Defying Gravity

  • Created by: kamna03
  • Created on: 12-12-18 19:31


Defying Gravity is a duet for two female voices, Elphaba is a mezzo soprano and Glinda is a sopranos. Wicked uses a large orchestra: woodwind section (including additional instruments such as piccolo, bass clarinet and cor anglais), brass and string sections with a harp and three keyboards. It includes a wide variety of percussion instruments: drum kit, tubular bells and timpani. Electric guitars create a modern sound and in this song they are required with overdrive, a distortion effect

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The opening shows a sparse texture with punctuating instrumental chord stabs (e.g. bar 1) with some monophonic unaccompanied bars (e.g. bar 3). In the verses there is a melody and accompaniment or melody-dominated homophony texture where the singer is accompanied by chords in the orchestra. There are homophonic chordal moments (e.g. bar 132). Ostinato accompaniment at bar 88 with repeated semiquavers. Elphaba and Glinda usually sing separately but sometimes sing together in unison (e.g. bar 101) or in harmony such as thirds (e.g. bar 127). The ending is contrapuntal with three different musical ideas with different lyrics (e.g. bar 168). 

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The text setting is syllabic throughout with rhythms moving in a speech-like manner. There is vocalisation at the end in bar 175 to the word ‘aah’. The melody starts in a conjunct/stepwise manner. Bars 6 and 7 show an ascending sequence. The verse and chorus combine conjunct and wide angular leaps in the melodic line. Leaps often feature a rising perfect fifth (e.g. bar 34). There are some exceptionally large leaps such as a compound perfect fourth (e.g. bars 39–40) and a compound perfect fifth (e.g. bars 140–141).

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There are rallentandos used particularly at the end of sections to go from Allegro to Andante. Sometimes there are ralls followed by an a tempo. There is also a rall used at the end of the piece. The time signature changes from 3/2 triple time to 2/2 duple time in the opening section and remains there until bar 88 where it changes to 4/4 quadruple time. At bar 115 it returns to 2/2 duple time. Syncopation is frequent throughout (e.g. bars 67–70). Dotted rhythms are used throughout. For example, in bar 82 on the word ‘gra-vi-ty’. Triplets are used. These are both quaver triplets (e.g. bar 96) and crotchet triplets (e.g. bar 60). Rhythms are predominantly crotchet and quaver based, although there are some notes of longer duration particularly at the ends of phrases.  Rests are often used to break up phrases. Each phrase starts with an off-beat entry after a crotchet rest (e.g. bar 15). Pause marks or fermatas are used to lengthen and give freedom to longer rhythms, for example at the end (e.g. bars 174 and 176). 

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In the opening the tonality is ambiguous with chromatic movement and unrelated chord progressions. It is in D major.  At bar 20 it is in B major for two bars before arriving in F major at bar 22. At bar 32 it arrives in the tonic key of D major for the verse. It remains in D major until bar 88 when it moves to G major. In bar 103 it returns to D major. At bar 115 it returns to the chromatic melody of the opening. At bar 132 it returns to the tonic key of D major. For the final Maestoso section, bar 168 it is in B minor until we finish on a chord of D major. 

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Chords are in root position. Chord progressions are often unrelated and in the opening we can see shifts downwards in parallel semitones. For example, a D chord to a C♯ minor chord to a C major chord. There is some use of dissonance (e.g. bar 30).  At the end there is a pedal at bar 168.

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There is a distinct verse–chorus form.
Verse: bar 34, bar 63, bar 135.
Chorus: bar 50, bar 79, bar 103, bar 151.
Within that structure this piece has multiple sections which are defined by tempo, contrasting moods and melodic material.

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Stephen Schwartz

Stephen Schwartz is an American music theatre composer and lyricist. Born in 1948 in New York, he studied piano and composition at the Julliard School of Music while still at high school, and later graduated in drama from Carnegie Mellon University. It was in 1972 that he had his first success with the musical Godspell. In the 1990s he collaborated with the composer Alan Menkin on the scores of many Disney animated films such as Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and wrote songs for Dreamwork’s first animated film, The Prince of Egypt. He returned to this collaboration with Menkin in 2007 to write the lyrics for the Disney hit film Enchanted. It was, however, in 2003 when he took on the role of both composer and lyricist for Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz, a musical based on the novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This is an alternative version of the Wizard of Oz and tells the story from the point of view of the witches, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West) and Glinda, the Good Witch. Schwartz won a Grammy Award for his work as composer, lyricist and producer of Wicked.

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