Music education always & always looking forward.

Working on the Six-Eight Sway: Symmetrical Compound Meter in Kate Bush's "Suspended in Gaffa"


I am going to tell you a true story. 

There are circumstances in which teachers need to briefly remove students from a classroom. It's not a preferable practice, but especially in middle school, sometimes kids just need a few minutes to think away from their peers. They're not learning, and they're actively trying to prevent their peers from learning. Often, during my planning period a few years ago, I'd be the recipient of a student bent on causing problems in their typical classroom.

It doesn't help to yell at them. It doesn't help to lecture them. I sometimes will talk to kids who've been sent to my classroom. But that doesn't seem to make a difference.

The most effective tool against disruptive recidivism, however?

Going about my planning period work while playing Kate Bush. And Tori Amos. And Ani DiFranco. Especially for teenage boys who are in their burgeoning, vulnerable years of masculinity. One afternoon with a bunch of weird female singer-songwriters and they don't disrupt their normal classes anymore. 

I'm not saying that it's a defensible strategy. I am saying, however, that it works.

Introduction: After huge amounts of early success, Kate Bush sought to define herself entirely on her terms as a solo artist. Her 1982 album The Dreaming (with its title track referring to the abuse suffered by Aboriginal Australians) was Bush's least successful release in her heyday. It was panned by critics as being inaccessible and far too experimental. Although it debuted at no. 3 on the UK charts, it sold poorly. "Suspended in Gaffa" was released as a single in continental Europe (and charted in France, the Netherlands, and Spain) and Australia, but not in the UK or US. "Gaffa" could be considered one of the more accessible songs on the album. 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 was named Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 2013 by Queen Elizabeth II.

Analysis: As outlined in the opening piano riff, "Suspended in Gaffa" is written in a clear and unchanging 6/8 time. 

Considerations for Teaching: Having never achieved any large measure of popularity in the US, Kate Bush is culturally far removed from the American pop musical landscape, so her songs might not appeal to students. There is, however, no objectionable material in this song. 

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