Cassette Theory

T his weekend, the Wall Street Journaltried its hand at music theory, and it wasn’t pretty.  (NPR ran a similar story on Monday’s episode of All Things Considered.)  In the article, WSJ writer Michaeleen Doucleff claims that “science has found the formula” to why Adele’s ballad “Someone Like You” makes everyone cry, and it’s not that it’s sad or Adele’s a badass or anything like that.  No, Doucleff says, it’s because of a marvelous musical device called an appoggiatura!  The appoggiatura, she claims, is that little ornament of the held-out “you” in Adele’s chorus “never mind, I’ll find someone like you,” where it dips down for a split second mid-note.  Take a listen:

Well, there’s something there, but it ain’t an appoggiatura.

And it wasn’t just me who noticed this error.  I’m not sure about the Wall Street Journal, but NPR received an onslaught of…

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One thought on “

  1. This is not my territory, but if you substituted the words “I wish nothing but the best for you” with something like by a dalek singing “I wish nothing but to exterminate you”. Still crying? Not so many wet hankies I think.

    Strikes me the power is in the sentiment captured in the words, not in the appogywhatsit. I guess it’s further proof, if needed, that academics have too much time on their hands.

    My wife plays Adele constantly, and even I like it, though not my thing. She has something called talent, which is difficult to reduce to a mathematical formula or musical notation. A voice that emotes, and lyrics that draw out emotion, is a fearsome combination.

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