Blonde in the Bleachers represents a huge leap in sophistication from the piano compositions on Joni's prior album, Blue. Firstly, it is rhapsodic, essentially through composed, having no repeating sections other than the piano intro which reappears as an interlude. The use of changing meters, which became a feature on Court and Spark and subsequent albums, makes its appearance here. Harmonically Joni seems to love the #4 scale tonality offered by the Lydian mode and freely uses it in her melody and her triadic movements. The chord movement at bars 17-19 is ingeniously original, employing two Lydian alterations and one momentary modulation to a remote key in the space of three bars, and yet it all flows gracefully and lyrically. Specifically, it is this kind of harmonic sensibility that set Joni Mitchell apart from all her peers, coming from where? Not folk music, not quite jazz (though more so), not quite classical. My personal theory is that Joni had listened to some of the interesting progressive rock appearing in 1972 out of the UK, and felt empowered to incorporate some of its elements. I have no evidence to prove this theory other than that she suddenly started writing in a way that showed similarities to what Yes, Genesis, ELP etc were doing, and sequestered as she was in Canada at the time, far from commercial industry pressures, gave herself lots of freedom to explore her chromatic sensibilities, already touched on as far back as Song to a Seagull. Many thanks to Michael Dunn for the proof reading. Contact me with comments at email@example.com.
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