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notes on ...

Notes on "And I Love Her"


Notes on ... Series #3.0 (AILH.0)
  by Alan W. Pollack
       Key: E Major / c# minor; F Major / d minor
     Meter: 4/4
        CD: "A Hard Day's Night", Track 5 (Parlophone CDP7 46437-2)
  Recorded: 25th - 27th February 1964, Abbey Road 2
UK-release: 10th July 1964 (LP "A Hard Day's Night")
US-release: 26th July 1964 (LP "A Hard Day's Night")
  Next note The plaintive bitter-sweetness of "And I Love Her" derives in large measure from it's tonal ambiguity; is it in a Major or minor key? The song continually flip-flops back and forth between the minor key (c# minor) and it's relative Major (E Major). Another major point of interest (and source of ambiguity) in this song is that it makes a delicious modulation up one-half step at the beginning of the guitar break, but more on that later. Some quickie technical tutorial first because it will save time later.

Major/minor Relatives, and Pivot Chords

  [Technical background on]
  Next note Major and minor keys are said to be mutual relatives when they share the same key signature — e.g. C Major and a minor; F Major and d minor; etc.
  Next note Implicit in sharing the key signature is the fact that they share the same chords, although each chord has a different grammatical meaning in the harmonic order — i.e. crudely put, a different roman numeral — depending on which mode you're in. For example, in the pair of keys of C Major and a minor, the d-minor triad is common to both but it's the ii chord of C and the iv chord of A.
  Next note The ample selection of common chords in this situation makes it very easy to modulate between the two keys. Such chords are called pivot chords when they're used to effect a smooth modulation from one key to another. In terms of aural perception, one experiences such a chord initially in the old key, but within the following two chords, one retrospectively hears it as part of the new key; a kind of harmonic pun.
  [Technical background off]

Tonal Ambiguity as Seen from an Harmonic Synopsis



  Next note The intro repeats the following progression of two chords. I think one hears it as a "weak" (i.e. non-dominant) cadence toward the Major. I won't dwell on it, but starting on a non-I chord in this context is itself ambiguous. Think about it, if you stop the song after the first chord, what key would you think you were in?
       f#    -» E
   E:  ii       I

   [Figure 3.1]


  Next note So far we think we're in E Major, but the next thing that happens at the beginning of the verse ("I give her all my love ...") is that the f#-minor chord moves to the c#-minor chord in a iv -» i cadence; this is repeated three times and I think one gets the definite sensation of being grounded in the relative minor. And yet, in the last line of the verse ("You'd love her too..."), we move from the c#-minor chord to a straightforward IV -» V -» I cadence right back into E Major again. All this goes down quite smoothly because of the pivots which can be schematically shown as follows:
             Intro             Verse           Last Line
       «------ 2x -----» «------ 3x -----» «-----------------»
       f#    -» E     -» f#    -» c#    -» A     -» B     -» E
   E:  ii       I        ii                IV       V        I
                    c#:  iv       i        VI

   [Figure 3.2]


  Next note The above verse is repeated and then we arrive at the break section "A love like ours ...". Here again, we pivot (this time on c#) in a momentary flirtation with the key of g# [!], then appear to be cycling back toward E on the words "near me", only to pivot back again immediately for the next verse starting in c#:
                            Break                             Verse
    «-----------------------------------------------------» «--------»
    c#    -» B    -» c#   -» g#   -» c#   -» g#   -» B   -» f#   -» c#
E:  vi       V       vi                      iii     V      ii
                g#:  iv      i       iv      i
                                                       c#:  iv      i

   [Figure 3.3]
  Next note By the way, note how the contour of the chord progression in this break echoes in some way that of the verse; down a step, back up, down a fourth, etc. I don't believe that the composer actually sits there and conceptualizes this, but I also don't believe it's a random coincidence.

Guitar Solo

  Next note At any rate, the verse repeats again, then, instead of a repeat of the break, we get a verse-worth's of guitar solo. But not so fast — in the instant in which the guitar solo commences, the music neatly modulates up one half step; if the original key pair was E and c#, we're now in F and d; from the world of four sharps to one of one flat.
  Now, such upshifts for later verses have been a staple of the two-minute love song since the fifties but this one is unusual because the first chord in the new key is its iv chord. It's a real attention grabber because it contains no notes in common with the previous key. In this specific case, we're talking about a g-minor chord (G - B-flat - D) plunked down in a neighborhood of four sharps! A sort of triple cross relation.
  Once we get a few bars further and the new tonal plane is established it's no big deal in retrospect; you'd have to listen to the song several times in a loop to necessarily notice that you've ended up higher. Nonetheless, the moment of impact of that g-minor triad is special. If I got away with calling the "We Can Work It Out"-refrain a time warp, then this one is the harmonic equivalent.


  Next note There is one final verse following the solo in which everything is as before except that everything is a half tone higher, followed by a coda very similar to the introduction with one critical difference:
       g    -» F    -» g    -» D-Major
   F:  ii      I       ii
                   d:  iv      I#3

   [Figure 3.4]
  The song ends ironically on the Major version of the relative minor; I would half expect the sheet music to contain a smiley, an ":-)", at the end. (This gambit has been around since the Baroque period in which it was considered dissonant to end on a minor chord so all pieces in minor keys ended in those days in this manner — the fancy term is the Picardy Third, no kidding.)

So What's the Answer?

  Next note Which relative key is the song in; Major or minor? Consider the evidence:
  • The intro is in the Major.
  • The verse is in the minor for more than half its length yet always shifts to the Major at the end.
  • The break goes to a different key, comes around to the Major only to go right into another verse with its predominant minor opening.
  • There is only one break section, but there are five verses including the guitar solo.
  • In my humble opinion, the upshift modulation is irrelevant to the Major or minor question and was added in to relieve what otherwise would have been a tedium of too many verses in a row without break.
  • The coda, while ending on the root of the minor, is nonetheless a Major chord.
  • On the one hand, there are several strong IV -» V -» I cadences in the relative Major and none in the relative minor. On the other hand, I believe if you tally the total number of measures in the minor verses Major, then minor wins out.
  If you insist on my making a binary decision, I'd hesitantly give it to the minor key "on points" (like a boxing match), but it's kind of moot; the ambiguity per se is what is germane here.
  Alan (061489#3.0)
Copyright © 1989 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.