Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!"

"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" (1945)
Lyrics: Sammy Cahn
Music: Julie Styne
F Major, 2/2 time
32 bars + upbeat (my "m. 1" starts with the word "weather")

"Let It Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" is typically heard as part of Christmas-music collections. This context tends to blanket the song with an aura of warm, fuzzy nostalgia. But it's actually quite powerfully romantic and psychologically sharp. I think it's a marvelously crafted song.

The song is in an AABA form: four eight-measure-long sections, of which only the third is different from the others (hence the "B"). Here are the lyrics:

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

It doesn't show signs of stopping
And I've brought some corn for popping
The lights are turned way down low
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

When we finally kiss goodnight
How I'll hate going out in the storm!
But if you'll really hold me tight
All the way home I'll be warm.

The fire is slowly dying
And, my dear, we're still goodbying
But as long as you love me so
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

(NB: It's "brought some corn," not the often-misstated "bought some corn"!)

The theme of this song, and the significance of the hook ("Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!"), change over the course of the song. At first, the song seems to be about the pleasure of being in a cozy, warm, indoor place while it's snowing. But hints slowly build to suggest a more romantic theme. In the second "A" section, "The lights are turned way down low" is a delicate first hint. The "B" section takes things much further: now there's a kiss goodnight and holding tight. "All the way home I'll be warm" actually undercuts what had been the song's apparent theme--it seems that the singer doesn't have to be in the cozy, warm, indoor place to be happy. Finally, the last "A" section ends with the full statement of the song's revealed significance: "As long as you love me so/Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!"

Overall, the song is devoted to representing a constant, pleasurable situation, although the situation changes from being cozy indoors to being loved. The music supports this with a certain calm, mellow stability. Yet at the same time each "A" section builds up great momentum toward its last line, which after all does feature a lyric with three consecutive exclamations. How can a song be so mellow and so energetic at the same time?

An easy first observation about the mellowness of the "A" sections is that each line falls in pitch. Except for the neighbor motion between F and G in m. 3, there is no upward stepwise motion in any of these lines. (I'll pass on comparing the falling pitches to falling snow. I think the relaxed feeling of falling by step is more important.) Yet there's upward stepwise motion between these lines, building energy from C (m. 1) to D (m. 5) to E (the upbeat to m. 7). The high E packs every form of instability in the book: it's a non-chord tone, an appoggiatura to D; it's harmonized by a fully diminished 7th chord; it falls on an upbeat. From this E, the last line ("Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!") cascades all the way down to a restful F (the tonic) by step.

At the same time, there are less obvious ways in which the "A" section creates tensions that are relieved in the last line. In spoken English, the most accented syllable of the last word in a phrase often receives an especially strong stress. There are many exceptions, but the first three lines of each "A" section fit the pattern: try reading them with feeling, and you'll accentuate "fright-", "(de-)light-", and "go." From "fright-" in m. 2 to "(de-)light-" in m. 4, the music moves from F (I) to E (V). This creates a lingering tension that requires an F (I) in the melody to resolve it. But the third line (mm. 5-6) completely ignores the E, and takes a different path away from the first line (mm. 1-2): it raises the first line's melody and harmony by a step, ending on G (ii).

The beauty of this is that though E and G have arrived via totally different paths, they both have moved away from F by a single step, and both are simultaneously resolved when F appears on "snow!" in m. 8. (Of course, G's ii harmony doesn't go straight back to F's I; mm. 7-8 enact a cadential progression.)

In fact, the relationship of mm. 7-8 to mm. 1-2 and mm. 5-6 bears closer examination. As noted above, the high E falls on an upbeat. It's the first upbeat note that is higher than the downbeat note it precedes; it's the first upbeat note that really demands attention. If we put it aside for a moment and look *only* at mm. 7-8, we see...a repeat of mm. 1-2, with only small melodic differences! (There is a harmonic difference: m. 1 starts on the tonic, while m. 7 initiates the final V7-I cadence.) Even though we've climbed up to a high E to begin the last line, from a different point of view we've come back down to the C-Bb-A-G-F scale from the third line's D-C-Bb-A-G scale. That "different point of view" is the one created by the first three lines, in which important musical events start on the downbeat.

Of course, we don't ignore the high E upbeat when we're listening to the song. But I think we do register that, apart from that upbeat, mm. 7-8 are a return to mm. 1-2. This return gives the whole "A" section a mellow, well-rounded coziness that coexists with the tension-and-release pivoting on the high E. If you want to hear some of that coziness go away, try giving "Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" these pitches:

C D | E D C Bb A G | F

(The |'s are barlines.) This puts the high E on the downbeat, and removes mm. 7-8's hidden quality of returning to mm. 1-2.

One last thought about linguistic stress: The one line in the whole song that doesn't put its strongest stress on its last accented syllable is, of course, the hook: "Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!" The music does put attention on the third "snow," but a spoken version wouldn't necessarily do so. This seems important, though I don't really know why. Look at these recomposed lyrics:

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
We'll relax and we'll just let it snow!

Somehow it seems wrong that we have to wait for the last syllable for the "punch line"--even though so many musical tensions wait until that moment to resolve. I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts about why this might be so.

I'm sorry not to have much to say about the "B" section. I can offer one straightforward observation: the last line ("All the way home I'll be warm") is suddenly higher in pitch than the previous lines; the last line is also the line that breaks the cozy theme and fully paves the way for the love/romance theme.

I hope you've enjoyed this analysis...and I hope you enjoy the song! I'm particularly fond of a recording on iTunes by one Gary Grant.

Until next time...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

good thanks for sharing

hey friend see snow on google
Type “Let It Snow” on @Google If you click and drag you can wipe the snow away. It is great. source:

3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice thanks, Christmas song let it snow lyrics

Both of them have a great body shape and dance very very well!
Their moves had kill many of the fans out there including me!

12:07 AM  

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