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Building the character - Mister Cellophane

A study of the song ' Mister Cellophone' from the musical Chicago
by

Alison Miles

on 10 October 2013

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Transcript of Building the character - Mister Cellophane

BUILDING THE CHARACTER
BUILDING THE CHARACTER...
Solo Song
Assists the audience to come to a better understanding of that character
Uses the musical elements to portray the character's personality and their issues within the plot's action
EXAMPLE : MISTER CELLOPHANE (from the musical Chicago
Set in the 1920's prohibition era it is a satire on the corruption of the criminal justic system and the celebrity criminials that made front page headlines. Follows the story of Roxy Hart who murders her lover. She convinces her husband Amos that the lover was a burler and Amos gallantly takes the blame in order to protect Roxie. She wants desperately to be a big celebrity and comes up with many ways to snag headlines including claiming she is pregnant.
AMOS
Plain
Simple
Dull
Ordinary
Not terribly bright
Unexciting
BUT loyal, nice, innocent, naive.
PRODUCTION STYLING
Usually performed on an empty stage :
The character wears plain black or brown clothing and often is styled wearing white gloves to enhance the sad clownlike pathos of the moment.
SINGLE SPOTLIGHT
MINIMAL CHOREOGRAPHY
LITTLE OR BASIC MOVEMENT
THE SONG / PERFORMANCE
One of the best Mister Cellophane's EVER....Mr Nigel Planer as Amos
THE SCORE
1. What are your initial impressions of the song?
MOOD SHIFTS : SADNESS, ANGER, PATHOS,
CONTRASTING SECTIONS
MAKES THE AUDIENCE FEEL SYMPATHY
LOTS OF FACIAL EXPRESSIONS
EXPLOITS SIMPLICITY
2. Outline the difference between A section and B section.
SECTION A
SECTION B
Moderate tempo
G major
Homophonic
Simple 4 bar intro
Soft dynamic
Sparse scoring - held chords with vocal line over the top.
Mostly crotchet rhythm moving to quavers at the end
PLAIN PLAIN PLAIN
Ragtime tempo
Shift to the dominant 5th - Dmajor
Polyphonic texture
Increasingly louder dynamic
Jump Bass accompaniment, tremolos
More complex instrumental section
Syncopated rhythm
Heavy jazz feel.
3. Why do you think the composer created this contrast?
Portray Amos' sense of frustration?
Show that Amos is not as simple as he seems?
Demonstrate how Amos feels hurt?
4. How does the composer build to a climax? How does he resolve the climax?
Faster tempo, thicker texture, more complex rhythms / chordal accompaniments, frequent use of seventh chords to create tension and lack of resolution.
followed by a sudden drop in volume and ...

'I hope I didn't take up too much of your time'.
5. What effect is this meant to have on an audience?
Sympathy
Empathy
Create emotion for the character
Sorrow
Slight humour
6. How is the song different from the other songs in this musical?
It lacks any pizzazz!

No glamorous costumes or dancing

Smallest production number in the show.
7. What stylistic choices have been made to set this song in a time and place?
Cardigan, trousers and boots
The accent chosen to portray a working class man
The simple but almost angry dance moves.
The lyrics
THE MUSICAL ELEMENTS
DURATION
Section A has moderate tempo with a basic repeated crotchet rhythm, basic duple metre, common time signature. It is regular in rhythm and has no syncopation. Use of pauses, ad libs and rubato feel to free the tempo a little and make the verse more expressive.
Section B changes to a rag time with a strict tempo and later a heavy rag time with a tempo that is stretched and pulled. It is a highly syncopated melody with a regular jump bass accompaniment quite typical of ragtime. There are sudden quaver rests in the rhythm of the melody that emphasize the syncopation.
DYNAMICS
There are ties and off beat rhythms.
The verses are mp, whilst the ragtime chorus starts at mf. The final section builds to forte. There is the occasional fz to emphasize off beat rhythms. Strong use of accents and staccatos.
HARMONY
Major key with held major chords in the verse and strong use of jazz chords such as sevenths in the jump bass to create tension and dissonance. Use of major chord alternating with its 6th in the verse to make subtle chord changes. E.g G to G6. Whilst the chorus uses bolder chord changes. Modulates to F major in the instrumental solo then modulates back to G major for the heavy rag.
MELODY
The verse is made of descending intervals of 4ths followed by descending 5ths . Very plain with repeated notes in a quaver rhythm at the end. The chorus is more scalic moving downards through consecutive notes before repeating the same pattern a note higher. It has chromactic transitions when modulating.
Use of tremolos and glissando. Use of pauses/tacets and ad lib markings to allow the singer to sing as he feels and not strictly adhere to the tempo in order to express more emotion. Allows the singer to pause on important notes.
Structure
Intro, verse, chorus, verse chorus, instrumental solo bridge, final verse.
Texture
Shifts between a very sparse homophonic verse that is almost monophonic at its barest, to a thick polyphonic texture in the chorus. Piano plays an important role in the texture with the ragtime jump bass style thickening the texture with its closed space chords.
TIMBRE
Mid register piano, high register strings and low register clarinet in verse to create warmth and pathos. Drum kit with brushes for softness added in first chorus. Piano solo in bridge creates a mellow timbre. Final chorus features banjo, horn section with trumpets and saxes, plus ragtime piano. Warm sound getting increasingly brighter with brass in the final chorus.
STYLE / GENRE
Characteristics typical of ragtime.

Jump bass - Single or double octave low note jumping to a higher closed space inverted chord. Regular march / crotchet rhythm

Melody - use of quaver-crotchet-quaver pattern against the march rhythm of the bass to create off beat syncopation.

USE OF PIANO AS SOLO
THINKING ABOUT THE EXAM...
How do other composers build character through the manipulaton of the musical elements?
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