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ROBERT W. WEISBERG (Temple University, Philadelphia)1

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase:

A Study in Consistency
Billie Holidays style of singing has captured the imaginations
of singers, instrumentalists, and listeners alike. Among the vocalists who
singled her out as their ideal are Dinah Washington, Anita ODay, Sarah
Vaughan, and Carmen McRae (Gourse, 1997, p. 150). Frank Sinatra
claimed that it is Billie Holiday, whom I rst heard in 52nd Street clubs in
the early 30s, who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical inuence on me (Pleasants, 1997, p. 139). The composer Ned Rorem acknowledged her inuence: In bending a phrase, stretching a melody, delaying the
beat so as to come in wrong just right, she forever inuenced my approach
to song writing... (Rorem, 1997, p. 176).
This study compares three versions of Holiday singing the standard
tune, All of Me from 1941, 1946, and 1954. (See the list of recordings in
Table 1.) This not only provides an opportunity to examine general features
of her style, but allows a comparison of aspects of her style as they developed through her short career. This span of thirteen years covers much of
her recording career (which began in 1933 and ended with her death at age
44 in 1959).
A number of jazz critics have discussed Holidays gift for paraphrasing
the tune, for example, the following description by Giddens (1997, p. 91):

Authors addresses: C. Folio, Department of Music Theory; e-mail: cfolio@

R. Weisberg, Department of Psychology, Temple University, Phila. PA 19122;
e-mail: robert.weisberg@temple.edu. C.F. received support from a summer research
grant for initial research and transcriptions for this chapter. She wishes to thank
Temple University for this support.


Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

Despite a thin voice and a range of about 15 notes, she overpowered musicians
and listeners with multilayered nuances: She embellished melodies, tailoring
them to her own needs and limitations; lagged behind the beat, imparting suspense; harmonized well beyond the ground chords of the composition, projecting a bright authority; and inected words in a way that made even banal lyrics
bracing... Hers was the art of reection.

Many critics have discussed the dierences between Billies early and
late recordings, claiming that her voice quality deteriorated, that she lost
her vocal control, and that her level of performance became inconsistent. In
an article entitled, Lady Gets Her Due/The Complete Lady Day, Giddins
(1997) compared the early Columbia recordings (1933-42) with the Verve
collection (1952-59), claiming that Billie had basically two styles: early and
late, with 1942 (the year she apparently began to use hard drugs) as the
turning point. He argued against the common criticism of Holidays late
style: Can we agree that the Billie Holiday controversy, in which her early
recordings were used to trash the later ones, has been put to rest? He
claimed that the later recordings were qualitatively dierent from the early
ones, and in some ways superior (Giddens, 1997, pp. 91-3):
The early records expel a golden-age sheen of sunny rhythms and instrumental
bravura; later records are built entirely around the singer. The tempo is slower,
the ambience more conversational. But her alterations remain provocative and
full of surprise; her enunciation is, if anything, more compelling, the emotions
...whereas once she transcended silly lyrics with the intensity of her rhythmic
and melodic skills, now she makes them work for her. Every stanza seems

Had she sung What a Little Moonlight Can Do at the end of her life
as she did at 20, she would not have been much of an artist she would
have been what Lester Young contemptuously called a repeater pencil
(Giddens, 1997, p. 91). The present analysis initially set out to examine
how much Billies interpretations changed over her career, and to show how
much more mature the late versions were in relation to the early versions.
However, the analysis resulted in our concluding the opposite. On the surface her style appeared to change drastically; changes of key, voice quality,
rhythmic feel (e.g. swing), tempo, instrumentation, all contribute to what
seem to be very dierent versions of the tune. But after further analysis,
we encountered a high degree of consistency among interpretations from
dierent times in her career, and even among versions that were in dierent tempi and that featured contrasting textural settings. The apparent
changes in the ways that she departed from the tune were more a matter
of degree. Billies technique of paraphrase remained highly consistent, espe-

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


cially in the area of timing but also in pitch, not only from chorus to chorus
within a performance, but also from interpretation to interpretation, sometimes over relatively long periods of time. This consistency in Holidays art,
which may be surprising to scholars as well as to more casual listeners, is
the main subject of this chapter.
This study combines a qualitative discussion of major points in Billies
performances with quantitative analysis of data2 derived from those performances. There is some precedence for this in the music-theoretical literature. For example, Huron (2001) analyzed Brahmss Op. 51/1 using a rigorous
method of comparative analysis to illustrate the distinctness of a motivic
feature. As in our study, the statistics provide formal support for his informal
intuition. Cognitive psychologists have applied quantitative techniques to the
analysis of the creative process in the arts. Weisberg (2004) examined the
preliminary sketches for Picassos great painting Guernica, in order to cast
light on the structure of the thought processes that brought it about, and
also examined the development of other creative products (Weisberg, 2003).
Martindale (e.g., 1990) has examined changes in French Romantic poetry
using quantitative methods (see also Simonton, 1998). In our view, quantitative analysis of the creative process in music provides a valuable supplement
to the points raised in the more traditional music-theoretical analysis, as well
as sometimes providing the basis for new discoveries.

Three Interpretations of All of Me:

Qualitative Analysis
The three recordings of All of Me oer an opportunity to compare Billies paraphrase of the tune, not only from three dierent times in her
life spanning a total of 13 years, but also from performances at widely varying
tempi. The fact that the tempi become faster with each version is probably
a result of specic circumstances, rather than a reection of a general trend
toward faster tempi in her style. In addition, each of the three recordings has
two choruses (oering six dierent interpretations of the tune), and the tune
is an AB (or AA form) in which several phrases are repeated, oering a total
of twelve dierent interpretations of some phrases.

These data consist of details of rhythmic placement and pitch, derived from
C.F.s transcriptions of recorded performances. While these transcriptions are not
as precise as, say, a computer analysis of a sound le, C.F. is a professional jazz
performer, with extensive experience. Furthermore, the results are so strong that
dierences of a half-step or a portion of a beat would not have any signicant eect
on our ndings.


Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

Needless to say, none of the six (or twelve) interpretations stays very
close to the tune (as one might nd it on a lead sheet or in a fake book3).
The one that comes closest is the rst recording of the tune, which also
happens to be the slowest. This is the only one of the three versions in
which Billie actually sings the descending arpeggios of the tune that fall on
the words, All of me in the rst four bars of the tune: F-C-A and E-C4-B
(the B is a departure from the original A). Notably, she does so only in
the rst chorus (see Example 1). The rst version is also the only one that
contains the altered note, C4 (the third of the A7 in that second arpeggio),
so characteristic of the tune; subsequent versions all avoid this note. This
early recording also comes closest to the rhythm of the original, although
even here Billie is anywhere from an eighth note to two quarters behind
the beat much of the time. As the tempi get faster in the other two recordings, she lags behind progressively more. In the 1954 recording, she is
sometimes as much as four or ve beats behind the expected articulation
of a word!
This penchant for singing behind the beat is a trait for which Billie was
famous. Her timing was so awless that she could sing behind the beat
without losing her place, only to pounce back on the beat when she saw
t. Whitney Ballietts description (1997, p. 100) of Billies rhythmic sense
serves as an apt introduction to her interpretations of All of Me, especially
the later versions:
Billie was a rhythm machine. No jazz instrumentalist has had a more exible
sense of time, and it was infallible... she disconnects each song from its chumpchump-chump rhythm, and, for the two minutes or so that her vocal lasts, makes
the song oat along somewhere behind the beat, thereby setting up an irresistible, swinging tug-of-war between the original tempo and her version of it.

An intriguing study by Huang and Huang (1994-95) of Billie Holidays

tempo rubato uncovers patterns in the way that Billie lagged behind the
beat. The authors call it dual-track time, or the simultaneous presentation
of two dierent, independent frameworks regulating the passage of time.
They illustrate how she kept an independent steady beat that moved at
3 The notion that there is a single original version of the tune is an ephemeral
concept in the world of jazz and pop music. Lead sheets and fake books oer only
an approximation of the tune, especially in the rhythmic dimension. No singer
would ever sing the tune exactly as it appears on the sheet music. For purposes of
this study, we compared several fake book versions and picked the most common
notational representation of All of Me as the starting point for comparison. If
another version had been selected as a reference, the overall conclusions would have
been the same.

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


a dierent tempo from the accompaniment. This separate beat, which they
call her recitation beat, accounts for our sense of security and order in her
line; according to the authors, the perception of the two tempi contributes
to Billies oating, dislocated quality.
As an example of Billies impeccable timing, there is one place in all
three versions in which Billie is not behind the beat: that is on the word
on in the B section (see Example 2). This usually requires that she accelerate on the words before on since she is behind at this point. This is
the only word that is consistently on a brilliant example of text painting! She also breaks slightly between the words on and dear, which has
the eect of emphasizing both words, and gives the word dear an ironic
emphasis. In most versions of the tune, the words go on dear without are
all grouped closely together rhythmically. The space between these words
becomes greater with each successive recording, and even becomes humorous in the last version (discussed below).
Other general features of Billies vocal style also appear in all three versions of All of Me, including her uncanny ability to slide into, out of, and
between notes. Note that she slides into the word All at the beginning of
all six choruses (refer to Example 1). Some of her more expressive slides
include the minor seventh interval on lose in the 1941 version, 1st chorus,
and a similarly expressive slide in the 1954 version (see Example 3). One
can hear Billie literally crying on the half-step slide on the word cry in the
1941 version, 2nd chorus (look ahead to Example 4). In the 1946 version, she
frequently lls the half-step from C to D2with slides, even making the D2
a quarter-tone at, which accentuates the bluesy feel (refer to Example 2).
This expressive feature of her singing is a hallmark of her style.
Billies careful control of consonants at the ends of words is an interesting feature of her style. She often deliberately places the strong consonants
like s and t on the beat. The transcriptions reect this in the use of an x
as note head at the point in time that the consonants occur. Bauer (1993)
discusses this feature in his analysis; his transcriptions employ a phonetic
notation of the lyrics in order to show subtle inections in the text as they
relate to the music, revealing a close relationship between emotion and
style. Billie makes a special eort on the words lips and arms in all three
versions and emphasizes the words lose, best, and rest in the 1946 version (refer to Examples 3 and 5 for some of these). Another trait that Bauer
is able to show in his transcriptions is her way of opening up the vowels on
some of the sustained notes. For example, she often sings the word you as
One other mark of Billies style is the signature motive that she frequently uses to end tunes the 1946 and 1954 versions both end with


Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

a ^2 to ^1 appoggiatura on the last word, me, preceded by a leap of a 4th

from ^5. She uses this ^2 - ^1 ending so commonly that Giddens (1997)
refers to it as her most overworked tic. This signature motive forms setclass (027).
The three recordings dier in key, tempo, and range. While the rst
recording is in F major, the other two are in E2. This is probably due to the
change in her voice as she matured (or, as some say, her voice degenerated).
The total range of each successive version becomes a half-step smaller and
the lowest note is a half-step lower: the range of the rst version is A3
to C5 (or a m10); the range of the second is A23 to B24 (or a M9); and
the range of the third is G3 to A24 (or a m9). As mentioned before, the
tempi are quite dierent, progressing from slowest to fastest. The band that
backs her also creates a dierent setting; for example, the second version
has a ragtime avor since members of the band improvise behind her to
create a busy texture.
The more subtle dierences among the three recordings are manifest in
the general rhythmic feel and melodic contour. Stated in a general way, the
second version from 1946 has a more bluesy feel, because Billie sings in a
swing rhythm; this is reected in the transcription by its notation in 12/8
meter instead of common time. For an eective example of how she lags
just behind the beat in this version, note how she swings on so why not
take the rest (see Example 5). The 1946 recording best illustrates Billies
technique of attening out a melody (see Example 6). For example, the
rst line uses only three notes E2, F, and D as opposed to the six notes
and many leaps in the original tune. The setting of the words All of me is
turned from an arpeggio into a series of repeated notes, and the rest of the
phrase is entirely stepwise motion. The second phrase rocks back and forth
on a half-step C to D2 until the last word, you (Ab), and again uses
only three notes as opposed to the six in the original tune. Note that the
three pitches used in this phrase A2 C D2 are the same three notes
used in the second phrase of the B section, and they are in turn an inversion
of the three notes in the third phrase of the B section D E2 G.
The 1954 recording is by far the most unsettled rhythmically, creating
a breathless feeling as Billie gets further behind the beat. In addition, she
replaces the arpeggio of the opening with a sophisticated development of
the motive of a P4/P5, for a slightly more angular version of the tune. The
1954 recording is the fastest of the three and also best illustrates Billies
penchant for lagging behind the time, only to recover at critical moments
in the form. Most phrase endings are behind the beat (especially on the
word cry), but become closer to the correct placement toward the end
of the chorus. Contrast this with the beginnings of each section in which

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


Billie pounces on the beat she is consistently right on (or when she rst
comes in, she is early).
While Billie plays with the time, the pianist in her group, Carl Drinkard,
provides humorous Monk-like piano punctuations that provide a playful dialogue. These dissonant chords appear in the transcriptions as stemmed xs
above the sta. Particularly clever is the second phrase in each section,
both choruses (refer to Example 2). When Billie sings Im no good Carls
accent on the fourth beat coincides with Billies no, giving the word special
emphasis. The word no is actually one beat late, making it syncopated.
When she sings go on dear in this same version (the parallel passage
in the B section), she sings on a beat earlier than she sang no (which
is actually where it would be if she had sung it straight). Therefore, Carls
accent is a beat late, as if he expected her to be late but she wasnt; she
was on! The eect of the silence between on and dear is to give the
impression that Billie has stopped in her tracks: How can I go on? This
emphasis on the word dear also gives the word an ironic twist. Note that
Billie and Carl do the same thing in the second chorus, suggesting that Carl
knew that she would be on every time. As noted above, Billie is on on
the word on in both choruses of all three versions; this kind of consistency
allowed Carl to make accurate predictions.
Carls accented chords also support Billies interpretation at the beginning of each B section, on Your goodbye. While Billie pounces on the
beat to begin the section, Carl, whose punctuations are usually on the
second or fourth beat of the measure, joins her on the rst and third beats.
In the measure that follows, he shifts back to the second beat and in the
next bar to the rst beat again, coinciding with Billie on the word left.
The placement of all of these accented chords enhances the playfulness and
the meaning of the text, while it propels the time forward and creates further rhythmic excitement.
One other aspect of Billies mature style that this 1954 version illustrates is the way she develops motivic ideas in the manner of a so-called
classical composer. She takes the opening P4 idea from the tune ^1
down to ^5 and uses this as a springboard for further ideas. The original
tune goes from ^1 to ^5 but then completes an arpeggiation of the tonic
triad. Instead, Billie springs back to tonic to create a P4 in both directions (see Example 7). In the second half of the same phrase, she expands
this P4 into a P5, bouncing down and up on D-G-D. The parallel is clear,
since both the P4 and the P5 set the words all of me; she has simply
replaced the arpeggio with this simpler motive. In the second phrase, the
two intervals are combined on cant you see (D-G-C-G); then they are
altered to become a tritone from G to D2on Im no. This phrase is all


Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

conjunct in the original version. She uses the same basic idea on the words
in parallel phrases in both choruses, including eyes that cry (D-G-D, with
the added E2-D half-step to emphasize cry) and How can I (D2-G-C).
She also ends with a P5 descent on baby and combines the P4 and P5 into
a three-note group for her three-note signature cadence (B2-F-E2).
One signicant dierence among the three versions of All of Me is the
narrative aspect. The rst version is matter-of-fact; it is the younger, somewhat nave Billie. The second version is sad and bluesy, like a woman who
has recently lost love and has felt the pain of exploitation, a theme that
the words of this tune clearly suggest. The last version is more ironic and
reveals a cynical Billie who has been through several disastrous relationships: while she sings, how can I go on dear without you, she knows very
well that she can. Her setting of eyes that cry in this last version is not
as mournful as the rst two. The year 1954 marks her European tour, in
which she received an abundance of admiration and respect from European
fans that she did not receive in the US.
There are many signicant similarities among the three transcribed versions that go beyond the general features of her style. For example, all
three recordings exhibit the same basic interpretation of the words All of
me and Your goodbye in the second chorus: Billie attens out the tune
turning the opening arpeggios into stepwise lines, specically ^3-^2-^1
in the key. Another common thread is Billies setting of the word cry
through the evocative half-step motive (see Example 4). In the rst recording she uses a whole step (C4-B) in the rst chorus and a half-step in the
second (B2-A), but in the other two recordings she uses a half-step in both
choruses (E2-D and A2-G).
What is most notable is that in each recording the two choruses are
remarkably similar to one another, as if Billie had worked out her concept
of the tune each time. A comparison of parallel passages within each version (especially apparent in Example 2) reveals how similar the rhythm and
contour of the tune are from the rst to the second chorus (with the exception of the ^3-^2-^1 change at the beginning of each section, mentioned
above). As further evidence that Billie worked out her interpretations, one
can compare this early version of All of Me with another recording that
is not included in this chapter (CRCD11102, A Fine Romance 2 March
21, 1941). The reason for not including it is that it is remarkably similar
to the one discussed above; in fact, it is dicult to tell the two versions
apart, except that Lester Young improvises a new solo. It is interesting that
Lesters break (after the word them) begins with the same initial idea
in both recordings, but ends dierently showing that he must have also
worked out some of his ideas.

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


One other feature of Billies three interpretations that further demonstrates her consistency and at the same time her uniqueness is the specic
way that she varies the second chorus. She sings dierent words at the end
of the second chorus, words not found in any lead sheet or heard by other
singers. Instead of You took the part that once was my heart; so why not
take all of me? she sings You took the best, so why not take the rest; baby,
take all of me. She also varies the melody at this point, but she varies it in
basically the same way each time, by going higher than the normal climax,
up to the fth degree of the scale. The combination of the new words and
the higher climax create more intensity the last time around.

Three Interpretations of All of Me:

Quantitative Analysis
These similarities from chorus to chorus and among the three
recordings suggested a possible hypothesis: despite the surface dierences
among these interpretations, might they demonstrate an underlying consistency? We used quantitative methods to examine that question further,
concentrating rst on Holidays use of timing, and then on pitch.
Timing. Figure 1A-C presents Billies timing for each chorus for each
recording (1941, 1946, 1954, respectively), for a total of six choruses. The
positive numbers indicate the number of beats (or fraction of beats) that
Billie is behind; the negative numbers indicate the number of beats she is
ahead. (The reason for making behind the beat positive and ahead of the
beat negative is that Billie is behind more than she is ahead.) It is obvious
from Figure 1A-C that there are many consistencies in Billies timing across
the six choruses: the peaks and valleys occur in many of the same places,
and for all the years, but especially for 1954, the curves are superimposed
at many points. Note that the peaks (at 2-4 beats behind and more) occur
on the words me, -out (from without), lose, cry (the highest peak
of all), -out (again from without) and all at the end (from all of me).
Every verse of every version is ahead of the beat (or right on in one case) on
the word them the last word of the rst part; and there is always more
time in the second chorus than in the rst. One reason for this might be
that Billie wanted to leave time for a break between sections; if she ended
early, one of the band members could take a short solo. Most versions are
also ahead of the beat on the word not (or -by of baby). Note that
Billie is very close to the correct placement for the beginnings of verses:
All at the beginning and Your in the middle. Also, the word me at the
very end is close to its correct place in every version. There are only two


Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

places where she is right on the expected beat in each and every chorus of
all three versions: on the words on and heart (in chorus 1) or the corresponding word rest (in chorus 2).
We carried out two overall analyses on Billies timing. We rst examined
the consistency of her rhythmic pattern from the rst chorus to the second
within each performance, as well as her consistency from one performance
to the next. Second, we also examined whether her rhythmic freedom
changed over the two choruses within each performance, and whether she
became more free rhythmically over the three performances of All of Me.
We examined the consistency in the patterns shown in Figure 1A-C by
calculating coecients of correlation, examining the relationship between
the two choruses within each year and between pairs of choruses across
years. Coecients of correlation (in this case, Pearson r ) provide a summary of the relationship between two variables. A value of 1.0 indicates
a close relationship between them; in this case, the timing patterns for any
two choruses would be identical. That is, the peaks and valleys would be
in exactly the same places and of the same magnitude in the two choruses.
A coecient of 0 indicates no relationship; that is, the timing patterns for
any two choruses would look totally dierent. A coecient of -1 would indicate a complete reversal in the two patterns: when one was at a peak, the
other would be at its lowest. The total of six choruses over the three performances allows us to calculate 15 correlations, taking all pairs of choruses.
These correlations are shown in Table 2, and each is numbered for ease of
A comparison of choruses 1 and 2 for each year (#1, 10, 15) indicates
a high degree of consistency. All three within-performance correlations were
positive and highly signicant statistically (p < .01 in each case), meaning that it is very unlikely that the patterns shown in Table 2 occurred
by chance. Note also that, the later the version, the more consistency
there is in the timing from chorus to chorus; that is, the correlation coefcients between chorus 1 and chorus 2 for a given year increase over years
(#1<#10<#15, and that correlation is especially high for 1954 (#15: .907).
This is consistent with observations in the above music-studies analysis, in
which the pianist appeared to predict what Billie was going to do. One can
also see visual evidence for this in the high degree of overlap in the two
curves in Figure 1C, mentioned earlier.
Not only is there consistency in Billies timing within a performance, but
there is also a high degree of consistency from performance to performance,
which is a more signicant nding. Returning to the correlations in Table
2, there are highly signicant correlations among choruses from dierent
years. Furthermore, the versions that are closer together in time (1941 and

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


1946) are not more highly correlated than are the other versions (compare
#2 and 3 to 4 and 5; and 2, 3, 6, and 7 to 11, 12, 13, 14). This indicates that
Billies timing pattern was consistent throughout these three recordings. In
conclusion, these statistics demonstrate a high degree of consistency in timing
from chorus to chorus and from performance to performance. This consistency is seen in spite of the time lapse between performances (14 years), the
changes in her accompanying musicians, and the wide disparities of tempo
and arrangements.
The correlational analysis just presented demonstrated that Billies overall rhythmic pattern was highly consistent from one chorus to the next
within each performance, and also from one performance to the next. This
means, once again, that the peaks and valleys in each chorus tended to occur
in the same places. However, it is also possible that, even with this high
degree of consistency, Billie might have shown more freedom in one performance or another. That is, she might have been farther away from the beat
in one chorus or in one performance although the peaks and valleys might
be in the same places, they might have been more extreme. This possibility, which we could call the question of rhythmic freedom, was investigated
by analyzing changes in the absolute deviation of Billies timing from the
song as written in most fake books and as sung by most artists. Absolute
deviation is simply a measure of how far away she was from the rhythm
at any point, ignoring whether she was ahead or behind. These results are
summarized in Table 3. Examining rst the degree of absolute deviation
as a function of the chorus in each performance, for none of the separate
years was the dierence in absolute deviations between chorus 1 and chorus
2 signicant by t- test (all t values < 1.0). Thus, the absolute deviation
from timing was similar for both choruses for each year. The second analysis of absolute deviations from timing examined the changes across the
three performances, averaged across choruses for each year, as shown in the
last column of Table 3. Billies absolute deviations from the rhythm of the
song increased signicantly over the three versions, by analysis of variance
(F(2,80) = 25.36 p < .001), and the average overall absolute value for each
year is signicantly dierent from each of the other years by t-test, p < .007
in each case. Thus it is highly unlikely that the dierences in absolute deviations from one year to another occurred by chance. These results indicate
that Billies rhythm became more free over the three performances.
In explaining these dierences, one possibility is that, over the years, as
Billie became more experienced in her style, she became more free in her
timing. This would explain the increasing absolute deviations from timing
over the three versions of All of Me seen in Table 3. However, there is
an alternative interpretation of those data: the tempo of the performance


Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

increases over the three versions, and it is possible that that increase in
tempo caused her to lag further behind the beat. (It should be noted that
fewer than 10% of the deviations are ahead of the beat.) The present data
do not allow us to dierentiate between those two explanations for the pattern of deviations shown in Table 3. In order to make such a dierentiation, we require songs with multiple performances in dierent tempi, but in
which the tempi do not change systematically over the years.
Pitch. Quantitative analysis was also carried out on the pitches created
by Billie over the six choruses of the three performances. Figure 2A-C
presents Billies deviations from the melody as written in most fake books
(in number of half-steps), for the 1941, 1946, and 1954 recordings, respectively, for each syllable in All of Me. Three points are seen in the gure.
First, as we saw with timing, there is consistency within each year in Billies melodies from the rst chorus to the second: one sees a similar pattern
within each pair of choruses, although the patterns are by no means identical. Second, within each year, there is more melodic freedom in the second
chorus than the rst: in Figure 2A-C, when the points for the two choruses
do not coincide for a given syllable, the value for the second chorus is usually farther away from the X-axis. This pattern was dierent than that with
timing, where there were no signicant dierences from the rst to second
chorus within a year. Third, comparing Figure 2A-C, one also sees similar
patterns across years, indicating that Billies interpretation of the melody
did not change drastically over the years. Statistical analyses supported
those conclusions.
As we did with Billies timing, we rst examined the consistency of the
pattern of melodic deviations shown in Figure 2A-C. We computed coefcients of correlation comparing the patterns of deviations from the melody
over all pairs of choruses from the three performances. These correlations
are shown in Table 4. Looking rst within each year (#1, 10, 15), all three
correlations are positive and highly signicant, meaning that her pitches
were consistent from one chorus to another for all three performances.
In addition, examining the other correlations, we see that they are also
all positive and highly signicant, indicating, as with timing, that Billies
melodic interpretation of All of Me was similar from performance to performance, even when 13 years intervened (#4, 5, 8, 9).
We then examined changes in Billies melodic freedom, as we did with
rhythm, by calculating her absolute deviations from melody, as shown in
Table 5. We rst compared the absolute melodic deviations for chorus 1 and
chorus 2 for each performance, and in each case, the dierence was signicant by t-test (all t values > 3.5, p < .001 in each case). This indicates that,
contrary to timing, Billie rst sang the melody relatively conservatively

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


(for her), and then went farther from the tune the second time around. We
also examined the degree of mean absolute deviation in pitch from year to
year, as shown in the last column of Table 5. As can be seen, there was an
increase from 1941 to 1946, but a decrease from 1946 to 1954. These results
were analyzed statistically using analysis of variance, which indicated that
the overall dierences among performances were not signicant (F (2, 198)
= .94, p > .05). Thus, in contrast to the consistent increase in rhythmic
freedom across the three performances seen earlier, there was not a consistent increase in Billies melodic freedom over the years.
Relationship Between Timing and Pitch Deviations. The nal statistical
analysis examined the relationship for each chorus between the amount of
timing deviation and melodic deviation across the words in the song. We
calculated coecients of correlation between the timing deviations and the
melodic deviations for each chorus. If these correlations were close to +1.0,
it would mean that the words that were sung by Billie farthest away from
the expected place in the timing were also those that were farthest away
from the expected melody. This could be taken to indicate that she coordinated her sense of timing and sense of melody. Correlations of 0 would indicate that there was no consistent relationship between timing and melody;
the timing and pitch of a given word would be independent of each other.
Such a nding would indicate that timing and pitch were under independent control as she sang. Finally, if those correlations were close to 1.0, it
would mean that the words most deviant rhythmically were the least deviant melodically, and vice versa. This would indicate that when she was
deviating along one dimension, she might compensate by not deviating in
the other.
These correlations are shown in Table 6, and there is only one signicant correlation (for 1941, chorus 1), and it was marginal. In carrying out
multiple statistical tests, it becomes likely that a signicant nding will
occur by chance, so one must be cautious in putting too much emphasis on
that single barely signicant correlation. The others are not signicant, and
those for 1954 are very close to zero. One pattern that is seen in the correlations in Table 6 is a decrease in absolute value of the correlations over
the years. If we assume that by 1954 the correlations are essentially zero,
it indicates that Billie was in control of two systems by then, and could
vary them independently. This conclusion, although it must be tempered,
is interesting because it could not have been derived from a qualitative
analysis of Billies performances; it thus demonstrates the potential usefulness of applying quantitative methods to the arts.


Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

As illustrated earlier, the three versions of All of Me show
a maturation in her style at the same time as they reveal signicant consistencies. While all three are remarkable interpretations, the general trend
is toward a less literal version of the actual pitches of the tune and a more
innovative approach to timing. While her timing became more deviant
from early to middle to late, it also demonstrated a certain consistency in
exactly where these deviations occurred. The latest versions of both tunes
also reveal a sophisticated development of motivic ideas, as Billie literally
recomposes the tune and creates her own integrated structure. While the
tune studied in this article represents only a small portion of Billie Holidays total output, our combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis
identies specic traits that can be studied in her other recordings and
opens the door to understanding her very personal art of paraphrase.

Balliett, W.
Lady Day, in: L. Gourse (Ed.), The Billie Holiday Companion: Seven
Decades of Commentary, Schirmer, XIX-XXII.
Bauer, W.
Billie Holiday and Betty Carter: Emotion and Style in the Jazz Vocal
Line, Annual Review of Jazz Studies 6: 99-149.
Giddens, G.
Lady Gets Her Due/The Complete Lady, in: L. Gourse (Ed.), The Billie
Holiday Companion: Seven Decades of Commentary, Schirmer, 89-98.
Gourse, L.
There Was No Middle Ground with Billie Holiday, in: L. Gourse (Ed.), The
Billie Holiday Companion: Seven Decades of Commentary, Schirmer,
Hodeir, A.
Eight Measures of Billie Holiday, in: Toward Jazz, trans. By Noel
Burch, Grove Press, Inc., 191-95.
Huang, H. & Huang R. V.
1994-5 Billie Holiday and Tempo Rubato: Understanding Rhythmic Expressivity,
Annual Review of Jazz Studies 7: 181-99.
Huron, D.
What is a Musical Feature? Fortes Analysis of Brahmss Opus 51,
No. 1, Revisited, Music Theory Online 7/4, <http://www.societymusictheory.org/mto/>.
Martindale, C.
The clockwork muse. The predictability of artistic change, New York: Basic.

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


Pleasants, H.
The Great American Popular Singers. The Billie Holiday Companion:
Seven Decades of Commentary, Schirmer, 131-38.
Rorem, N.
Knowing When to Stop, in: L. Gourse (Ed.), The Billie Holiday Companion:
Seven Decades of Commentary, Schirmer, 176-80.
Simonton, D. D.
Origins of genius. Darwinian perspectives on creativity, New York:
Weisberg, R. W.
Case studies of innovation: Ordinary thinking, extraordinary outcomes, in: L. Shavinina (Ed.) International Handbook of Innovation,
Hillsadale, N.J.: Earlbaum.
Weisberg, R. W.
On Structure in the Creative Process: A Quantitative Case-Study of the
Creation of Picassos Guernica, Empirical Studies in the Arts, 22,
Williams, M.
Liner notes to The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, Columbia
P6 11891, Smithsonian Institution: 25.

Table 1. Sources of the ve transcriptions:

Three interpretations of All of Me
#1 January 21, 1941
Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz (LPs); from Columbia K9 32124
Eddie Heywood and His Orchestra: Shad Collins, trumpet; Leslie Johnakins,
Eddie Bareeld, alto sax; Lester Young, tenor sax; Eddie Heywood, piano;
John Collins, guitar; Ted Sturgis, bass; Kenny Clarke, drums
Tempo: Quarter = 112-116
#2 April 22, 1946
Best of Verve Years: Jazz at the Philharmonic; Verve 849 434-2; rec. at Carnegie Hall
Joe Guy & probably Buck Clayton, trumpets; Tommy Stark, trombone; Willie
Smith, alto sax; probably Lester Young & Coleman Hawkins, tenor sax; Milt
Raskin, piano; probably Irving Ashby, guitar; Red Callender, bass; Dave Coleman, drums
Tempo: Dotted quarter = 150-154
#3 January 2, 1954
Billies Blues: Jazz Heritage, Inc. 312947A; recorded live in Kln, Germany
Carl Drinkard, piano; Red Mitchell, bass; Elaine Leighton, drums
Tempo: Quarter = 190-194


Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

Table 2. Correlations Among Billie Holidays Timing Deviations Across

the Three Recordings (Six Choruses) of All of Me
Chorus 1 Chorus 2 Chorus 1 Chorus 2
2) .548
3) .413*
1) .583

Chorus 1
Chorus 2
6) .642* 7) .659*
Chorus 1
10) .656*
Chorus 2
Chorus 1
Chorus 2
*Correlation is signicant at the .01 level (2-tailed).

Chorus 1 Chorus 2
4) .491
5) .523*
8) .546*

9) .655*

11) .770* 12) .759*

13) .647* 14) .760*

15) .907*

Table 3. Absolute deviations in timing (in beats) across the three performances (six choruses) of All of Me
*Standard deviation in

Chorus 1
.68 (.74)*
1.40 (1.01)
1.63 (1.26)

Chorus 2
.64 (.76)
1.27 (.93)
1.71 (1.16)

.66 (.66)
1.34 (1.38)
1.67 (1.28)

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


Table 4. Correlations Among Billie Holidays Pitch Deviations Across the

Three Performances (Six Choruses) of All of Me
Chorus 1 Chorus 2 Chorus 1 Chorus 2 Chorus 1 Chorus 2
2) .793
3) .632
4) .672
5) .627*
1) .728

Chorus 1
Chorus 2
6) .871*
7) .844*
Chorus 1
10) .784*
Chorus 2
Chorus 1
Chorus 2
*Correlation is signicant at the .01 level (2-tailed).

8) .715*

9) .750*

11) .813* 12) .782*

13) .594* 14) .750*

15) .782*

Table 5. Absolute deviations in pitch (in half-steps) across the three performances (six choruses) of All of Me
*Standard deviation

Chorus 1
2.35 (3.80)*
3.72 (3.81)
3.62 (3.82)
in parenthesis.

Chorus 2
4.59 (4.08)
4.88 (3.97)
4.59 (3.77)


Table 6. Correlations between timing deviations and melodic deviations

within each chorus for the three performances of All of Me
Year and Chorus
1941 Chorus 1
1941 Chorus 2
1946 Chorus 1
1946 Chorus 2
1954 Chorus 1
1954 Chorus 2
* p < .05 (2-tail)


Figure 1A. All of Me Deviations from Rhythm 1941

Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

Figure 1B. All of Me Deviations from Rhythm 1946

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


Figure 1C. All of Me Deviations from Rhythm 1954

Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg


Figure 2A. All of Me Deviations from Pitch 1941

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


Figure 2B. All of Me Deviations from Pitch 1946

Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

Figure 2C. All of Me Deviations from Pitch 1954

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase



Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

Example 1: All of Me First four measures of all six choruses

1941 version / A section / rst chorus

1941 version / A section / second chorus

1946 version / A section / rst chorus

1946 version / A section / second chorus

1954 version / A section / rst chorus

1954 version / A section / second chorus

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase

Example 2: no good and on dear

1941 version / A section / rst chorus / second phrase

1941 version / B section / rst chorus / second phrase

1941 version / A section / second chorus / second phrase

1941 version / B section / second chorus / second phrase

1946 version / A section / rst chorus / second phrase

1946 version / B section / rst chorus / second phrase

1946 version / A section / second chorus / second phrase

1946 version / B section / second chorus / second phrase



Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

1954 version / A section / rst chorus / second phrase

1954 version / B section / rst chorus / second phrase

1954 version / A section / second chorus / second phrase

1954 version / B section / second chorus / second phrase

Example 3: 1954 version of All of Me / A section / rst chorus / third


Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase


Example 4: All of Me / B section / rst phrase: settings of eyes that cry

1941 version / rst chorus

1941 version / second chorus

1946 version / rst chorus

1946 version / second chorus

1954 version / rst chorus

1954 version / second chorus

Example 5: 1946 version of All of Me / B section / second chorus / third



Cynthia Folio and Robert W. Weisberg

Example 6: 1946 version of All of Me / rst chorus (examples of attening

out the melody)
A section / rst phrase

A section / second phrase

B section / second phrase

B section / third phrase

Billie Holidays Art of Paraphrase

Example 7: 1954 version of All of Me (P4 / P5 motive)

First chorus / A section / rst phrase

First chorus / A section / beginning of second phrase

First chorus / B section / end of rst phrase

First chorus / B section / beginning of second phrase

Second chorus / B section / last phrase