Introduction: Across the Fields of Gold
Having incorporated minor and subdominant chords into the canvas of Fields of gold, Gordon Matthew Thomas Summer, also known as Sting, added the timeless feel to the song that makes the latter classic. Written in 1993, the song immediately hit the top ten ballads of the decade; moreover, it still remains a major hit, which not only the brilliant writing, but also the ingenious composition should be given credit for.
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Structure of Fields of Gold
It would be wrong to claim that Fields of gold has a unique structure that sets it aside from the rest of ballads. Quite on the contrary, the song has a typical structure that pertains to nearly every ballad. However, instead of inserting a bridge between the final verse and the chorus, Sting creates a unique cadence of sounds by incorporating a middle eight, thus, developing an original and unforgettable tune.
The introduction reiterates the chorus of the song, which follows the first verse. While seemingly redundant, the introduction allows creating a feeling of continuity, preparing the audience to the change in narration that is revealed at the beginning of the very first verse: “So she took her love/For to gaze awhile” (Sting 1993 lines 5–6). Thus, the introduction makes the narrative in the song flow more naturally.
The song itself represents a basic blank verse, with no rhyme introduced and a steady ABAB structure, the A lines representing a pentatonic trochee, and the B lines being a graphic example of a trochee trimeter. The specified structure allows for setting a pace for poetic meditations and creating a song that can be viewed as introspect into one’s mind or one’s past.
Instead of a traditional pre-chorus, Sting uses the same two lines “You’ll remember me/When the west wind moves/Upon the fields of barley” (Sting 1993 lines 1–2; Sting 1993 lines 27–28). This simple manipulation helps place the audience into the atmosphere described by the singer and view the situation through the lens of the narrator.
Because of the introduction of the middle eight into the song, the ballad does not feature the standard verse–chorus–verse–chorus structure, but, instead, introduces the audience to the actual middle eight at the very end of the song. The chorus, in its turn, is entirely absent from the Fields of gold.
One could argue that the reiteration “fields of gold” at the end of every single verse can be viewed as a unique chorus. On the one hand, this supposition seems absurd – the line is never repeated exactly, every single verse featuring a slight alteration. In addition, the phrase itself does not stand on its own, as a chorus in a traditional structure of a song should.
On the other hand, the repetition of the phrase “fields of gold” does follow the traditional definition of a chorus as a series of refrains within a song (Garnett 2009). More to the point, the specified line closes every single verse, thus, making it complete and tying the verse in with the general theme of the song, which a chorus is supposed to do (Peterman 2014). Hence, it can be assume that the song does not feature a chorus, yet some of its elements play the function of the one.
Since the song has a middle eight, which is going to be discussed below, it omits the traditional bridge, replacing it with another link between two parts of the story (Farish 2014).
As it has been stressed above, instead of a bridge, the ballad introduces a middle eight. To be more specific, the song features several instrumental links between the verses, thus, the total number of the elements amounting to seven before the instrumental break. Between the latter and the fourth verse, the middle eight is inserted. Though the five lines of the middle eight seemingly disrupt the overall rigid structure of the song, it, in fact, makes it flow more naturally and adds a unique wistful feel to it.
The middle eight seemingly falls out of chord with the rest of the song, introducing an entirely different meter, yet, after the very first line is pronounced, every piece falls into its place, and the chorus becomes an integral part of the song. Integrating the elements of iambic and amphibrach structures, the middle eight serves as a link between different parts of the song (Gordon 2007).
Instrumental bits can be distinguished easily in between ever verse. They set a specific melancholy pace for the song, preventing it from ending abruptly. Instead of introducing an instrumental link after every verse, the singer leaves the instrumental part where the narration requires it, which adds another tint of subtlety to the song.
The outro of the song repeats the intro, thus, creating an impression of an incantation and adding a philosophic touch to the lyrics. Reiterating the poetic metaphor, the author enhances the staying power of the song’s magic, making every word literally enchanting. The song does not end, but leaves quietly on a powerful and suddenly ambiguous note.
Chord Progressions: Maintaining the Unique Mood
In order to create a specific wistful mood, the author shifts from a minor chord to the subdominant one. As a result, the feeling of sadness is created, filling the audience up. As the image below shows, the B minor is replaced by B Suspended at the beginning of the song, which creates an uplifting emotion; however, as the song progresses, it shifts into G, only to be followed by D and B Suspended again. As a result, the song appears to be trapped in a flowing and moderate minor seventh chord.
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Melodic and Harmonic Relationship
The phrasing of the song is literally spell binding. Sting makes the melody and the lyrics flow well together, therefore, making a single entity and introducing the audience to a narration.
Resolving to a G chord, the song leaves the listeners on a suddenly quiet and rather ambiguous note. Both saddening and giving hope, this chord renders people’s hearts and resonates with them in harmony.
Stable and unstable tones
A strong emphasis on the stable tones cements the impression of a song as a philosophic rock ballad.
Structural tones can be spotted in the prolonged notes at the end of the song. These notes serve as the means to end the song smoothly, without breaking it abruptly.
The aforementioned “fields of gold” can be viewed as the song’s key melodic hook. However, it could be argued that the adjacent phrase, which is altered slightly with every verse, is a part of the hook as well.
Rhythmic Context in Melody and Harmony
The rhythmic nature of the song is emphasized with the repeated chords of the song. Particularly, the pattern that presupposes the shift from B Suspended to G should be mentioned as the key to understanding the rhythmic harmony of the song.
Lyrical Context and Relationship to Melody
The narration flows with the melody perfectly, the latter being a perfect foil for the story to develop in. The story progresses together with the song; moreover, as the singer reiterates the elements of the song, the audience gets an impression of having a flashback or returning to a long forgotten place. The song revives old memories, as it is supposed to, and its structure contributes to recalling the past faster.
Conclusion: What Makes the Field of Gold Timeless
Being a graphic example of a song that comprises philosophic lyrics and a unique and engaging score, Fields of gold is not going to leave the list of the best soft rock ballads. The unique combination of subdominant and minor chords not only sets the pace for the song, but also creates a specific atmosphere.
Farish, I 2014, ‘Song structure,’ The Canadian Music Educator vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 53–55
Garnett, L 2009, Choral conducting and the construction of meaning: gesture, voice, identity, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., Burlington, VA.
Gordon, E 2007, Learning sequences in music: a contemporary music learning theory, GIA Publications, Chicago, IL.
Peterman, E L 2014, The musical novel: imitation of musical structure, performance, and reception in contemporary fiction, Boydell & Brewer, Rochester, NY.
Sting 1993, Fields of gold, song, A&M, Santa Monica, CA.