Rolling Music Theory Thread

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If you were in a band learning the song that's probably how you would look at it - ABABAB.

It's surprising that it's really so straightforward without sounding boring or repetative. Compared with "Your Mother Should Know" for example - it's not that much different as it really only consists of a verse and a chorus, yet YMSK sounds pretty turgid, as if it's missing something.

Still, Herman's Hermits were pretty often really basic. Their cover of "Henry the Eight" dispensed with ALL the original verses and just kept the chorus, repeated three times. Pretty rad.

everything (everything), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 17:44 (fourteen years ago) link

"Your Mother Should Know" is scripted that way for effect, though -- somewhere between a broken record and an endless sing-along. (Hence the "sing it again" bits, etc.) I think these days the Beatles are too canonized for us to really hear whatever levels of irony or cheek or subversion or trippiness are wrapped around some of their music-hall gestures, and this is surely a mild case of that: I think there's something ever so slightly sneering about "Your Mother Should Know."

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 18:16 (fourteen years ago) link

It's funny, I was actually trying to shoehorn this into a review the other day -- I feel like, per the Beatles, one of the whole roots of psychedelic pop is just "here is music for your grandmother (p.s. we're on acid)." I suppose "Your Mother Should Know" should be an important test-case for this theory, from the title on down.

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 18:18 (fourteen years ago) link

x-posts: I actually think the *missing something* aspect is part of the appeal of "Your Mother Should Know" - a sort of miniaturist aesthetic, and what makes it a unique "nugget" is the two utterances of that instrumental bridge with the new musical materials that they got in there. (Geir Hongro referred to the song as "a pop masterpiece." : ) )

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 18:22 (fourteen years ago) link

I mean, you wouldn't want "Your Mother Should Know" to be longer, would you???

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 18:23 (fourteen years ago) link

Nitsuh, I don't know how sneering it is. I see it as being more about psychedelia's relationship with the supernatural, like though the Beatles were able to conjure this magic vaudeville or Hollywood music. And the supernatural is a serious business; that's why I've never bought into the criticism of a record like Sgt. Pepper as twee bullshit. I see it as having a very serious tone.

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 18:55 (fourteen years ago) link

"as though" not "like though"

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 19:06 (fourteen years ago) link

"Geir Hongro referred to the song as "a pop masterpiece"

On the other hand, perhaps even pop masterpieces could use improvement:

"A contrasting bridge will almost always improve a song. The more minimalist and repetitive the song, the better a contrasting bridge.
-- Geir Hongro (geirhon...), March 18th, 2005"

everything (everything), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 19:24 (fourteen years ago) link

But don't you think that (constrasting) instrumental section functions as a bridge in that song?

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 19:51 (fourteen years ago) link

We're gonna have our terms all tangled up here, Tim: to me a dash of sneering is a definite part of twee, in a rock context. And then, closer to "Your Mother Should Know," is something more like "dreaming," which would be when you intentionally make anachronistically satisfying pop music that's meant to suddenly seem unfamiliar or imaginary. So umm in that sense I think the Beatles have a lot to do with a lot of bands we just call Beatlesque (correctly), assuming those bands are just playing standard-issue pop songs in the vein of the Beatles -- except in each case I think the group's trying to reach back to something older to defamiliarize what they're doing, whether it's "Your Mother Should Know" or some indie band now that's trying to put some sort of dreamy artificial "imaginary" sheen on the basics of the Beatles themselves.

Dunno if that makes sense, and it's a bit of a tangent from musical theory, obviously. But this occurred to me while writing a Mojave 3 review a while back, and I'm still stuck on it. (E.g. Mojave 3's versions of country and now rock are deliberately simplified to the point of being "dreamy," I think in ways similar to how the Beatles would also reach back toward mother's music to make it ever-so-vaguely unfamiliar and "dreamy" and drugged.)

(Alternately, think of Ween's pop songs, the way they're so pop that something seems imaginary about them.)

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 20:08 (fourteen years ago) link

In other words, maybe the Beatles doing "Your Mother Should Know" is not completely unlike Ween doing "Joppa Road" or "Freedom of 76" -- which would mean you're right, "sneering" is not the right word at all (except in how it's aimed at the part of the audience that wouldn't understand).

The White Album is totally a Ween record, really.

nabisco (nabisco), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 20:10 (fourteen years ago) link

I think bands that I might criticize for being twee, though, equate the dream/sleep element with musical slush. The Beatles were always SHARP. So, I would say that I equate it more with Surrealism's relationship with subconscious states than with what is normally referred to as "dreaminess."

Tim Ellison (Tim Ellison), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 20:18 (fourteen years ago) link

xxx-post

Yeah, I guess the instrumental bit in YMSK does function as a bridge. The song still feels like it lacks something though. I take Nabisco's point that it's kind of like an endless singalong like you might have on a old fashioned bus trip of the type depicted in Magical Mystery Tour. That makes total sense. I still think I like it the least of Paul's jaunty music hall numbers.

"Your Mother Should Know" one of those half measures at the end of the second verse. I realise that isn't very unusual for the Beatles (Cry Baby Cry, I'll Be Back, All You Need Is Love, Strawberry Fields Forever etc), but this is usually a Lennon trick, rather than something that Paul does.

everything (everything), Tuesday, 27 June 2006 20:20 (fourteen years ago) link

six years pass...

Gonna plug my blog because I've got some recent stuff up:

http://thisiheard.blogspot.com

Nothing on pedal points.

timellison, Wednesday, 1 May 2013 22:10 (seven years ago) link

ten years or so into being a guy who does music and stuff I figure it's time to get some vague sense of what I'm doing. Does anyone have any website or book recommendations for the real basics of theory, e.g. knowing chord construction and keys and stuff? For guitar and keyboard, but especially the latter, as with the former I know how to play in some unconventional way whereas with the latter I'm roughly at the point of knowing that pressing these things makes sounds.

ohmigud (Merdeyeux), Monday, 13 May 2013 02:34 (seven years ago) link

Wrote on appoggiaturas and an instance of something being a hook versus something being less of a hook:

http://thisiheard.blogspot.com

timellison, Tuesday, 14 May 2013 01:00 (seven years ago) link

I found this useful:
http://www.outsideshore.com/music/educational-materials/primer/basic-theory/

29 facepalms, Tuesday, 14 May 2013 13:09 (seven years ago) link

one month passes...

Wrote on structure of "P.S. I Love You" on blog linked to above if anyone's interested.

timellison, Tuesday, 18 June 2013 04:15 (seven years ago) link

OK, changed it around because I made a mistake. Tell me what you think if you're into this stuff at all.

http://thisiheard.blogspot.com

timellison, Wednesday, 19 June 2013 04:16 (seven years ago) link

nine months pass...

It's a frustrating exercise for me, because like "I have so much to say about Lady Gaga!" but at the same time I cannot, actually, get through reading a single fucking wikipedia page breakdown of any Sibelius symphony, they have been dissected so irrelevantly and uninterestingly by musicologists who, instead of identifying the innovative features in the orchestration or handling-of-material, just throw their "it's in b-minor and then goes to G-major" dicks around. Seriously if you want to see "worst piece of music writing ever" just look at a wiki for a Tchaikovsky symphony, I'll be over here slitting my wrists

― continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 30 March 2014 00:53 (9 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

what I'm trying to say is: musicology is awesome but musicologists need to take an atavan or fifty

― continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 30 March 2014 00:55 (9 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I think there is a place for academic analysis of pop culture (it's sort of why I joined ILX in the first place). Wished more people were going that way instead of down the Buzzfeed style route.

If you're interested, fwiw, academic music theorists have been doing plenty of analysis of popular music over the last couple of decades (especially considering that it's hard to come up with something new to say about Bach). You could start with Music Theory Online maybe, which usually runs a piece on popular music, is a top journal in the field, and is usually relatively readable: http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/issues.php

This issue was completely devoted to rock music, for example: http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.11.17.3/toc.17.3.html

This is something of a 'classic' book: http://www.amazon.ca/Understanding-Rock-Essays-Musical-Analysis/dp/0195100050

Kyle Adams's work on rap and Lori Burns's work generally (http://www.music.uottawa.ca/faculty/burns.html, has a few MTO articles, has written book chapters on Lady Gaga, Dixie Chicks, and Rihanna if you're concerned that the pop being analysed isn't always pop enough) are usually great.

― EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 07:05 (3 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Sorry, the Dixie Chicks thing was an article.

― EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 07:06 (3 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Blind drunk when typing those last two posts, sorry to any musicologists

― continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 30 March 2014 07:59 (2 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Ha, I mean, Wikipedia is probably not the best source for quality musicological writing. I suspect that people are confusing musicology and music theory on this thread though.

― EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:01 (2 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Was wondering about that. What would you say is the difference?

― Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:03 (2 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Ime, on this side of the Atlantic at least, a simple explanation would be:
music theory = formal/structural analysis of music (which includes model composition at the undergrad level)
musicology = humanities or social science approaches to the study of music

I think that in Europe, what I would call music theory can be included as a sub-discipline of musicology, actually, which would weaken my original point.

(Grove on musicology fwiw (they don't have a "music theory" article!):

The term ‘musicology’ has been defined in many different ways. As a method, it is a form of scholarship characterized by the procedures of research. A simple definition in these terms would be ‘the scholarly study of music’. Traditionally, musicology has borrowed from ‘art history for its historiographic paradigms and literary studies for its paleographic and philological principles’ (Treitler, 1995). A committee of the American Musicological Society (AMS) in 1955 also defined musicology as ‘a field of knowledge having as its object the investigation of the art of music as a physical, psychological, aesthetic, and cultural phenomenon’ (JAMS, viii, p.153). The last of these four attributes gives the definition considerable breadth, although music, and music as an ‘art’, remains at the centre of the investigation.
A third view, which neither of these definitions fully implies, is based on the belief that the advanced study of music should be centred not just on music but also on musicians acting within a social and cultural environment. This shift from music as a product (which tends to imply fixity) to music as a process involving composer, performer and consumer (i.e. listeners) has involved new methods, some of them borrowed from the social sciences, particularly anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, sociology and more recently politics, gender studies and cultural theory. This type of inquiry is also associated with ethnomusicology. Harrison (1963) and other ethnomusicologists have suggested that ‘It is the function of all musicology to be in fact ethnomusicology; that is, to take its range of research to include material that is termed “sociological”’

)
― EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:14 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

In the US/Canada, ime, I think it would more common for theory/composition to be combined in a department or 'area' within a department as for theory/musicology to be combined, although the latter is definitely not unheard of.

― EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:18 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

@ Sund4r I keep up with that journal but have learned to skip the articles about pop rock and rap. My ish is that those pop articles seem intended for an audience of no-one. The language is too academic for people who're interested in Radiohead, and Radiohead is too easily parsed for people who can comprehend an academic theoretical approach. I mean:

“Paranoid Android” was composed and recorded by the alternative rock band Radiohead and appears on their widely acclaimed album OK Computer (1997).(9) As Radiohead critics and fans point out, the title of the rock song references the fictional character “Marvin the Paranoid Android” from Douglas Adams’s 1978 BBC radio comedy series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was later adapted into a series of books. Unlike Adams’s comedic portrayal of the depressed robot Marvin, however, Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android” appears to depict a socially alienated and anxiety-ridden persona surrounded by a society consumed by the trappings of capitalism––one of several themes that the album explores. Power (“When I am king”) and materialism (“gucci”; “yuppies”) generate self-importance (“Why don’t you remember my name”) and excess (“piggy”), threatening to consume, impair, and silence (“With your opinions which are of no consequence at all”) in the desire for more (Example 1a). The fear and realization that the capitalist machine has participated in the formation of the subject and created, as a condition of possibility, the potential to equate the valuation of material goods with identity and self-worth, provokes a split subject––a “paranoid android” who recognizes that its individual thoughts and ambitions may also be a product of the capitalist machine (“Please could you stop the noise . . . from all the unborn chicken voices in my head”).(10) The plea to be cleansed (“Rain down on me from a great height”) from the markers of a capitalist identity proves futile in the song’s final section; the potential for grace and intervention is met with a cynicism that God may be passive (“God loves his children, yeah!”), leaving the persona no escape from Pandemonium. That all of the individuals in “Paranoid Android” are condemned to the same fate, regardless of social status or wealth, lends an ironic twist to the song’s ending.

― continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:20 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

My eyes glazed over there too but that's just like an introductory paragraph about the song more generally, though, right? The meat of the piece is the actual musical analysis.

I totally disagree with this!:

Radiohead is too easily parsed for people who can comprehend an academic theoretical approach.
It's way easier to parse something that i) is written on paper and/or ii) is played on acoustic instruments, not to mention something that follows CPP harmonic or formal conventions (or is far simpler in those terms than Radiohead is).
― EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:31 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Even under the rubric of Theory, don't different people use it to mean different things at different times? An old school classical guy might be referring to something out of the common practice period, particularly the law as laid down by Rameau in 1722, whereas a recent Berklee grad is walking around with his head stuffed up with Chord Scale Theory?

― Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:32 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

My eyes glazed over too but I hadn't put together where the title "Paranoid Android" came from so I learned something.

― Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:34 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

*moves to the other thread*

― continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:36 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Even under the rubric of Theory, don't different people use it to mean different things at different times? An old school classical guy might be referring to something out of the common practice period, particularly the law as laid down by Rameau in 1722, whereas a recent Berklee grad is walking around with his head stuffed up with Chord Scale Theory?
Sure, but they're both doing structural/formal analysis of music. They're just working with different repertoire. They could still present at similar conferences, etc. Anyway, I better go mark some counterpoint.

― EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:36 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

(Xp)I guess what I am trying to say is if you define theory as something like "the study of what chords go together and what melodies go with them" then there are different approaches to theory and some explain certain things better than others. What is surprising or not done in one theory is not surprising and done all the time in another. If you don't take this into account then theory is kind of a strawman.

*ok I'm leaving too*

― Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:39 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

(Something about tyranny of theory, blah blah blah)

― Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:45 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

I want to continue this discussion just in the more specific "talking about articles" thread instead of the "lol at this guy" thread

― continually topping myself (flamboyant goon tie included), Sunday, 30 March 2014 08:54 (1 hour ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 15:18 (six years ago) link

HI DERE

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 15:39 (six years ago) link

Anyway, this is definitely true and I think any sensible theorist would agree:

I guess what I am trying to say is if you define theory as something like "the study of what chords go together and what melodies go with them" then there are different approaches to theory and some explain certain things better than others. What is surprising or not done in one theory is not surprising and done all the time in another. If you don't take this into account then theory is kind of a strawman.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 15:43 (six years ago) link

so what is the difference between "technical discussion" as in guitar player magazine (or some better representative mag, or any of them, i don't know them very well) and "technical discussion" in an academic context? do they discuss the same sorts of things? are there lacunae in either that the other addresses? or is it just audience and intent?

(my guess is that trade mags care _way_ more about equipment, partly because they exist as part of a complex whose purpose is to sell equipment, but my question is, does the lack of attention to equipment hurt academic writing? also i know some academic writing cares about the craft and production of instruments v. much. also a guess would be that the academic and the trade approach both don't address the social as much as some [we?] might desire, but fail to address it in radically different ways.)

eric banana (s.clover), Sunday, 30 March 2014 17:59 (six years ago) link

guitar mag discussion is often looking at playing technique rather than the music in itself, but there is definitely overlap discussing innovation, phrasing w/e

ogmor, Sunday, 30 March 2014 18:45 (six years ago) link

Couple thoughts on Owen's pieces:

Sympathetic to the premise that "Get Lucky" is in the Dorian mode.

When "Teenage Dream" switches from the I chord in the intro to rooting that harmony on the fourth, it creates a major seventh chord on the IV. The softness of that chord is sort of the consolation for the song's weightless state of flux.

timellison, Sunday, 30 March 2014 19:13 (six years ago) link

Yes, exactly. Theorists are more concerned with the larger-scale questions of what the vocabulary and syntax of a music are, how pieces of music can be understood structurally. Ogmor is definitely right that there can be some overlap, and in these areas, I would think that the difference is comparable to the difference between the academic and popular versions of any field of discussion (Psychology Today vs academic psychology journals, CNN or Fox vs a political science symposium, etc): the level of training that is usually expected and the peer-review process do imo tend to promote a certain level of rigour and originality, if not always readability. Honestly, discussion of theory in guitar magazines is often even riddled with incorrect terminology even for basic things. Doesn't mean (at all) that there's nothing useful there.

Where fgti and I might be on the same page is that its not always entirely clear to me what the ultimate goal or purpose is with a lot of academic analysis of popular music, aside from sheer scholarly interest (and lines on the CV, ha). With guitar mags, it's usually clear that the articles are there for people to learn specific techniques from. With the analysis of art music, it's easy for me to see how the work is useful for people who want to compose and/or play art music (who are the usual audience for these journals). While I still disagree with him that Radiohead (or, say, "Close to the Edge") is too easy to parse for someone with art music training, it's not 100% clear to me what the readers are going to gain from the exercise: it does not seem that this is going to have the direct benefit of helping (most) people learn how to write and play rock music. There can still be some value in understanding how the music 'works' or is put together, though, and it is actually possible for it to influence art music composition tbh (because those artists have probably influenced mine!).

xpost

EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 19:15 (six years ago) link

(xp!)
Don't know what academic discussion you might be referring to, s. clover. You should realize that a good part of academic music studies- Sund4r can correct me if I am wrong- consists of professional programs offering Bachelors or Masters degrees in performance and education. Of course as part of this they teach composition and give instrumental instruction. The purpose of this is to give the students the skills -and accreditation - to enable them to hopefully make a living as player/teachers, so these institutions are not necessarily doing academic research as the word theory might lead you to believe. The theory as such is supposed to aid the awareness of students as composers and improvisers of what notes and chords are available to them at any given point. I haven't read any guitar mags in a bit, but in between the gear articles and the player interviews they always have transcriptions of tunes and, more to the point, regular columns where somebody explains that if you want to play in a certain style these are typical chord progressions and typical things you might play, with a little theoretical gloss thrown in. For instance, Bass Player magazine might have an article entitle "Funk 101: Dorian Octaves." This kind of thing is a bite-sized version of what you might get in one of those programs. Actually one of the authors of a long running popular and useful column in Bass Player was (don't know if he still does it) none other than everybody's favorite Daft Punk bassist, Nathan East.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 19:16 (six years ago) link

well if you look at english departments, their main (or at least one main) social role is really to produce people capable of teaching undergrad level reading and composition, but also by dint of being part of the "academic world" one also produces analyses of rhetoric in milton or what have you, and one can argue that this is a good or a bad thing or was a good thing but now is in some ways a bad thing (by obscuring the labor function of academia as a way to explain away low salaries 'for the love of the discipline' or etc), but in any case, is this somewhat the situation in music/musicology depts?

wat is teh waht (s.clover), Sunday, 30 March 2014 19:46 (six years ago) link

Yes, but the majority of the guys I'm talking about don't have to publish anything like the equivalent of Milton Studies you mention. They are part of the professional side of academia, not the research side, and don't have to go through the same hurdles: orals, writtens, postdoc, maybe another postdoc, tenure track, etc, they just have to come out of a program like the one they end up teaching in, more or less.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 19:55 (six years ago) link

That's only true of instrumental teachers (who are generally contract instructors), surely? Neither University of Ottawa nor University of Toronto will even consider someone for a sessional (adjunct) teaching position in composition, music theory, or musicology if he or she does not have a PhD in hand.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:35 (six years ago) link

(I'll have a lot more to say later on. This is a big question, far bigger than a 'Rolling Music Theory' thread can support if we're going to really get into it.)

EveningStar (Sund4r), Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:37 (six years ago) link

Interesting. From what I know in NYC a PhD is not required to teach at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College, nor at the Columbia University Department of Music, The New School, or the Manhattan School of Music. A music professor with a PhD, such as Chris Washburne, is the exception not the rule.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:51 (six years ago) link

Anyway I wanted to ask what people thought of Chord Scale Theory, it's uses and abuses, but maybe we've already bitten off more than we can chew on this thread.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 20:53 (six years ago) link

Link to Sund4r's new thread: Music Academia

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 21:07 (six years ago) link

Still trying to get some eyeballs on this interesting, original idiosyncratic work: http://www.modalogy.net/. I was thinking about it in the context of the mother thread to this one, where the guy talks about the harmonic trick. Not so tricky when you realize that the resolution of modal cadences at weaker than those of a major/minor tune.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:01 (six years ago) link

Also interested in the question of

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:08 (six years ago) link

  • difference between a mode and a scale
  • difference in use of term modal in Renaissance/ pre-equal temperament music and in "model jazz"

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:10 (six years ago) link

Ha, "modal jazz"

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:11 (six years ago) link

Thread of missing the "Greensleeves" thread.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 30 March 2014 22:14 (six years ago) link

Clearly there is some overlap between modes and scales, given that the major scale is also called the "Ionian" mode.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:09 (six years ago) link

I'm not actually sure if there's a meaningful difference.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:09 (six years ago) link

I think there might be, maybe. I think the scale is just the set of pitches plus the starting point and nowadays mode usually means exactly the same thing but in ye olde time Renaissance music the mode meant the, um, ordered set of pitches, plus the various conventional practices that went with them. This is something I feel like I have seen out of the corner of my eye somewhere , I'll have to track down a reference.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:17 (six years ago) link

As I understand it, the standard modes are identical to major keys except the root note is a different step in the scale.

Mode is closer to key, while the scale is the ordered sequence of notes in the mode or key.

nitro-burning funny car (Moodles), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:26 (six years ago) link

Yes, something like that. There is a discussion of this on pages 158-159 of Lewis Porter's John Coltrane bio. I can't type it in right now so you will have to refer to your own copy.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:29 (six years ago) link

He refers to a paper called "Three Pragmatists in Search of a Theory" by Harold Powers which I find a brief reference to and quote from here: http://mtosmt.org/issues/mto.13.19.3/mto.13.19.3.judd.php although I can't quite make head or tail of the quote or the surrounding article yet.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:51 (six years ago) link

Then there is this

http://www.jazzstandards.com/theory/modal-jazz.htm

One contemporary (and widely-taught) approach to improvisation views every chord as having one or more scales that can be played over it. Although it involves the use of modes, this approach to soloing does not necessarily make a tune “modal.”

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 02:55 (six years ago) link

The language is too academic for people who're interested in Radiohead, and Radiohead is too easily parsed for people who can comprehend an academic theoretical approach.

I think I actually disagree with the first part of this too (sorry fgti): almost everyone in my PhD program was interested in Radiohead! I'm pretty sure I'm more interested in them than in Brian Ferneyhough.

Anyway, I think that this discussion has been helpful for me. I haven't written a theory paper in years and now I realize that it's because I wasn't actually sure what the purpose/value of it would be. I think that talking about this has helped me clarify what it could be; I actually feel enthusiastic about attempting it this summer.

EveningStar (Sund4r), Monday, 31 March 2014 20:30 (six years ago) link

I've read several rollicking music theory nerd discussions of radiohead songs.

james franco tur(oll)ing test (Hurting 2), Monday, 31 March 2014 20:31 (six years ago) link

Interested to hear what exactly inspired Sund4r in this discussion but maybe it's best just to wait for the paper.

Bristol Stomper's Breakout (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 31 March 2014 20:59 (six years ago) link

It was this train of thought, where I started questioning the use of this kind of analytical work, then realized that this doubt was what was holding me back from doing any of it, then started thinking about what its use could be. (The last part is not completely fleshed out in the post below but I think I will articulate it when the time comes):

Where fgti and I might be on the same page is that its not always entirely clear to me what the ultimate goal or purpose is with a lot of academic analysis of popular music, aside from sheer scholarly interest (and lines on the CV, ha). With guitar mags, it's usually clear that the articles are there for people to learn specific techniques from. With the analysis of art music, it's easy for me to see how the work is useful for people who want to compose and/or play art music (who are the usual audience for these journals). While I still disagree with him that Radiohead (or, say, "Close to the Edge") is too easy to parse for someone with art music training, it's not 100% clear to me what the readers are going to gain from the exercise: it does not seem that this is going to have the direct benefit of helping (most) people learn how to write and play rock music. There can still be some value in understanding how the music 'works' or is put together, though, and it is actually possible for it to influence art music composition tbh (because those artists have probably influenced mine!).

EveningStar (Sund4r), Tuesday, 1 April 2014 01:40 (six years ago) link

Given the G natural in the vocal melody over the first two chords in the bridge, you would have to say that something changes relative to the tonal center when you get to the Gb chord. You could say, well, we're just momentarily throwing in some flat sevens here in what was, moments earlier, diatonic melodicism in either Ab major (as you think of it) or F minor (as I think of it).

Db as tonal center would be a way of reckoning the first three chords together, but yeah, it's problematic relative to the G naturals in the melody over the F minor and Bb minor chords.

timellison, Friday, 8 May 2020 23:24 (three months ago) link

doesn't mean Fm and Bbm are now chromatic harmonies or that we need to analyse a key change there

The need for me is in the fact that I don't think they function as a vi and as a ii. I don't think Ab Ionian is ever established. It's always with flat sevens and quite clearly Aeolian in the last part of the verse.

timellison, Friday, 8 May 2020 23:36 (three months ago) link

Or, not Aeolian, harmonic minor

timellison, Friday, 8 May 2020 23:37 (three months ago) link

I just hear it as a deceptive move back to major mode in a song that is already shifting between modes (maybe more than an earlier post of mine may have suggested?). You could analyse it instead as a brief move to F minor, the relative minor key of Ab major, en route to a V-I cadence in Ab, but I think it mostly amounts to saying the same thing.

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 9 May 2020 02:49 (three months ago) link

Cool track btw! Thanks for bringing it up. The mixture is really interesting.

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 9 May 2020 02:56 (three months ago) link

It is a cool track. I was thinking about how saying that I don't think they function as a vi chord and a ii chord leads to the question of - well, how are vi and ii chords supposed to function?

And I suppose there are many answers to that, but one way I think they can sort-of-function/sort-of-not-function is as chords used in a section that meanders. And that's how I would have to describe their use here IF we are saying it is still in the key of Ab. You start a new section on a vi chord, but then don't really do anything with it. You go to the ii, but then throw in a bVII (changing the mode), and then...straight to a dominant chord? That's some serious meandering.

But, the thing is, I do not think this song meanders in the slightest. I think it is quite crisp. I think each chord has a purpose. So, if I'm saying we're momentarily in the key of F minor, there are my purposeful chords - the tonic and the subdominant.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 03:43 (three months ago) link

In functional harmony, ii is a pre-dominant; vi is a pre-dominant or a tonic substitute (most obv in a deceptive cadence but also sometimes at the beginning of a phrase, e.g. in the chorus of REO Speedwagon - "Take It on the Run"). I hear it the latter way here. I don't think of meandering as a harmonic function and it's not what I think is happening here.

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 9 May 2020 04:05 (three months ago) link

Yeah, I was referring to meandering more as a non-function. vi and ii are not meandering in and of themselves, obviously. If I follow the idea that the whole thing is in Ab, the meandering is established when they don't lead anywhere.

And if I am to say that the whole thing is in Ab, I don't think they do lead anywhere. I don't think that bVII chord progresses from vi and ii. It changes the notes of the scale. It's not just a little coloration change either, a little mode mixture. That's diatonic melodicism in what I think is F minor for those two measures before you get the Gb chord.

"Take It On the Run" is a great example of a song with a major section starting on the vi chord where there is clearly NOT a change of key.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 05:18 (three months ago) link

Two explanations were given for bVII that make sense to me in terms of progression from ii: mediant movement or dominant prolongation. Clearly you just don't agree. I don't really see why i-iv in F minor is more purposeful: where does the subdominant lead from there? It is still moving to bVII-V-I in Ab. The Gb chord makes less sense in F min than in Ab; if anything, Bbm would be the pivot chord and you end up in the same place. vi-ii as T-PD moving to dominant via an ambiguous chord (which can be explained) seems more purposeful to me than T-PD in F minor that never progress to the dominant ("go anywhere") in that key but move to an ambiguous chord and then go to the dominant of Ab. (The idea that this is in Db with no tonic resolution in either melody or harmony seems tbh far-fetched). The need to see things 'going somewhere' is why theorists usually insist on reaching a cadence in a new key before being willing to label a modulation!

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Saturday, 9 May 2020 15:05 (three months ago) link

There is a tendency in theorists to try and codify things by scale and by mode-- I've gotten into fire-fights in the past with people trying to impose "it's Phyrgian!" on to anything with a flattened-2nd and it just doesn't work like that. Theory is (in my eyes) meant to be a way of understanding how flighty inspiration works, a kind of reference point for composers to riff off of. It's not a Rosetta stone, you can't really unpack everything, and why would you want to?

I was just thinking about this thread yesterday when "Last Friday Night" by Katy Perry came on while I was grocery shopping. That song is, to my ears, in a major key, but it never lands on the I. Theorists would argue that the chords solidly place it in the relative minor. I would argue "but listen to the melody. It's on the tonic of the relative major the whole fucking time. It's major, it's just trying to trick you!"

The truth about "Words Of Love" is that it is functionally in TWO different keys. The chords map better to Cb-major than Ab-major. The strongest assertion of a key centre happens on chord 3 of the verse cycle-- Cb-major. The chord progression, thus, is essentially VI(7) - V - I, before it dips to Bb - A (or Bb - Eb, depending) to swoop in and make this Cb-major cadence a grand deception by giving you a strong II - bII - I back to Ab-major (or II - V - I, depending).

We can argue modes, we can argue key centres, but it's the ambiguity that makes this song so colourful... I mean, even the intro starts in E-major! Bizarre!

it’s been one week since you pissed on me (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, 9 May 2020 15:51 (three months ago) link

Or rather, you could argue it starts in Cb-major, even! A little Fb - Cb (IV - I) plagal cadence in the deceptive key centre of the song.

it’s been one week since you pissed on me (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, 9 May 2020 16:58 (three months ago) link

Two explanations were given for bVII that make sense to me in terms of progression from ii: mediant movement or dominant prolongation. Clearly you just don't agree.

Of those two, I would say I particularly disagree with the idea of it as dominant prolongation. If there was no Eb chord following, I don't think the Gb substitutes as a dominant chord in this case. If you just went straight from the Gb to Ab, it doesn't even feel to me like I know that Ab is the tonic. I can see instances where bVII could be thought of as a sub for a dominant chord, but given F minor and Bb minor to start the bridge, I don't hear this as one of them.

Maybe "purposeful" is not the term I'm looking for with regard to a consideration of the F minor and Bb minor chords as tonic and subdominant. I think to consider them as tonic and subdominant is to consider them as chords that are more nailed down. The I and IV in "Feelin Alright?" by Traffic don't go anywhere either, but that's about as nailed down as you can get. I absolutely agree with you that the Gb makes no sense relative the key of F minor, which is why I've been arguing that there's no reason to think of that moment as ANOTHER momentary shift in tonal center. And I like the idea of considering it as the IV of Db. I can say it's a bVII in Ab, but as I think I suggested before, I think the held Bb in the vocal melody when the chord changes from Gb to Eb is to make you hear that common tone when a shift in tonal center occurs.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 17:38 (three months ago) link

Thinking of Gb as IV of Db might just be another way of saying "mediant movement," although I'm not really used to that term and not really sure how it's usually employed. I'm used to considerations of chromatic mediants or double chromatic mediants, but those are relative to the tonic, not another chord.

My desire to relate the Gb chord to some scale or tonal center is not just a compulsion, it comes from an interest in wanting to know how a chord does or can function, at least in situations where it seems to be functioning in some way like this one (at least to me) does.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 17:50 (three months ago) link

a bVII chord is pretty vanilla if you ask me, especially in the context of 60s folk pop. these songs were written by ear not by reading rimsky-korsakov

trapped out the barndo (crüt), Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:00 (three months ago) link

Sorry guys. Above meant to say re. Gb chord: "which is why I've been arguing that there IS reason to think of that moment as another momentary shift in tonal center"

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:03 (three months ago) link

Not sure what you mean, crüt, by saying it's vanilla.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:05 (three months ago) link

The strongest assertion of a key centre happens on chord 3 of the verse cycle-- Cb-major.

Gonna say I disagree with this! This is a song where that chord that occurs in the first bar of every four bar group really feels like the root. There's even a V-I cadence the first time through the chords.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:09 (three months ago) link

On the other hand, totally agree on "Last Friday Night." Didn't we talk about that one on this thread once long ago? I think every time it goes to the Db chord, there's a deceptive cadence.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:14 (three months ago) link

There's no question in my mind that the song is in Ab-major... I'm trying to illustrate that a lot of the concepts of 'chromaticism?' and 'flat-what chord?' can be summed up by acknowledging the implication of a different key centre; in this case, Cb-major.

It's a pretty bog-standard concept that the addition of a b7 to a I chord (blues, i.e.) creates a kind of gravity toward the IV chord. It's not in the key of IV. It's just that the key of IV is implied in a 12-bar blues progression. The b7 on a I chord falls to the third of the VI chord as it would in a standard V7 - I perfect cadence. Ambiguity is created, a destabilization.

My argument with "Words Of Love" is that the same thing is happening, except with Cb-major (bIII) as the gravitational "other key". The b7 (Gb) that appears on the I chord (Ab-major) is not leading into IV (as it would in standard blues). It functions as the dominant of Cb-major (bIII). Ab(b7) - Gb - Cb = Ib7 - bVII - bIII in Ab-major. It's VIb7 - V - I in Cb-major.

DOES THIS ARGUMENT SOUND FAMILIAR? It should: we're mining the same territory as the perennial "Sweet Home Alabama" debate. It's the same three chords. Common sense would state that these three chords off the top of a verse are in Ab-major. Steeler's Wheel themselves would state that no, "Sweet Home Alabama" is in the key of Cb-major.

The difference is that The Mamas & The Papas follow the Ab(b7) - Gb - Cb with a very decisively Ab-major conclusion: Bb - A - Ab! (Or Bb - Eb - Ab!) It's clearly in Ab-major, but there is the implication of Cb-major.

it’s been one week since you pissed on me (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:22 (three months ago) link

And furthermore, if you acknowledge this kind of secondary key-centre, it makes things like the intro much more parseable. (How else are you going to explain the intro beginning on a cheery Fb-major -> Cb-major moment without some bizarre "oh it's a #IV" or some complicated explanation involving modulation? The answer is that Cb-major is an implied secondary key throughout this song.)

it’s been one week since you pissed on me (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:25 (three months ago) link

And SCRATCh what I tried to do just there about bringing it back to "Sweet Home Alabama"-- the secondary key in that song (if one could exist) is IV, not bIII. I was wrong! I just got excited for a moment

it’s been one week since you pissed on me (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:27 (three months ago) link

The b7 (Gb) that appears on the I chord (Ab-major) is not leading into IV (as it would in standard blues). It functions as the dominant of Cb-major (bIII).

TOTALLY

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:31 (three months ago) link

And yes to Cb tonal center explaining the intro also!

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 18:34 (three months ago) link

Yeah and that Gb over Ab-major is one of two shared pitches required for a mediant relationship explanation, too... The Gb and the Eb are both found in Cb-major.

Generally I think a lot of pop music chord progressions can be parsed more easily with concepts of secondary key-centres instead of complicated modulation explanations but that's just me. Not that complicated modulations don't exist. I could never argue that "Cybele's Reverie" has a verse in F-major and a bridge in C-major.

Speaking of mediant relationships, check out the key centres of "Wouldn't It Be Nice"! An intro in A-major. Verse is in F-major-- a major third away, with A as the shared pitch. Bridge is in D-major-- a minor third away-- and cleverly repurposes the harp intro (A-major) as chordal extensions in D-major. This song is so clever

it’s been one week since you pissed on me (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, 9 May 2020 19:07 (three months ago) link

*sorry, I could never argue against the idea that "Cybele's Reverie" has a verse and a bridge in two distinct keys.

it’s been one week since you pissed on me (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, 9 May 2020 19:08 (three months ago) link

Good point on "Cybele's Reverie." People probably might have a tendency to think that stays in F major during the bridge because of the Bb chord.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 19:27 (three months ago) link

Yes but by the same token Laetitia is singing a B-natural at the end of her drifty long melodies in the otherwise very F-major verses. My take: there are two key centres in this song (F-major and C-major), they exist sequentially (not concurrently), and yet there are elements of interfacing between them.

I love the synth C note that extends out of the bridge and over the first g-minor chord of the verse reprise-- it turns that g-minor into the upper notes of an implied C9. Very cool move!

it’s been one week since you pissed on me (flamboyant goon tie included), Saturday, 9 May 2020 21:53 (three months ago) link

That is a B natural, isn't it? I don't know if it alludes to the key of C right there. It strikes me as a chromatic passing note from C to Bb.

timellison, Saturday, 9 May 2020 23:11 (three months ago) link

one month passes...

Mixolydian songs that actually use the v chord (which is minor): "All Things Must Pass"

timellison, Sunday, 21 June 2020 18:41 (one month ago) link

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

timellison, Sunday, 21 June 2020 21:57 (one month ago) link

Somebody just posted a link to this elsewhere, seems interesting: http://cochranemusic.com/slonimsky-guitar-book

Barry "Fatha" Hines (James Redd and the Blecchs), Thursday, 25 June 2020 15:47 (one month ago) link

three weeks pass...

We teach or study Bach chorale harmonizations so much on paper in an analytical/formulaic way that it can be easy to forget how incredible they can sound and work musically, how much Bach got out of these hymn melodies in such short amounts of time. I was just looking at and listening to BWV 122.6, a harmonization of verse 4 "Das neugeborne Kindelein": it consists of four four-bar phrases and takes about 40s in this performance: https://open.spotify.com/track/15iLRj3RAbWzWw9cWpjFbA?si=32OV2v08TKmb-qWGDZKrUA. In that time, it modulates three times so that each phrase is in a different key that the previous one. See the score here: https://www.bach-cantatas.com/PDFCH/012206.pdf. The first phrase ends with a half cadence in G minor. The second modulates to D minor and ends with an authentic cadence but on a Picardy so that the final chord is D major. The third phrase modulates to Bb major and ends with a perfect authentic cadence with a cadential 6/4. The last phrase modulates back to G minor and ends with a Picardy so that there is a perfect authentic cadence landing on G major.

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Friday, 17 July 2020 20:15 (four weeks ago) link

Wow!

timellison, Saturday, 25 July 2020 18:36 (three weeks ago) link

My daughter is learning the harmonic minor scale right now:)

Time Will Show Leo Weiser (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 28 July 2020 16:17 (two weeks ago) link

:)

Feel a million filaments (Sund4r), Tuesday, 28 July 2020 17:26 (two weeks ago) link

Just encountered an interesting (to me) listening ear/training thing that maybe I will comment on tomorrow if I remember.

Time Will Show Leo Weiser (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 2 August 2020 03:18 (one week ago) link


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