Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Un petit peu de la musique"

"Marry the Night" is a single release from Lady Gaga's album Born This Way. The song itself was released in May 2011 and the lengthy video--13 minutes long for a 4 minute song--was released in November 2011. Here is a lengthy Wikipedia article on the song and video. I don't have too much to say about the song itself--it's been described as "disco-powered pop". But the video is more interesting.

The video divides up into three roughly equal parts. The first four minutes depict Lady Gaga being wheeled into a clinic. The voice-over narration explains how she creatively re-invents her past. It's not a lie because it's creative! Well, ok. Sounds like extreme narcissism to me, but that's where we are these days... But at the four-minute mark she asks her nurse for "un petit peu de la musique" and a soundtrack begins playing--of all things!-- the introduction of the Piano Sonata op 13 in C minor, referred to as the "Pathetique", by Beethoven. Lady Gaga knows what she is up to here as at one stage she called this part of the video "The Prelude Pathetique". Alas, the rock critics and whoever wrote the Wikipedia article have no idea as they refer to it merely as "piano music". The whole of the introduction and the first part of the Allegro molto of the first movement are heard, truncated a bit and ending with a cadence. The video over the Allegro molto shows her throwing a temper tantrum, naked, in her apartment, covered in Honey Nut Cheerios. This is because her first record company called her and cancelled her contract. Then there is a connecting sequence where she dyes her hair blond, gets dressed up and starts her career all over again. Then the song proper starts around 8:48. Wikipedia says the song is in C major, which would fit well with the Beethoven sonata. But as they also describe the chord progression as Am–Dm/A–F/A–G (which seems to be the case)--that's not actually true. We should probably call it modal, Aeolian in fact.

I've often suspected Lady Gaga of having a musical education. The little introduction to "Bad Romance" on electric harpsichord sounds a bit baroque to me. And now, an actual familiarity with Beethoven. Of course, with Lady Gaga, it is never quite clear how much she is just having us all on. One blogger posted this video with  the comment "If you haven't figured out Lady Gaga is trolling you, I rest my case."

The thing that I like about this video is that she doesn't screw around with the Beethoven--no hacking it up, distorting the sound, changing the rhythm or anything. Now what I wonder is if some of the listeners/viewers of the video might be attracted to the music enough to wonder what it is, where it came from and why it sounds so good? Of course the video images are pretty distracting...

Sometimes I wonder if the real reason the music video was invented, in all its salacious glory, wasn't to distract us from the dreary quality of the music itself.

Here is the whole of the first movement of the Beethoven sonata:

UPDATE: Just for comparison, the "Marry the Night" video, up since November, has just short of 30,000,000 views. Barenboim's Pathetique (there are two clips, one up a year, the other up three years) has had around 300,000 views. Mind you, there are lots of videos of the Pathetique by different pianists.

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