Work: ‘A Case of You’
Album: A tribute to Joni Mitchell (Nonesuch, 2007)
Timing: 2 minutes 28 seconds
Work: ‘A Case of You’
Performer: k.d. lang
Album: Hymns of the 49th Parallel (Nonesuch, 2004)
Timing: 2 minutes 21 seconds
Compare the ways in which the performers manipulate the following to achieve expressive outcomes:
- Tone colour
- Balance of music lines
|A Tranquil but more energetic||B Tranquil|
|Tone Colour||The male voice has a bright, nasal tone colour at upper register (energetic) while at lower pitch it is quite warm and aspirate (tranquil). There is a great variety/change in tone colour and huge range used = a more energetic character than version B. Just before the end of the excerpt the vocalist ascends to the top of his register and has an even more nasal, bright tone colour enhanced by the use of vibrato and loud dynamic (energetic).
The piano is warm and resonant as it uses mid to low register in a harmonic roll. (tranquil) When it plays a melodic role, the pitch ascends an octave or more and is much brighter and clearer as a result. (energetic)
The drum kit has fairly muted colours due to use of subtle rim clicks on the snare, use of gentle, shimmering, bright taps on the cymbal rather than hi-hat. = tranquil, but use of kit increases energy of the character
The use of backing vocalists in the central section blend well with each other (warm, mellow tone colours at a comfortable register) and pick up on the warmer tone colours of the soloist. (tranquil)
|The female voice has warm mellow tone colours (tranquil). She too uses aspirate tone colors at the bottom of her range. (tranquil) There is less of a variation in tone colour as she tends to use a more predictable contour and smaller intervals with less extremes (stability = tranquil). When she ascends to the top of her range her tone colour becomes brighter but it does not have the nasal quality of version A (tranquil)
The piano is warm and resonant like version A but doesn’t tend to have a melodic role that extends as high as Version A. (tranquil) The melodic role is more clearly linked to the harmony using rhythmic unison more often and is not as contrasting in register. (tranquil)
There are no other instruments and the limited tone colour palate enhances the more relaxed, tranquil character.
|Balance||There is a greater variety of change of balance in Version A. Melodic fills in the electric guitars at lower then higher pitch overlap and interplay with each other, bringing these lines to the foreground through brighter, more ringing tone colours and single line melodic movement (as opposed to playing chords). When chords are played, the guitars take on a mid-ground, harmonic role. Change in balance/thicker texture = more energetic character.
Backing singer takes over main melodic role in fills “time to time” and “so bitter” echoing and overlapping creating slight polyphony for the short duration of the fills.
The piano changes role from mid ground to foreground in the instrumental section. Backing vocalists shift from melodic role to singing harmonies underneath the piano’s melody. “ooo” vowel, softer dynamic and lower pitch.
|The vocalist in both versions stay in the foreground through brighter tone colour and louder dynamics.
Stable roles within the balance of version B – voice foreground, piano playing mid ground and bass role = tranquil character.
|Improvisation embellishment||“so bitter” in backing singer use of improvised (scalic movement – so still quite tranquil) melisma which extends the ‘so’. There is no interplay like this in Version B (thus the more tranquil character of B)
Improvised fills from the piano sometimes include closely voiced chords in a faster harmonic rhythm. (increased energy)
The piano improvises the melody of the instrumental section – taking on a more foreground role than Version B – using repeated pitches, elements of the main melodic line, playing around the note using trills and semiquaver turns that circle particular notes.
There is a mix of longer notes (tranquil) which are usually followed by shorter durations using sequential movement or short scalic runs. (energetic)
The lower electric guitar uses an improvised fragment of the melody using an ascending/descending stepwise motion motif that is then repeated again sequentially lower after the lyrics “frightened by the devil” (tranquil)
This is also echoed by the higher electric guitar. (tranquil echoing effect, also at lower dynamic)
|Less improvisation in this version. The melody is improvised a certain amount as indicated by the use of rubato while the piano stays fairly true to time. The use of melisma and downward scalic runs at her first ascent to higher pitch. Improvisation is subtle, uses stepwise movement and descending lines = tranquility
“Still I’ll be on my feet” extended in downward sequence.
Piano improvised fill uses elements of the melody but extends this scalically descending the melodic line, arpeggiation. Less ‘virtuosic’ and extended than Version 1 so more tranquil.
“Holy wine” uses improvised melisma to extend “wine” in a downward scalic run. Using some syncopated movement adding a little energy to the end of the excerpt.
There is less improvisation as there are fewer instruments and a more straightforward approach in Version B = tranquility.