Measure For Measure: Don’t Know Much Trigonometry

So much is going right in “Springsteen,” it’s easy to get lost in the world it creates.

A jazz solo doesn’t have much to do with the songwriting of Eric Church — or does it? A bebop solo is a rollercoaster ride up and down over a cool chord progression on a toboggan of scales and arpeggios, with all kinds of acrobatic stunts along the way. An agile instrument — be it guitar, sax, or keyboard — that can pour out notes as fast as your fingers can fly is what makes it possible. Speed figures in some vocal styles, too, such as scat-singing, but singers usually lean on other resources, such as prolonging and caressing a note, quavering, swelling, or fading sadly, like a wave receding from the shore. Examples? Too numerous to mention, but try Roberta Flack, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and Ken Boothe, “Red Red Wine,” for starters. Speed has nothing to do with the emotive power of their melodic lines. What’s the common ground? Geometry. If you blur your ears at a song you’ll notice that certain notes stand out in every phrase: the highest or lowest. And the same is true of an instrumental solo — it may take more notes to climb a peak, but peaks (and…

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