AAI 104 Music Analysis on pop song Carmen Chan
Music Analysis on I dreamed a dream
I dreamed a dream:
This song is about a dream being destroyed. The song is a lament sung by the anguished, dying and destitute Fantine, who reminisces about her younger days where times were much more contented.
Key & Form
This piece is in Eb major that later modulates to the supertonic - F major, involving mixture relations. The song ends in F major. Unlike classical style compositions, the piece of lament does not return to the tonic key instead it ended in F major. The key shift up a major 2nd is very common in pop songs as it gives a heightened effect when the vocals create a tension as it modulates up to a higher key.
In 4/4 simple time, this piece seems to be in strophic form from a larger point of view as it is made up of many verses. However, it can also be seen like an unconventional Binary structure with Eb major in section A and F major in section B. In addition, having looked at the piece closely, the verses are actually made up of AABA structure in the Eb major section, while in the F major section, the verses are an imitation of the AA section in Eb major.
Short introduction – Verse in Eb X2 (AA)– bridge (B) – verse in Eb (A)– Verse in F X2 (AA)– end in F with a short outro.
Bass line seems to give an “ostinato idea” as the chord progression repeats. The bass line seems to create a ‘lamenting effect’ as the bass line moves from tonic Eb down to an F. Indeed, the typical lament bass is written in minor keys and hence I would say that the bass line gives a ‘lamenting effect’.
Intro: Eb major
I – P4/2 – vi – I6 – IV – V9
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
I P4/2 vi P4/2
When hope was high (melody ascends)
And life worth living
ii 7 V 6-5
I dreamed that love would never die
I P4/2 vi P4/2
I dreamed that God would be forgiving (End of Section A1)
IV P4/2 ii7 V 6-5
Then I was young and unafraid
I P4/2 vi I add9
And dreams were made and used and wasted
IV P4/2 ii7 iii9 6-7-6
There was no ransom to be paid
I P4/2 vi7 P4/2
No song unsung, no wine untasted (End of section A2)
IV P4/2 ii7 V
(Verse 1 reminisces the good old times where life was full of hope and adventure)
(Singer seems to use a darker tone color to sing this passage, it is also at a lower register)
But the tigers come at night
V/ii V6/ii ii
(borrowed chord from parallel minor)
With their voices soft as thunder
V/ii V7/ii V/V
As they tear your hope apart
V – 6 i
As they turn your dream to shame (End of section B)
V I 8-9-10-11 3-4-5-6(doubled with a 6th below) V
(ascending vocal passage but unresolved, giving the music some suspense)
He slept a summer by my side
I P4/2 vi P4/2
He filled my days with endless wonder
IV P4/2 ii7 iii9b
He took my childhood in his stride
I P4/2 vi P4/2
But he was gone when autumn came (End of section A3)
I V6 iihalfdim4/3of ii V/ii (chromatic harmonies)
(melody descends – somewhat signifying the lyrics : gone)
And still I dream he'll come to me
I P4/2 vi7 5-4-3-4
That we will live the years together
IV P4/2 ii7 iii7
But there are dreams that cannot be
I P4/2 vi7 I
And there are storms we cannot weather (End of section A’)
IV P4/2 iihalfdim7 - 9 V
I had a dream my life would be
I P4/2 vi P4/2 IV P4/2
So different from this hell I'm living
iihalfdim7 V7 I
So different now from what it seemed
I P4/2 vi Ic
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed (End of section A”)
IV V I P4/2
vi7 I6 add9 IV V I
PD – I – PD – D – T (complete tonic expansion)
Chords usage in general seems to be of extended tertian chords. It is interesting to observe that tertian chords are not required to be prepared nor resolved, rather it is used as a form of voice leading, creating a descending bass line. Schonberg also made use of borrowed chords and common tone diminished 7th chords to create a contrast in the color of the music. For example, in the transit to “but the tigers come at night” both the lyrics and music had a major shift, from the hopeful lyrics in verse 1 to the downside of reality. The borrowed chord used here was very effective in changing a darker color to the music (b. 20-21). This chord is borrowed from its supertonic key, which is a V/ii. In addition to its effect to the music, Schonberg brilliantly uses this to somewhat indicate that he will be modulating to the supertonic key and uses the borrowed chord to tease the listener’s ears.
Once again, the borrowed chord is found in bars 36-37 but now with an additional common tone diminished 7th chord, which is the iihalfdim4/3 of ii and again related to the supertonic key of Eb major. This is paired up with the previous borrowed chord used in bars 20-21 as a transition to the supertonic related key by creating a chromatic bass line. Having looked at it closely, we now can see that the chromatic harmonies used did not came from no where but was related to the key Schonberg wanted to modulate to. He brilliantly uses the chromatic harmonies to prepare and guide the listeners to where he will be modulating such that listeners would not be lost or too surprised to hear something different out of a sudden without any preparation nor indication.
Looking at the harmonic structure from a larger context, Schonberg seem to use many harmonic sequences as he repeats his chord progression of I – I4/2 – vi – vi4/2 – IV – IV4/2 – ii7 – V 6-5 (T - PD----- D) quite often. Looking at the functional analysis, it seemed to be open ended, however when the music is paired with the melody, the music sound closed. This will be explained later in the phrase structure analysis. Generally, this chord progression made up the verses of the song. Similarly, the same chord progression is also used after the modulation to F major as the verses are generally an imitation of the first section of Eb major.
Bass line seems to have an independent melodic function with its descending line, creating the lamenting effect that enhances the mood of the song (Eb – D – C – Bb – A – G – F – Bb)
Looking at the music from a wider perspective, one would noticed that the melody and bass line seems to be going in contrary, which made the music sound so beautiful. It seems to me that the descending bass line is implying the cruel reality of the situation Fantine is in, while Fantine’s melodic line seems to imply her hope as she sings her ascending line, but was later struck with the cruel reality and fears where she her melodic line descends. In addition, Schonberg uses the vocal range to change the tone colors of the voice by writing at a lower register in the section where Fantine sings “but the tigers come at night”.
From a counterpoint view, the music was written with finesse because both the melodic and bass line moving in step-wise motion and even if there is a leap downwards in the melody, it is often complimented with a leap or a step upwards. In addition, the melodic leap downwards can also be heard as an implied lower voice creating a somewhat like a compound melody to the aural senses.
This song is generally quite symmetrical in the verses but there are asymmetrical phrases as well. The symmetrical phrases seem to form a simple period although harmonically the phrases are left ‘open’. The simple period is made up of 2+2 short phrases. All the A sections are generally made up of 2 simple periods (4+ 4). Note the following example:
Note the antecedent phrase in bars 4-5 has a melodic line somewhat leaning somewhere with its ascending line. The consonant phrase in bars 6-7 sounded like an answering phrase to the first line and although harmonically it is not ‘closed’, but aurally it does sound complete. This is because the first phrase had an ascending line and in contrast or to compliment that, the next phrase had a leap downwards. When listened, it somehow implies a reply to the listeners’ ears.
Section A1 – Bb. 4-7 + 8-11 (4+4 double period)
Section A2 – Bb. 12-15+ 16-19 (4+4 double period)
Section B – Bb. 20-23 + (24+25, 26 – 29) Extended phrase
Section A – Bb. 30-33 + (34-37+1) Extended phrase creating a link to modulate into F major
Section A’ – Bb. 39-42 + 43-46 (4 + 4 double period)
Section A” – Bb. 47- 491 + 493 – 52 + 53 – 54 (Asymmetrical phrases)
Outro – Bb. 55-57
The remaining bars not mentioned here are generally extended phrases and asymmetrical phrases utilized by Schonberg to create a sense of uncertainty and insecure. As I have mentioned, the song is pretty symmetrical and even the chord progressions are generally repetitive. In order to heightened the mood of the song, Schonberg uses chromatic harmonies and asymmetrical phrases to surprise the audience and gave audience a sense of curiosity and freshness when the music began to sound ‘different’.
It is interesting to note that Schonberg uses the displacement of chords in this song, which resulted in the chords entering before or after the vocals. This is a typical style of popular song writing where the melodic line and the accompaniment in this song tend to be of off beats and dotted rhythms (note the right hand parts in this piano rendition of the song).
In general, it was an interesting experience analyzing our favorite pop songs! Although, I dreamed a dream may not necessarily be classified under the "typical pop song" category, but having looked at how the song was constructed, I am certain to say that this is definitely a 20th century piece of work. In the process of analyzing I liked how I was able to relate to the knowledge I have gained from AAI104 class and identify it during my analysis. In addition, through this exercise, I am able to not just identify the chords but have learnt how to apply through notating them accurately. Although in the first few tries, there were some mistakes here or there due to my confusion of whether to write the chromatic harmonies as the chord according the original key or to the tonicized key, I am now able to identify and understand my mistake and learn from it. It has also reminded me to be more careful as I do my analysis in future. On the other hand, from this experience I am more aware that the "new" harmonies we listen to now are basically developments of the traditional harmony and what we have learnt so far are relevant in our future.