Paul McCartney's haunting 'The Fool On The Hill' is fundamentally rooted in ambiguity. He cited the notion of the idiot/savant as the inspiration for the song - you're never sure if the person is a genius or an imbecile. And that ambiguous character fueled equally ambiguous music.
As I document in this BEATLES MINUTE, the song's harmony is uncertain. Part of the song is in D major, while part of the song is in D minor.
Just as there are two ways of interpreting the character (brilliant or stupid), so too there are two ways of interpreting the harmony (major or minor).
Similarly, the song's structure is unclear: Is the section of the song featuring the title lyrics a refrain or chorus?
In the BEATLES MINUTE above, I chose chorus. This interpretation is supported by the shifts in harmony (Paul looooves reinforcing structure with harmony), and results in the following structural analysis:
But it would be equally accurate to instead chose refrain. This interpretation is supported by its brevity. At only five measures in length, it would be among the shortest choruses in The Beatles' catalog (8-,12-, and 16-measure durations being more common).
Additionally, choruses are so-called because they typically feature a "thicker texture" (Walter Everett's wording - not mine), often achieved through multiple voices - hence the term "chorus". In 'Fool', there is a slight thickening of the texture, though less than is customary, and Paul's vocals are double-tracked but it's still only Paul singing.
Such interpretation would yield the following structural analysis:
Neither is "right" or "wrong" - they're simply two different but equally valid interpretations. Just as there are two ways of interpreting the character and harmony, so too there are two ways of interpreting the structure.
I make my Clinton, MA debut tomorrow.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Bigelow Free Public Library, 54 Walnut St, Clinton, MA
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
I saw Cha-Chi Loprete, Boston-area radio personality and Beatles enthusiast, posted a tweet advertising tomorrow's program. I hope that means he's planning to attend, and that I'll get to meet him afterwards!
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.