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“The Space Between the Notes” by Sheila Whiteley Essay

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2020

In her The Space between the notes, Sheila Whiteley provides a very thoughtful analysis of the most famous musical groups of the 1960s and their influence on the counterculture. Whiteley gives numerous examples of an impact of socio-cultural aspects on a creative work of such famous music bands as Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. Special attention is given to such a notion as psychedelic rock.

Speaking about the Beatles the author states that the creative art of this group externalizes the whole period of its creation. The author begins her analysis with the famous album Sgt. Pepper, which is considered by many critics as the most powerful album in the history of the rock music. Whiteley states that Sgt. Pepper has been a decisive moment, which has made a revolution in the history of the world music. The year of the album creation was also revolutionary for the western civilization.

It was a period of time, which is characterized by a struggle between the liberalization and repressions. This year the debates concerning the legalization of marijuana took place. The same year the Youth International Party was founded and the pirate radio was suppressed. It was the year of the killing of Chee Guevara. Under such circumstances, Sgt. Pepper was associated with the manifestation of optimism, liveliness and sweets of life.

This mood of optimism runs like a golden thread through the whole album beginning from the opening track. The album was revolutionary in terms of the usage of the conceptually new approach to the music creation. It is characterized by distorted guitar sounds, repetitions of rhythmical strains, combinations of bass guitars syncopations and sharp chords accompanied with soft melodic lines.

The author resorts to the detailed analysis of the songs of the album. For instance, Sheila analyzes such famous song written by Lennon together with McCartney as With a Little Help from my Friends. This song is a typical example of the optimism, which is characteristic for the whole album. It has a strong repetitive rhythmical line and a distinct chorus accompaniment, which sounds rather contrastive to the singer. Whiteley emphasizes the specific meaning of the context of this song from the point of view of the psychedelic coding. She tries to connect the meaning of With a Little Help from my Friends with the next song of the album, which is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds that revels the demands in freedom and love of a lonely person.

At the same time, resorting to the deep analysis of the context of these songs, Whiteley underlines the influence of drugs, in particular LSD, on their music. It must be mentioned that Whiteley finds such examples practically in every song of the album. To Whiteleys opinion the images which can be observed in Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, such as the trip on a boat, a girl with kaleidoscope eyes, cellophane flowers have been effected by a hallucinatory experience. Whiteley emphasizes the fact the album Sgt. Pepper has been inspired by drugs. Moreover, she states that the audience, which has consisted mainly from teenagers, has been conscious of it. Of course, it is a gross exaggeration to say that Sgt. Pepper is the popularization of LSD. Nevertheless, it had a great impact on the young generation.

Another song, which is also analyzed by Whiteley, is Fixing a Hole. This song has a definite resemblance with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Both of them are explore the impact of LSD on the world perception. In both songs, there is a contradiction between the musical component, which is represented mainly by the acid rock patterns, and the lyrical context.

Whiteley also focuses her attention on the narrative ballad Shes Leaving Home, which reveals ordinary family relations. This song is rather typical for this period of time as it is a form of a social protest of an individual who wants to escape from everyday life. Within this framework, such songs as Nowhere Man and Eleanor Rigby also may be mentioned. However, these songs just define a problem of the contradiction between an individual and surrounding reality without a possible solution of the conflict. The problem revealed in Shes Leaving Home are emphasized by the simple narrative of the song. The identity of an individual is opposed to the power of money and the rules of society.

The longest song of the album is Within You Without You. It touches on the themes of an individual and its place in the world. Harrison has written this song under the influence of marijuana. The main tracks for this composition have been recorded with the assistance of Indian musicians and with the use of the Indian musical instruments. The laugh at the end of the song has been included by Harrison intentionally in order not to ruin the general mood of the album.

The Beatles were always known by their ability to combine elements of different rock styles and to create something new from this combination. This typical peculiarity of the early music of the Beatles came into full play in the song When Im Sixty-Four, which is represented by the mixture of the syncopation of the clarinet introduction, the simple melodic curve and the breaks in the accompaniment. In spite the fact that the main theme of the son is anility, McCartney has written this son at the age of sixteen. The Beatles have used this song at the early stages of their career as a composition which they have been able to play even without electricity. In spite of the resemblance of this composition with such songs as Nowhere Man and Eleanor Rigby, When Im Sixty-Four suggests in a humorous manner the solution of the problem of loneliness. It lies in a human good nature and life buoyancy.

At the end of the chapter, Whiteley emphasizes the importance of the Beatles for the world music. She states that all the succeeding generations of musicians have been to a greater or lesser degree influenced by the musical heritage of this legendary band.

The main focus of Whitneys attention is paid to the Sgt. Pepper as this album is considered as the most successful among the projects of the Beatles. At the same time, the author states that the album is not the mere accumulation of the ideas explored by the Beatles before. This Sgt. Pepper has its thematically and structurally developed concept. Whitney also emphasizes the fact that the sequence of songs in the album has also its own meaning. The book written by Sheila Whitney provides a reader with a detailed analysis of the world-renowned songs and gives an additional pabulum for reflection concerning their sense.

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