Notes on "Because" (B4)
KEY c# minor
------------ 2X -------
FORM Intro -> Mini bridge -> Verse ->
Full bridge -> Verse ->
Mini bridge -> Outro (w/complete ending)
GENERAL POINTS OF INTEREST
Style and Form
- This song is represents a daring concept on a number of levels: style, form, harmony, and singing.
- Stylistically it defies neat pigeon-holing in terms of genre. The finger picked arpeggios might suggest folk music, and the embellished A Major chords bluesy jazz, but it's difficult to see how any other the other elements in the music and arrangement support either.
- Formally you can make out the basic contours of a relatively standard Verse - Verse - Bridge - Verse outline, but the recurring use of what I've labelled a "mini bridge" and the handling of the outro serve to blur your sense of formal articulation.
- Harmonically the song has an overall insecure sense of home key because that infernal mini bridge continually leads the music to the threshold of D Major, in spite of the repeated establishment of c# minor as the home key throughout the song by standard I - ii - V - I means.
- The thrice overdubbed three-part vocal arrangement creates a mood of wide-eyed and unblinkingly rapt contemplation that is sustained wall to wall with almost unaturally calm intensity. Technique-wise it may pay hommage to the earlier Beatles efforts of "This Boy" and "Yes It Is," but there is a transcendent element here that reminds me more so of a piece such as Bach's "Air" from the 3rd Orchestral Suite; the movement well known as the one for the (you should pardon the expression) "G string."
Melody and Harmony
- The tight interweaving of the three-part vocal harmony makes it difficult to speak of a definitive "tune" here. What sticks out are the triadic leaps made as if in sympathy for the arpgeggios in the accompaniment, and the alternately twisty or oscillating melissmas that turn up in the inner voices or the top voice toward the phrase endings.
- Standard chords used here include i, ii (half diminished as it usually is in a minor ket), IV (in Major form as occurs in the so-called melodic minor mode), V, and VI.
- Unusual chords used here are the "Neopolitan" flat-II chord (D Major in context of a c# minor home key), and the diminished 7th chord built on d which, according the poetic license of chromatic harmony, can enharmonically morph on you to resolve to as many as eight different places; in this song John exploits at least two of those alternatives.
- The 3 + 3 + 2 grouping of the arpeggios figuration resonates nicely with the similar examples of the like in the previous track, HCTS.
- The intro is layered in a manner that amounts for the Beatles to something of a mannerism. The first four measures are for electric harpsichord alone. The next four measures add a guitar doubling the harpsichord part, plucked near the bridge to sound as percussive as a keyboard might. Vocals and bass enter with the first mini bridge. The synthesizer, in the style of a brass ensemble, enters dramatically in the middle of the full bridge.
- By the way, what indeed was Ringo doing while this track was being recorded?
- The intro is eight measures long, breaks into two phrases of equal length, and has an unusual harmonic shape, opening out to the VI chord:
|c# |- |d# half dim.7 |G# |
c# i ii7 V
|A |c# |A 9/7 |- 13 |
VI i VI (a.k.a. V-of-flat-II)
- The mini bridge is only two measures long. It harmonically starts off sounding like a pseudo modulation (think of the A Major chord that ends the verse pivoting as a V of D), but chromatically slinks right back to the original home key by way of an unusually handled diminished 7th chord:
S A G# -
A F# F nat. E
T D B
B D D C#
|D |g# dim.4/3 c#
flat-II ?? i
- Did I say "slinks"? From a trace of the voice leading it appears as if the D chord rather "melts" downward to the c# chord. This downward root movement of a semi-tone makes an effective mirror image with the upward movement from G# to A found in the verses.
- The voice leading, by the way, implies that this diminished chord is "rooted" on G#, and with the D in the bass, putting the chord in its second, or "4/3," inversion. Please don't try to rationalize a Roman numeral for this chord
- The vocals are always wordless in this section.
- This section follows the intro exactly.
- The full bridge is six measures long and is built as a clever extension of the mini bridge with an harmonic shape that opens up wide on V:
S A G# F#
A F# E# C#
T D B A#
B D D F#
|D |e# dim.6/5 |F# |- |
flat-II vii-of-IV IV
|G#7 |- |
- The diminished chord in the second measure "sounds" just like the one in the mini bridge, but rules of voice leading suggest it is rooted this time on E#(!), and with the D in the bassline, that places the chord in the first, or 6/5, inversion. The extent to which both diminished 7th chords are enharmonically identical demonstrates the unique harmonic power (as well as "danger") created by the ambiguity of this kind of chromatic harmony.
- The wordless pattern followed by the mini bridge is dramatically broken in the second measure of this section.
- The outro on paper looks like a verse section with a final mini bridge tacked on to it.
- However, the decision to utilize wordless vocals for the entirety of this outro, aside from being a deft unifying gesture for the track taken as a whole, allows the mini bridge *preceding* the outro to bind with the outro into an interesting ABA substructure. It's internally symmetrical, though it upsets your expectation reinforced so many times previously in the song of the mini bridge as being more separate from the verse section.
- The diminished seventh chord, in its appearance at the end of the earlier mini bridge the sections, provides a novel kind of harmonically "open" ending to a musical paragraph. Left hanging as it is at the very end of this track works on several levels:
- The extent to which this chord has always melted back into c# minor makes the verse + mini bridge combo into a musical moebius strip. What better way to suggest the potential for this loop to continue infinitely than to break it right here? Compare with the ending of IWYSSH.
- The diminished chord left hanging unresolved suggests a kind of expectantly bedazzled, trance-like state of mind, the rather mystical eventuality of so much sustained contemplation.
- And when poetry won't pull you through you can hear just how smoothly this same chord enharmonically resolves (yet again with different voice leading) to the A Minor7 which opens the next track.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
- Lewisohn (RS, page 184) is where I first learned that "Because" was supposedly inspired by John's hearing Yoko play the first movement of Beethoven's piano sonata, op.27 no. 2, the "Moonlight:"
"John, in clearly inspirational mood, reversed the chords, added some simple but eloquent lyrics and the song was written. Simple as that."
- The choice of home key and the triplet-like arpeggiation in both pieces are gonnections easily made between the two pieces. In terms of mood, Beethoven's tempo marking is "Adagio Sostenuto."
- The harmonic parallels between them is much more subtle than the simple reversing of chords described by ML, but they are there to be found if you look close enough. With the exception of the much discussed diminished seventh chord you'll find that every other chord used in this song can be found in Beethoven's 1st movement, including both VI and flat-II played in sequence as early as the 3rd measure.
"We've broken out, oh, the blessed freedom of it all!" 121299#184
Copyright (c) 1999 by Alan W. Pollack
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