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rojo's avatar

Can you explain a lyric in the song "Hallelujah" for me?

Asked by rojo (24156points) January 5th, 2018

The song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen in the first verse are the lyrics:

“Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this:
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah.”

I know very little about music but where it says “The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift” is that referring to how the word hallelujah is sung? If so, what does fourth and fifth refer to?

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11 Answers

SergeantQueen's avatar

This explains it nice

rojo's avatar

@SergeantQueen Thanks, that helped although people still seem puzzled over “the minor fall, the major lift” part, many just putting it down to something that is rhythmically pleasing.

My thought was that it had to do with the way the word is sung (“Composing” Hallelujah) :

HA (the fourth)
LAY (the fifth)
LOOOOO (sung at a lower pitch) and
YAH sung much higher than Lu and even higher than the first and second syllables

At least that is the way I hear it.

SergeantQueen's avatar

Yeah it could be him doing that. I am really bad at music theory

janbb's avatar

(Funny I just heard that song on Pandora. What gets me is how it’s been misinterpreted as a religious song solely so you get choirs of prepubescent boys singing it when it’s clearly about sexual love as well as religion. But don’t ask me to explain that phrase; I always thought it made sense in musical terms.)

Pinguidchance's avatar

@rojo I know very little about music but where it says “The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift” is that referring to how the word hallelujah is sung? If so, what does fourth and fifth refer to?

No, it does not refer to how the song is sung or played.

Well I heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
Hallelujah [x4]
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to her kitchen chair
She broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
Hallelujah [x4]
Baby I’ve been here before
I’ve seen this room and I’ve walked this floor (you know)
I used to live alone before I knew you
And I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
And love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
Hallelujah [x4]…

Such poetry , what metre, foot and rhyme , how prosodic.

9 syllables A
9 syllables A
11 syllables B
9 syllables C (the word fifth)
9 syllables C (the word lift)
11 syllables B

Will you be wondering next about it’s historicity?

cookieman's avatar

Here’s a cool version of that song.

https://youtu.be/AGRfJ6-qkr4

rojo's avatar

@Pinguidchance NOT how the song is sung, how the word “Hallelujah” is sung. And while the rhythm pattern of the poem/song is interesting in itself it does not address the question so is not really of any help.

Unless…....... Are you implying that Cohen did not really care about what he was writing so long as he got two words that were close to rhyming for the two “C” lines and contained the correct number of syllables? And, if so, why was he not as careful with the two “B” lines? You does not rhyme with hallelujah unless the last syllable is silent and that screws up the syllable count.

And yes, if it will help me figure this out I am willing to check into the words historicity.

Pinguidchance's avatar

@rojo, fourth and fifth have nothing to do with how the word hallelujah is sung.

Do you know how to rhyme ‘do you’ with ‘hallelujah’?

Well, do ya?

rojo's avatar

Ya, ya does, you does not but does with hallelu. Ya?

janbb's avatar

That’s the way it’s sung:

“You don’t really care for music, do ya?
...................

The baffled king composing “Hallelujah.”

It most certainly does rhyme.

dxs's avatar

Those are the chords he’s playing at each moment he sings those lyrics—
The fourth, then the fifth, then the 6th (minor), then the fourth again (it’s a major chord).

The words “fall” and “lift” here are not terms in music theory, they’re just artistic. I guess they described the mood somehow.

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