Eleanor Rigby

Write a description of ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Describe how you think the form of the music is designed, and then discuss the main musical features (tempo, pulse and metre, melody, form, instrumentation, texture and timbre). Comment on the ways in which musical elements are used to reflect the emotions and meanings of the words.

The Beatles song, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is unconventional in that a string octet (four violins, two violas and two cellos) provides the backing arrangement, with no instrumental contribution from The Beatles at all. The strings perform a score composed by producer George Martin, wholly replacing the rock band.
It is in strophic form; there are three verses with the same melody, and a refrain after each one. In addition, there is an introduction, and an interlude- which is an exact repetition of the intro- after the second refrain (perhaps replacing a middle eight in traditional rock music).   The intro and interlude are characterised by a two-part harmonization, differentiating them from the verse/refrain unit.
In the intro, the harmony begins on a second inversion of a C major triad and ascends and descends diatonically in a parallel movement until the last syllable of the word ‘lonely’, i.e. the melodic vocal line is arch-shaped, falling to a sixth below the opening note.
There is a sense of anxiety in the intro resulting from the way in which both vocal and string accompaniment begin immediately, creating tension, which is further added to by the insistent string crotchets punctuated by a repeated violin motif. This motif occurs after each line of the intro and creates interest against the rather bland and repetitive staccato crotchets.   The tempo is manipulated very little throughout the entire piece; the speed is rather relaxed, perhaps andante. It remains in 4/4.
Despite the syncopation, the intro sounds like an apprehensive ‘sigh’; the peaks and ‘unwindings’ of the voice and accompaniment are not synchronized with one another, creating...