Sunday, April 10, 2005

Queen, "The Prophet's Song"

Time for another Queen song, and since we're talking about imitative procedures, I chose a song that features a significant imitative section of a song that clocks in at 8 minutes and 20 seconds.

The first half minute of the song is the introduction, which has a little wind like effect (maybe guitar effect or a gong) that leads into a guitar solo with some accompaniment by the harp which extends each of the chords that have a pause (not necesarrily cadence, just a pause). This introduction ends in a half cadence which transitions to the chorus, which is happening before a verse which is somewhat unusual.

This first chorus keeps the overall mood of the introduction with just having just the guitar and light bass on the downbeat backing it up. The guitar has the same basic chords and mood, but loses the rubato quality of the intro. The end of the chorus finally lets the listener know that this is a rock song with a very loud playing by all the members including the drums and the vocals are also singing the entire chord.

The verse then happens for the first time with constant eighth note hi hat and bass drum and light guitar and bass mostly on the downbeats. One of the great aspects of the verse is how after having this very steady time, the pause between the first half and second half of the verse on the HC and no vocals also has no time. It's a great contast and gives anticipation for the steady rhythm again. The second half of the verse starts similar to the first but then there is a drum solo that brings the verse into a new feel with the drums doing cymbals on the downbeat and bass drum on the upbeat and a wonderful bass line that has nine notes on the downbeats that constantly increase in pitch and have great anticipation for the return of the chorus.

The chorus returns but this time with more activity in the guitar and the drums which play a simple rock beat but with some very effective simple solos when the vocals aren't singing. The verse returns again essentially the same but with a little counter melody in the guitar and a couple of different drum hits followed by another chorus but this time the end of the chorus ends with a deceptive cadence rather than an authentic cadence which provides the perfect transition into the bridge. The bridge music isn't radically different from the verse though, but the melody and tone of lyrics does change, the drums have several syncopations on beat 4 with sixteenth note dotted sixteenth note pattern.

Instead of going back to the chorus as many songs would, this song goes into a extended vocal solo that emphasizes an imitation procedure. I'm not quite sure what to call it because it doesn't quite fit any classical formula. The first part of this has three voices. The first voice sings a short lyrical phrase (no longer than "oh, oh, people can you hear me" sometimes as short "woah") several times on different pitches usually descending followed by the second voice singing the same thing followed by a third. With recorded sound they are able to put the first voice on speaker, the second voice on the other speaker and the third singer on both speakers. What this creates is a really cool cascade of constantly changing chords as one note gets abandoned and another note gets added. During the longer phrases the other voices come in before the first voice is finished which gives a somewhat chaotic feel but the way the patterns are set up the voices are all singing the same lyrics together by the end of the pattern.

This three voice pattern then changes pattern to just two voices on la's and though for most of this section the voices don't sing at the same time, it is just because the patterns have less action but combine to create great rhythmic patterns with one point you have both voices doing all eighth notes in a pattern of 1 2 1 2 2 1 2 1 (1=first voice 2=second voice) and of course almost every time the first voice starts something it does it on different tones which allows this constant pattern to switch chords. The voices do end up coming together in another cool part where each voice glisses up on the upbeat to beats one and three which gives a cool sensation of feeling one voice reach the authentic cadence followed by the second one doing so. There are a couple of more vocals with lyrics in the two voices which eventually a half cadence which is resolved with the band coming back in with a simlar imitative pattern to the vocal part. The hit on one speaker is on the downbeat and the other is on the upbeat. It does this on beat one, then beat ones and threes, and then every beat finally resolving into the guitar solo.

The guitar solo has much of the same feel as the verse but with the drums being very active with sixteenth notes on the toms and the guitar doing some sixteenth note passages that fit into the feel. The voice comes back in at the tail end of the verse emphasizing the HC that transitions into one last chorus which this time has the guitar going crazy as well as background voices that help to emphasize the chord. When the chorus is over all of the sound dissappears except for a solo guitar playing a simple chordal sycopated sixteenth note part for four measure before one last hit which transitions back into an ending that is very similar to the introduction with the harp and the guitar playing a simple line like in the beginning but this time there is a clear feeling of a dominant chord for a couple of measures that ends with an accented PAC.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

just a few things:
not a harp being played in the intro/conclusion. it's a toy koto which was given to brian may on tour by fans and he quickly picked it up and used it in the song.
also, the a cappela part is just freddie mercury and a echo machine: just one voice being echoed (also known as a vocal cannon).
otherwise, this is pretty acurate and quite an amazing song, dont you think?