In the Springtime, Betty Jackson King 1976

Today’s analysis is a song by Betty Jackson King, “In the Springtime.” Here’s a recording. I have performed this piece as the pianist a couple months ago, and I am also working on the vocal part.

This song definitely evokes an older style than 1976 for me; I think that the Shakespearean text with generic platitudes lends itself to a more Neo-Classical treatment than full modernist. It’s mostly tonal, there are a couple jazzier chords, but I can use Functional Analysis throughout fairly sensibly.

If you’re unfamiliar with Functional Analysis, I explain more about Relatives and Variants here, and the difference between Predominant and Subdominant here.

“In the Springtime,” mm 1-6

The opening is a tonic pedal. If wanted, we could track the voice leading of the baritone (second to bottom note) as 7-b7-6 here, but tonic pedal gets the gist. This is definitely establishing tonic thru repetition, instead of thru cadence, as some intros might do.

“In the Springtime,” mm 7-12

Similar to the opening, the next several bars are a tonic expansion. Here I’ve added notes on which extra notes are above the tonic pedal in mm 10-11, and m 12 moves to a Tonic variant as the song shifts away from the establishment of the tonic.

“In the Springtime,” mm 13-17

Now we’ve gotten a full line of text, and the singer definitely needs to breath by now, but (perhaps reflecting the lack of independent clause or verb) there hasn’t been a Functional cadence yet. The singer has a rest, but the sense of harmonic motion continues thru mm. 16-17. Mm. 13-14 could also be described as P with both 6 and 5, but I definitely choose P, since Fa is strong in the bass. This section is moving away from the tonic prolongation, and starting to highlight predominants, but hasn’t totally given up on Tonic type chords – to me the Tonic variants feel more stable than the surrounding Predominants. There are Dominant-ish notes in m. 17 (Bb and F) but the leading tone is absent, so I chose to emphasize the end of the tonic area with Tonic variant. It could also be heard as Tonic with a third in the bass, depending on which of the moving notes sounds most strongly.

“In the Springtime,” mm 18-23

This Predominant expansion is one of the interesting parts. While we can label each chord in mm 19-21, there is a Linear Intervallic Pattern between the melody and the bass. This repeating tenth/octave pattern prolongs the Predominant relative until m. 22, and then that tenth is planed to transition from the Pr to the Dominant. This is the first dominant in the piece. Is there a cadence coming?

“In the Springtime,” mm 24-28

Fake out! The Tonic variant supplies a deceptive resolution so that the last line can be repeated. M 28 is strong cadence, fittingly, since we’ve reached the end of the text. However, this tonic is not preceded by a Dominant, allowing for a second verse, and room to make an even stronger cadence later.

I’ve circled with a ? the last chord of m. 27, which took some back and forth to decide what to call it. The chord is an F flat major triad, and if we spell it enharmonically, the D in the voice is the 7th in an E dominant. This might be related to a tritone substitution, because the flat 2 chord is sometimes used in place of D, which could be abbreviated drR (the major chord that is the relative of the minor version of the Relative of the minor Dominant). Or we could try to relate it to a Pre dominant or Subdominant for a nonstandard cadence; we could say Sr (instead of Pr) and then sV (major variant of the minor version of the subdominant) and make it a plagal cadence. One other option, since we’ve already had a strong LIP and planing, is to hear it as slide, with the chord on the down beat being the primary pre-tonic chord, and this is just a decoration on our way down. I would probably still put Subdominant relative instead of Predominant relative in that case for the down beat. Whichever way you hear it, you can pick! and if you change your mind later after hearing the final cadence, that’s ok too.

“In the Springtime,” mm 29-33

The interlude resembles the intro, except instead of a tonic pedal, we get a dominant pedal. And then Key Change!

“In the Springtime,” mm 34-38

This continuation of the Dominant pedal is one of the things that really signals Functional Harmony to me. We haven’t had a full PAC yet, but King is using dominant to describe the new key, instead of tonic.

“In the Springtime,” mm 39-44

Here we see exactly the same Tonic prolongation as the first time, just in the new key.

“In the Springtime,” mm 45-49

Again, the same tonic to predominant transition. Also coming up on the same LIP Predominant expansion.

“In the Springtime,” mm 50-55

Yep, still the same.

“In the Springtime,” mm 56-59

Now here’s the cadence we wanted to compare to mm. 27-28. This time, we have Dominant on the down beat, but we still have a more colorful chord on the third beat. Flat five as a part of a dominant isn’t too weird in a jazz context, but it’s pretty crunchy here. Additionally, the voice moves to tonic early, so we have even more dissonance from that. (This harmonic rhythm, of strong chord on the down beat and color on beat three, helps me lean toward a reading of m. 27 that emphasizes the downbeat chord, and doesn’t stress about all the flats on the third beat.) The fact that this cadence is Functional (Dominant Tonic) further settles this piece as an example of extended functional harmony for me.

“In the Springtime,” mm 60-64

The piano coda is an interesting version of a plagal cadential tag, using a Predominant relative and a borrowed chord from e minor, the C major chord in m. 62. I labeled this as a tonic Variant, but it could also be a predominant Relative, if we see it as the major relative of the a minor predominant from e minor. I think the pR is a better label (oops), emphasizing the predominant motion for the plagal tag, and then reserving tonic for the last chord (with a 9-8 suspension, I have a misprint, the third note from the bass in m. 63 is supposed to be F#).

Overall, this is a sweet lovely piece that sounds fairly uncomplicated, but has some cool details.

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