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Come Together: A Compositional Analysis of The Beatles’ Abbey Road Album

  • Author(s): Gutman, Patrick Scott
  • Advisor(s): Danielpour, Richard D
  • Krouse, Ian
  • et al.
Abstract

Abbey Road is The Beatles last recorded album that marks a valedictory point in their career. Not only was it the most commercially successful album for the group, but it also reveals significant growth in their musical, technical, and songwriting abilities since their first album Please Please Me (1963). One of the most striking features of Abbey Road is how connected and unified the musical material is on the album. There are several significant musical elements and devices that The Beatles use throughout to connect the tracks with one another that create a sense of unity and cohesion unlike that of any of their previous albums. Like a symphony that uses themes, motives, harmonic schemes, and orchestration to help unify a work and relate material to one another throughout each movement, in many ways Abbey Road achieves a similar sense of cohesiveness in having musical ideas, motives, and formal and harmonic devices repeated and developed throughout the album.

It is not only the reappearance of these musical elements that make Abbey Road so unique but also the way in which The Beatles present and develop the material that creates variety and interest in their music. This is not only apparent in the way they treat rhythmic and melodic motives in the album but also in the way in which repetition of the musical material within a song continues to shift and develop throughout.

This paper provides an in depth analysis of how the tracks on Abbey Road are constructed, developed, and interconnected to one another. It traces the development of the musical material within each song as well as the material’s relationship to the album as a whole. What my analysis reveals is that The Beatles were able to create a variety of musical material on the album that sustains the listeners’ interest and plays with their expectations, while also being unified enough so that the music helps form a larger work. Thus, this level of detail, musical development, interconnectivity, and imagination distinguishes their music from other rock and pop artists of their time.

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