Untitled Song in B-flat major (Gershwin song sketch from 12 Dec 1921)

,100 years ago today, George Gershwin wrote 24 measures of a 32-bar song. I made the decision, in Gershwin’s absence that he likely meant the second eight bars to be repeated at the end in the familiar AABA song structure. This is one of those presumptuous musical decisions I actually make with a pretty clear conscience, because it sounds perfectly normal when mm. 9-15 are copied and pasted at the end, and it seems quite likely that Gershwin left it at AAB full well knowing that it would be an AABA song. Gershwin has a reputation for being economical in his song sketch writing.

That being said, the song is pretty simple melodically … not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that all I could think to do in the arrangement was to add a fairly typical ragtime bass part. You can hear the piano version I created in the YouTube video below.

But then I got to wondering if any other lead instruments would make that melody come to life. Well, you can hear the result of that line of thinking at the end of the YouTube video (again below). The trumpet was the best instrument for the melody, but then I heard the choir in Logic Pro X and was intrigued by how you can really get a sense of how the song would sound sung. Sure, they let you choose from the words “Hey,” “Yeah,” and “Oh Yeah,” but it’s still better than my shelling out money on fiverr.com for a decent vocal, as much as I wish this blog had any kind of budget to work with.

My point is that this fairly forgettable 24-bar melody, if done right, could be incredible! Give it the right lyric and production, and Gershwin could be back in the Top 10 in no time!

Download the PDF of the simplified sheet music to “Untitled Song in B-flat major” here:

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!!!

That’s not all Gershwin wrote on December 12, 1921! There is an unidentical twin to the song above! It’s the second song in the YouTube video above.

Both songs start with repeated half notes, though the songs are set in different keys. Gershwin took that motif in two different directions in the two song sketches. This one, in the key of A major, has a lovely major 7th harmony going on, but the song sketch stopped rather abruptly at measure 12, and for the life of me, I could not repeat a phrase to get us to 16 bars.

Further, the melody he wrote has few harmony notes, and seemed to me that the song ends in a different key than where it started. Not impossible, but a little peculiar. Gershwin further complicated things by adding a B-flat bass note over an A-natural melody note in the penultimate measure which really limited my choices of chord progressions.

Gershwin did not write a final bar line, which would have signaled that the song was complete, so he may have had more in mind, or he may have stalled out after writing himself into a musical corner, though that is less likely. Maybe he got a phone call or a million other distractions typical of 1921. Maybe it was somebody’s birthday that day, and he decided to send that person a gift and a telegram full of well wishes.

Download the PDF of the simplified sheet music to “Untitled Song in A major” here:

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