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Listening to Bob Dylan$
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Larry Starr

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043956

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043956.001.0001

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Bob Dylan as Composer, I

Bob Dylan as Composer, I

Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm

(p.47) 4 Bob Dylan as Composer, I
Listening to Bob Dylan

Larry Starr

University of Illinois Press

This chapter demonstrates how Bob Dylan composes music of significant expressivity and formal interest. His shaping of melody through the effective placement of high and low notes is evident in songs like “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” and “Forever Young.” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Idiot Wind,” “In the Garden,” and many others illuminate his sensitivity to harmony. The descending bass line is creatively employed in “Ballad of a Thin Man” and “Lay Lady Lay,” among other examples. Rhythmic invention, another feature of Dylan’s compositional toolkit, manifests itself through uncommon phrase structures (“The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Not Dark Yet”), metrical irregularities (“Romance in Durango,” “Nettie Moore”), and even songs with virtually improvisatory rhythmic structures, like the recent “Murder Most Foul.”

Keywords:   Bob Dylan, Composer, Melody, Harmony, Rhythm, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”, “Simple Twist of Fate”, “Forever Young”, “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Idiot Wind”

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