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A Break for a Pause

Friday, October 15, 2010

On the show yesterday, author Jennifer Egan talked about a character in her novel A Visit From the Goon Squad who is obsessed with pauses in rock and pop songs. Today, we’ll revisit the topic with Sophie Harris, music writer at Time Out New York, and Elizabeth Margulis, associate professor and director of the Music Cognition Lab at the University of Arkansas.

Guests:

Sophie Harris and Elizabeth Margulis

Comments [94]

Anthony Marks from Someplace

Roxy Music's "Mother of Pearl" - on the album "Stranded" - has lovely ethereal pauses towards the end. Indeed, the last pause crashes the opening of the final track, "Sunset". Listen and you'll hear what I mean.

Jul. 14 2011 04:30 PM
Jim Tosone from New Jersey

My two favorite pauses come from 1970's prog rock:
- Free Hand by Gentle Giant (in the third line of each verse)
- Karn Evil 9 by Emerson, Lake & Palmer (1st movement, at time 5 min 30 sec)

Oct. 19 2010 09:59 PM
12-String Frank from Staten Island, NY

I think no one has mentioned the amazing emotional pause in the "Adagio For Strings" from Samuel Barber. It comes right after a great build up of sound. Another I would mention is in a song from Gentle Giant called "Inside Out" from the "Civilian" album. Check it out.

Oct. 19 2010 02:44 PM
Jane from East Village

I disagree that the extended version of the Young Americans pause is better. Perhaps the pause could have been a fraction longer than originally recorded, but the extended version played on the show completely diluted the tension that was established in the original.

Oct. 16 2010 11:56 PM
Sean Leather from Keansburg NJ

The songs that come to mind are "Baby Come Back' by Player and "Fooled Around and Fell in Love" by Elvin Bishop Band. The Who's version of "Saturday Night's All Right for Fighting"
is a great example of making a cover song "your own."

Oct. 16 2010 03:30 PM
Bill from Mamaroneck

Wish I could have submittted this while the show was on, but in my musical experience, the kings of the pause were (are?) the Bad Brains, hands down. I remember shows at CB's when the band would be roaring away at light speed, bodies flying in every direction, and suddenly they would stop on a dime, maybe just for a couple of beats (though your sense of time would be so distorted that it would seem like a lot longer), and everybody would look around at each other as if the whole club were playing "Red light, green light," and then the band would resume as one, right where they left off. I always thought it was the closest music could come to simulating the experience of being in the eye of a hurricane.

Can't think of which song(s), have to pull out their first album and report back.

Oct. 15 2010 03:50 PM
John from mineola

To Rosie from New York:

The Peter Gabriel song you are talking about is "Lay Your Hands On Me" from the "security" 3rd solo album.

There are a few pauses in there but I think you are refering to the last before the drum ensemble comes back. I saw this live back in 85' at forest hills--one of the best shows I ever attended.

Oct. 15 2010 03:46 PM

I may have accidentally flagged my own earlier comment as spam, but in any case: I was wrong about the Cure's "Grinding Halt." Although it's somewhat staccato in the chorus, there is no actual pause.

Oct. 15 2010 02:55 PM
K Phillips from Brooklyn

Whoops, have to correct myself. Hadn't listened to 'Human Touch' in a while, but I did just now. There is no complete pause, no silence; the drums are still beating, the synthesizer is sustained, but Bruce is not singing. Then a down beat, then the yell. Maybe could be classified as one of those "non-pause" pauses.

Oct. 15 2010 02:51 PM
CN from West Village

Love the big pauses in Lee Michaels's "Do You Know What I Mean?", punctuated by the big crashing organs chords and Michaels's whoops.

Oct. 15 2010 02:49 PM
Suzanne from West Side

Leonard Bernstein was the master of silence. Think about the break in West Side Story's "Gym Mambo." The teacher tries to insert some "civility" and what comes after that is a highly charged break, between the songs and the cultures.

Oct. 15 2010 02:41 PM
Will Schwarz from East Village

Even though I am not a Slipknot fan in the live version of "Spit it Out" Corey Taylor stops the entire song and makes the entire audience in the floor seats crouch. This can take minutes to get together. Then he yells "jump the f**k up!" and the entire audience jumps up as Slipknot brings the song home.

Oct. 15 2010 02:38 PM
a g from n j

overextending the pause may be equivalent to an actor mugging for the camera

Oct. 15 2010 02:36 PM
Geoff from NYC

My Bloody Valentine did a 17 minute "pause" during one of their songs in their 1991 tour: one continues guitar blast, with the lights of the stage shining out into the audience. Weird and sublime. And then, BAM!, they locked back into the song.

Oct. 15 2010 02:35 PM
tom

louie louie, & of course, a day in the life

Oct. 15 2010 02:35 PM
Rick

Not sure if this applies but what about Haydn's Symphony #94 known as "The Surprise Symphony" and the second movement? Not pop but cool.

Oct. 15 2010 02:35 PM
Tim from Manhttan

Lea Michaels "Do You Know What I Mean." I have yet to exhale until this one ends.

Oct. 15 2010 02:35 PM
Ben from White River Junction, Vermont

The Beastie Boys hit Sabotage has a classic pause just before the bass line comes back in. They tend to exploit it and draw it out live.

Oct. 15 2010 02:34 PM
karen

Every Bruce fan knows his best pause is in Rosalita when he tells her to " hold tight baby 'cause don't you know daddy's comin' ooooooooooooooooooH.......The true fan knows just how long to hold the pause before coming back with the chorus

Oct. 15 2010 02:34 PM
jingles from brooklyn

the pause in the middle of the guitar solo in Nirvana's "In Bloom" (~1991) - it's less than a second but it makes it the best solo on the album (Nevermind)

Oct. 15 2010 02:34 PM
Carl from East Village

The Swans, at the show at the Masonic Temple last week, did an encore of 3 minutes of noise followed by 3 minutes of silence, where they made everyone think they were about to break into song, but then just said "thank you"...and walked off stage. It was pretty awesome.

Oct. 15 2010 02:33 PM
karen

Every Bruce fan knows his best pause is in Rosalita when he tells her to " hold tight baby 'cause don't you know daddy's comin' ooooooooooooooooooH.......The true fan knows just how long to hold the pause before coming back with the chorus

Oct. 15 2010 02:32 PM
Rick from NYC

Not a dead pause, but a compelling use of tension in the same way.

Joe South! Who'd have guessed? "Clock on the Wall," the first song on his "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home" album. At 2:31 in the music suddenly stops for 30 seconds of metronomic clock ticking ping ponging from left to right and back. A few seconds in you wait for instruments or voices to return. At 10. At 15. Yikes! Was this like a DJ putting on MacArthur Park to take a bathroom break? He returns out of nowhere. Why at an even 30, why not 23 or 7? It's a compelling use of the device, even if it's not as overt as momentary silence.

One listen on the headphones, and you know this was recorded in 1969.

Oct. 15 2010 02:32 PM
Suhlle Ahn from New York

"A Day in the Life," The Beatles. For some reason, I always want the song NOT to have the final chord.

Also, an example from classical music -- Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony -- the moment when the audience often starts to clap. I think of it as the composer playing with the audience a bit.

Oct. 15 2010 02:32 PM
Jack Macco from Astoria

Great pause=Zeppelin 1
Good Times Bad Times
right before the guitar especially!
Great pauses throughout
their music!

Oct. 15 2010 02:31 PM
Sean from Brooklyn

How about the Jaco Pastorius fattened transition from Joni Mitchell's Overture into Cotton Avenue on 1977's Don Juan's Reckless Daughter?

Oct. 15 2010 02:31 PM
Stephanie from NJ

...Then again, the B-52's second album had "Strobe Light," which uses lots of pauses to simulate the strobe light effect in a musical way. (Who wants to comb through both albums in full-on geek mode? I do!)

Oct. 15 2010 02:30 PM
Radialhead from NYC

Two very pregnant pauses are featured in Two songs by Led Zeppelin "The Ocean" and "In My Time of Dying"

Oct. 15 2010 02:30 PM
Brad from Moonachie NJ

"Make Me Smile" by Cockney Rebel & Steve Harvey has an interesting pauses between choruses. I don't know how else they could have made the transition from the background singers and the lead singer

Oct. 15 2010 02:30 PM
Dan Winckler from Williamsburg

The long series of pauses in The Bad Plus song "Physical Cities" from the album Prog. The song devolves to this series of pregnant pauses between bursts of the main riff. It's always seemed like a tongue-in-cheek yet loving parody of heavy metal to me. Skip to 5:50 for the lead-in to the pauses, which go on for more than a minute in the album version (and feel much longer in concert!).

Oct. 15 2010 02:29 PM
stephanie

Blondie - The Tide is High (drum intro)

Oct. 15 2010 02:29 PM
Brian Gresko from Brooklyn

Talking Heads fantastic album Remain in Light begins with a few short beats and a pause, after which David Byrne's "hah!" rings in the wall of rhythm of Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On). It's a great microcosm of the entire record, which is all about rhythm and groove and counterpoint.

Oct. 15 2010 02:29 PM
Ken from Little Neck

I know we're not talking classical, but I can't help but think of the ending of Sibelius' 5th symphony. Instead of silence interrupting the flow of the music, the music interrupts the flow of silence. Absolutely breathtaking if done right.

Oct. 15 2010 02:29 PM
Andrew from Sunnyside

Speaking of B52's and Lobster Rock, let's not forget the best pause by them, "TIN ROOF RUSTED!"

Oct. 15 2010 02:28 PM
linda from nj

John,

I promise you, if you have ever seen Bruce to that song in concert (the run-down on Born to Run), it would fill every last bit of a definition of a pause. He strings it out so you almost can't stand it for another second and every single person in the audience is sitting on the tip of a pin. There is nothing like it. Rest your mind, it's a pause. No doubt. Love this segment!

Oct. 15 2010 02:28 PM
Rich from Pittsburgh

AC/DC: For Those About to Rock (3:58)
Buzzcocks: Fast Cars (0:20)

Oct. 15 2010 02:28 PM
Jesse from Brooklyn

The early Cure song "Grinding Halt" is built around pauses. It's kind of an anti-dance tune. Instead of an upbeat chorus, there's: "Stop. Short. Grinding halt."

Oct. 15 2010 02:28 PM
Dan Winckler from Williamsburg

The long series of pauses in The Bad Plus song "Physical Cities" from the album Prog. The song devolves to this series of pregnant pauses between bursts of the main riff. It's always seemed like a tongue-in-cheek yet loving parody of heavy metal to me. Skip to 5:50 for the lead-in to the pauses, which go on for more than a minute in the album version (and feel much longer in concert!).

Oct. 15 2010 02:28 PM
bob steffen from Shrewsbury, Ma.

How about the infinite pause - The Beatles used this so effectively to end a song, with a set up to silence...

...Ane in the end, the love you make is equal to the love you make...

seemingly endless repetitions at the end of Hey Jude to abrupt silence

or a repetitive instrumental riff then silence...

Oct. 15 2010 02:28 PM
JT

The prologue in West Side Story has a few pauses.

Oct. 15 2010 02:28 PM
roz from nyc

"Fire" The Pointer Sisters
the pause creates anticipation that echoes the anticipation of the kiss
---you give me kisses like fire

Oct. 15 2010 02:28 PM
Genji

Just remembered the most ridiculous extended break. The soundtrack for Easy Rider "Don't Bogart That Joint" ....rrrrrroooooolllllllll anonther one. I think the longest break I can think of, though not total silence.

Oct. 15 2010 02:27 PM
Craig from Tribeca

"Can't Hardly Wait" from the Replacements - not one but two pauses and one of the best lines ever " jesus rides beside me, he never buys any smokes"

Oct. 15 2010 02:26 PM
Dan Winckler from Williamsburg

The long series of pauses in The Bad Plus song "Physical Cities" from the album Prog. The song devolves to this series of pregnant pauses between bursts of the main riff. It's always seemed like a tongue-in-cheek yet loving parody of heavy metal to me. Skip to 5:50 for the lead-in to the pauses, which go on for more than a minute in the album version (and feel much longer in concert!).

Oct. 15 2010 02:26 PM
Monica Jacobson

Not exactly a pause, but check out Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar", last 20 seconds -- (on Wish You Were Here) -- it will make you think that your record needle has scratched out the track and you lost your stereo!

Oct. 15 2010 02:26 PM
a g from n j

syncopated percussion in salsa-check out willie colon's "calle luna, calle sol" circa early seventies. this tune has wonderful funky breaks with 'bones and bass and piano playing off each other ........

Oct. 15 2010 02:26 PM
SugarDaddy from UWS NY

Some songs form a pause in the form of a fade out, but your not ready for the song to end. Perfect example:
Ryan Adams - Anybody want to take me home,

Oct. 15 2010 02:26 PM
John from mineola

Jennifer Eagan author, yesterday mentioned the famous producer Bob Clearmountain pause. The Rolling Stones song "No Use in Crying" where Mick sings, I aint never coming Back, back back (echo-delya)" from Tattoo You came to mind.
very cool

Oct. 15 2010 02:25 PM
JS from Queens

One pause that has always stuck out is in Cheap Trick's cover of 'Don't be Cruel', where in the video, they accentuate the pause with confused looks.

Also, in Queen's 'Somebody to Love', the vocals near the end continue as the music falls away and eventually Freddy's voice does as well.

Oct. 15 2010 02:25 PM
rosie from NYC

remember Peter Gabriel and the HUGE pause in the middle of the piece and then all of the sudden the heavy duty drums?
forgot the name of the piece but it was AMAZING when I heard it the first time...

Oct. 15 2010 02:25 PM
David from New Jersey

How about the not quite empty pause at the end of Cream's White Room ?

Oct. 15 2010 02:25 PM
Antonio Becerril from Mexico City

I will make my case with two songs. Great pauses, that just take you back:

1. Can't Touch This - MC Hammer

2. The Magnificent Seven - The Clash

They got great hooks, that take you back to the start, and get you groovin' again.

Oct. 15 2010 02:24 PM
cindy from wantagh

great pause: "Fire" bruce springsteen/Pointer sisters

Oct. 15 2010 02:24 PM
Genji

Love this topic...Young Americans extended pause had me grinning ear to ear.

Oct. 15 2010 02:24 PM
Stephanie from NJ

Most pauses on one album -- probably The B-52's' first LP, The B-52's. They used lots of pauses.

Oct. 15 2010 02:24 PM
Giuliano from Princeton, NJ

One early great pause is "Good Lovin" by the Young Rascals.

Oct. 15 2010 02:24 PM
Logan from Crown Heights

Let's not forget John Cage's use of the pause, where the noise that takes up the void, whether it be feedback or the audience, in the case of a live performance, can be as relevant for rock music as well.

Oct. 15 2010 02:24 PM
peter from Midtown East

The Beastie Boys "Intergalactic"
"never let the beat ................. drop?"

Oct. 15 2010 02:24 PM
Zachary from Manhattan

"Tragedy" by the Bee-Gees, the pause just before that lightening strike/ gunshot sound effect. Tension snaps.

Oct. 15 2010 02:23 PM
Len from Jackson Heights

Springsteen's Fire, the version by the Pointer Sisters: happens just before "Like Romeo and Juliet.... Sampson and Deliah...
Definitely creates a nice sexual tension.

Oct. 15 2010 02:23 PM
Kevin in NJ from NJ

"Stop in the name of love." Both lyrical and musical nuances.

Oct. 15 2010 02:22 PM
david from brooklyn

good lovin'!!!!

Oct. 15 2010 02:22 PM
K Phillips from Brooklyn

Bruce Springsteen's 'Human Touch' has a build, a small pause... and then Bruce's amazing yell: that guttural-from-the-depths-of-his-soul yell that tingles MY soul every time I hear it. Now that SoundCheck causes me to consider, perhaps the pause is my favorite part because it gives me a moment to anticipate what is coming next.

Oct. 15 2010 02:21 PM

Best Bowie pause...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMOegpyCuWg
go to 0:55.

Oct. 15 2010 02:21 PM
Carl from East Village

Helmet (heavy rock band from the 90s) perfected pauses. The song FBLA is a good example, but almost every song leverages pauses. Not only do they use complete pauses, they play a lot with individual instruments stopping, but letting the others continue.

Oct. 15 2010 02:20 PM
Dave Goessling from Hihg Bridge, NJ

very subtle "hipster pause" in a Beatle song.
In She's A Woman, second verse, John Lennon leaves out > one < rhythm guitar stroke. Most people don't notice, but obviously Geroge Martin did, and it's probably one of the reasons why that was "the take"
I still wait for it!

Oct. 15 2010 02:20 PM
Tom Crisp from uws

RE the Contours and Do You Love Me?
see also
Count Basie, April In Paris

The repeating coda ...

Oct. 15 2010 02:20 PM
Jesse from Brooklyn

The early Cure song "Grinding Halt" is built around pauses. It's kind of an anti-dance tune. Instead of an upbeat chorus, there's: "Stop. Short. Grinding halt."

Oct. 15 2010 02:20 PM
Sean from Brooklyn

Sounds Im-pausible, but the Grateful Dead's Wharf Rat comes to mind with a monolithic pause in the later half of the bridge..."I'll get up and fly away..." Great show!

Oct. 15 2010 02:20 PM
kevin from brooklyn

Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others by The Smiths..best fade out and back in at the end

Oct. 15 2010 02:19 PM
Peter Katona from Brooklyn, NY

The pause after "promised land" in River of Dreams by Billy Joel is a favorite- it does keep the beat, yet always seems just a bit longer- almost like it shouldn't fit the tempo.

Oct. 15 2010 02:19 PM
Liz from Manhattan

My favorite pause in music? Has to be Pat Benatar "Promises in the Dark". It's a great game to try to get the beat count right for her re-entry!

Oct. 15 2010 02:19 PM
don from Bklyn

We should have taken a REALLLY LONGGGG pause after the one in "Monday Monday" to consider how ridiculous we could get when discussing music (this show being a prime example)!!

Oct. 15 2010 02:19 PM
nickb

talking heads - warning signs. great pause.

Oct. 15 2010 02:18 PM
Jeb from Greenpoint

4.37 mark of Watch Song by Shellac. You can hear Steve Albini and Bob Weston jumping around, waiting for the beat to come back in.

Oct. 15 2010 02:18 PM
Tonky from Red Hook

Phish - Divided Sky

Ultimate live pause.

During concerts they often hold silent for minutes to observe the crowd until the energy rises to some qualitative climax and recommence rocking.

Oct. 15 2010 02:18 PM
brian

INXS New Sensation.

Oct. 15 2010 02:17 PM
Raymond Helfrich from West Orange, NJ

I agree with Dave: my favorite dramatic pause is in that Alanis Morrisette song.

Oct. 15 2010 02:17 PM
Andy from Morristown

The pause (with quiet counting) in the Replacements "Shootin' Dirty Pool"...sweet

Oct. 15 2010 02:15 PM
zach from west palm beach

You might have had a professional arranger on to better explain arrangement techniques of which there are many formulaic tools. and how they are used to expressive and dramatic effect.

Oct. 15 2010 02:15 PM
Raymond Helfrich from West Orange, NJ

Don't forget to mention the expression "pregnant pause," which is... full--not empty!

Thanks... for all your great shows!

Oct. 15 2010 02:14 PM
Gary from Port Washington

The Beatles used pauses a couple of times including Helter Skelter where they fade out and back in. Led Zepplin accented the great song Thank You with a pause to make it sound eternal.

Oct. 15 2010 02:14 PM
Tom Crisp from uws

Pauses happen continually in all music, they just are short enough not to be called pauses. The space between beats are as much a part of rhythm as the beat itself.
The pause in music is related to the void in painting or sculpture, the blank paper in a drawing, the empty space in architecture. There is no "full" unless there is an "empty."
This is fundamental to composition in all art.

Oct. 15 2010 02:14 PM
Alistair from midtown

"Day in the Life"

Oct. 15 2010 02:14 PM
Dave from New Jersey

"Here, can you handle this..." -Alanis Morrisette.

She goes on to ask, "...or did you long for next distraction?"

Oct. 15 2010 02:13 PM
jen from soho

let's not forget the pause in hotel california which i think backfires by giving the impression of the somg being recorded in two separate sessions.

Oct. 15 2010 02:12 PM
Don from Long Island

A friend of mine had me playing some improv jazz for a show of his once. As a classically trained violinist, I had no idea what to do, but he told me this: the notes you don't play are more important than the notes you do play.

Obviously, it's true in all genres, but I never understood it until then.

Oct. 15 2010 02:11 PM
Don from Long Island

A friend of mine had me playing some improv jazz for a show of his once. As a classically trained violinist, I had no idea what to do, but he told me this: the notes you don't play are more important than the notes you do play.

Obviously, it's true in all genres, but I never understood it until then.

Oct. 15 2010 02:10 PM
Bill from Hewitt, NJ

Best pause/stop/restart
"Going Down" by Jeff Beck Group 1972

Oct. 15 2010 02:10 PM
Frank Grimaldi from East Village

David Bowie used a more blantantly dramatic pause on the song "Time" than on "Young Americans." On the latter - the pause almost seemed expected.

Oct. 15 2010 02:08 PM
kp from nj

Rock Lobster......down....down......

Oct. 15 2010 02:02 PM
john G.. from Atlanta, Ga

yes, and don't forget the (pregnant) pause after the five note intro of Ball and Chain, followed by the most aggressively depressing guitar crash ever heard.

Oct. 15 2010 11:55 AM

relating to your later guest. there is a great antony and the johnson's song with a dramatic break in it. The song "I fell in love with a dead boy" from the ep of the same name. On the record it's a shorter pause, but when i show them play it live, it was a show stopping break that not only brought a hush to the whole theatre but also gave me chills down my back. that's an effective use of a pause.

Oct. 15 2010 10:08 AM
a g from n j

at the beginning of certain tunes,or the at the completion of the first part of them. ie. "a hard days night" . a dramatic pause for the attack, throws the sucker into instant overdrive. steppenwold-"magic carpet ride". hendrix-"wild thing" at monterrey. in rock genre,the theme seems pretty obvious. the explosion,is so much a product of amplified,bass,guitar,and drums. no thomas alva edison,no southpaw ax slinging genius from seattle.........

Oct. 14 2010 07:48 PM

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