Analysis of Joni Mitchell - River Essay

1227 Words Mar 22nd, 2013 5 Pages
Joni Mitchell - River

Released in 1971 and produced by Reprise records, river is an intensely emotional contemporary folk song about heartbreak. Written solely by Joni Mitchell for her album ‘Blue’ the song is reminiscent of Christmas time although lyrically it has little relationship to Christmas. (Hopper, 2012)

Instead of using a typical verse/chorus style this song is written using different sections – A/B/C etc. The line ‘I wish I had a river’ is the overlying focus point throughout the song and is used throughout. Employing an easily recognizable common time, the song although played at a slow to medium tempo sounds as though it is moving faster due to the ornate piano part. Using the key of C major allows a free flowing melody
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This creates a beautiful blending of the two parts together and shows that this song was written to showcase the vocals. Throughout section A there is a consistent IV-I chord progression. These are aligned with each phrase and through the use of plagal cadence it makes each phrase seem resolved before moving onto the next.

Section B follows a more erratic chord structure when the vocal melody is peaking on the vi-ii progression. This use of the minor second creates tension over two bars before eventually resolving to the C major.

The plagal cadence (IV-I) followed by the vi chord is evidently a consistent theme used by Joni as we can then see in section C.

Chord Chart: Section | Chord Progression | A1, A2 | |: Fmaj(c bass) / Cmaj / | Fmaj(c bass) / Cmaj / | Fmaj(c bass) / Cmaj / | F(c bass) / Cmaj / | Amin /// | //// | Gmaj /// | //// :|| | B1 | | Fmaj /// | Gmaj / Gsus / | Cmaj /// | Fmaj / Amin(F bass) / | Dmin /// | //// | Cmaj / Fmaj(c bass) / | //// | Fmaj7 /// | //// | | B2 | | Fmaj /// | Gmaj / Fmaj(g bass) / | Cmaj /// | Fmaj / Amin(F bass) / | Dmin / Emin(d bass) / | Dmin / Emin(d bass) / | //// | Dmin7 /// | Cmaj /// | Gmaj /// | Fmaj7(c bass)