“My Heart Will Go On”: A Musical Analysis Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” from the Titanic soundtrack, provides a wonderful example of how musical elements can be used to reflect the sentiments of the lyrics. The highpoint of the text comes towards the end, with the stanza that begins “You’re here. There’s nothing I fear” (Jennings, line 23).
The meaning line of this line contrasts with the opening of the chorus, “Near, far, wherever you are” (Jennings, line 7), as the speaker has moved from acknowledging her separation from her true love to the realization that her true love will forever reside in her heart.
Musically, this change in attitude is signaled through the form, melody, harmony, tone color, dynamics, texture, tempo, and rhythm.The form of this song is a modification of a standard verse-chorus form. After an introduction, we hear the verse.
In the verse, the melody is heard two times, with a different text each time.
The chorus appears immediately after the verse and features a different melodic line that is heard twice with two different texts. After a bridge, we hear another verse (same melody, different text) and another statement of the chorus (same melody, same text). Another bridge leads into a final statement of the chorus which ends the song.
This final chorus is remarkable in that the text is different from the two preceding choruses. The use of the same chorus melody for a different text highlights the different standpoints of the speaker from the beginning of the song to the end.Two distinct melodies are used in this song, one for the verses and one for the chorus. The verse melody does not contain a lot of melodic motion; rather, it consists largely of repeated notes with changes in pitch to emphasize words.
For example, in the first verse [“Every night in my dreams / I see you, I feel you, / That is how I know you go on” (Jennings, lines 1-3)], pitch changes only occur on the words “my,” “see,” “I feel you,” “know,” and “on.” The chorus melody contain much more melodic motion, with the melodic highpoint occurring in the first line of the chorus (on the second syllable of the word “wherever”). The increased melodic motion seems to highlight the emotional impact of the chorus and its significant text change at the end.The harmony in the song is consonant, and only a few different chords are used.
The verses end not with a sense of closure, but rather with a feeling that harmonic progression is not finished. The chorus, however, ends with a clear feeling of arrival, and therefore it makes sense that the song ends with a restatement of the chorus. Before the last appearance of the chorus, the music changes key, and the pitch rises significantly. These changes highlight the emotional impact of the text change.
The high-pitched instruments such as flutes and violins give this song a warm and bright tone color. These instruments have an almost vocal quality about them, and therefore they seem to work with the voice in conveying the meaning of the text.In terms of dynamics, the song begins piano, and there is a gradual crescendo with the loudest part coinciding with the final statement of the chorus. The crescendo is accomplished in two important ways.
First, the instruments simply play louder. Second, instruments are added to the texture. The first verse and chorus features primarily the voice, keyboard, and strings, with a bit of tambourine and flute. In the second verse and chorus, guitar, drums, and other voices are added.
Though there are other instruments playing, the texture is heavily dominated by the vocal melody. In the verses, the instruments play chords that accompany the melody. In the chorus, the strings play a countermelody. This countermelody is more complex with each statement of the chorus and emphasizes the build-up to the song’s ending.
In terms of rhythm, this song is in duple meter, and the tempo is andante. The song becomes more rhythmically complex from the beginning to the end. In the first verse and chorus, the keyboard plays long chords that underline the melody, but in the second verse and chorus, the keyboard is much more rhythmically active, playing notes of shorter duration. Likewise, the percussion section (with the exception of the tambourine) is largely absent from the first verse and chorus, but additional percussion instruments appear in the second verse and chorus.
These additional instruments provide more rhythmic activity and, like all of the other musical elements, give the song a sense of drive to the triumphant ending. Works Cited Jennings, Will. “My Heart Will Go On.” Retrieved June 12, 2009 fromhttp://www.lyricsfreak.com/c/celine+dion/my+heart+will+go+on_20028558.html.
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