Monday Notes

John Lennon, Imagine. A white piano for an everlasting song

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[Monday Notes no. 44] John Lennon was an imaginative musician who constantly broke the mould. Some of his songs have become an anti-militarist and libertarian symbol and make us miss a time when music had the ambition to change the world.

Imagine opens with just two chords, C major and F major. John Lennon was interested in the piano no more than he needed it to compose his songs, so the piece is very easy to play, even a beginner can do it.

Behind this simplicity, however, lies a remarkable originality, as the chords are played in an unusual register, below the instrument’s middle C. This slightly dark sound and the use of tape reverb made the beginning of Imagine unmistakable.

The song has a typical form: A A B A B, the verse (part A) has a duration of 12 measures. We can see in the first eight measures the alternation between I and IV degrees of tonality, this movement is also known as plagal cadence.

Imagine, part A (verse)

The second part of the song, i.e. the chorus, is instead 8 measures long. Here is the harmonic progression of part [B] of Imagine.

Imagine, parte B (ritornello)
Imagine, part B (chorus)

The arrangement is clean and essential, with the piano joined discreetly by bass, drums and a background of strings. The piece remains essentially a piece for piano and voice, to be played and sung simply.

While the song is a timeless classic, the video shows all its years. In the age of YouTube, experts recommend capturing the viewer’s attention in the first seven seconds of a video, can you wait a full 41′ before the song starts?

Despite the naivety of this video, it is impossible for me to see a white grand piano without thinking of John Lennon playing Imagine.

Until next Monday!

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