15 June 2016

Post 404: OCTAVE LEAPS AT THE START OF TUNES

Having greatly enjoyed the video of The Loose Marbles playing Take Me Out To The Ball Game, I decided I wanted to play the tune with my friends. So we learned it. What struck me was the octave leap in the first two notes. The melody starts on the tonic and then immediately the second note is exactly an octave higher.

I thought that was a very unusual way to begin a tune. I scratched my head and tried to think of more of our tunes that begin with such an upward leap of an octave from the tonic in the first two notes. All I could come up with was Somewhere Over The Rainbow. There's also So Do I and It's Only a Paper Moon, Stranger on the Shore, and Let it Snow, and (as Bob Andersen from San Diego has just reminded me) The Love Nest; but those leap up an octave from the Dominant, not from the Tonic. You can see what I mean:
Surely there must be some more.

(Barrie Marshall has immediately offered me Chestnuts Roasting [The Christmas Song] and When You Wish Upon A Star. Robert Duis adds I'm Singing in the Rain. Thanks, gentlemen.)

The only other tune of this kind that I can think of is Bali Ha'i from South Pacific but I doubt whether any traditional jazz bands play that.

I must also mention Jelly Roll Morton's Kansas City Stomp. This famously begins with a series of syncopated rapid octave leaps, though in this case downwards - from the higher note to the octave below. It has proved to be a clever way of producing a dramatic and memorable start to a composition: whenever we hear the first dozen notes, even if the tune has not been announced, our brain responds with 'Ah! They're playing Kansas City Stomp!' (Willow, Weep for Me also uses the downward leap.)

By the way, you must watch the exciting video of The Loose Marbles (filmed by the gentleman codenamed WildBill) playing Take Me Out To The Ball Game, if you have not already done so: CLICK HERE.