The Trial (song)

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"The Trial"
Song by Pink Floyd from the album The Wall
Published Pink Floyd Music Publishers Ltd
Released 30 November 1979 (UK)
8 December 1979 (US)
Recorded April – November 1979
Genre Symphonic rock, art rock, hard rock
Length 5:13
Label Harvest (UK)
Columbia (US)
Writer Roger Waters, Bob Ezrin
Producer Bob Ezrin, David Gilmour, James Guthrie, Roger Waters
The Wall track listing

"The Trial" (working title "Trial by Puppet") is a track from Pink Floyd's 1979 rock opera/concept album The Wall.[1][2] Written by Roger Waters and Bob Ezrin, it marks the climax of the album and film.

Plot[edit]

The song centres on the main character, Pink, who having lived a life filled with emotional trauma and substance abuse has reached a critical psychological break. "The Trial" is the fulcrum on which Pink's mental state balances. In the song, Pink is charged with "showing feelings...of an almost human nature". This means that Pink has committed a crime against himself by actually attempting to interact with his fellow human beings. Through the course of the song, he is confronted by the primary influences of his life (who have been introduced over the course of the album): an abusive schoolmaster, his wife, and his overprotective mother. Pink's subconscious struggle for sanity is overseen by a new character, "The Judge". In Pink Floyd The Wall, and the concert animations, the Judge is a giant worm for most of the song until his verse, at which point he transforms into a giant pair of buttocks (bigger than the marching hammers in "Waiting for the Worms"). A prosecutor conducts the early portions, which consist of the antagonists explaining their actions, intercut with Pink's refrain, "Crazy/Toys in the attic, I am crazy". The culmination of the trial is the judge's sentence for Pink "to be exposed before your peers" whereupon he orders Pink to "Tear down the wall!"

As Waters sings the dialogue for each character he transitions into different accents including: upper-class British dialect (the prosecutor and judge), Scottish accent (the schoolmaster) and Northern English accent (Pink's mother). For the character of Pink's wife he used his normal voice on the album and the original 1980-81 tour. However, in his solo 2010-13 tour of The Wall he portrays the wife with a distinctively French accent.

The album culminates with Pink's internal trial, leading to the collapse of his 'wall'

This and the following song "Outside the Wall" are the only two songs on the album which the story is seen from an outsider's perspective, most notably through the three antagonists of "The Trial", even though it is all in Pink's mind. The song ends with the sound of a wall being demolished amid chants of "Tear down the wall!", marking the destruction of Pink's metaphorical wall.

Film version[edit]

The segment in the film version is a full-length animated sequence of vivid colour and disturbing visuals. Political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe directed the design for the segment. The film segment relies not only on visuals, but also on the themes, music, and lyrics of the original song. The three principal antagonists have pronounced cartoon forms and are known individually by their role:

  • "The Schoolmaster" is brought down like a marionette on strings, controlled by his overbearing wife, referencing the earlier song "The Happiest Days of Our Lives"
  • "The Wife" comes out from underneath the Wall, represented as the scorpion/praying mantis, that already appeared during "Don't Leave Me Now".[3]
  • The Mother comes in as an abstract, morphing image of an airplane (referencing the plane which killed Pink's father, and also the plane which Pink was playing with in "Another Brick in the Wall (Part I)"), and then transforms into a talking vulva, which then encircles Pink.
  • The Prosecutor is a caricature of the Victorian times attorney. He is short and rotund, wearing a long navy gown which trails behind him, at points above his own head, such as when he leaps onto the "wall" (depicted as being composed of white bricks, as in the album's cover). His facial features are occasionally greatly exaggerated; depending on what he is saying. For instance, when he describes Pink's charges, during saying that Pink has experienced "feelings... feelings of an almost human nature", his face moves close to the camera and assumes a grotesque expression of disgust and contempt.
  • The Judge is portrayed as a giant pair of buttocks — complete with two backwards facing legs, an anus for a mouth (with a monstrous voice), and a scrotum for a chin — wearing a judge's wig.

After a montage of clips from the movie shown before were played, there is a long moment of silence before the wall begins to fall apart.

The animated sequence was used in the 1980/81 concert versions of The Wall with Waters singing the song in front of The Wall as "The Trial"'s animation played behind him on the wall. It was then used again in the 2010-12 touring concert version.

Composition[edit]

The track is noted for its distinctive voice work by Waters, as well as its grandiose musical style, which is more akin to an operetta than a rock song; it is fully orchestrated, with no traditional rock elements until David Gilmour's guitar starts up at the verdict, to the main melody of "Hey You" along with Nick Mason's heavy drums.

Musically, the structure of "The Trial" is similar to an earlier track on the album, "Run Like Hell", with the same chord sequence of E minor, F, back to E minor, C, and B. However, there are various differences between the two songs, not the least of which being vastly different instrumentation. The bass alternates between the root (E) and fifth (B) of the E minor chord, and when the chord changes to F Major, the bass remains the same, resulting in a strong feeling of tension and dissonance, as the relationship between the F chord and the B note is a tritone, the most unstable interval in music.

In the last verse (The Judge's verdict), a distorted electric guitar enters, playing a leitmotif from the album, a melody first heard in "Another Brick in the Wall" (and most recently reprised in the outro to "Waiting for the Worms"). Here, the theme is in the key of E minor (indeed, most expressions of this theme have been in E minor, rather than the D minor of "Another Brick in the Wall"), and as in an earlier song from the album, "Hey You", it alternates between E minor (with the notes E, F♯, G, F♯) and A minor (A, B, C, B). However, while "Hey You" alternated between E minor and B minor chords, here the overall tonality of the orchestration is really alternating between E minor and F major, in keeping with the introduction of the piece. This results in further tension, as the guitar, with its aggressive, distorted tone, is starting on the major third of the second chord, rather than the root as the listener would expect—and concluding on the tritone, B. This, combined with the bass line strictly staying on E and B in this section, results in a harmonic state that is significantly unstable, leading to the explosive sound effect of the wall tumbling down.

Concerts and versions[edit]

  • In the Berlin performance, before The Wall crumbles, it briefly "becomes" the Berlin Wall, building up graffiti like the actual wall until it is pulled down.
  • In the concert animation, when the Godzilla-sized judge looks over the crowd, it seems that the "marching hammers" of fame are all lined up in his possession.
  • In the film version, the animation from the stage show is used, but certain shots (including the School Master turning into a hammer) were stretched from their original full-frame image to a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The rest of the animation that was featured reused the original cels though expanded the backgrounds to fill the cinematic image. Waters used the film's anamorphic version for his 2010–11 tour of The Wall.
  • In 2009, pianist Andreas Behrendt released an instrumental version of the song.[4]

Personnel[edit]

with:

Personnel (Live in Berlin)[edit]

In the Berlin 1990 performance, "The Trial" contained these cast members and their roles:

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2004). The Great Rock Discography (7th ed.). Edinburgh: Canongate Books. p. 1177. ISBN 1-84195-551-5. 
  2. ^ Mabbett, Andy (1995). The Complete Guide to the Music of Pink Floyd. London: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-7119-4301-X. 
  3. ^ According to Gerald Scarfe in the Behind the Wall documentary.
  4. ^ Full Albums: Pink Floyd's The Wall Pt. 2, Cover Me Songs, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Fitch, Vernon and Mahon, Richard, Comfortably Numb — A History of The Wall 1978–1981, 2006, p. 111.