Analysis Of The Pink Floyd's Song Money

Pink Floyd were an English progressive rock band who were popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were known for their sonic experimentation and for incorporating elements of psychedelia into their musical style. The 1973 release of one of their more commercially successful albums, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, was a significant and influential moment in pop culture. It explored many heavy and relevant themes including mental health, conflict, wealth/greed and death, and invited listeners to ponder about other existential and philosophical concepts. With the popularity of hallucinogenic drugs at the time, it’s no wonder that the psychedelic and hypnotic content of the album was received well by listeners. The music, production and lyrical content of the album was creative, original and insightful, unlike anything of its decade.

One hit song from the album, ‘Money’ was influenced by Booker T and the MGs and can be labelled a satirical mockery of the wealthy. It interestingly manipulates the concepts of sampling, rhythm and texture, accentuating the song’s thematic lyrics. A stand-out feature of ‘The dark Side of the Moon’ is its clever incorporation of different sample sounds which were employed as a tool to reiterate the themes of the songs and to enhance the listener’s experience. ‘Money’ utilises tape-generated, quadraphonic sample sounds of coins, a cash register and the tearing of paper uniquely as a rhythmic device. The effects loop produced from these samples can be heard in the song’s introduction and in Verse 1, and is also used as a transition between Verses 1 and 2. The loop is the first layer heard by the listener. It is repeated three times, each sound combining to form the initial pulse of the piece, before the bass guitar and percussion is introduced and the 7/4 time signature is established. The quadrophonic production of the loop causes each sound to alternate or pan from left to right ear, creating a surround sound effect. The sampling is a significant and intriguing feature of the song as it immediately captures the attention of the listener as the piece commences.

‘Money’ is a polyrhythmic piece made up of five rhythmic layers, including the loop, the bass guitar, the drums and two rhythmic electric guitar parts which create a syncopated conversation. The main rhythm is provided by the bass guitar which plays a simple rhythmic ostinato/melodic riff, comprised of crotchets, dotted crotchets and semiquavers. This ostinato repeats in every section except the end of each verse where it instead plays in unison with the lead vocalist’s main melody. The bass provides a strong, definite and regular pulse, and the septuple 7/4 meter combined with the bass’ short note lengths gives the piece a swing, bluesy feel. The drum layer plays crotchets on every beat except 1 and 7 during the main part of each verse, accenting the 2nd, 4th and 6th beats in each bar. The first electric guitar layer (which can be heard through the left channel) repeats one singular note throughout the introduction and each verse. In the introduction, it plays a short, detached note on the 6th and 4th beats and plays a more sustained note on the 2nd beat. As the song moves into the verse, the guitar no longer plays on the 6th beat. The second electric guitar layer (which can be heard through the right channel) mainly plays a single note on the 7th beat of each bar and plays a short melodic ostinato which begins on the 2nd beat of every bar. Similar to the other performing media, during the latter part of the verses, these guitars also play in melodic unison with the lead vocalist. The overall tempo of the song is moderate (moderato) and lively (vivace/vivo) and it remains the same throughout this excerpt.

Most of the rhythmic layers are consistently present throughout the entire excerpt, therefore forming an overall dense, polyphonic texture. While these polyrhythmic layers are engaging, they may overwhelm or distract the listener from the important message embedded in the lyrics, which is ironically similar to the way that we, as humans can get so caught up in obsessing over wealth that it can distract us from the more important things in life. Despite this, these active rhythmic components contribute to the overall up-beat groove of the song, which supports the satirical angle of the lyrics. Pink Floyd’s artistic incorporation of sampling and their densely textured rhythmic section combine to make ‘Money’ a uniquely notable piece of music, and support the song’s underlying message.

Personally, I feel that the intelligence and complexity of Pink Floyd’s album as a whole offered the opportunity for a more philosophical and insightful form of listening than other typical popular music of the time. I appreciate the darker, less talked about or taboo themes explored, and I admire the creative way in which the topic raised in ‘Money’ is further conveyed through the song’s music and production. 

16 December 2021
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