Read all 6 events for 17 January at diary.QueenSongs.info
Composer: Brian May
Key: d-minor, C Major,
Intro | Verse | Verse | Chorus |
Intro | Verse'| Verse'| Chorus |
instr.1 (Verse")| Chorus'| instr.2 |
| Verse |
White Man is one of the heaviest song in the Queen songbook. The harmony is driven by power chords and riffs. The songform has only two vocal sections creating two cycles in the first half of the song plus a variant cycle. Instrumentation-wise the first two verses belong to the intro, and the last verse works as outro. We have two instrumental sections both featuring delay machine. These are not melodic enough to be threated as proper guitar solos. The first one is verse derived, the second one is chorus riff derived.
The harmony is transcribed in d-minor, but the minor thirds are rarely added to the tonic. The lead vocal is predominantly (minor) pentatonic. The first instrumental section has bridge-like harmonic contrast by moving the tonal center to C (VII of d).
"The Prophet's Song" is the "brother" song from the "brother" album: drop-D tuning d-minor key, delay canon (the very last time on a Queen album), they played them live segued together.
The intro is a short pentatonic guitar lick. It sounds syncopated, but its metric frame cannot be determined even in the repeat that opens the second cycle. The lick closes on a powerchord sustained and crescendo-ed out via the volume knob.
| D1 ... D5 |
We have five vocal verses the first two and last are contrasting from the body of the song. The mixing is assymetric (vocal left, guitar right) and the accomaniment is minimalistic the singing is soft. The third and fourth verses are arranged for full rock ensemble and the lead melody is altered and set to higher range. We have also a Verse-derived instumental section too.
The vocal phrases are pentatonic and start with upbeat, sometimes longer than the post-downbeat portion. We have six two bar phrases The first four is paralelling eachother, and use 3+5 patterned emphasys. The closing two phrases are identic ("oh-oh yeah").
...F5,6 | (upbeat for first and second Verse)
| D5 | - | | i | - |
| D5 | - (5>4)|
| i | - |
| C5 | - (5>4)|
| VII | - |
| C5 G5|(G5) F5 D1 |
| VII iv| III 1st|
| D5 |(D5) F5 D1 |
| i | III 1st|
| D5 |(D5) |
| i | |
The second verse adds a brief counterpoint figure in the guitar part:
D D D C D ...
A A A G A ...
D E F G ...
The third and fourth verses feature complete rock ensemble completed with short lead guitar licks echoed with delay.
The final concluding verse is stripped back instrumentation: guitar, some percussion and white noise. As the final chords fades away, doorshot-like drums close the track. In the live version this final verse was acapella.
We have three choruses. The rhythm of the title words makes use of 3+3+3+3(+4) type syncopation, thus the harmony transcription is written this time in two-measure basis. We have three phrases: AA'A" 4+4+7*, the last phrase overlaps the re-intro.
The first half of the vocal phrases are identic: the title phrase harmonised while the second half of the verses are single voiced, changing, and using 3+5 syncopation for the rhythm guitar. More precisely transcribed ("can't you... sky"):
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4
* ** * ** * : vocals
*... * * *** : gtr
The extension fragment of the third phrase is also harmonised except the final subphrase. The F5 > D5 change which dominates the section is incorporating an ascending (C > D) and an ascending (F > D) line.
/----------- 2x -----------\\
| F5 D5 F5 D5 | G5 Bb5 D5 |
| F5 D5 F5 D5 | Bb | G5 | D1...
The second and third chorus (similarly to the preceding verse) adds lead guitar fills with single delay without creating harmonies. The second Chorus closes differently in order to lead the harmony to the 1st instrumental section in C:
...| G5 | F5 |
The third chorus plays the first harmonic phrase three-times before the extended one. A part of the lead and harmony vocal phrases/subphrases are missing or changed. The final phrase is modified after the title words: the B chord is sustained twice as long (4 bars) and a 3+3+3+3+... rhythmized descending scale is played on guitar. You can notice that its fourth note is "strange": b5th degree (A-flat), in symphaty with the criticized situation described in the lyrics.
Instrumental section 1
This section is centered around the C chord as local tonic. The chordal backing for the first 2x2 phrases is a combination of the verse riff variants and delay-canon harmonies. These two part delay harmonies are cleverly avoid dissonance with the changing underlying chords.
/| C5* | - | - | - |
|| I | - | - | - |
|| G* | - | - | - |
\\| V | - | - | - |
The remaining part of the section leads the harmony back to d-minor.
| F5 | - |
C: IV | - |
d: III | - |
| D1 | (D1) | (D1) | link to last chorus
| 1st | - | - |
Note the delay is switched off for a moment in order not to create disturbance in the music. The rhythm of the link to the last chorus is tad disorienting, as we except this shortened chorus riff variant starting on downbeat. The beat map of the chorus riff:
1 2 3 4 1
F F D ...
Instrumental section 2
| F Dm | Bb Dm |
The backbone of this section is a two bar ostinato-like repeated (8 times) figure. Double delay (only here in the song) creat three part harmonies.
After 8 repeats, the guitars change to a 3+3+3+3... rhythm creating hocket like vamping in eighths on the F5 (III) chord which clears out for the end where the guide then the delay parts are stopping. The metric frame of this subsection is weak.
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1...
* * * * * * * * * * * * : guide (left)
...* * * * * * * * * * * * : 1st delay (right)
...* * * * * * * * * * * * : 2nd delay (middle)
********************** ** ** * * * : sum