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Thursday, March 06, 2008


Stephen Foster's "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair" is a good example of the popular song's quaternary form. It has two similar and equal sections at the beginning and then goes into a bridge and returns to the original four measure motif. In this particular piece measures 1-4 could be labeled as "a," measure 5-8 as "a'," measures 9-12 as the bridge or "b," and measures 13-17 as "a''." The harmonic analysis travels hand in hand with this form. An example of this is the chord progression in measures 13-17. They are V7 - I - I V65 vi - V/V Vadd6 IV - V64 V7 I.
The "Ah" section would be best performed with a large crescendo or swell into measure 14. Since there is a repeat of this repetitive chorus Stephen Foster had to make this last one even more climactic. He toys with the listeners sense of the dominant chord and brings it to a very satisfying but interesting cadence at the end.
I believe it is important for the singer to mimic the sweeping effect of the melodic line especially because it is doubled so often in the piano. Many times it seems like Stephen Foster continues the thought process and motion of the song. For example, by using a half cadence after the first four measures he lets the audience know that there is much more of this song to come. The bridge section is very recitativo in comparison with the rest of the piece. He also splices the legato effect he created earlier by making the rhythm more choppy and creating large leaps for the singer. The return of the legato "Ahs" is a beautiful relief and this is accompanied by the rich chords in measures 13-17.
Although the lyrics and subject matter of this song are simple, it is well thought-out. Foster creates a beautiful text painting with his lyrical line and sets up the popular style form in a successful way.

1 comment:

Scott said...

It is also strophic, since the AABA form is repeated for each verse.

In m. 13 the V7 becomes V9#5. I like your V add6 in m. 16, the authors actually say vi42 but your analysis makes much more sense, with C as an embellishing tone.

Good performance ideas, and I like the discussiion of rhythm.