AS Vocal Music - Stylistic Features

For Edexcel AS Music, the ten mark question on stylistic features. 10+ points for: 'Sing We at Pleasure,' 'Honey Don't,' 'My Mother Bids me Bind my Hair,' 'Symphony of Psalms' and 'A Day in the Life.'

Remember, these are only bullet points and you must write in full, explanatory sentences in the exam for top marks.

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  • Created by: Megan
  • Created on: 06-05-12 14:34

Carl Perkins - 'Honey Don't'

Style = Rockabilly. An early form of rock & roll that is a fusion of black American R&B music and white American country music.

- Pick-up rhythms in the acoustic guitar in the verses
- Stop time chords
- Backbeat emphasis
- Fast 4/4 tempo throughout

Melody and Word Setting
- Limited amount of notes in the melody
- Hoarse, declamatory R&B-style of singing
- **** vocables
- Use of blue notes
- Mainly syllabic word setting
- Disjunct melody

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Carl Perkins - 'Honey Don't'

Harmony and Tonality
- 12-bar blues based harmony
- Walking bass
- Primary chords used
- Country flattened third chord of C major
- No modulations; E major tonality throughout 

- Verse-Chorus form
- Short introduction section
- 2 instrumentals with guitar solos

- Melody dominated homophony
- Parallel 4ths in electric guitar
- Heterophony between lead guitar and double bass

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Carl Perkins - 'Honey Don't'

- Country double bass used
- Electric guitar uses plectrum
- Slap bass technique
- Double bass is amplified
- Echo effect on the electric guitar
- Use of two guitars 

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Stravinsky - 'Symphony of Psalms'

Style = neo-classical. A new, modern interpretation of the Classical music era. Influences include: Baroque, Classical, Medieval, Russian Orthodox Church and Jazz music.

Rhythm and Metre
- Hocket chants
- Syncopation
-  Frequent changes in metre

Melody and Word Setting
- Monotone melodies
- Repeated notes
- Repeated words
- Angular melodies
- Alto line has narrow range
- Generally syllabic
- Avoids obvious opportunities for word painting

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Stravinsky - 'Symphony of Psalms'

Harmony and Tonality
- False relations create dissonance
- Static harmonies
- Non-functional
- Bitonality in the opening
- Unrelated keys
- Some tonal characteristics

- Voices often in homophony
- Imitation at bar 150 is reminiscent of Handel
- Lacks top lines
- Some counterpoint

- Non-lithurgical
- Words from Psalms
- No violin, viola or clarinet 

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Weelkes - 'Sing We at Pleasure'

Style = Renaissance ballett madrigal. For domestic use of SSATB solo singers.

Rhythm and Metre
- Lively, dance-like dotted rhythms
- Hemiola approaching a cadence
- 3/4 simple triple time
- Fast quaver runs in the bass and tenor lines

Melody and Word Setting
Clichéd Elizabethan text about love shepherds and dance
- Word painting used to show happiness
- Alto has little melodic interest
- Textless 'fa-la-la' melodies

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Weelkes - 'Sing We at Pleasure'

Harmony and Tonality
-  Modal and diatonic influences
- Consonant chords
- Functional progressions
- No key signature but clearly G major
- Related key modulations (C and D major)
- Chords are either in root position or first inversion
- Unprepared tritones between the outer parts
- Suspensions in the alto line

- Highly contrapuntal nature
- Often voices sing in homophony
- Counterpoint used
- Imitation used

- Binary form
- Fa-la-la refrains 

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Beatles - 'A Day in the Life'

Style = popular 1960s progressive rock song. From a concept album about loneliness; experimental features.

Rhythm and Metre
- Some conventional rock rhythms in the drums
- Freedom in the fills
- Some syncopation
- Use of triplets and sextuplets in the drum part
- Semiquaver figure in the vocal line

Melody and Word Setting
- Diatonic and major vocal line
- Pentatonic feel in B section vocals
- Generally syllabic
- Melisma semiquaver figure
- Range of a 10th
- Repeated melodic ideas
- Sequence used
- 'Push and pull' vocal line

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Beatles - 'A Day in the Life'

Harmony and Tonality
- Strong mixolydian mode implications
- Circle of 5ths progression
- Stepwise descending bass line
- B section alternates between tonic and dominant
- Bass avoids walking bass pattern

- Mainly melody dominated homophony
- Heterophony between bass and piano left hand
- Orchestral sections create textural variety

- Ternary
- Aleatoric orchestral links = experimental
- Lennon's material is strophic
- Asymmetrical verse lengths
- Contrast between A and B sections 

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Beatles - 'A Day in the Life'

- Alarm clock sample
- 40-piece orchestra
- Piano and acoustic guitar play simple, chordal parts
- Concerto like chord in piano on the words "Albert hall"
- 'Live' feel with audience samples added
- Lennon's sections are bleak and sardonic, in contrast to McCartney's up-beat section. 

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Haydn - 'My Mother Bids me Bind my Hair'

Style = Classical era of music. 'Canzonet' (little song) words taken from poem by Anne Hunter. Intended for domestic use by the amateur market.

Harmony and Tonality
- Bright A major tonality
- Modulation to the dominant (E)
- Diatonic harmonies
- Cadential 6, 4 ends the piano introduction
- Functional harmonies
- Occasional suspensions and appoggiaturas
- Broken chord accompaniment
- First four bars of vocal line are an antecedent

Melody and Word Setting
- Generally syllabic
- Vocal range of an octave (E to E)
- Conjunct melodies
- Melodies sometimes outline the tonic triad 

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Haydn - 'My Mother Bids me Bind my Hair'

- Mainly melody dominated homophony
- Accompaniment supports and often doubles the vocal line

- Strophic
- Periodic phrasing

- Piano forte becoming increasingly popular
- Natural rhythm of the text is kept to 

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Exam Tips

- This question is out of ten so make sure you make at least ten points

- You are allowed to write in bullet points but they must still be full, explanatory sentences

- Begin with a short sentence about what style the piece is

- Use critical (musical) vocabulary

- You are being assessed on QWC (Quality of Written Communication)

- You should spend half the time on this question that you spend on the comparison question.

- I advise learning 10+ points from these cards for each piece so you can simply recite them quickly in fuller sentences; the next question may require more thinking time and less remembering lists of facts.

- I apologise if anyone is planning on answering the instrumental stylistic features but the styles for these pieces are, I find, much clearer. The pieces are also much shorter (other than Symphony of Psalms) I recommend doing the vocal pieces for the essay questions.

Good luck

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thankss... so useful! 

André Clark


Very good, thanks!

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