Detailed Discussion: Strawberry Fields Forever

This is a detailed discussion of Beatles: Strawberry Fields Forever (“SFF”)
The discussion is based on Beatles video:
Time-references below (e.g.  [3:38] ) are to that video.
The discussion was developed with the aid of an OMS Profile, see the following .
OMS Composite Score is:  331


A. Introductory comments and questions

[1] If we try to compare SFF against a great song by Brahms (e.g.  Saphhische Ode , discussed in this website) , how does SFF measure up? SFF is quite popular even among many top musicians, so it would seem appropriate to attempt a comparison. (Is a comparison feasible? We think so.)

[2] In some ways SFF is rather careless and loose; in other ways it is well-organized and rather tightly composed. Explain.

[3] Other contrasts in SFF: “Far-out” vs pedestrian; attractive vs homely; emotional vs non-emotional; comprehensible vs almost-incomprehensible; lyrics range from eloquent to careless; sophisticated compositional technique vs careless technique; polished sound vs “grainy” sound.

[4] Is SFF just “psychedelic rock” and nothing more?

[5] The opening (up thru the words “Strawberry Fields Forever) makes a very strong impression. Explain.

[6] SFF is populated with many odd sounds and effects, but yet it holds together and has a good overall “sound”. Explain.

[7] Listening to SFF is like taking a nice warm bath.

B. Analytical comments

[1] The Genesis effect is very strong. For this effect to be strong, the music needs to stimulate and highlight the “beginning” and “sense of beginning” in the music. Consider how this operates in SFF:

– The introductory mellotron passage has an “unusual” sound: An unfamiliar instrument, and a grainy effect.  The sound is somewhat startling (=attention-grabbing). This is an excellent way of alerting the listener that something “brand new” is happening.- The introductory lyrics tell the listener that something new is happening: “Let me take you down, ‘cause I’m going to …”- The phrase ” ‘cause I’m going to” is reinforced by the swooping downward sound from the band (which itself has a rather “new” sound).

[2] The Termination effect is very strong. There is an extreme multiple-termination, as follows:

Coda: “Strawberry fields forever, Strawberry fields forever, Strawberry fields forever” which itself feels a little like 3 terminations.Brief tag immediately after [3:01]Chaos#1: Band futzing around [3:04]Fadeout. [3:27]Silence. [3:33]Chaos#2: Sounds like music playing backwards. [3:38]Another fadeout. [3:58]

[3] There is extensive usage of: Sonic effects, funny sounds, oddity. Humans are very sensitive to effects like these – they function as alerts, they are easy to grasp (a great deal of music elsewise is subtle and evanescent), they help a listener to organize what is experienced. Also, effects like this are often pleasurable (mostly so in SFF).

They also help the listener to easily experience SFF as something that is “far-out”.

[4] The lyrics at time suggest to the listener (tell the listener) how to experience the music, e.g.:

“Let me take you down ..”
“I’m going to …” “Strawberry fields”
“Nothing is real”; “nothing to get hung about”
“Living is easy with eyes closed …”
“Misunderstanding all you see”

So the message of the lyrics is to expect an experience that is rather far-out and easy to misunderstand; but the listener is told to experience it in a relaxed (loose) way.

In fact, we don’t find most of the music itself to be that extreme taken by itself (SFF is not extreme in the way that say Varese or Boulez is extreme). But we think the words have a strong effect on how a listener experiences the music (or how the listener thinks they experience the music?)

[5] Unlike mainstream classical music – which is almost always highly crafted throughout  – SFF is loosely crafted in many places. At times it sounds almost careless in its construction (e.g., the wide variety of odd sonic effects seem rather random in their selection). This imparts a specific effect, which we call “looseness”. In SFF, we think the result of this effect in the listener is relaxation, a sense of freedom, an expectation that “anything goes”. Looseness is an effect which feels natural and pleasurable to most listeners.