To further verify the characteristics of Gospel taught in the class, I am going to carry out an analysis on two gospel songs entitled “Everything will be alright” and “Su Li Fe Pou Mwen”. The analysis will focus on the instrumentation, melody, form, texture and the use of other music techniques.
(If you are interested in knowing a new musical genre
, I would appreciate you get, of course legally, some gospel music to listen ^.-)
A. Everything will be alright (Rev. Timothy Wright and the Grace Tabernacle Choir)
The song is in Major D, with the use of chromatics. It is rendered with a great variety of instrumentation, such as percussion (claps and drum set), trumpet and keyboard, interwoven with vocal and backing vocal by male and female singers. With so many instruments of different timbre, the song becomes a rich synthesis of audio excitement.
However, each of the instruments and voices does not follow the same rhythm throughout the song. Instead, a strong polyrhythm is featured. In the first 20 seconds, the claps and the drum sound every two counts with the keyboard hit every single count. Another important characteristic of the song is that syncopation is in place. Singers are usually not singing at the down beats. It makes the song sound a lot funnier and livelier. In addition, the tempo of the song is approximately 95 beats per minute.
The texture of the song is homophonic. By listening to melody sung by the prime male singer and the choir, especially the part when they both sing “alright”, there is a strong clue suggesting that homophony has been used. The male singer’s voice is backgrounded by the choir which sings in harmony. Interesting enough, if we pay attention to the time that the choir cut in, we will find that the choir is not singing at the exact same time as the male singer for most of the time. They, instead, sing in the intervals between the male singer’s voices. Furthermore, the alternate use of the hamonic choir’s voices and single singer’s voice, technically named the “call and response”, also creates a dramatic and entertaining effect for the audience.
The form of the song can be expressed as ABABABABcoda. Basically, it is a typical example of strophe. First, it has a 16-bar phrase(A) in which the same melody is repeated for 4 times. Second, a 8-bar phrase(B) in which another set of melody is repeated for 2 times comes in. Then it goes back to phrase A. After 4 times of repetition of AB, the song ends up with a harmonic coda sung continuously till the end.
Improvisation is present in the song. “One more time” is sometimes improvized by the male singer in the interval between two phrases. That the male singer’s lyric and the beats are not synchronized suggested that he freely improvises to inject some slight variations to this highly strophic song.
B. Su Li Fe Pou Mwen (Dickson Guillaume & the NY State Haitian Interdenominational Mass Choir)
The song is rendered with drum set and bass guitar, male and female voices. It is in Bb. The tempo is about 90 beats per minute. Syncopation can be discerned.
The song is both homophonic and heterophonic. Comparatively speaking, the homophonic texture is much stronger and distinguishable than the previous song. It is the result of the fact that the choir plays a dominant role this time. Moreover, heterophony can be found, starting from 1:17, when the male singer starts diverging from the mainstream, singing not in accordance with the harmony of the choir.
The form is different from the first song. The form can be expressed as AAABBcoda. The melody of the first three parts is basically the same. The harmony by the choir works like a main theme, and the male singer’s and female singer’s solos work like variations. In the first phrase A, only the choir sings ; in the second phrase A, female singer and choir each sing for 6 bars; in the third phrase A, male singer’s solo and choir sing in the same way. After this, the song enters into a totally new phrase B, as the melody has changed.
At the end of the song, male and female singers sing alternately, which is similar to the way of the first song is presented- Call and response. And similarly, improvisational lyrics or sounds are sung by the singers when the choir is singing the main theme.
First, from these two songs, there is not enough evidence to show that a specific form(s) is(are) usually used in Gospel music. However, it is strongly believed that strophe, the highly structured melody, is one of the key characteristics of Gospel. Second, the fact that singers sing at the unaccented beats implied that syncopation is applied. Third, call-and-response, or the alternate use of different pitch and volume of two (or two groups) of singers, is also a common practice. Forth, improvisation is found in two pieces, which suggests it is one of those elements composing gospel songs. In general, two songs demonstrate many characteristics in common; nevertheless, all these conclusions are drawn from the analysis of two songs only, more songs should be taken into account in order to accurately sort out the first few key features of Gospel.