Wednesday, October 21

I’ll Follow You Into the Dark – Melody

I’ll Follow You Into the Dark – Melody

This melody is 99.999% pentatonic…to be honest, this completely surprised me. This is ANOTHER example of a simple, powerful melody, that I love, that also turned out to be pentatonic.

What’s the big deal about that, you ask? You see, pentatonic really bugs me. I tend to avoid pentatonic writing in my own compositions…I always kind of feel that pentatonic melodies are “too simple” or there aren’t enough notes to say what I need to say. Boy, do I keep finding out how wrong I am.  [Side note: This reminds me how I used to feel about TTTT chorus forms. They used to drive me crazy too. However, the sheer number of great songs, that I love, that use a TTTT chorus form convinced me I was wrong.]

This melody is absolutely charming in its singable melancholy.  That’s just not fair. Don’t they know that you need more notes to be a great melody? Man, I hate being wrong, but it is a powerful lesson learned. It is hard to argue against what appeals to you…and this melody appeals to me.

Melodic Contrast – Beginning Note Choice

Each verse’s starting note begins on a non-chord tone that immediately jumps to a chord tone. You get this little burst of instability looking for stability. This is one of the reasons the melody lends itself to the melancholy earnestness of the singer…he never starts on a stable note.  

The chorus, on the other hand, ALWAYS starts on a stable note. What word is on that stable note? Heaven. What’s more stable than heaven? So the verse is based on melodic instability, while the chorus is based on stability. Excellent.

Melodic Contrast - High vs. Low

One thing Gibbard does amazingly well is utilize the lows and highs of his melody to create contrast between his sections (which has been proven over and over to work in ALL genres). The concept is simple….start your chorus melody one note higher than what you sang in the verse. That’s it. That’s all. That’s what happens here. When you hear “heaven and earth” in the chorus, those notes are only one note higher than any previous melody note. The effect is astounding.

Look at the prosody here…what word is on the highest note in the chorus? Heaven! Isn’t that brilliant? What’s higher than heaven? Nothing is. Period.

There is another shining melodic moment. Remember our spot in the third verse? You know, I talked about it yesterday in the songform blog on this song (What? You didn’t read it yet…go HERE…we’ll wait…)

The melodic highlight (literal and figuratively) is in the moment he sings “blackest of rooms”. For the word “rooms” he leaps over all previous high notes and let’s the highest note of the entire song fall on “rooms”.  What is that saying? [Caution: Shane opinion forthcoming…] The highest place this character could be, is not in heaven, but in the after life in darkest of rooms with the one he loves! (Ahhh…emo love!) Seriously though…that’s brilliant writing.

Now go out and write something.




Ishita Rungta said...

Your analysis is making me want to compose something more prosodic right now,
What could be more motivating to writing than understanding one’s own need
To be expressive and explicit, to write from the heart but let the mind have a little tete-a-tete
With the heart: you are helping us feel that need…to understand/express with intelligent soulfulness.
I am going to do some rewriting after this: I love what you say about “this little burst of instability looking for stability”…and how Heaven is indeed heaven when it lands on the highest note in the melody. All we need to do now is explore the possibilities.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Greatpost - but Ben's not emo, dude. :) Ben's way better than emo. Just b/c he writes great emotional lyrics , doesn't make him emo.
~Keats Handwriting