Musicalanalysis: "Up Where We Belong" by Joe Cocker and JenniferWarnes.
JoeCocker and Jennifer Warnes’ hit song “Up where we belong” isone of my favorite classic love songs. Although the song was recordedin 1982 as a soundtrack to the 1982 film “An officer and agentleman”, it was released to the public in 1983. The hit-song waswell received by the public and received massive airplay in numerousradio stations around the world and also won several awards.Furthermore, the duet was popularized by the hit-film where it wasfeatured as a soundtrack. This current essay seeks to analyze thissong for several musical elements.
Melodyrefers to the horizontal arrangement of sound and how they relatewith one another in a piece of music. The notes are usually ofdifferent pitches though some of the pitches might be repeated. Themelody often plays a vital role in formulating the tonal structure inthe development process of a musical artwork. In the case of thecurrent piece, simply listening to it reveals that the choice andarrangement of phrases was geared towards attaining the sense of calmand tenderness synonymous with love songs. The sequence of singlenotes is very harmonious and smooth. For instance, at 1.14, thephrase “There are mountains in our way, But we climb steps everyday”, which is part of the chorus, clearly reflects this simplearrangement of phrases with the last words “way” and “day” ineither phrase having a common sound. The song also maintains asimilar pitch range over and over which is suitable for this genre ofmusic.
Rhythmrefers to the element of time in music. In “Up here we belong”the song can be termed as slow as it retains a slow tempo and arelatively lower beat rate. Blues are commonly assumed to have thelowest beat rate that ranges at 60 beats per minute while rock musicregisters the highest beat rate of around 175 (Machin 2010). The useof piano and guitar plays a crucial role in slowing the beat andtempos of the song throughout.
Dynamicsrelate to the volume in a piece of music. It is relative and mostlycommunicates intensity (Machin 2010). In the current piece, the duetstarts off softly through a solo voice for a few opening seconds. Theintroduction of instruments make the piece louder, a volume which ismaintained for the better up until the last few and final seconds.However, at about 2:20, the piece has prolonged period of decay whichsort of creates a break in the flow and rhythm of the track.
Harmonyrefers to the vertical arrangement of sound or verticalization ofpitch which are combined into chords (Machin 2010). The chords can bedescribed in terms of their relative harshness. Normally, there aretwo categories consonance and dissonance (Baltter 2007). The currentsong has smooth-sounding harmonic combination, hence the song comesout as consonant. However, there is no evidence in the artists’melodic choices that there is advanced harmony beyond the ordinary.Furthermore, as duet, the voices complement each other but theartists do not explore their vocal ranges. It would be expected thata partner song duet comprising of a male and a female would featurean exploration and juxtaposition of deep and high pitches, but thisis not the case. This is mainly because majority of men and womenhave different voices and in the current piece they move at differentrhythms in some sections (Blatter 2007 Machin 2010).
Texturerefers to the way different multiple voices or instruments interactin composition. These voices or instruments can be arranged inlayers, hence can be thought of as thin, thick, heavy or soft(Blatter 2007). The current piece is polyphonic. This is because itfeatures solo operatic sessions such as the beginning of the song andin other instances the two artists simultaneously provide two melodiclines of equal importance. The same case applies to theinstrumentation where the piano introduces the piece at first beforebeing joined by other instruments at slightly different pitches.
Timbrerefers to the instrumentation in a piece of music which allows alistener to distinguish between different sounds. Some musicalexperts have claimed that it takes about a 4 dB change in mid or highharmonics for a listener to notice as significant change in timbrewhile for the lower harmonics, 10 dB change is required (Timbre2015). In the current piece, there is no significant variation intimbre which remains mellow throughout
Formrefers to the organization of music, whether in verses/chorus orrepetition. Music composers usually rely on form to determine when torepeat or change a melody. In most cases, there are definitivepatterns of form, namely verse chorus (VC, VCB), bar song form(AABA), and strophic form. In the current case, the song takes up theABBA. In this case, the A refers to the first verse while B refers tothe chorus. The song clearly undergoes numerous repetitions asindicted the two choruses. The first chorus starts at 1.49 which isrepeated again at 3.01.
Thetrack is clearly a love song in which the duet sings about the powerof love. This love is not specified as to which type of love thoughit can be commonly assumed to be romantic though the lyrics havenothing of the sort. The song’s words talk of “Love lift us upwhere we belong” which captures the height through a higher pitch. In the chorus, the words “the road is long” are intentionallyprolonged to capture the element of size in reference to distance ofthe road to be traveled.
Fromthe above analysis, it is clear there are very different ways oflistening to music. One can listen and enjoy music with a criticalaspect taking note of the various elements as discussed. Althoughmost people are more likely to listen to music on the face value andbased on the beat and the lyrics, scholars in music should alwayslook deeper. My attempts to look deeper were not straight forward.
Thewhole exercise as reported above was somehow interesting andchallenging. At first, I had settled to choose a piece of music forwhich I would easily locate materials regarding its musical analysis.However, I figures I would learn very little. So I settled for apiece that I was sure I could not bump into on the internet as Icarried out my research. I was more worried about learning how toidentify some of the elements discussed above on my own without helpfrom others. What I found challenging to identify was timbre and thedescriptive terms used to describe are still unclear. This made melisten to the piece more than 20 times which almost makes the songannoying while I know I like it. Needless to say, it was challengingand equally rewarding. I believe that I will improve on my musicalanalysis skills with more practice.
Blatter,A. (2007). Revisiting Music Theory: A Guide to the Practice. NewYork: Taylor &
Cocker,J. & Warnes, J. (1983). Upwhere we belong.Retrieved from
MachinD. (2010). Analyzingpopular music: image, sound and text.New York: SAGE.
Timbre(2015). Retrieved fromttp://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/sound/timbre.html