Monday, June 8, 2015

Song Structure workshop - Delerium's "Silence" (Airscape Remix)

The first remix of Silence we'll be looking at is the Airscape mix (short version), which is the closing track on the European release of Delerium's 2001 release "Poem."  I have no idea how I ended up with an imported version in my collection, but somehow I did.

This is the first track we're going to examine from both Verse-Chorus and EDM perspectives.  Let's start with the Verse-Chorus analysis:


As you can see from the color coding, a Verse-Chorus pattern shows up pretty clearly in the first the first half of the song, but falls apart in the latter half.  We'll see that this is a common theme through the other Silence remixes...a Verse-Chorus structure exists within what we'd call the Intro of the EDM structure.

Intro (12) - 0:00
A heavy four-on-the-floor beat kicks in immediately.  This is nearly universal in dance-oriented mixes, since DJs need to be able to cleanly beatmatch and crossfade from one track into the next.  You usually see song segments in powers of two...8, 16, 32, or occasionally 64 bars.  This Intro is 12 bars, which is slightly unusual, and around 20 seconds, which seems a little for a short for a dance-oriented mix.  In fact, it's much shorter than Delerium's intro to the original version of the song (which was 32 bars, and ran just over 1:20), but much more in line with what you'd expect an average, radio-friendly Pop song to run. 

Verse (16) - 0:21
The verse works a lot like it does in the original mix of the song.  A static bass line (by which I mean it stays on one pitch, an 'A') implies a lack of chord progression, though the arpeggiated synths hint at a little movement.

Chorus (8) - 0:49
I mentioned in my analysis of the original version of Silence that its Pre-Chorus would serve as the Chorus if the actual Chorus were to disappear.  That's exactly what happens here.  What we know as the Chorus from the original version of the song is nowhere to be found (we'll find it later, but serving a different purpose).  In this remix, the section with the "Heaven holds a sense of wonder..." lyric is the Chorus.  The energy of the arrangment goes way up in this section, thanks largely to the introduction of strings and a clear chord progression (Am - G - F G Am -). 

Break (8) - 1:03
The chord progression repeats and the energy stays up, but the vocals are replaced by a synth lead, and there's a new/stronger syncopated synth rhythm.  In a sense, this is a continuation of the Chorus...I suppose you could call it a "solo Chorus", but the synth melody is completely unlike the vocal melody from the Chorus, so I think it's more appropriate to call it a Break.

Verse (16) - 1:17
The various elements we added in the Chorus and Break drop out, bringing the energy back down.  There are a few percussion components don't drop out, so it's not quite identical to the first Verse, but the vibe is pretty much the same.

Chorus (8) - 1:46
Identical to the prior Chorus, as far as I can tell.

Break (8) - 2:00
Everything drops out except some rhythmic synth plucks and pads.  The energy comes level comes way down, in stark contrast to the the Break that followed the first Chorus.  This Break is filling the same role as the one in the original song - giving us a moment to breathe before everything revs back up.

Bridge (24) - 2:14
The vocals reenter, with new lyrics and melody over a new chord progression.  It's a big, bold, new musical idea...sounds like a Bridge to me!  Only, it's sort of odd that it repeats three times, and follows immediately after a Break.  I'm pretty sure I could find some examples of standard Verse-Chorus songs going straight from a Break to a Bridge, but it's fairly unusual (the most common placement is between Choruses).  In truth, this is where the Verse-Chorus model for this song starts to go off the rails...

Outro (28) - 2:56
...yeah, we're not in Verse-Kansas anymore (see what I did there?!* **).  The climax of a Verse-Chorus song is the supposed to be the final Chorus, but the last Chorus in this song was back around the half-way point.  Meanwhile, a huge, bright synth is going crazy over a pounding beat.  It sure doesn't sound like an Outro...Outros typically bring the energy down...but I don't have a better term from the Verse-Chorus lexicon to use.

**not sorry


Intro (68) - 0:00
The Intro occupies a very large proportion of the song's running time - roughly half - but this isn't terribly unusual for an EDM track with only one Break-Build-Drop sequence.  It ramps up pretty quickly, and maintains a relatively high energy level through most of its duration, but there are distinct ups and downs within, creating sections that feel like subtler versions of Breaks, Builds and Drops.  For example, a snare roll at measure 35 serves as a small Riser into a very high-energy, somewhat Drop-like eight bars.  This ends a single-measure drum dropout (sort of like a tiny Break) at measure 44, which resets the energy level to a lower point so we have room to build up again.  After that, the song beings to build in the exact same fashion as it did starting at measure 13, but instead of another instrumental section like the one at measure 37, most instruments drop out as we enter the...

Break (32) - 2:00
For the first eight bars, only rhythm synths and pads are present.  This is the sparsest part of the entire song, and definitely the big Break.  After these eight bars, the vocals reenter and we hear and occasional big one-off drum hit.  These 24 bars are more intense than the prior 8, and you could make a case that they represent a Buildup.  The lack of additional rhythmic elements in this section lead me to think of them as part of the Break.

Buildup (8) - 2:56
A classic accelerating snare roll builds throughout this eight, with a kick roll joining in for the final four bars. Call it a short Buildup, call it a Riser...whatever it is, it's building tension like crazy.

Drop (16) - 2:56
The kick and bass fall into place, and the synth filters open wide.  It's a huge, classic dance-hall Drop.

Outro (4) - 3:39
Everything except the kicks and a couple of rhythm elements drop out suddenly.  It's a very abrupt ending, given the structure and style of the song.  I don't know why, but I'm willing to hazard a guess.  A long version of the Airscape Mix also exists.  I suspect the version we're looking at was intended as something like a "radio edit", while the long version, which begins and ends with extended segments (24 bars/~40 seconds) of nothing but drums, was intended for live DJ use

Final Thoughts

The entirety of the song only makes sense from an EDM perspective.  The Verse-Chorus model works for a while, but does a pretty poor job of explaining the second half.  The obvious conclusion would seem to be "don't analyze dance remixes from a Verse-Chorus perspective."

If you throw away Verse-Chorus, though, it's hard to make sense of the Intro, which makes up a monolithic half of the song.  This Intro doesn't gradually, steadily grow for in a straight line two minutes, nor is it a string of one-off ebbs and flows, and the Verse-Chorus model really clarifies how subsections fit together to achieve this.

1 comment:

  1. Very happy to find your series on verse-chorus vs EDM song structure. Appreciate the effort to share your studies.