A Level Music: 'Yellow Bird' by the Red Stripe Ebony Steel Band

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  • Yellow Bird by Red Stripe Ebony Steel Band
    • Tonal
      • G Major
      • Recurring C# is chromatic, lower auxiliary note
    • Harmony
      • 3 diatonic primary chords of G Major: G, C and D
      • Occasional added 7ths e.g. G7 and D7
      • Harmonic rhythm: 1/2 chords per bar
      • Dominant 9th chord: bar 15
    • Metre
      • 4/4 - feels more duple
      • Fast tempo
    • Rhythm
      • Syncopation: derives from Latin American, Samba and Caribbean Calypso
      • Claves rhythm: Latin American, in lower drums and melodic rhythm: 2 dotted crotchets and crotchet
      • Habanera rhythm: repeated bass rhythm (Cuban music)
    • Texture
      • Melody dominated homophony
      • 4/5 part textures
    • Melody
      • Yellow Bird Melody: first 4 bars, limited in pitch range (only uses B, C, C# and D)
        • Link from Yellow Bird to 2nd Idea: 3 note chromatic figure: bar 8.
          • 2nd Idea: Sequential (bars 9 & 10). Based on repeated, syncopated rhythms. Upward arpeggio figures (uplifting mood) followed by drop of 7th, 8th or 9th.
      • B Section: triadic, syncopated and arpeggios
      • A&B sections have similar endings - descent in 3rds on tenor pan and double second
    • Resources
      • Steel pans
        • Originally made from oil barrels
          • Pitch determined by size of oval shape
            • Tenor pan, double second, double tenor, four-pan cello and bass
              • Top two parts carry melody (mostly in unison, but occasionally in 3rds: bar 15, and a brief descant line: bars 27-33.
              • Double tenor: 1st half of A: syncopated ostinato-like figure, then semibreve harmonic filling for rest of piece.
              • Four-pan cello: tenor part, minims and semibreves
              • Bass pans: triadic shapes, 'habanera' rhythm
          • Mellow sound: wooden sticks with rubber heads
        • Chromatic Instruments: 16 notes
        • Tremolo effect for sustained notes
      • Drum Kit - maintains beat and features use of hi-hat, cymbals lower tom-toms and bass drum.
    • Structure
      • AABAvAvB
      • Section A: 16 bars long
        • Features 2 ideas
          • 1) Yellow Bird Motive: 4 bars long, repeated
            • Defines structure
          • 2) based on repeated, syncopated, upwards arepggio-like figures
      • Section B: 9 bars long, with three 2-bar phrases and one 3 bars in length. Based on arpeggio and syncopation
      • No musical contrast
    • Background
      • Traditional calypso melody
      • Originates from Haiti in Creole dialect
      • Original title: 'Choucoune'
      • Written in 1893. Original subject matter: woman from the island.
      • English version popularised in 1950s by Jamaican singer Harry Belafonte (many presume it's Jamaican)
      • Steel bands developed in caribbean Islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
    • Composer
      • Appears on compilation album, The Best of Latin America, released in 2000


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