Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"Do You Hear the People Sing" from Les Miserables

"Do You Hear the People Sing" from the Broadway musical Les Miserables. Music By Claude-Michel Schonberg. Highlights from the complete symphonic international cast recording.

It is 1832 in Paris, and there is much unrest in the city due to the likely demise of General Lamarque, the only man left in the government who shows any feeling for the poor. At a political meeting in a small cafe, a group of idealistic students prepares for the revolution they are sure will erupt on the death of General Lamarque. When Gavroche brings the news of the General's death, the students, led by Enjolras, stream out into the streets to whip up popular support. (Do You Hear the People Sing)
The music begins softly with the very steady repetition of a simple V chord. The drum is quietly keeping time with a battle like rhythm. While Enjolras sings the first verse, the accompaniment is very simple, and basically just serves to support the vocal part. The chord progression for the most part is I-V until the chorus enters. This strong use of tonic and dominant creates a majestic and proud sound. The simplicity demonstrates the idea that the revolution starts out with a very small group of students.
The music doesn't really become complex until the chorus comes in. When the chorus begins singing the melody, the accompaniment becomes more interesting and serves the purpose of creating a mood rather than just supporting the vocal line. The lyrics state, "Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men? It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again. When the beating of your heart, echoes the beating of the drum, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes."
This is the last song in act one, and it really depends on the music building to a huge climax. This is achieved through dynamics, instrumentation, and adding only a few voice parts at a time. The dynamics go from mf to f to ff, indicating the support that they have found, and the passion the people have for their cause. The instruments that stand out the most to me are the trumpets and the drum. The trumpets create a triumphant, majestic, and inspiring sound. The drums play a rhythm similiar to a heart beat, creating the feeling of battle, and supporting the idea in the lyrics. The melody is fairly simple, but powerful. The pitches are mostly stepwise and the rhythms are mostly dotted eigths and sixteenths.
I think it is pretty obvious that I really like this piece. I find it very moving, and it gives me a sense of pride and inspiration. When the piece hits his climax and you can hear all of these people singing such a powerful melody about being willing to fight and die for their freedom, and you can hear the trumpets blaring and the drums pounding, it is just amazing.

1 comment:

Scott Spiegelberg said...

How does the accompaniment become more interesting? How does it create a mood, and which mood? I like your introduction, giving the context for the song before delving into the music.