Music education always & always looking forward.

Changing Meter in Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights"

I don't ever look to YouTube comments for wisdom, but I found some upon searching for the video to "Wuthering Heights."  Allow me to paraphrase the comment:

Upon first listening to "Wuthering Heights": What on earth is that?

Upon 50th listen to "Wuthering Heights": Something involving screaming "HEATHCLIFF!!" at the top of one's lungs and smashing all of the fine china in the general proximity.  

That's pretty much been my experience with this song, and quite honestly most of Bush's output.  But to be even more honest, that's the reaction that a lot of my "listening samples" get from my students, followed by, "Miss, you're weird."

Thank goodness there's no fine china in my general vicinity.  You could always smash singles of Tori Amos's "China" if you're one of those fans who believe that Tori is just a cheap rip-off of Kate.  (I'm not.)  

Forgive my rambling.  It's late.  Here's Kate.

“Wuthering Heights” - Kate Bush

Intro: Kate Bush was the first female singer-songwriter to reach #1 on the UK singles chart (in 1978) with a song she wrote and performed herself, achieving that feat with “Wuthering Heights.” A strange topic for a pop song, the lyrics cover the plot points of the novel of the same name. While “Wuthering Heights” was her debut single, the album it appeared on, The Kick Inside peaked at #3 on the UK Albums charts. She would have numerous subsequent Top 10 hits and successful albums. She won the BRIT award in 1987 for Best British Female Solo Artist. One of the most successful solo female British pop performers ever, Bush received the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2013 from Queen Elizabeth II.

Analysis: Although much of the song is straightforward in terms of meter, the chorus (first heard at :48 in the video below) features time signature changes from 4/4 to 3/4, lending a dreaming, slightly off-putting feel, mixing memory and passion, corresponding with the themes of the novel as well as Bush's general aesthetic.

Considerations for Teaching: This song contains no offensive material, but in a style true to Bush, the vocals are unusually high for a pop song, and create an almost jarring effect for unfamiliar listeners. Seeing that Wuthering Heights is a commonly read book in high school, this song could work as a cross-disciplinary listening example, as well.

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