“Empty Chairs and Empty Tables”
From Les Miserables
Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg
The melody of this piece, sung by one male voice, is very memorable because of its simplicity, repetition, and sheer beauty. It is made up of short phrases throughout that contain identical or similar rhythmic and melodic material. It is strophic, with rhythmic and melodic motives returning again and again. The return of these motives are made more interesting by dynamic changes and ascension or dissension in register. These changes in dynamics and register often relate to the meaning of the text. For example, when he sings of growing, the melody rises in both register and volume. These variations also give some of the cadences a more finalized sound, most commonly from descending and softer notes. The instruments strictly function as the accompaniment. It alternates between strings, which follow the voice, and a solo guitar, which plays during rests in the voice. When the voice becomes more impassioned, the strings become fuller. The final effect of this piece is a combination of melancholy and passionate beauty that grabs the heart.