This jazzy song by George Gershwin is in a basic verse-refrain form. The song begins with a short 4 bar introduction using snappy, staccato quarter notes in cut time. There is a quick decrescendo and then the male singer comes in with "life has just begun." The verse tells a story, as is common in verse-refrain forhms. It speaks of a man that has just found a girl and has fallen in love--musically, the melody is constantly rising. Each 2-bar phrase consists of a four quarter notes and a whole note, and each time, motivic transposition occurs up either a major or minor second with the introduction of a new phrase. In measures 21-28, there is a short bridge section with whole notes in the bass (rather than the previous usage of quarter notes) which then segues into the chorus with a brief ritard. The chorus is more of an expression of joy at the newfound lover, with longer held notes to signify a welling up of happiness (or something). It is a serious of exclamations such as, "'S wonderful! S' marvelous, 'S awful nice, etc. etc.", you get the picture. There is usually a constant quarter note beat somewhere in the accompaniment.
The verse section of this song is more harmonically stable than the chorus. This is due mostly to the bassline and its predictability. In measures 5 and 6, the bass line is F, Eb, D, Bb, and in measures 7 and 8, the bassline is G, F, Eb, Bb--this pattern is repeated until measure 13 and transposed up a step every time. This creates chords such as (in measures 5-8) Ab, Abm, Dm7-5, Bb7, Gm, Bb7, Ebmaj7, and Eb just to name a few. As a contrast, the chorus is less harmonically stable. This is because it rocks back and forth between chromatic half steps (as seen in the change from C7 to C#diminished in measures 31 and 39) regularly.
As stated earlier, the linear process that underlies the melody and bass line in measures 5-20 is the motivic transposition of the melody and the predictability of the bass line.
There are several usages of non-diatonic or added-sixth chord harmonies in the chorus of this song. Examples are as follows:
measure 31: C#diminished
measure 33: Bb7(add6)
measure 49: Dm6
These all contribute to the chorus in specific ways-- in measure 31, the C# diminished chord serves as a bit of a surprise when the singer lands on the "-lous" of "'s marvelous". This also serves to contrast with the aforementioned "'s wonderful" that begins the chorus. It also is quite jazzy! The Bb7(add 6) in measure 33 does not sound that much different from the C# diminished, but it also serves to be a jazzy chord and sounds rather "happy", which conveys the meaning of the song wonderfully. The Dm6 chord in measure 49 also serves to change it up a bit. It seems a little shy and would therefore fit the words, "you can't blame me for feeling amorous."
Gershwin harmonizes the E natural of "glamorous" with a G major chord--this is quite interesting, it sounds almost as if it is classical music. The introduction of a major III chord is interesting and surprising, and certainly enhances the word as a high point of the song.
There are a variety of images that I could include in this blog with the caption underneath stating, " 'S Wonderful," including ice cream, The Beatles, sleep, etc., but I've narrowed it down to one that I thought was my personal favorite as of now. Enjoy.
Obama '08. 'S Wonderful.