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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gershwin 'S Wonderful...our recording of it...not so much

Okay, I'm going to start my blog with a mini rant. What is up with the singers on our recording of this song?! I seriously got half way through and had to turn it off-it was THAT upsetting. I mean, the woman didn't even say "emosh" and "devosh" right. (She said "mosh" as in mosh pit instead of a shortening of "emotion" XO angry face) So, I did the same thing that I just saw that Natalie did. I found the clip of the song from "Funny Face" (a classic, everyone should watch it) since I knew that I like Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn's version. Oh and "An American in Paris" also features this song with a nice tap dance from Gene Kelly, a fun little touch for the movie's set up of the song. Anyway....

" 'S Wonderful" is a textbook example of verse-refrain style. The verse is, of course, rarely heard and actually consists of a male and female line. But it is the refrain of this song that everyone knows so well. The refrain does not occur until measure 29, so there are 28 measures of Gershwin wonderfulness that hardly anyone knows about. So I'm going to pay tribute to the forgotten verse for a moment. Here's a fun little tid bit for ya-the verse is actually the more stable of the two sections. It opens with some nice staccato quarter note chords and the harmonic structure is pretty predictable. If you break it up into two-bar units, you will see that the harmony moves up or down by a second (major and minor) throughout the verse. The vocal line follows the pattern of one measure with four quarter notes and a measure of a whole note a third lower. Then this two measure pattern moves up a second and eventually back down. This verse also sets up the whole story line-as tradition would have it. So I find it quite tragic that we never hear it. On to the refrain!

Gershwin has lots o' jazzy fun with the refrain. The melody is quite simple and repetitive, but he uses some interesting harmonies to spice things up. For example, m. 31 has a C#dim. chord (oh and we're in Eb major) on the word "marvelous". This adds a jazzy feel and also distinguishes "marvelous" from the preceding "wonderful." He uses harmony to add texture to mm. 33 on "You should care for me" with a Bb7 add 6. This adds a sense of happiness that the person feels about their special someone caring for him/her. And my last example is in mm. 49 with a slightly mood altering Dm6 chord. This shifts the mood to feeling blissful. ("you can't blame me for feeling this amorous" and "from now on my heart's working overtime") Aaaannnnd the grand finale! Ok not really, but it's the highlight of the song. Measure 47 has the most interesting harmonization of the song. Gershwin places a G major chord with and E natural 5. Whoa. Hold on just a minute. This really switches up the jazzy feeling to a more sort of classical, lovey-dovey feeling. After all, they are completely enamored with each other.

So, this song truly 'S Wonderful. But I highly recommend listening/watching the scene from "Funny Face" or "An American in Paris" to get a true feeling of what this song is about...not the recording that goes with our anthology. And for a really jazzy version, look up Ella Fitzgerald singing it with Teddy Wilson. Plus she sings part of the long lost verse. = )

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