23 October 2008

One of my favorite odes

An ode has a three-part structure: strophe, antistrophe, and epode. The strophe is a theme statement, and the antistrophe is a response to it. Within an ode, it might go back and forth between strophe and antistrophe several times before everything meets up in the middle and ends with the epode.

It turns out that my favorite Billy Joel song, Leningrad, is in the form of an ode. There are stanzas about Victor who lives in Leningrad, followed by response stanzas about Billy Joel growing up in America. They are set to very different musical themes. Then, the very last of those is about Billy Joel visiting Leningrad and meeting Victor - and it's set to the Russian theme. The epode has no words. Its music is completely different from either the strophe or antistrophe.


In general, I'm not a fan of poetry. But that may be because so little of it is as masterfully crafted as this song is.


Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic song. The musical composition is very evocative of traditional Russian tonality, and the lyric is very cleverly written in juxtaposition between the two characters and cultures. Billy Joel has always been underestimated as a songwriter by the 'rock critic' press. This is a perfect example of his mix of classicism and great story-telling.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I really like songs that tells stories. And as this is about Russia I came to think of this song that really touched me deeply as a teen growing up with Russia and the cold war close by:


adelheid said...

Came over from a comment you left on John Scalzi's Whatever blog. Enjoyed the post and the song. Yes, this is an awesome song. Very evocative of the era in which I grew up in the U.S. Thanks for sharing!

MWT said...

Glad you liked. :)