Some of the past articles I’ve written on here have been suuuuuper information-dense, so let’s try one that is a little lighter! Ironically, this “lighter” music is the battle theme for the Underworld… But the topic is certainly more on the basic side in terms of music theory 🙂 Although it is a more simple concept, it is still a very beloved compositional technique, to me: call and response.

Let’s listen to “What Lies Beneath”, which first showed up in Kingdom Hearts II, and is now the battle music for the Underworld in Kingdom Hearts Union Cross.

Among the marimba and pizzicato strings, the bassoon solo and sweeping string section, there are actually two call-and-response lines going on simultaneously in this piece.

To begin, let’s talk about what exactly call and response is. Just as it sounds, call and response consists of two main parts (usually) that alternate playing. Often, the first part to play takes the role of the “caller”, and the second part to play is the “responder”.

The first example that comes to mind of call and response actually brings me back to my days in the percussion (“pit”) front ensemble of my high school’s marching band. There was a “percussion feature” in our field show freshman year, where the rest of the band marched around and made awesome formations while the pit and drumline went crazy, on all kinds of drums and auxiliary percussion, and even electric guitars (whaaat!?).

Near the end of the piece, our section leader played a rhythm on the timbales (shallow-headed drums often played in Latin American music), and the rest of us played the same rhythm back. Watch the clip below, and don’t mind the little girl improvising on the agogo bells… X’D The call and response part is near the end, from 01:0101:15.

Wow that brings back memories…!

Anyway, now that we’ve talked about call and response, let’s go back to “What Lies Beneath”. As I mentioned before, there are two pairs of call and response parts. The first and most obvious one is between the solo bassoon and string section. The bassoon plays by itself from 00:0000:12, then the strings pick it up from 00:1200:24, playing pretty much the same rhythm as the bassoon just did, but in a different key and slightly different notes.

Then we really begin the call and response. The bassoon takes over from 00:25 to 00:30, then the strings play from 00:3000:33, and the bassoon comes back from 00:3400:36.

At the beginning, the bassoon was playing the role of “call” and the strings were “responding”. Starting the next section though, the roles are switched. The strings play the “call” part, from 00:37 to 00:42, then the bassoon “responds” from 00:42 to 00:48. Then they finally play at the same time, then the bassoon plays a little ending and the strings do a downward tremolo melody line before the piece loops back.

Now let’s talk about the less obvious call and response part, that occurs between the marimba and pizzicato strings. This may not be considered entirely “call and response“, but it does feature alternation of parts, so for the purpose of this article I’m going to call it call and response 🙂

If you listen closely, whenever the bassoon is playing, the marimba is playing downbeat notes, while the pizzicato strings are playing off-beat notes, between the marimba notes. It’s very subtle, but it has a great effect!

There are tons and TONS of other examples of call and response, in all kinds of music! Leave a comment with your favorite example of call and response! ♪

Stay tuned for more Single-Track Analysis Articles of tracks from Kingdom Hearts Unchained X / Kingdom Hearts Union Cross! One article every day in the month of April 2017!

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