Music education always & always looking forward.

Don't Hurt Yourself: Changing Meter in Stevie Wonder's "Contusion"

You might actually injure yourself if you attempt to conduct along with this.

stevie suit.jpg

Stevie Wonder’s place in the pop music history pantheon is inarguable. But for every pop anthem, even the drearier ones, his wild compositional style popped out bonkers instrumental tracks like this one.

And as so many icons fall, Stevie is one who stands up and throughout his lifetime has enacted real social change.

A consideration to make as we kick off Black History Month? Program even more Stevie. Even after February.

Link to YouTube video of Stevie Wonder’s “Contusion”

Intro: Stevie Wonder has had a tremendous career, spanning five decades. He was signed to Motown Records at age 11 as “Little Stevie Wonder” and released his debut album in 1962 at the age of 12 years old. “Contusion” appears on the album Songs in the Key of Life, which won four Grammys in 1977, including Album of the Year, and is listed on the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry. Wonder has won 25 Grammys overall, more than any male solo artist in history, and an additional Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 1996, as well as a Polar Music Prize. He is in the Rock and Roll as well as Songwriters' Hall of Fame (and won the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from the Songwriters' Hall), was only the second winner of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song awarded by the Library of Congress, received a Kennedy Center Honor, was designated a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2010, was named a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations in 2009, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.

Synopsis: The meter of this song changes repeatedly throughout.

Analysis: The song begins in 4/4 time, but starts a long series of frequently changing meters at :25 in the video recording linked above. Many of the motifs heard in the instrumental chorus starting there repeat throughout the song.

Considerations for Teaching: This is an instrumental song, so there are no lyrical drawbacks. Stevie Wonder is an eminently teachable and programmable artist, and I cannot imagine any drawbacks to discussing his work.

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