Mondestrunken

Just watched Moonlight, and, happily, it’s great. Need to watch it again on short order. Don’t know if composer Nicholas Britell truly had Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis in his ear as he wrote the score, but I had to listen to that piece right away on finishing the film. It fit right in.

Drop-2 Chord Fun Facts

FF#1: Outer Limits

We’re going to talk a bit about seventh chord and four-part harmony here, so to keep things consistent, I’m going to refer to SATB for voicing, and keep pitch and string sets ordered from higher pitch to lower pitch.

Drop-2 seventh chords are formed by starting with a close position seventh chord and dropping the second note from the top (in SATB, the A) one octave. In the original close position chord, S and A are adjacent chord members. Now, however, S and B are adjacent chord members. So, we end up with SB pairs of {R,7}, {3,R}, {5,3}, {7,5}. In other words, between the outer voices of a drop-2 seventh chord, you always have some type of 10th or 9th.

Interesting. So, if that is going on between the outer voices, SB, what is going on between the inner voices, AT?

FF#2: Dyad Pairs

Now that we know what is always going on between the outer voices, what else can we say about how these chords are constructed? In the original close position voicing, adjacent voices, e.g., {T,B} are always adjacent chord memebers, e.g., {3,R}. But in drop-2, because of that octave displacement, adjacent voices are adjacent chord members + 1, e.g., {T,B} is now {5,R}. That means that {S,A} must be {3,7}. Well, with the knowledge of this FF and also FF#1 up above, these chords are now very easy to spell. In all four inversions, they are:
{R,5} {3,7}
{3,7} {5,R}
{5,R} {7,3}
{7,3} {R,5}

In drop-2 chords, root and fifth always go together, third and seventh always go together. This is worth memorizing.

FF#3: A Chain of Double Appogiaturas

Occasionally in jazz and popular music, we see harmonic motion by descending diatonic 5th, e.g., ii-V-I, or vi-ii-V-I, or I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I. In four-part harmony with seventh chords, between adjacent chords we can say the following: two notes are common, the other two notes will descend a diatonic second. In fact, you can think of each of these chord pairs as double 4-3, 2-1 appogiaturas on the resolving chord. Think of the ii-V progression in Satin Doll for a good example of this.

To see how this plays out with drop-2 chords, let’s do the following. We’re going to play I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I in F major, on the {2,3,4,5} string set, starting with the {3,7} {5,R} dyad pair. In the first progression, the common tones are between the outer voices SB, and the appogiatura happens on the inner voices AT. Next progression, the inner voices AT have the common tones and the outer voices SB have the appogiatura. From there, the cycle repeats.

FF#4: Those Dyads Again!

Let’s think about what just happened. We started with a I chord with the R member in the B voice. When we moved to the IV chord, the B voice became 5. The we moved to vii and B became R again. Wait, {R,5}, where have we seen this before?

What if we play the same sequence, I-IV-vii-iii-vi-ii-V-I, this time in Db major, same string set, but this time starting with {5,R} {7,3}. So we start with the I chord with 3 in the B voice, and next chord, the B voice becomes 7 of the IV chord. Wow, really? so now the B notes will alternate on the {3,7} dyad.

So, it looks like in a progression between any drop-2 seventh chords descending by diatonic 5th on the same string set, we have the following transformation R->5, 5->R, 7->3, 3->7. If you want to keep in simple, just remember that in the bass, {R,5} will alternate and {3,7} will alternate, depending on where you start.

FF Bonus Round:

Take any drop-2 seventh chord on the string set {1,2,3,4}. Drop the S on 1 two octaves, so that it becomes the B on 6, on the resulting string set {2,3,4,6}. What have we here?

Claude Vivier’s Zipangu

I just put up an old paper on Claude Vivier’s piece Zipangu. I think I wrote it in Carl Morey’s Music in Canada seminar back at U of T. I’m posting it (it’s in the “Writing” section of the web site) for a couple of reasons. Vivier’s life and career were both cut short in 1983, and he’s not terribly well-know outside of Canada. Which is a shame, because he wrote some really amazing music. This piece in particular, really struck me, and stuck with me. If you don’t know his music, it’s a great place to start. The paper isn’t an exhaustive analysis, but it does shed light on how the piece is put together. When I dug into the piece, I was startled at formalist it actually was. Would love to hear your comments on both the piece and the paper.

cyberkrunk labs

Things are humming along, and the bf album release is getting nearer. Maybe this year.

The labs have had a major influx of new gear of the past year. The most recent addition is a pair of Dynaudio BM 6A mk II nearfield monitors. Now, back in the day, many happy hours were spent in the depths of UTEMS in front of a pair of Genelec 1030as, which have served as my high water mark for nearfields ever since.

Well, let’s just say that Denmark is not too far from Finland: the Dynaudios are a perfect match for my space, I absolutely love listening to them. They are small, but the bass is accurate and the imaging and detail are bang on.

“Pusherman” just came on iTunes, and the sound of Curtis in my head is what prompted the post.

An unlikely turn of events

I’m having dinner the other night at Emma’s Pizza in Cambridge, Ma. Funny place, college hangout featuring thin-crust pizza, mis-matched chairs, and the geekiest collage of 20-something nerds (everyone of them paying by credit card) I had seen in a long time. The service has been described as “Kafka-esque”–it’s not, it’s just incompetent, but pleasant enough for being so. The service gave me plenty of time to listen to the tunes they were playing, which were pretty good. The first tune that really caught my ear was one I had heard before, but I had no idea what it was. I thought maybe it was some remix of a 60s tune. It had this great refrain of “no, no, no”, sung way behind the beat. Who is this? I Googled on my Blackerry, “Who sings that song that goes no, no, no?” What an age we live in. A few hits down, Google confirmed what I had sort of suspected, it’s the Amy Winehouse song, “Rehab”.

Now, I had seen pictures of Amy–who hasn’t?–and heard about all the brouhaha about her Grammy wins. Let’s just say, I was not predisposed to like her. The music, however, completely won me over, and the CD was waiting for me when I got home Friday night. Dipping into the rest of the album, there are some fine moments and at least a few insanely great lyrics, “What kind of fuckery is this / you made me miss the Slick Rick gig!”

I don’t know if it’s a function of our age or my age, but derivative pop music no longer bothers me, I actually really like it. My favorite bands of the last few years would have had me sneering back in my teens: Interpol is a Joy Division ripoff, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs rip everybody off, The Whigs singer in the post below is an amalgam of Neil Young and Thurston Moore. So What? As Donald “Duck” Dunn famously said, “If the shit fits, wear it!”

Sex Pistols on Ferguson

The performance was as great as the previous night’s gig was lame. Due in large part, no doubt, to the friendlier environment. Lydon is no Leno fan either, apparently, as he revealed in a fun interview alongside a flu-ridden Steve Jones. The band looked good (even Glenn), Lydon was appropriately ridiculous, and fat is the new slim.