The Popular Album as Song Cycle: Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years
The analysis of popular music in the academic community is no longer the clandestine enterprise of a few heretical musicologists and theorists. Over the last ten years, popular music criticism has become an academically viable and even trendy affair embodying a broad range of subjects and methodologies. One subject which has received little attention, however, is the presence of large-scale structural principles spanning a whole album or CD. With a few exceptions (including Robert Gauldin's exemplary analysis of Side Two of the Beatles' "Abbey Road"), current writing on popular music has mainly focused on either general style, socio-cultural issues, or the analysis of individual songs.1
Possible reasons for this neglect of musical patterns governing the whole are not difficult to discern. First, the interaction of socio-cultural, musical and philosophical issues in popular music—which, as Philip Tagg has shown, is staggeringly complex for even fifty seconds of the theme from TV's Kojak—apparently multiplies geometrically where a whole album is concerned.2 Second, the issue of intention comes into play. How much control does the artist actually have over his work? What is the role of the producer regarding song order, instrumentation, and so forth?3 Third, assertions of cyclic principles are both controversial and difficult to prove, as for example a survey of interpretations of Schumann's Dichterliebe would demonstrate.4
At first it may seem as if Paul Simon's 1975 album, "Still Crazy After All These Years," is itself a crazy choice of work for which to assert long-range structural patterns.5 Unlike a manifestly cyclic work like "Abbey Road," the songs on "Still Crazy" are discrete wholes and do not segue into one another; there are no obvious thematic or motivic returns; and there is no one single controlling musical idea, e.g., the C/A double tonic complex on Side Two of "Abbey Road."6 And yet one could also make similar assertions about a number of 19th-century works which are readily accepted as cycles.
Given the extensive literature on the criteria distinguishing multi-movement cycles from mere collections, I shall defer from reevaluating this issue here.7 We shall assume that certain works generally considered to be cycles—e.g., the song cycles of Schubert, Schumann and Mahler—show some sort of coherent compositional plan and correlation between narrative and music. Among the many possibilities for organizing a cycle, the following represent some common ordering strategies which also have relevance for "Still Crazy After All These Years":
the cross reference of a motive, harmonic progression, or harmonic/contrapuntal complex;
the use of cross reference and/or pattern completion at strategic points to define formal boundaries, often coinciding with other parametric changes or narrative events;
a logical key succession, especially when corresponding with the narrative and/or with the internal tonal progression of individual movements;
the association of key and character, or, of musical character with the ongoing progress of the work;
the use of mode for expressive (and often ironic) effect
cyclic closure by means of pattern completion, summary statement, or other means.
In Simon's album, the most important of the above strategies are pattern completion and association, since they subsume most of the other properties.8 Because they entail so broad a range of possibilities, the following general conditions will guide the analysis. First, we may distinguish between a replicated pattern vs. an emergent pattern to be completed. In simplest terms, for the former a pattern is stated, typically at the opening of a work in prominent fashion, and later is replicated, possibly transformed and expanded; hence the subsequent completion of the pattern may be weighed against its original statement. In the latter, there is no initial statement; rather, both the pattern and its completion are inferred contextually from the music. While an emergent pattern is of course open to individual interpretation, the perception of even a typical formal scheme like an arch form depends upon our ability to process such patterns.
Second, cyclic patterns are contextually defined by the individual work rather than imposed from without. This point, obvious though it is, has important analytical ramifications, especially for the imputation of Schenkerian or quasi-Schenkerian structures to the key succession of a multi-movement cycle. Despite the occasional instances in which a key succession approximates a Schenkerian middleground structure,9 to thereby insist on this as a model for cycles grossly overstates the case for structural unity. Where a reductive analysis comes into play is in revealing relatively foreground patterns—particularly if harmonic in nature—which undergo subsequent replication and transformation. Further, by revoking the notion of Schenkerian deep structures for intermovement relationships, we remove the condition of necessarily having all movements subscribe to a single pattern, provided there is some operative principle that explains which movements participate in the pattern and which are excluded.
If pattern completion is a logical-syntactical principle for cycles, then association—here defined as the consistent grouping of musical (along with narrative) features—is more an expressive principle. While the possibilities are virtually limitless, in the nineteenth century the predominating associations link tonality with character (or image, or idea); this is most clearly operative in opera, but is also crucial to Schubert's song cycles as well.10 By contrast, in "Still Crazy After All These Years" association connects tonal idiom and musical genre with the narrative, which, as we shall see, conveys aspects of narrative meaning in deep and at times ironic ways.
By way of background, "Still Crazy After All These Years," Simon's third solo album, was both a critical and commercial success, garnering the Grammy award for Best Album and producing the hit single "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Following the breakup with Art Garfunkel in 1970, Simon's music begins to move away from the clean-cut button-down folk style and incorporates genres such as reggae, various sorts of blues and jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel.11 At the same time his lyrics take on a much harder and more personal edge, largely leaving behind the adolescent goopiness of Simon and Garfunkel.12 Both musical and lyrical tendencies reach a kind of culmination in "Still Crazy." For one thing, the two years devoted to composing the album coincided with Simon's music theory study with Chuck Israels and David Sorin Collyer (both acknowledged on the album), which in part accounts for the increased jazz influence and harmonic sophistication (and perhaps for the central role of the piano in place of the guitar as well).13 The album also coincided with the breakup of Simon's first marriage. While a few of the songs are directly autobiographical, more importantly the marital breakup provides a kind of psychological backdrop for the album and contributes to a sense of unified narrative. Finally, it is worth noting that the album coincided with the filming of the Hal Ashby movie "Shampoo" starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie. Originally two songs were intended for the soundtrack ("Have A Good Time" and "Silent Eyes");14 in the end, however, only one was used, representing a kind of sketch for "Silent Eyes" which, as we shall see, has interesting ramifications for large-scale closure on the album.
In the following analysis, first I shall demonstrate that the lyrics constitute a unified text narrative. I shall then focus on two musical principles—association and pattern completion—that, together with the narrative, contribute to large-scale musical coherence and closure. In conclusion, I shall suggest that "Still Crazy After All These Years" and selected earlier cycles of Schumann and Mahler bear striking similarities with respect to modal strategy and the use of tonal pattern completion.
The title song opens the album and introduces important narrative and musical ideas for the work as a whole (Example 1a and b). Narratively, the song sets out the themes of the protagonist's stasis and his inability to love (Verse 2: I'm not the kind of man / who tends to socialize / I seem to lean on / Old familiar ways / And I ain't no fool for love songs / That whisper in my ears / Still crazy after all these years).15 Moreover, by invoking the past, present and future in verses 1, 2 and 4, respectively, the song provides a sort of temporal microcosm for the album.
Example 1a: "Still Crazy After All These Years" ©1974 Paul Simon. Reprinted by permission.
Tonally, the song hinges on the conflict between the keys of G major and A major, and the progression of descending fifths, E-A-D-G. Like many songs on the album, "Still Crazy After All These Years" is based on 32-bar song form, A A B A. The example sketches the basic tonal progression in the form of a bass line sketch.16 Briefly, the 8-bar introduction leads through a somewhat disguised fifths motion from E to G, followed by a fairly conventional progression in G of verses 1 and 2. The bridge then begins by augmenting the introduction before modulating to major, and then continues with a stepwise ascent to A, first supporting Am7, then A major coinciding with the saxophone solo. Following a short transition, once more by fifths progression back to G, the final section brings the emphasis on A to a logical conclusion by modulating to and closing in A major; this underscores the song's punchline that "I would not be convicted by a jury of my peers" even if the protagonist resorts to violence. In sum, the modulation up a whole step, while perceived at one level as a standard "crowbar modulation" common to countless popular songs,17 here issues directly from the two fundamental premises of the song: the statement of G major and A major as competing tonal centers, and the dual tendency of E to progress by descending fifth to A, or by chain of fifths to G.
Before leaving the song, we should note Simon's setting of the refrain "Still crazy after all these years" to different cadential progressions each time it occurs, none but the last resolving the dominant to the expected tonic triad. These musical deceptions reflect the progressive change in meaning of the refrain, specifically the multiple meanings of "still crazy." From the cyclic perspective, the cadence closing the first verse is especially noteworthy. Here, "still crazy" connotes positive feelings, coming after carousing with his old lover.18 These remembered good times are belied, however, by the motion to C minor interrupting the proper cadence on tonic. (In Example 1, see the parenthetical bass C-D in the sketch for verse 1; the dotted line marks the change in the cadence for verse 2.) The resultant disjunction between narrative statement and embodied meaning of the musical progression is not only a conventional means of conveying irony in text settings in general; here the specific intrusion of C minor foreshadows the end of the album, which, as we shall see, similarly depends on the modal shift from major to minor and an embodied musical meaning deliberately at odds with the text.
Example 2 provides a synopsis of the narrative and tonal progress of the album. The narrative divides into 5 + 5 songs corresponding to Sides 1 and 2 of the record. Note the distinction between narrative songs—i.e., songs that advance the sequence of events understood as a "story"—and non-narrative songs, marked in the example with an asterisk.19 There are three non-narrative songs which may be categorized as fable ("Night Game"), meditation on the protagonist's psychological state ("Some Folks' Lives"), and epilogue ("Silent Eyes"). Significantly, Side 1 closes with a fable, Side 2 with an epilogue, thereby engendering a sense of formal symmetry.20 This symmetry is further supported by the change in narrative point of view: that is, the remaining eight songs are first-person accounts, while these two ending songs are uniquely in third person (with the exception of one line in "Silent Eyes" to be taken up later).
Plotwise, Part I of the narrative introduces the protagonist in the opening song and in flashback describes his childhood, his marriage and its breakup. Part II begins with a post-marital affair, in which the protagonist seeks a kind of personal rebirth, and then depicts his egoism and finally the breakup of the affair. In short, the passage of Part I to II progresses from protagonist as passive victim to protagonist as attempting to take charge of his life.
Musically, the cyclic tendencies of the album grow out of the general correspondence between narrative division, musical association and pattern completion. Continuing in the vein of the opening song, Part I of the album is associated with the jazz-influenced ballad, slow to medium in tempo, and harmonically complex. And of course this increased harmonic sophistication is a hallmark of Simon's style, for which he is deservedly famous. But the chromaticism of Part I is balanced by the relative simplicity of Part II, which is bound up with the genres Simon freely adapts: gospel, blues and a hint of funk. Hence the association of Part I of the narrative with the complex ballad and Part II with the simpler genres helps convey the two sides of the protagonist's personality: the sensitive soul trying to rationally understand his dilemma, and the man of action who wishes to stop thinking so much and just live his life.21
The narrative division is further articulated by two tonal pattern completions which are generally congruent with the grouping by association. The first pattern spans the first three songs and comprises a descending fifths motion from and back to G, with a strong emphasis on E-A-D-G, first heard in the introduction to the title song; in "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover," the truncation of this motion to E-G serves as a sort of harmonic summary gesture. The second pattern consists of a stepwise motion away from and back to C spanning Side 2. Under this interpretation, "Night Game" closing Side 1 and "Some Folks' Lives" on Side 2 represent interruptions to the broad narrative and musical progression.22
Example 3 shows in greater detail how the principal tonal progressions of the opening song—the motion by descending fifths from E to G, and the modulation from G to A major—provide a structural frame for Part I of the album. The fifths sequence E-A-D-G establishes a harmonic pattern which is taken up by the following two songs, while the whole-step modulation G-A opens the possibility of a return to G as a tonal pattern completion. The succeeding two songs both begin on E: "My Little Town" leads from E through A to close on D, while "I Do It For Your Love" begins on E dominant 7 and proceeds by fifth to close on (and in) G, completing the fifths pattern and thereby providing large-scale resolution for Part I.
Given the prevalence of fifths progressions in popular music including Simon's, questions could be raised regarding a descending fifths pattern completion as a structural determinant. If, however, there exists a correlation between the narrative and musical progression, as I believe to be the case here, then the pattern completion serves a larger function and is more than mere coincidence.
The third song, "I Do It For Your Love," provides the critical link in the pattern by achieving closure in G (Example 4a and b).
Example 4a: "I Do It For Your Love" ©1975 Paul Simon. Reprinted by permission.
The song, the most directly autobiographical of the album, describes the arc of the protagonist's marriage from wedding day in verse 1 to the concluding breakup.23 Tonally, the song restates the previous untransposed fifths pattern, the 8-bar introduction (and verse 1) comprising nested fifths progressions from E7 through A7 to D7. Naturally D7 implies closure on G, and thus pattern completion by resolution to G is established as the fundamental tonal premise of the song. However, actual resolution to G is averted until the last chord of the song. As the durational reduction of the bass line shows, each 8-bar unit avoids resolution to G by the elision from D7 to E7 (end verse 1), or by the motion to minor (end verse 2 and break). (Note the corresponding change in function of the diminished seventh chord from incomplete neighbor to A, to initiation of the fifths progression to ; the latter returns at the end of the instrumental break as well, cutting off what otherwise would be a strict 2:1 augmentation of the introduction.) Given the correlation between fond memories of the marriage and the deliberate avoidance of the tonic triad, the song takes on a strongly ironical cast with the closing tonal resolution to G (which, with the repetition of the refrain "I Do It For Your Love," "restores" the two measures deleted from the break). Moreover, in the last verse, the narrative voice shifts from first to third person. This suggests that, while the marital breakup is too painful a prospect to be addressed directly, its inevitability is musically symbolized by the resolution to G major.
To summarize, the tonic resolution at the end of "I Do It For Your Love" signals the first major musical division by means of completing the E-A-D-G pattern initiated by the opening song. With the demise of the marriage the protagonist finishes reflecting on his past and now considers his present situation, initiating the next section of the cycle.
The next song, the hit single "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," was actually the last song to be composed for the album.24 However, its strategic placement on Side 1 following "I Do It For Your Love" provides both a musical and narrative bridge between the first and second halves of the album.25 Lyrically, the song is dialogue-like: in the verses the protagonist broods over how to leave his lover ("The problem is all inside your head / She said to me . . . "); while in the chorus his confidante tells him to just leave and forget about it ("Just slip out the back, Jack . . . "). The musical setting matches the narrative dialogue: the verses feature a chaconne-like descending tetrachord in E minor and flowing melodic line, underpinned by the famous snare-drum ostinato; the chorus by contrast shifts to G major and cut time, substituting for the legato melody and snare-drum part a driving rock groove underpinned by the simple three-chord progression I--IV-I.26 Significantly, this chorus marks the first time that the album breaks out of its slow-medium ballad feel and gets funky. In the broader context of the album, the association of the narrative message of freedom with simple three-chord rock and an up-tempo groove provides the basic musical model for Part II of the album.
We should also note one ironic narrative twist: in the last verse, the confidante apparently becomes his new lover, at least for the time being: "She said why don't we both / Just sleep on it tonight / And I believe in the morning / You'll begin to see the light / And then she kissed me / And I realized she probably was right / There must be fifty ways / To leave your lover . . . "27 In short, the song sets up the conflict for the protagonist between the urge to freedom and at the same time the inescapable desire to be involved in a relationship; this conflict in turn becomes the predominating theme for Side 2.
Musically, the harmonic simplicity and driving beat of the chorus of "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" is taken up by the subsequent narrative songs—i.e., "Gone At Last," "Have A Good Time," and "You're Kind" (Example 5).
Like "50 Ways," each song is relatively up-tempo, and each is based on a simple three-chord I-IV-V progression related to its genre: gospel for "Gone At Last," 8-bar blues for the other two songs. Together they flesh out the narrative conflict introduced in "50 Ways," leading respectively from the start of an affair, to egoistic desire by the protagonist, and finally to the breakup of the affair. (Interestingly, the start of the new affair opening Part II is made explicit, in that the implied dialogue between protagonist and confidante / lover in "50 Ways" becomes an actual duet in "Gone At Last," sung by Simon and Phoebe Snow.) Hence these four songs are interrelated by musical idiom and narrative progression.28 And it is precisely these songs that define the second of the key patterns to be completed, beginning on C (the next fifth in the preceding sequence from G), down by step through and A to at the beginning of "Silent Eyes."
Following the conclusion of the narrative proper in "You're Kind," the final epilogue-like song, "Silent Eyes," offers visions of sorrow, hopes of redemption, and the ominous prospect of Judgment Day (Example 6). The song provides large-scale closure by means of pattern completion; that this appears to be Simon's intention will be corroborated by comparing the first and second versions of the song at the conclusion of the analysis. Moreover, "Silent Eyes" is the only song that truly combines harmonically complex and simple idioms, thereby placing it on both sides of the musical and narrative divide.
Formally, the song is an expanded 32-bar song form, modified by the gospel chorus following section B1, the transposed and transformed return of the B material, and the return of the gospel chorus immediately following. The predominance of the piano, its gospel fervor and the gospel chorus recall "Gone At Last" opening Side 2 and naturally convey the Biblical overtones of the text (see below). Tonally, the song is by far the most complex on the album, beginning in minor and ascending by step to C minor. In sections A1 and A2 corresponding to verses 1 and 2, closure on the Neapolitan may suggest Jerusalem's sorrow. (The lyrics read: "Silent Eyes / Watching / Jerusalem / Make her bed of stones // Silent Eyes / No one will comfort her / Jerusalem / Weeps alone.")29 The bridge then modulates to D major, its climax corresponding with the rather unfortunate rhyme "She burns like a flame / And she calls my name." At this point the gospel chorus enters, substituting a warm comforting blanket of sound and simple plagal progression closing in A major for the convoluted music that preceded it. In the larger context of the narrative—that is, given the ongoing failure of the protagonist's marriage and post-marital relationships—the fact that Jerusalem calls him, coupled with the entrance of the chorus with its Amen cadence, signifies the possibility of hope and even redemption, represented tonally by the stabilization of the Neapolitan. However, hope once more gives way to sorrow with the turn to the parallel A minor at the start of the next verse, a semitone higher than the opening. Section A3 then proceeds as before until the words "Halfway to Jerusalem," where the progression leads to 9, initiating the motion away from A major.
The climactic section B2 is meant to sound like the conclusion of the album and in effect represents a first ending. Although disguised at first, the music transposes the opening progression of B1 up a semitone.30 Compare, however, the harmony at the arrows in the corresponding sections: in B1, the C-major chord represents leading to V and supports the melodic highpoint G5 ("She burns like a flame"); in B2, however, the harmony is not a triad but rather 7, which leads directly to V7 and hence functions like a German augmented sixth ("To stand before the eyes of God / And speak what was done"). As a result, section B2, which began a semitone higher than B1, ends a minor 3rd higher in F minor, and the section concludes with rumbling piano tremolandos signifying the wrath of God.
This not only marks the de facto first ending: it was the actual ending of the first version of the song (albeit in a radically different arrangement) as it appeared in the movie "Shampoo" with soundtrack, such as it was, by Paul Simon. Actually, Simon's soundtrack consists entirely of isolated phrases of the chord progression for "Silent Eyes," with only a nylon-string guitar accompanying Simon's humming the melody.31 In revising the song for the album, the most obvious changes include the addition of the lyrics and the substitution of piano for guitar. With respect to the song's structure—as well as that of the album as cycle—Simon's most important revision is the recall of the gospel chorus, this time a minor 3rd higher in F major. Modally, the move from F minor to major changes the direction of the previous parallel mode changes in the song, which, as shown in the example, move from A major to minor and major (as part of 9) to minor. Once more the chorus holds open the possibility of redemption, precisely by closing in the major mode. And, like the first chorus, the progression modulates down a fourth from F to C major. But, with the final turn of the chorus to C minor, the album ends on a note of resignation to a lonely and depressive fate.
Example 7 summarizes the key succession of Side 2 and the tonal progression of "Silent Eyes."
To review, the narrative songs nos. 6, 8 and 9 comprise a stepwise descent from C major through and A major and on to minor at the beginning of "Silent Eyes." Then "Silent Eyes" proceeds to reverse the progression, this time stating each of the tonicized areas first in major, then in the parallel minor. Significantly, the closure on F minor in the first version is subordinated to C minor by the addition of the transposed return of the chorus, thereby completing the second tonal pattern. As a result, the modal shift from C major to minor occurs both at the level of the song and also that of Side 2 as a whole—spanning the beginning, end and aftermath of the affair. In short, the words of Simon's protagonist in the opening song, "I ain't no fool for love songs / That whisper in my ears," turn out to be too true, and the "slip out the back, Jack" of "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" becomes a slip into a spiritual abyss.
Earlier I suggested possible analogies between "Still Crazy After All These Years" and earlier art songs and cycles. This strategy of noting similarities between contemporary popular music and earlier Western art music is nothing new to popular music criticism. Many writers have noted similarities involving melodic motives, rhythmic figures, harmonic progressions, or even double tonic complexes, all of which are important in their signifying capacity to corroborate expressive phenomena at once perceptible yet difficult to articulate.32 And although I have not called attention to them, these specific analogies to earlier compositions are present in individual songs on "Still Crazy" as well. Unlike individual songs, however, cycles are a more elusive thing to draw as likenesses, since here we are speaking more of general patterns and strategies than of specific progressions. And yet it is precisely the use of such strategies that links "Still Crazy" to earlier cyclic compositions. Two examples, one from Schumann's Dichterliebe, the other from Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, will demonstrate similar means of large-scale closure.
The fourth song from Dichterliebe, "Wenn ich in deine Augen seh," beautifully exemplifies Heine's scathing irony and Schumann's subtle but effective musical realization.33 Kofi Agawu notes that the actions in the poem of the protagonist and his lover become progressively more intimate, from the look into her eyes, to the kiss on her mouth, to lying on her breast. Thus the final two lines—"but when you say: I love you! / then I must weep bitterly."—completely reverse the previous logical progression.34 What Agawu does not mention is that the inevitable resolution to tonic is reserved for the punchline; i.e., musical reality in the form of tonic coincides with the realization that unhappiness in love is the poet's lot; conversely, the avoidance of tonic (via tonicization of IV, vi and ii) coincides with the love images and symbolizes an intense but ultimately futile fantasy.35 As we have seen, Simon's "I Do It For Your Love" is strikingly similar in its musical depiction of irony, associating the concluding tonic resolution with the demise of the marriage, and, conversely, the avoidance of tonic with its remembrance.
The analogy does not end there, however. With respect to the narrative, the last two lines of "Wenn ich" provide the first unambiguous sign that love will not prevail for the poet. Tonally this coincides with the arrival of the key succession on G major, which completes the first of two successions by fifth descent spanning the first ten songs. (The second one, leading to G minor in no. 10, corresponds with the low point of the cycle, i.e., the outpouring of grief following the marriage of the poet's love to another.)36 Analogously, "I Do It For Your Love" articulates its narrative division with the first of the tonal pattern completions, once more by descending fifth. The main difference is that "Still Crazy After All These Years" involves a replicated pattern, Dichterliebe an emergent pattern. Thus in the former the pitch-specific pattern E-A-D-G spanning the first three songs is heard as an expansion of the opening progression of the first song, while in the latter the fifths motion to G is not established earlier and only gradually emerges from close analysis.37
Another strategy at once the most obvious and yet the easiest to overlook is, simply, the expressive use of major / minor modality. Since that applies to the entire history of Western music, let us focus more pointedly on a single aspect relating to song and song cycle composition: the possibility of not confirming the modality of the song until the very end. In the case of song cycles, the choice of final closure in major or minor can recast the entire meaning of the cycle, either in support of or, more interestingly, in contradiction to the specific text. Schumann's Dichterliebe and Frauenliebe und Leben immediately spring to mind, as the metaphorical and actual deaths depicted in the respective texts are mediated by the poet speaking via the postlude in the major mode.
The modal strategy at the close of Simon's work, however, is more analogous to that of "Die zwei blauen Augen" from Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Both the progressive tonal motion from E minor to the concluding F minor, and that of the cycle from D minor to F minor, are so well known that they need not be rehearsed here. Rather, in "Die zwei blauen Augen" the obvious but telling uncertainty of mode until the final chord holds in suspense our emotional response to the cycle. In the middle section, as the wayfarer comes to rest at the lime tree the music turns from C major / minor to F major. At the concluding words "War alles, alles wieder gut! Alles! Alles! Lieb' und Leid, und Welt, und Traum!" (All, all was well again, All, all—love and pain, And world and dream!), the music dissolves into what sounds like the end, concluding in F major. Thus, despite the sorrow and loss of love in this and the previous songs of the cycle, and in spite of the prevailing motion of major to parallel minor with each section change, it appears as if redemption of a sort can be won, signified simply by the major-mode conclusion. This possibility, however, is cruelly negated with the return of the opening motif transposed to F minor to conclude the song and the cycle.38 By analogy, in the concluding "Silent Eyes" on "Still Crazy After All These Years," the possibility of redemption comes with the second entrance of the gospel chorus. Simon's revision of the original version of the song carries the prospect of salvation almost to the point of realization, in spite of the lack of commitment to love in the preceding song. But, in the end, Simon's crazy protagonist embraces the same gloomy fate as Mahler's sensitive Wayfarer.
This paper has demonstrated that "Still Crazy After All These Years" represents a bonafide song cycle in its use of broad musical strategies—in particular tonal pattern completion and association—analogous to 19th-century lieder cycles. Moreover, as in any sophisticated work involving text and music, these musical strategies help communicate the meaning of the narrative, whether directly, by implication, or by ironical reflection.
The question I ask myself is: why is this analogy significant, beyond its mere presence? Surely I do not wish to imply the influence of Schubert, Schumann, Mahler et. al. on Simon's work, any more than that of Wagner's influence on the Beatles, simply because they share in the use of a double tonic complex. Rather, association and pattern completion make compositional sense as constraints in putting together an album, and these constraints may be realized as aurally perceivable patterns. Hence my interpreting the album in light of nineteenth-century possibilities for coherence in multi-movement works—including foreshadowing, association, reference and pattern completion—suggests that these practices cast a very wide net indeed across both historical and generic boundaries. In more specific terms, this interpretive choice in turn helps illuminate the structure of, say, "Silent Eyes," whose ambitious stretching of the pop song format makes sense in terms of its broad function of tying the whole album together with respect to narrative, tonality and formal balance. Regardless of whether we are addressing "high" or "low" musical culture, the understanding of a multi-movement work as a whole remains a complex and elusive thing. I hope this paper has suggested some possible approaches toward that end.
1For a representative sample of stylistic and cultural studies, see Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin, eds., On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word (New York: Pantheon Books, 1990). Analyses of individual songs, albeit within broader contexts, include Don Michael Randel, "Crossing Over with Rubén Blades," Journal of the American Musicological Society 44, no. 2 (Summer 1991): 301-323; and Barbara Bradby and Brian Torode, "'Maybellene' meaning and the listening subject," Popular Music 4 (1984): 183-206. Robert Gauldin provides one of the few detailed musical analyses of an album as a coherent cycle in "Beethoven, Tristan, and The Beatles," College Music Symposium 30, no. 1 (Spring 1990): 142-152.
2Philip Tagg, "Analysing popular music: theory, method and practice," Popular Music 2: Theory and Method (1982): 19ff.
3Of course analogous issues sometimes apply to earlier works, such as Schubert's Schwanengesang, which was ordered as a set by his publisher.
4These are too numerous to cite here. For a survey of interpretations see Nicholas Marston, "Schumann's Monument to Beethoven," Nineteenth-Century Music 14, no. 3 (Spring 1991): 247ff.
5The record number is Columbia, PC33540, © 1975; it was released on compact disk by Warner Records, 25591-2. Simon co-produced the album along with Phil Ramone and is responsible for a good part of the arranging as well.
6See Gauldin, passim.
7One of the first analyses of large-scale musical unity in cycles is Arthur Komar's groundbreaking essay, "The Music of Dichterliebe: The Whole and its Parts," in Schumann, Dichterliebe, ed. Arthur Komar (New York: Norton, 1971), 63-94. Some other relevant works include David Neumeyer, "Organic Structure and the Song Cycle: Another Look at Schumann's Dichterliebe," Music Theory Spectrum 4 (1982): 92-105; Barbara Turchin, "Schumann's Song Cycles: The Cycle within the Song," Nineteenth-Century Music 7 (Spring 1985): 231-244; Rufus Hallmark, The Genesis of Schumann's Dichterliebe: A Source Study (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1979); and the author, "Principles of Formal Structure in Schumann's Early Piano Cycles," Music Theory Spectrum 11.2 (Fall 1989): 207-225.
8Robert Gauldin, in private correspondence, was helpful in suggesting the crucial role of pattern completion in "Still Crazy After All These Years."
9See, for example, Schumann's Carnaval and the Heine, Liederkreis, Op. 24.
10The term "associative tonality" was coined by Robert Bailey in "The Structure of the Ring and its Evolution," 19th-Century Music 1, no. 1: 51. The late Christopher Lewis demonstrated convincingly the relevance of this concept to Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin and Die Winterreise in "Text, Time and Tonic: Aspects of Patterning in the Romantic Cycle," Intégrale 2 (1988): 38-74.
11Some of this tendency actually began with the last Simon and Garfunkel album, "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
12On the album, there is one duet with Garfunkel, "My Little Town," which Simon states was intended as a nasty song for the angelic sweet-voiced Garfunkel to sing, and seemingly as a corrective to their previous image as sensitive troubadours. See Timothy White, Rock Lives: Profiles and Interviews (New York: Henry Holt, 1990), 373. The song was also released on Garfunkel's 1975 solo album "Breakaway."
13Paul Simon, when asked some eight years after the release of "Still Crazy After All These Years" whether the album was his best work, responded "I felt I was defining a real identity. Musically, I was beginning to put together a kind of New York rock, jazz influenced, with a certain kind of lyrical sophistication . . . ." Playboy 31, no. 2 (February 1984): 172.
14Patrick Humphries, Paul Simon, Still Crazy After All These Years (New York: Doubleday, 1989), 79. Humphries does not mention that the odd snatches of humming and guitar strumming in the movie account for most of the material of "Silent Eyes."
15"Still Crazy After All These Years," Copyright ©1974 Paul Simon.
16This sketch, as well as those in subsequent examples, adopts Schenkerian analytical conventions, in that rhythmic values denote relative structural importance rather than duration (thus, stemless noteheads are least important, half notes most important); notes beamed together denote a significant linear/harmonic pattern, and dotted lines indicate the prolongation of a single pitch.
17The term, "crowbar modulation," refers to an abrupt modulation to a higher pitch level for greater expressive intensity, most often occuring at the end of a song.
18The lyrics read "I met my old lover / On the street last night / She seemed so glad to see me / I just smiled / And we talked about some old times / And we drank ourselves some beers / Still crazy after all these years." From "Still Crazy After All These Years," Copyright © 1974 Paul Simon.
19This distinction follows that of Gerard Genette, Figures of Literary Discourse, transl. Alan Sheridan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 133ff. "Every narrative in fact comprises two kinds of representations, which however are closely intermingled and in variable proportions: on the one hand, those of actions and events, which constitute the narration in the strict sense, and, on the other hand, those of objects or characters that are the result of what we now call description." Genette further notes that, even in narrative genres in which description may play a quantitatively larger role than the narrative proper, it is still dependent on narrative. I take a similar position in speaking of the relative structural subservience of non-narrative songs on the album.
20Interestingly, when Simon undertook a tour to support the album, "Night Game" and "Silent Eyes" were the only two songs which were not performed; this further implies that they each have a specific role on the album as an ordered entity, a context naturally at odds with the promotional function of the tour. See Chris Charlesworth, "The Art of Paul Simon," Melody Maker (November 22, 1975): 30.
21Readers familiar with the album may have observed that "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover" breaks the associative pattern of Part I in its formal and harmonic simplicity. We shall see that this song provides both a musical and narrative bridge to Part II.
22Both of these non-narrative songs concern identity: in "Night Game," the implicit identification of the protagonist with the baseball pitcher who dies before the game is over; in "Some Folks' Lives," the identification, not with some folks whose lives roll easy, but rather with most folks whose lives do not roll at all. "Night Game," although breaking the preceding tonal pattern of descending fifths, serves a larger structural role on the album with respect to texture and instrumentation together with "Silent Eyes" closing Side 2: both songs are uniquely in trio texture, the former consisting of guitar/bass/harmonica, the latter piano/bass/drums. The choice of the key of D major for "Night Game" probably has to do with its being the only song on the album dominated by Simon's folk-style guitar playing."Some Folks' Lives," an odd mixture of pop ballad (replete with lush strings), country ballad and jazz progression, not only interrupts the narrative but also looks back to Part I in its slow groove, chromatic complexity, and introspective mood.
23Verse 1 reads: We were married on a rainy day / The sky was yellow / And the grass was gray / We signed the papers / And we drove away / I do it for your love // Final verse: The sting of reason / The splash of tears / The northern and the southern / Hemispheres / Love emerges / And it disappears / I do it for your love / I do it for your love // From "I Do It For Your Love," Copyright 1975 Paul Simon.
24White, Rock Lives, 373.
25In making this claim I am assuming that Simon, as co-producer of the album with Phil Ramone, made the decision as to the order of the song. Given his perfectionism regarding all details of production, this seems a safe bet. Also, I believe that the song has the hidden and serious undertones noted below, notwithstanding its origin as a rhyming game Simon played with his son ("Just slip out the back, Jack / Make a new plan, Stan" etc.). See White, Rock Lives, 372-3.
26Note that the overall E-to-G progression condenses the harmonic motion of the preceding songs.
27From "50 Ways To Leave Your Lover," Copyright ©1975 Paul Simon.
28All but "You're Kind" also eschew AABA song form in favor of an even simpler alternation of verse and chorus (AAB). That "You're Kind" is exceptional in this respect may be significant. In a sense, the basic message of the song is that things in reality are not as they appear to be. Thus the introduction lays down a 12-bar blues pattern, while the verse weighs in with an 8-bar blues; analogously, in the bridge the 3-chord blues gives way to more of a pop-jazz progression, cued by a most un-blueslike major 7th chord; finally, the text's ironic punchline, replete with crowbar modulation, comes with the protagonist abruptly breaking up with his lover after praising her the entire song for being so kind ("So goodbye, goodbye / I'm gonna leave you now / And here's the reason why / I like to sleep with the window open / And you keep the window closed / So goodbye / Goodbye / Goodbye"). (From "You're Kind," Copyright ©1975 Paul Simon.) Thus the musical unpredictabilities almost subliminally communicate the inner meaning of the text, which is itself hinted at in the double meaning of the title: "You're Kind" also implying "your kind," i.e., your type of lover who is literally too good to be true.
29From "Silent Eyes," Copyright ©1975 Paul Simon.
30Note that this is analogous to the semitone transposition of the opening material at section A3.
31The closing scene in the movie finds the anti-heroic hairdresser played by Warren Beatty high up on a hill observing Julie Christie, his true love among many lovers, who is deciding whether to accept the marriage offer from the rich investor to whom she has been mistress, or to go off with Beatty. The movie ends with her getting in the car with the investor, the camera panning back up to the forlorn Beatty on the aforementioned F-minor chord.
32Philip Tagg makes a compelling case for this sort of analysis which he refers to as "interobjective comparison" in "Analysing popular music": 48ff.
33The text reads "When I look into your eyes / all my sorrow and pain disappear; / but when I kiss your mouth, / then I become wholly well. / When I lie upon your breast / a heavenly happiness comes over me; / but when you say: I love you! / then I must weep bitterly." Translation by Philip L. Miller.
34Kofi Agawu, "Structural 'Highpoints' in Schumann's Dichterliebe," Music Analysis 3:2 (1984): 161 and 172-5.
35Except for the first song which involves two keys, this is the only one of the remaining songs in Dichterliebe that, following the opening statement of the tonic chord, delays its reappearance until the concluding structural cadence.
36Christopher Lewis makes this point in "Text, Time and Tonic": 50.
37I emphasize that this is only one of many possible interpretations of Dichterliebe as cycle.
38Donald Mitchell, in his analysis of "Die zwei blauen Augen," does not mention this aspect of the tonal strategy and its relation to the text. See Gustav Mahler: The Wunderhorn Years (Great Britain: Faber and Faber, 1975), 125-6.