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The song is 'Look Down' from Les Misérables.

It is sung by the hungry and poor peasants of Paris who are angry with the political system in
France.

Explain how the use of musical elements in the excerpt helps to convey the
daily struggle of life for the Parisian peasants.
Les Misérables is set after the French revolution in 1822. This piece introduces Gavroche
and the other students rebelling against the French Regime.
At the very beginning of the piece we hear a choir singing together, with the use of chords,
to bring a sense of unity. This is supported by the brass melody which is usually associated
with a call to arms. The strong beat of the melody is emphasised on the second beat of the
bar and this is justified by iambic pentameter when reading the lyrics of the song. The
timpani’s in the background create a rumbling effect which then creates a more dramatic
feel. The introducing verse/chorus is a group of people singing together, which
complements the fact that everyone should have a voice. This is what the entirety of the
French revolution was based on. The repetition of “Look Down” is there to get the attention
of the hierarchy; and each time it is spoken/sung with more vigour. “Look down” is what the
peasants say to the aristocrats and wealthy people to bring their attention to the conditions
in which the working class is living in. This is also to pinpoint the contrast between the rich
and the poor in France, post-French revolution.
When Gavroche’s voice enters above the rest of the crowd, the other singers provide choral
support. This complements the support shown by the working class for those who put their
voice out there. The first verse is there to build musical tension up to the climax; where
Gavroche shouts “Follow me!”. Throughout this verse there is a lot of syllabic symmetricity.
When the vocal chorus, “Look down”, returns the crowd sings a fifth or an octave higher to
create a pleading and almost begging feel to the music. Triplet rhythms present themselves
to create a exciting effect which leads up to the next climax of the song. Full orchestral hits
are also present which add a surging effect towards Marrius’ verse.
In Marrius’ verse, the rising melody allows the whole crowd to be involved by galvanising
everyone. The fact that behind Marrius’ voice the crowd supports him by chorally
supporting the melody.
On the whole, Les Miserables is still in the shadow of the French revolution as the demands
of the people are still the same.