Let’s imagine that we are all aspiring musicians and/or songwriters.
One day, a man (who is not a musician and has never once written a song in his entire life) comes into town. He holds a “Conference for Aspiring Songwriters” (for $250 a pop, mind you), and tells the packed crowd of young hopefuls that all songs must follow the AABA formula.
“History has proven that the greatest songs ever written use the thirty-two bar form known as AABA,” he says. “This form found its origins in Tin Pan Alley songs and later became the essence of rock, jazz, and pop music. This became the principal form of music beginning around 1925-1926. It’s a thirty-two-bar form with four sections usually eight measures long each (4×8=32), two verses or A sections, a contrasting B section, the bridge or 'middle-eight,' and then a return of the verse in one last A section (AABA). Thus, we’d have:
verse / verse / bridge / verse
“Some of the best examples of AABA,” he says, “include Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ the Everly Brothers’ ‘All I Have to do is Dream,’ and the Beach Boys’ ‘Surfer Girl.’ The best Beatles songs followed this formula, as well, from ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ to ‘I Will’. Although they have, at times, modified the thirty-two bar structure, they never strayed far from the most proven songwriting form in music history.”
“Therefore,” he declares, “all songs must follow this construction. All songwriters must use ‘Great Balls of Fire’ as their personal model.”
And, of course, the entire music industry embraces this man.
Then the artists, those who have actually written songs and studied songs all their lives, stand up and say, wait a minute. How do you explain songs like “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, which features a thirty-two-bar section, a contrasting bridge, and then a repeat of the thirty-two-bar section, making a compound of ABA and AABA forms? This structure might look something like this:
verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / (verse) / chorus
“It’s not as strong a song as ‘Great Balls of Fire’.”
“Because it failed to follow AABA.”
How about Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love?” Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’?” Tom Petty’s “Refugee?” They all follow similar compounds of ABA and AABA forms. People love those songs, do they not?
“Compound ABA and AABA forms are too long, too complicated, less catchy, harder to market, and don’t give you as much freedom with lyrics as AABA.” (What?) “AABA gives you room for musical intros and outros, not to mention the opportunity to add some musical breaks between the verses without having to worry about making the song too long. As I’ve said in my award-winning conferences, compounds are lesser songs that will not stand the test of time because the form does not connect with people as easily as AABA, which has been proven throughout the history of music.”
Hey, not all great artists in rock and jazz followed AABA. Ever heard of Pink Floyd or Miles Davis? They connected with thousands of people!
“Those were rebellious artists that brought disgrace to their genres for failing to follow AABA.”
Then how do you explain the works of Amadeus? Symphonies, concertos, or any other kind of multi-movement form of music like ballets, fugues, operas, rhapsodies, or sonatas?
“Nobody goes to ballets or operas anymore because those songs don’t connect with people as easily as AABA. They don’t sell as many tickets and for good reason - it’s not a form that works as well. AABA is a proven formula that has lasted almost 100 years now.”
But aren’t symphonies high art?
“Music is about connecting with people. If you don’t connect with masses of people, you fail.”
So high art can’t exist even with songs that are through-composed?
Then I guess Les Miserables is a piece of shit.