KEY A Major -> C Major METER 4/4 FORM Part 1 -> Part 2 -> Part 3 (Finale) w/complete ending
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
- The already exceedingly fervent mood of the GS/CTW pairing is taken up yet one more euphoric notch in "The End" (TE), providing _Abbey Road_ with what is likely the the single grandest finale gesture on any album of The Beatles.
- The form here is a mini-medley of three parts in which the loose relationship between the first two parts adds some sense of unity, and the proportional division of time by all three parts creates some feeling of A-B-A symmetry despite the fact that the the two outer parts are based on separate materials. By parsing the long drum solo as still part of the first part we find the following budget of time on the track:
Part 1 34 Part 2 55 Part 3 35 Total 124 seconds (2:04)
- The melodic content of the first two parts is more in the realm of booster chanting than they are of a "tune," though the final part features one nice extended and outstretched melodic arch.
- The home key of the track is A Major with a last minute shift, in the second half of the final part, to the key of C. This gambit of a migrating home key goes against the entire philosophy of more traditional "tonal" music, though it does have its ample precedents in so-called "classical" early 20th century music, and is arguably something very much at the technical and emotional core of the Beatles' "Huge Melody" we've been studying.
- Most of the track is backed by the rock ensemble of guitars, bass, and drums, with the small small orchestra joining in at the end, just around the same time the music modulates to C Major.
- The large amount of showy solo instrumental work is unusual if not outright unique for the Beatles, as is the funky stereo imaging of the drum solo.
- Paul is nominally the vocal soloist for the two outer parts. The middle part uses a group choral chant as part of the background. The final part features a novel effect where Paul's solo is gradually refracted like light through a prism into 3-part vocal harmony that includes John and George.
- Notation-wise, I've backed myself over the past few articles into a pattern where the quarter note beat from here to the end is very fast. I'll grant that some (many?) would be more comfortable with my treating my quarter notes as eighths, and thus dividing the number of measures in half. Please bear with me for now.
- TE begins with a pickup that springboards right off the ending of CTW. The first part of the song is based around the following eight measure phrase which establishes the home key by unusual means:
3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 | A |D |- B |E |- A | A: V-of-IV IV V-of-V V I |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 | |- |- B#7|- |- A | #ii dim. 4/2 I
- The harmonic shape on paper appears to be closed at both ends, but opening A chord sounds much more like V of D than I of A, and it makes the phrase sound much more harmonically convergent than closed.
- I'm fussy about labelling the diminished 7th chord above as rooted on the apparently unusual note of B# because it's the clearest/cleanest way to denote the neighbor tone voice leading that underlies its resolution to A Major in the following measure:
F# ->E D# ->E B# ->C# A -
- The heavily syncopated effect of changing chords on the fourth beat of the measure in this very fast tempo is a not at all unpleasantly wrenching effect that runs straight through the next part of the song, with the way in which the backing vocal of "love you" is handled.
- The first iteration of the above phrase is entirely instrumental and is followed by a four-measure drum solo, the last measure of which loops back to repeat the phrase, this time with a screaming double tracked Macca vocal:
|1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 | |- |- |- |- A | V-of-IV
- The second iteration is followed by a longer drum solo of 16 full measures. The solo heads toward a unique point of climax which coincides with the beginning of TE's second part, though that sense of strong undertow is cleverly and effectively held back until relatively late in the proceedings.
- The second part of TE is built on a 14-fold repeat of the following four-measure frame which has the harmonic shape of a Plagal cadence:
Love you Love you |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 | |A |- |D |- | I IV
- The series of 14 iterations sorts out like this:
1 - 2 Instrumental backing, only.
3 - 5 Add choral "Love you," which stays through for the duration. The instrumental backing gets noticeably thicker in frame #5. 6 - 14 Dueling guitar solos. The first one sounds like it spans two frames of the backing, but the rest of them more obviously rotate on each successive frame boundary.
- Much has been written about how the three guitar playing Beatles participate round robbin in the series of solos, with detailed speculation as to which Beatle plays which segments. I'm neither going to replicate this material here nor take sides on points of dissention. For now, let's just note generally that the effect they apparently were after was one in soaring melodic effects alternate with others more grungy and rhythmic in character.
- The third part begins where the 15th frame of part two would otherwise have started. It is made up of one unusually long phrase which navigates two modulations of meter and tempo (not to mention home key) before it is finished.
- This part of the track is introduced by four measures of plain piano simply vamping on the A Major chord. The momentary change of texture is so dramatic that your ears need a few beats to get used to it; kind of like what happens to your eyes when bright lights are suddenly dimmed way down.
- Paul's lead vocal starts off by filling eight measures of this vamping tempo. The second line of four measures superimposes a G Major chord in the treble against that unchanging A natural in the bass line. Your ear digests this as a pedal point with no grammatically significant root change of chord.
- The words in both four-measure lines are scanned in the syncopated 3 + 3 + 2 pattern we saw elsewhere on this album; e.g. "Here Comes The Sun." Paul's single thread is spread out into three part harmony starting in the second line and continues through to the end. The high point of the overall melodic arch of this section coincides (quel suprise!) on the word "love:"
------------------------------- 2X ------------------------------ And in the end the |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 | chords: |A |- |- |- | bass: |A |- |- |- | I love you take is |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 |1 2 3 4 | chords: |G |- |- |- | bass: |A |- |- |- |
- The next line of music makes a metrical modulation, shifting to 3/4 for just four measures, keeping the quarter value constant.
- Harmonically this line features an unusual kind of pedal point in which the two *inner* voices are held constant (instead of the bass note), while the outer two voices descend in parallel 6th:
3/4 (where quarter == quarter) e- qual to the soprano:|F |e |d |a | alto: |C |- |- |- | tenor: |A |- |- |- | bass: |A |G |F |E | flat VI C: IV
- The pedal effect again allows you to hear the above line as being without significant root chord change. The fateful pivot to C Major occurs at the start of the the line with the F Major chord.
- The next (and final) line of the section makes yet another metrical/tempo modulation; back to 4/4 but with the tempo made much slower by setting the value of the new quarter note equal to a full measure of the previous 3/4 meter.
- The impending ending of the track is now clearly forecast by the setup of a ripe full cadence, and the partial thickening of the backing track by the reappearance of strings. The syncopation motif appears again in the way the final word, "make," is sung just before the next downbeat:
4/4 (where 3/4 == quarter) love you make 1 2 3 4 & chords: |d7 G7 | bass: |D G | ii V
- The texture is further thickened back to "tutti" for the last four measures with drums and brass. The reappearance of the high pitched, singing lead guitar at this point is a deft unifying effect with the middle part of the track.
- Harmonically the final stretch contains yet another pedal point which at least partially disguises the stepwise chord stream of Major triads used. In fact, if you ignore the interpolation of the E flat chord (think of it as being in parenthesis), you can actually discern here what is none other than a Beatles signature progression found at the start of the likes of "Eight Days A Week" and the title track of "Sgt. Pepper."
chords: |C |D |Eb F |C | bass: |C |- |Eb F |C | I V-of-V (flat III)IV I
- The manner in which the treble strings and winds are sustained a brief afterglowing instant after the voices and other instruments have ceased making sound is IMHO sublime.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- The mood of the very ending of this album is strangely reminsicent of what a decade or so later would appear from the pen of one composer for the cinema, John Williams, as his signature way of rolling the credits over a musical backing of ultimate, happy ending, philharmonic triumph. Almost any of his films will do for an example, though I think _ET_, in particular, bears some direct comparison with TE; and even the letters of both acronyms are related :-)
- Even more so, the dramatic ethos of this track is that of the curtain closing number you sometimes encounter on the musical "stage." The drama itself has already come to its formal conclusion, and now, the pit orchestra blazes on without missing a beat for however much time it takes for each of the the lead players to come out and take his curtain call and maybe even squeeze in one seemingly impromptu and hammy last petit reprise, while the audience applauds its head off.
Regards, Alan (firstname.lastname@example.org) --- "We've got only half an hour till the final run-through." 013000#191 --- Copyright (c) 2000 by Alan W. Pollack All Rights Reserved
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