Mini Analysis: Syncopated Clock (Articulation)

Work: ‘Syncopated Clock’
Composers/Creators: Leroy Anderson
Performers: Leroy Anderson Orchestra
Album: The Leroy Anderson Collection (Geffen Records / UMG Recordings / MCA Classics, 1988)

Articulation is an element that can have a strong impact on the character or mood created in a piece of music.

Listen to this excerpt and describe the character or mood of this performance.

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Though you might have something different, the character words I chose are:

Listen to the excerpt again, and this time, you can read some sample observations about what is happening in terms of articulation and what this does to the character of the excerpt.

Press “PLAY” on the video to hear the excerpt.

The wood block that plays throughout the first & last sections is hit with a hard, wooden stick that creates a spiky, sharp attack and short, crisp decay to each note. The individual notes of the melody and bassline are played staccato, which creates a feeling of space, or even a rest between the notes. The strings are still using the bow, though, so there isn’t the strong / hard attack on the staccato notes that there would be if it were pizz. There are some legato, sustained notes being played way in the background helping to blend it all together.

In the repeat of this section, high oboe notes are now slurred which creates a much smoother, more legato line, before referring to the shorter attacks of the first section. At times, the performers “lean into” the first note of a phrase with an accent which makes the note more prominent, louder and more strongly articulated (with a sharper attack). The middle of the excerpt is quite different, with much gentler, more lingering articulation used by all followed by a brief return to original style for the last section.

Overall, the staccato nature of the woodblock’s spiky attack and the separated notes of the string phrases gives the jaunty and light-hearted feeling. The legato, sustained notes being played in the background lend an amusing air while the leaning accents used at the start of some phrases add to the playful nature of this excerpt. Interestingly, when the articulation becomes legato in the middle section, this character remains amusing and playful with a slightly mellow edge.