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markus heuger's



  Abstract 0382
  Valdez, Steven (2001), "Vocal harmony as a structural device in the commercial recordings of the Beatles, 1962-1970." In: Yrjö Heinonen, Markus Heuger, Sheila Whitely, Terhi Nurmesjärvi and Jouni Koskimäki (eds.), Beatlestudies 3. Proceedings of the Beatles 2000 conference. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä (Department of Music, Research Reports 23), 2001, 243-253.
  One of the most distinctive characteristics of the Beatles' sound is their vocal harmonizations. The Beatles were influenced by a variety of sources, and their style of vocal harmonizing is copied from several of these sources, notably the two-part harmony of the Everly Brothers, the full three-part and four-part harmony of vocal groups like the Coasters, and the call and response harmonies used by the Crickets. From their first single, however, the Beatles began using harmonization in original and unique ways. This article focuses on how vocal harmonization helps define the form and is used as a means of text expression in some of the original Beatles songs that were recorded and released commercially between 1962 and 1970.
  The vocal harmonies the Beatles used in cover songs generally were exact imitations of the groups they copied. In their original songs the Beatles imitated their models not only in style but also in where they placed their vocal harmonies. In many of the early songs vocal harmony is used throughout an entire song, particularly in love ballads like "If I Fell", to emphasize the hook of a song or to differentiate the bridge from the verse, such as in "I Saw Her Standing There", and sometimes to help relate the narrative, as in "P.S. I Love You". In some songs an important line may be emphasized through a solo vocal part after using harmonized vocals ("Love Me Do"). While much of their harmony is in tertian dyads and triads, many songs utilize harmonies unusual for the time — open fifths and fourths, for instance in "Love Me Do", and obliquely moving lines against a pedal note, as in "Please Please Me".
  As their career progressed, vocal harmony was used more sparingly yet very imaginatively, emphasizing important text phrases, such as "Ah, look at all the lonely people" in "Eleanor Rigby", sometimes as a countermelody, as in the chorus of "She's Leaving Home", and often to accentuate the climax of a song, as in "I'm So Tired". By the end of their career, vocal harmonies were relegated to a chorus ("Revolution"), to a short phrase ("See how they run" in the bridge of "Lady Madonna") and in many songs are completely absent ("Only A Northern Song"). The manner in which the Beatles used vocal harmony as a structural device moved rock music away from the constant and predictable harmonizations of 1950s rock 'n' roll to a musical style that often presents the song lyric in a poetic interpretation. Their use of harmony to express the meaning of the lyric was also an innovation that was greatly influential on the development of rock music.
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