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Frequently Asked Questions About The "Notes on..." Series

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Previous page: Notes on "Real Love" Next page: Silent Night in Open C

Frequently Asked Questions About The "Notes on..." Series

(also known as...) Notes On The 'Notes On' Series

Table of Contents

0. An abstract of the series; i.e., 'Why Bother ?'

1. When did the series start and what's your gameplan ?

2. Why made you decide to do this ?

3. And and from where can I get back issues ?

4. Background, Chronology, and Game Plan

5. Are you going to do a book ?

6. What's the best way to get in touch with you ?

7. Have you ever written a Note on (name-of-someone's-favorite-tune) ?

0. An abstract of the series; i.e., 'Why Bother ?'

Just about everyone I know who likes/enjoys/is-crazy-about the music of the Beatles knows, without my having to tell them a damned thing, how "great" their music is. It's not anything that needs "proving" or "explanation."

However, there are a number of dimensions to the music of the Beatles that are more easily described, traced, and quantified. I dare say that any element of musical composition that can be described with reasonable objectivity and consistency from one example to the next allows one to discover at an often surprising level of detail stylistic preoccupations, predilections and patterns in the thought processes of the composers. Over the long run, this allows one to describe with a not unreasonable amount of precision the nature of trends and the evolution of style.

The concepts, vocabulary, and method used in the "Notes on" analyses of Beatles songs will be familiar to anyone who has ever taken a substantive course in music theory. I may sometimes be unintentionally inaccurate, but overall, I'm hardly making it up as I go along :-). In fact, such a detailed examination of the work of those who one admires also happens to be a centuries-old, time-honored way in which to learn how to compose music.

I can appreciate how to the uninitiated, the very language in which the discussion takes place appears on the surface to be self-importantly erudite, perhaps even fatuous, but the technical words used do have commonly accepted meanings, and some kind of objective set of descriptive tools are critically necessary in such an analytical exercise lest the whole thing degenerate into a delirious indulgence in fanciful metaphors; just like this last sentence :-).

I don't believe that the validity of the exercise is necessarily invalidated by the fact that the composers may have not been capable of reading music, or that they couldn't describe in precise terms exactly what they thought they were doing in their compositions. No doubt, I would imagine "even" Mozart might have ridiculed those of his contemporaries who sought to analyze his work. But that doesn't necessarily invalidate such an inquiry. Granted, if the artist asks me to not look at his/her work in a certain way, I may be on one level rudely disobeying that artists preference by what I'm doing, but it does not mean that my taking a certain view of their work is by definition, wrong or meaningless. And here, I promised myself beforehand to not get defensive :-).

1. When did the series start and what's your gameplan ?

The series started in May 1989 with a short note on "We Can Work It Out." To date there have been around 90 installments, varying in frequency of appearance in a manner directly inverse to the pace of my combined family and professional life.

During the first 28 installments, the songs were chosen in random order (basically special favorites), and I would structure the outline of each article around the unique attributes of the respective songs.

Since issue 29 (July '91), I adopted an organizational template for the Notes, and also decided to go back to the beginning of the songbook and work my way patiently through in chronological order instead of skipping around.

My hope is to eventually complete the full cycle of the songs 'officially' recorded by The Beatles. Then we'll figure out what to do next :-)

2. Why made you decide to do this ?

Doing the series was a way of indulging two very big hot buttons: re-emerging Beatlemania on the threshold of middle age, and an ingrained hunger for playing the part of the ol' professor. Beyond that, it all started as a kind of double-dare from 'saki'.

Just about everyone I know who likes/enjoys/is-crazy-about the music of the Beatles knows, without my having to tell them a damned thing, how "great" their music is. It's not anything that needs "proving" or "explanation."

However, there are a number of dimensions to the music of the Beatles that are more easily described, traced, and quantified. I dare say that any element of musical composition that can be described with reasonable objectivity and consistency from one example to the next allows one to discover at an often surprising level of detail stylistic preoccupations, predilections and patterns in the thought processes of the composers. Over the long run, this allows one to describe with a not unreasonable amount of precision the nature of trends and the evolution of style.

The concepts, vocabulary, and method used in the "Notes on" analyses of Beatles songs will be familiar to anyone who has ever taken a substantive course in music theory. I may sometimes be unintentionally inaccurate, but overall, I'm hardly making it up as I go along :-). In fact, such a detailed examination of the work of those who one admires also happens to be a centuries-old, time-honored way in which to learn how to compose music.

I can appreciate how to the uninitiated, the very language in which the discussion takes place appears on the surface to be self-importantly erudite, perhaps even fatuous, but the technical words used do have commonly accepted meanings, and some kind of objective set of descriptive tools are critically necessary in such an analytical exercise lest the whole thing degenerate into a delirious indulgence in fanciful metaphors; just like this last sentence :-).

I don't believe that the validity of the exercise is necessarily invalidated by the fact that the composers may have not been capable of reading music, or that they couldn't describe in precise terms exactly what they thought they were doing in their compositions. No doubt, I would imagine "even" Mozart might have ridiculed those of his contemporaries who sought to analyze his work. But that doesn't necessarily invalidate such an inquiry. Granted, if the artist asks me to not look at his/her work in a certain way, I may be on one level rudely disobeying that artists preference by what I'm doing, but it does not mean that my taking a certain view of their work is by definition, wrong or meaningless. And here, I promised myself beforehand to not get defensive :-).

3. And and from where can I get back issues ?

The series is way too large for me to want to distribute it directly to any and all takers. Bob Clements has been kind enough to maintain an archive of the full "Notes on..." series on his "bobcat.bbn.com" machine. If you have FTP connectivity to the Internet, here's the instructions: [There is no need to include an out of date FTP-address. You know where to find the notes ...]

Further info about this site and other rmb material archived there is posted regularly as part of the 'Welcome' note to this newsgroup.

4. Background, Chronology, and Game Plan

For those who may have wondered from time to time just who the 'flip' I think I am in writing this series ("temper, temper"): ~awp has a PhD in music theory and composition (University of Pennsylvania, '77), and has taught these same subjects on the college level. For reasons too personal and boringly complicated to go into here, he's been working in the field of software engineering since 1978.

5. Are you going to do a book ?

Yes, it is one of the my fondnest wishes to publish the completed set of Notes in the form of a Boook. This will, of course, take a while, and I'm hardly thinking of quitting my day job in the meanwhile. I'm more than happy to share the work with The Net as it emerges, but I will humbly ask you all for your courtesy in honoring my copyright of the material.

6. What's the best way to get in touch with you ?

awp@world.std.com is my email address at a currently stylish public Unix site in Brookline Mass. I generally keep my work email address and other personal contact points unlisted on the net.

7. Have you ever written a Note on (name-of-someone's-favorite-tune) ?

During the first 28 installments, the songs were chosen in random order (basically special favorites), and I would structure the outline of each article around the unique attributes of the respective songs.

At that point, in order to establish a working vocabulary and set of concepts for the articles, many of the earlier ones have side-bar like tutorials or tangential points about the Beatles songbook overall. As a result, the articles steadily grew in length, some of them near the end becoming *quite* long.

Since issue 29 (last July), I adopted an organizational template for the Notes, and also decided to go back to the beginning of the songbook and work my way patiently through in chronological order instead of skipping around.

The template provides a kind of consistency which allows me to keep the individual articles shorter for the most part, while enforcing upon me a certain rigorous breadth in the coverage of each song. Ironically, some of the much longer articles from the first half do not always cover some of the topics now included in the template. For that reason, I ought to at some point, revise and extend the older articles in keeping with the template style, but for now, in order to keep moving, I'm skipping over titles already covered earlier when I get up to their place on the list.

Below is a complete index of the series in # order [All the references are to the versions on my site. For notes that have been updated, I have only included the most recently revised versions, no matter what the text in the list says. For the complete set, including previous versions, go to http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/public/files/awp/awp.html.]:

Regards,
Alan (awp@world.std.com)

---
"Thank you for all the cards and letters ..." 120193#90

---
"If you hadn't come back it would have been the epilogue or the news in Welsh." 053192#58

---

Copyright (c) 1993 by Alan W. Pollack

All Rights Reserved

This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.

These articles were originally posted in the News Group rec.music.beatles. The content from this newsgroup is archived at http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/, and Alan W. Pollacks "Notes On" series can be found at http://www.recmusicbeatles.com/public/files/awp/awp.html

. I used to link to the versions published in Soundscapes before I decided to include them on my own site.

If you want to learn more about the musical side of song writing, chord progressions, harmony and theory through The Beatles songs (and/or The Beatles in particular), I recommend the following book:

Artist: Dominic Pedler

Arranged by The Beatles


More >>

The Songwriting Secrets of the Beatles


Book of the Month 2003-10
The Songwriting Secrets Of The Beatles is an essential addition to Beatles literature - a new and perceptive analysis of both the music and the lyrics.

More than thirty years after The Beatles split up, the music of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison lives on. What exactly were the magical ingredients of those legendary songs? why are they still so influential for today's bands? This groundbreaking book sets out to exlore The Beatles' songwriting techniques in a clear and readable style. It is aimed not only at musicians but anyone who has ever enjoyed the work of one of the most productive and successful songwriting partnerships of the 20th century. Author Dominic Pedler explains the chord sequences, melodies and harmonies that made up The Beatles' self penned songs and how they uncannily complemented the lyrical themes. He also assesses the contributions that rhythm, form and arrangement made to the Beatles unique sound. Throughout the book the printed music of the Beatles' songs appears alongside the text, illustrating the authors explanations. The Songwriting Secrets of The Beatles is an essential addition to Beatles literature - a new and perceptive analysis of the music itself itself as performed by what Paul McCartney still calls 'a really good, tight little band'.

Level: , 816 pages
RefNr: 0711981671
Order From:
MusicRoom
Amazon UK
Amazon US

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