2/13/2007

1936: "Where Or When" by Rodgers and Hart From Th' Musical "Babes In Arms".


And thus we begin our exhumation of dog-eared and much-loved standards from the great days of The American Song.

"Where Or When" is just plain mysterious. Harmelodically it takes the usual 1930's tack, even apeing Irving Berlin with its black-key F# major pentatonicism. Lyrically we're on a different train altogether. The impressionistic lyric just barely paints a picture of a moment of profound romanticism, an encounter caught behind a gently swaying gauze of time. When one thinks of its year of creation from a historical perspective, "Where Or When" takes on a laden poignancy that is particularly apparent in the climax of the refrain with its classical contrary motion and gentle Romantic dominant resolution ("...and laughed before, and loved before...").

I think this is a song that should be almost whispered and brought to a forte only on that exact Eb7/G resolve. The narrative is so fantastically intimate and the melody so complete that to understate it is to let it speak. I think one or two lines should be chosen and almost spoken in a sprechtgesang style that recalls the whole Brecht/Weill thing and rubs the European Classicism in just a little.

I think the instrumental thing in the middle should be short and sweet and of near-Baroque precision and cleverness. It should be in Stride style which on the Rhodes piano will translate into a music box vibe.

Also, the last time it hits the "...when..." after the refrain it clearly needs to modulate to a G major on a major 9nth chord and then fall a half-step to the tonic for the finale. Wow, would that kick ass.

This is not to say that I've done a particularly thought-out rendition here. I'm thinking of this stuff as I listen to the first run-through. I'm kind of sorting out the melody and the phrasing and chording minimally (not that that's a bad thing). Some of the rises snuck up on me and it's late so I pulled punches on the high notes rather than wake up the neighborhood. I like the key, though. I wouldn't touch the key. I'd like to have a lot of songs in the set that have this sort of lean-in-to-hear-it quality. It's great when my voice is shot like it is now. Fuck it- my voice is always shot. Shrieking for shekels all the time when I ought to be crooning.

"Where Or When"- a fantastic song from th' mid-30's by Rodgers and Hart.

Next up: some Edith Piaf and my own '30's musical number "For One Another". I'd also like to get my song "Paul McCartney" back under my fingertips but this will be a nightmare since the piano on the original recording was transposed from C to G. Oh, well. If I can't do "Paul McCartney" there's no point to the whole damned enterprise.

4 Comments:

Blogger mdhatter said...

If I can't do "Paul McCartney" there's no point to the whole damned enterprise.

overheard on the Magical Mystery Tourbus?

4:09 AM  
Blogger beyond passionate said...

Beautiful song, beautifully done. These days we sometimes forget how to be vunerable.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Larry Jones said...

This is one of my favorite songs, and you do it proud. The whiskey voice suits it, and you. I could even stand it to be scratchier and smokier. (Play enough piano bars and it will be.)

6:47 PM  
Blogger bobby lightfoot said...

Yeahhh...you see, man? See how it's the _song_ that wants to be in focus?

Beyond P- thanks, man. Only time I forget to be vulnerable is when I forget to be sober. That's why I'm so fucked up eight ways from Friday.

Mr., Mr. Jones-- welcome and extra thanks. Geez, this is my choirboy voice. My usual thing is this Delbert McClinton-by-way-of-Sam 'n' Dave thing that I came upon by cleverly developing large and imposing vocal polyps.

9:29 PM  

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