up for the lack of
percussion, vocals and amplification using four classical stringed instruments.

Choosing the few songs to arrange from the hundreds created by the bands was a difficult
task. Many of the songs contain almost no melody, they rely instead on the underlying
beat and rhythm to produce their memorable sound. Such songs are difficult to transfer
to a composition using only strings. Other times, the lyrics are what we remember most,
providing the central theme and setting the mood for the song. For example, a fast song
in a major key would usually be considered ―happy‖. However, if dark lyrics are added,
suddenly the song obtains an angry or cynical mood. Without the words to focus our
thoughts and mood, the music must speak completely for itself, making any piece with
contrasting music and text a difficult piece to arrange.

With the above in mind, I chose ten pieces that were representative of not only the style
and tone of the three bands, but also typical of the musical character of the decade.

-3-
3 The Songs
This section contains the songs arranged, a brief history of each song, its lyrics, and an
explanation of the challenges and highlights of its arrangement.

3.1 The Beatles


3.1.1 Norwegian Wood
Written in 1965 by John Lennon [1], the original song makes use of the Indian sitar
instead of typical percussion as background. The ―Norwegian wood‖ has been
considered by some to be a literal reference to wood from Norway which was expensive
at the time, or more subtly a reference to a strong type of marijuana. The lyrics are as
follows:

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.


She showed me her room, isn't it good, Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair.
I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine.
We talked until two and then she said, "It's time for bed".
She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath.
And when I awoke I was alone, this bird had flown.
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, Norwegian wood.

In arranging this song for a string quartet, I decided that it should have a playful air to it.
My version is an upbeat waltz with the lower strings plucking the beat, and the violins
playing the melody in fugue style. At first the melody is stated plainly, and then the lower
strings get the melody while the upper strings get a conflicting sounding accompaniment.
The chorus is passed between the upper and lower strings and there are some dissonances
that appear. After the chorus, the melody is simply stated again, and then the final chorus
line again. Lastly, the melody is plucked by all the strings and then fades away to
nothing as the entire quartet plays as softly as they can.

-4-
3.1.2 Eleanor Rigby

Recorded in 1966[2], this song paints a poignant picture of the loneliness [6.4]. Paul
McCartney wrote the song, but the lyrics were a joint effort by all of the Beatles. There is
a lot of speculation surrounding the name Eleanor Rigby. Some people say that the name
came from a gravestone at the church where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met.
Some say that it was a random choice from Rigby, the name of a store, and Eleanor for
Eleanor Bron. Interestingly, the piece does not use a drum set or other instruments typical
of rock. Instead, they used four violins, two violas and two cellos, which is part of the
reason it was never performed live by the group.

Ah, look at all the lonely people, ah, look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been, lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door, who is it for
All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear, no one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there, what does he care
All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
Ah, look at all the lonely people, ah, look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, died in the church and was buried along with her name, nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt, from his hands as he walks from the grave, no one was saved
All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Eleanor Rigby was at first glance seemed deceivingly easy because the original song uses
strings. However one soon realizes that the strings are used only for color and texture,
and not for actual melodies. So we are faced with not only creating those colors and
textures but also figuring out which instrument at any given time is ―filling in‖ for our
famous vocalist. The end result is that 3 of the instruments play with swift spiccato
strokes while the ―singer‖ at the time plays long melodic notes. This also serves as a
steady rhythm keeper.

-5-
3.1.3 While My Guitar Gently Weeps
While My Guitar Gently Weeps was recorded in 1968. George Harrison wrote this song
based on the words ―gently weeps‖ that were the first words of a book that he took at
random off of the shelf at his parents’ home. It is a slow sad song with large rises and
falls in volume, but always returning to steady weeping of the guitar. Eric Clapton, who
at the time was still a member of the band Cream, played the guitar solo in the middle.

I look at you all, see the love there that's sleeping,


While my guitar gently weeps
I look at the floor and I see it need sweeping,
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don't know why nobody told you,
How to unfold you love
I don't know how someone controlled you,
They bought and sold you
I look at the world and I notice it's turning,
While my guitar gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning,
Still my guitar gently weeps
I don't know how you were diverted,
You were perverted too
I don't know how you were inverted,
No one alerted you
I look at you all see the love there that's sleeping,
While my guitar gently weeps
I look at you all, Still my guitar gently weeps

The greatest challenge with the song was that the famous guitar solo could not be
replicated, because it simply is not transferable to a bowed stringed instrument. So
instead, I had to flesh out the rest of the song a little more. Most of the time, when the
words ―while my guitar gently weeps‖ are sung in the song, it is played by a single
instrument.

-6-
3.1.4 Yesterday
Yesterday was entirely Paul McCartney’s song, as he recorded it without the rest of the
fabulous four, but with the help of George Martin in 1965[3]. It is the most covered song
in history [0]. This means that it gets covered in unoriginal ways many times, which is
something that I wanted to avoid at all costs.

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away,


Now it look as though they're here to stay,
Oh I believe in yesterday
Suddenly, I'm not half the man I used to be,
There's a shadow hanging over me
Oh, yesterday came suddenly
Why she had to go I don't know, she wouldn't say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday
Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away, oh I believe in yesterday
Why she had to go I don't know, she wouldn't say
I said something wrong now I long for yesterday
Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away, oh I believe in yesterday, mmmm

In my version of Yesterday I use string quartet and bongo drums. The bongo drums were
not for percussion, but rather for the occasional effect. For example, after the point in the
song where the lyrics are ―Now it looks as though they’re here to stay‖ the bongos play a
triplet and a quarter note to fill in the rest. The feel that the bongos are supposed to create
is a medieval one.

The entirety of the song I was focusing on keeping an alternating rise and fall of the
number of instruments playing at anytime. First the viola, then the violins, then the cello,
and then the violins drop out, then the cello and then the viola. This repeats itself in
several variations.

-7-
3.2 Simon and Garfunkel
3.2.1 Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Although Bridge Over Troubled Waters was released in 1970, it was written in 1969. It
was the title track of the last album Simon and Garfunkel would do together. It uses a lot
of interesting elements, most notably a piano. The lyrics have been thought to be
metaphoric, where the ―bridge‖ stood for something stable and comforting, as opposed to
the wildly streaming river, representing trouble, pain, unrest. Although Paul Simon wrote
this song in its entirety, Garfunkel sang it, and suggested adding the last verse to progress
the song along to the song’s famous climax.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters also won 5 Grammies in 1971: Song Of The Year, Record
Of The Year, Best Contemporary Song, Best Engineered Record, and Best Arrangement
Accompanying Vocalists. The album also won the Album of the Year award [4].

When you're weary, feeling small


When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all
I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down

When you're down and out, When you're on the street


When evening falls so hard I will comfort you
I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl, Sail on by


Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water I will ease your mind

Originally, this song is really emotional and slow, so I decided to put my own spin on it,
and make it an upbeat song. So I put in a steady beat in the cello and changed the rhythm
around a little bit to make it sound more upbeat. The reason this worked is probably
because even though the song is sad, it is in a major key.

-8-
3.2.2 El Condor Pasa
This song was originally a Peruvian Folk Melody, written by George Milchberg and
Daniel Robles in the early nineteenth century [6.1]. The lyrics, however, are Paul
Simon’s own, and were written in 1969. The track appeared on the same album as
Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

I'd rather be a sparrow than a snail.


Yes I would. If I could, I surely would.
I'd rather be a hammer than a nail.
Yes I would. If I only could, I surely would.

Away, I'd rather sail away


Like a swan that's here and gone
A man gets tied up to the ground
He gives the world
Its saddest sound,
Its saddest sound.

I'd rather be a forest than a street.


Yes I would. If I could, I surely would.
I'd rather feel the earth beneath my feet,
Yes I would. If I only could, I surely would.

This song was one of the more challenging to arrange, as it already uses traditional
instruments and has a beautiful melody. However, the melody gives way to being easily
turned into a round for all of the instruments. After the first instrument starts, the next one
plays the same thing, only it starts when the first one has finished playing ―I’d rather be.‖
When the second instrument finishes the same phrase the third begins, and so on.

The chorus however, changes. The viola plucks a rhythm and the upper strings play the
melody. The cello on the other hand is playing its own counter melody that is completely
new to the piece. Eventually that melody rises above the rest and then fades to nothing as
the first melody once again takes over until the end.

To give the arrangement a folk song feeling, we use many different string ―colors,‖ such
as pizzicato, and tremolo.

-9-
3.2.3 Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover is typical of Paul Simon's style of music that made him
one of the most popular song-writers of the '60s. Although it was written and produced
in 1975, this humorous piece is included to better showcase Simon's varied musical talent
and contrast the serious tones of the three other Simon and Garfunkel songs in this
project. The contrast is sharp between the verses and the chorus. The song is introduced
with a slow scale played on a solo guitar, and then the slow melody is sung. The chorus
however picks up suddenly with the playful rhymes which are matched by the equally
playful rhythm and beat. Paul Simon said that the lyrics for the chorus were written
before the song, because he was teaching his son how to rhyme[5Error! Reference
source not found.].

The problem is all inside your head, she said to me


The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover

She said it’s really not my habit to intrude


Furthermore, I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself at the risk of being crude
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
Fifty ways to leave your lover

Just slip out the back, Jack


Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself Free

She said it grieves me so to see you in such pain


I wish there was something I could do to make you smile again
I said I appreciate that and would you please explain
About the fifty ways

She said why don’t we both just sleep on it tonight


And I believe in the morning you’ll begin to see the light
And then she kissed me and I realized she probably was right
There must be fifty ways to leave your lover
Fifty ways to leave your lover

- 10 -
In my version of this song, I tried to make the contrast between the parts even more
apparent. I used parallel fifths to give it a solemn feel, in the style of religious music from
the middle ages. I also took out some of the jazz influenced rhythm to make it more
plodding and serious sounding. But then there is a complete change when we get to the
chorus which has the same blues chords, and the same up-tempo feeling as the original.
But the second verse quickly brings the solemn mood back. The lower strings also have
long, low whole notes in this section to complement the melodic lines in the upper
strings.

- 11 -
3.2.4 The Sound of Silence

In 1962, Paul Simon wrote The Sound of Silence based on the first line, ―Hello darkness,
my old friend,‖ which he said came from playing his guitar in the dark by himself. It is a
very laid back song with a steady beat, and a low voice that does not fluctuate very much
in volume. But you can hear an increase in intensity at each next verse[5].

Hello darkness, my old friend,


I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
'Neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more.
People talking without speaking,
People hearing without listening,
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dare
Disturb the sound of silence.
"Fools" said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Take my arms that I might reach you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And echoed
In the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,
In the words that it was forming.
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls."
And whisper'd in the sounds of silence

When arranging The Sound of Silence, I wanted to put in a tambourine for a sporadic
effect. I wrote the tambourine part right into the first violin part. Since not both violins
were playing at the same time, the song is heavier on the lower strings. The two parts

- 12 -
dovetail nicely together, but allow enough room for the first violinist to play the
tambourine as well. The lyrics "Within the sound of silence," "Disturb the sound of
silence," and "And echoed in the wells of silence" are to be played by a single instrument
to emphasize the quietness of the song. The last line, while very quiet in the original, is
played with all four instruments for a loud, heavy finish instead of drifting off into
nothingness.

- 13 -
3.3 The Rolling Stones
3.3.1 Paint it Black
Paint it Black, by Mitch Jagger, is another song that makes use of a sitar [6.3]. The sitar,
a traditional Indian instrument, is actually related to the fascination of the Hippie
Movement for India. At the time, because of various civil rights movements, and the civil
disobedience and the pacifistic approach, Ghandi and all of India was revered. The
opening is quiet and mysterious, the lone sitar playing the melody, and then there is an
explosion of sound and rhythm.

I see a red door and I want it painted black. No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes, I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they're all painted black. With flowers and my love both never to come back.
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away. Like a new born baby it just happens ev'ry day

I look inside myself and see my heart is black, I see my red door and it has been painted black
Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts.
It's not easy facin' up when your whole world is black

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue I could not foresee this thing happening to you
If I look hard enough into the settin' sun. My love will laugh with me before the mornin' comes

I see a red door and I want it painted black. No colors anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes. I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

Hmm, hmm, hmm,...

I wanna see it painted, painted black


Black as night, black as coal
I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black
Yeah!

Paint it Black was written as a duet for viola and cello. It seemed too dark of a song to
put anything in the upper register. The arrangement soon turned into a type of
conversation between the two instruments, where one would state a theme, and the other
would echo it. It also took on some characteristics of a fugue, although it is not
technically one. After the third verse, there is a climax where the beat that was taken out
in the first place comes through in the cello part. Although the original song is
melodically repetitious we can make up for it by large contrast in dynamics and
expressions.

- 14 -
3.3.2 (I can’t get no) Satisfaction

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote Satisfaction together, in 1965. ―The lyrics deal
with what Jagger saw as the two sides of America—the real and phony. He sings about a
man looking for authenticity but not being able to find it.‖ The recording was done while
they were touring the United States, and it was an immediate hit. It is a thoroughly
―rock’n’roll‖ song, complete with guitar distortion done by Keith Richards with a Gibson
Fuzz Box [6.2].

I can't get no satisfaction


I can't get no satisfaction
'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can't get no, I can't get no

When I'm drivin' in my car


And that man comes on the radio
He's tellin' me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can't get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say

When I'm watchin' my TV


And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can't be a man 'cause he doesn't smoke
The same cigarettes as me
I can't get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say

When I'm ridin' round the world


And I'm doin' this and I'm signing that
And I'm tryin' to make some girl
Who tells me baby better come back later next week
'Cause you see I'm on losing streak
I can't get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that's what I say

I can't get no, I can't get no


I can't get no satisfaction
No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction

This song was particularly difficult to arrange because of the repetition. The original song
is only slightly over three and a half minutes, but there are three melodically identical
verses, and five choruses. However, after listening to the song many times, one notices
subtle changes in rhythm, which while playing with the four different instruments and

- 15 -
different dynamics and expression markings can make similar sounding passages
different, and changing which instrument plays the melody can have an enormous effect
on the sound. The signature bass line is naturally given to the cello, and the percussive
elements have been replaced with relatively melodic lines in the viola and second violin
parts.

- 16 -
4 Conclusions
While doing this project I learned that there was a very fine line between arranging a
piece to use new instruments and composing an entirely new work. There are only so
many liberties you can take. You can vary the rhythm, the melody or the harmony, but
you cannot change all three at the same time. Change them all, and everything is
different and you have created an entirely new piece of music. The melody itself, the
most identifying part of a piece of music, is the most delicate of the three parts—change
it only slightly, and a new melody arises.

Along similar lines, I found that I needed to realize the importance of putting in my own
style and thoughts into the arrangements, without removing too much of the song’s
original intended meaning. Although the political and social Zeitgeist of the sixties is
beyond my ken, I sought to keep the original moods and structure of the pieces as intact
as possible.

- 17 -
5 References
1. Marcos’ Beatles Page – Norwegian Wood
http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Palms/6797/songs/norwegianwood.html

2. Oh Look Out! Part 7, Revolver – Music History


http://www.iamthebeatles.com/article1008.html

3. Yesterday – Music History


http://iamthebeatles.com/article1287.html

4. Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel


http://songfacts.com/detail.lasso?id=247

5. Playboy Interview – Paul Simon


http://www.medialab.chalmers.se/guitar/simon.interview6.html

6. Song Facts http://www.songfacts.com/


6.1. Song Facts – El Condor Pasa http://www.songfacts.com/detail.lasso?id=2550
6.2. Song Facts – Satisfaction http://www.songfacts.com/detail.lasso?id=449
6.3. Song Facts – Paint it Black http://www.songfacts.com/detail.lasso?id=474
6.4. Song Facts – Eleanor Rigby http://www.songfacts.com/detail.lasso?id=102

7. About the Beatles: Songlist: Yesterday http://aboutthebeatles.com/song-


yesterday.html

8. Okun, M. (ed.); Great Songs… of the Sixties; ©1970; Quadrangle Books Inc, Chicago

9. Hughes, R.; The Music Lovers’ Encyclopedia; ©1903; McClure, Phillips & Co.

- 18 -