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Composition 4 Question

Discussion in 'Composition 4' started by Rohann van Rensburg, Feb 9, 2019.

  1. #1 Rohann van Rensburg, Feb 9, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2019
    (Mike: If you're reading this, I'm not sure what the most appropriate place was to post. Feel free to move as desired.)

    I unfortunately missed about 45 minutes of the class due to issues with internet, so I missed where Mike may have elaborated on this.
    In regard to moving minor into major, or "ending on major" to put it simply: this is relatively obviously seen in a lot of the "classical" repertoire, but I'm wondering how this applies elsewhere in ways I may not be seeing (not because I don't believe the underlying idea of major being a more resolving "ending" for westerners [for a variety of reasons, not limited to familiarity and hope], but because I'm trying to understand whether these are exceptions or I'm simply missing it). If this was covered by him in class, please let me know.

    First, the ending to the Bond theme:

    Forgive my lack of accurate lingo, for starters. Some of the ideas were taken from Indian music, hence the tonality of some parts. In any case, it ends with an Em(maj7)9 (I don't know how to write the chord name here, clearly), which is obviously not major. It does, however, contain an augmented G (major 3rds) and a Bb major triad at the top. In terms of leading up to that chord, the previous section of the ascending first part of the main idea (E-G-D#-D) modulating through Em chord tones (E-G-B) gives us that #7 and 9 (they're also in the main melody), so the idea isn't foreign to us when it actually lands.
    In this case, is the major tonality of the Bb major triad at the top of the chord giving us that sense of "major" resolution, while containing mystery in the rest of the chord?

    Second example:

    Relatively popular folky pop artist. Song surprisingly in minor.
    I think the verse is Fm7, Ab, Bb, then Fm7 (piano emphasizes Bbsus2), Ab, Bb. Chorus goes (I think): Fm7, Bbm, Fm, Eb. The verse sounds much less minor, I assume because the m7 is inherently more major sounding (Ab/F), and the rest of the cadence is major.
    The chorus sounds quite minor, with the bridge and the later repetitions of the full chorus emphasizing the m3 of the Fm. The song itself ends with only vocals, and from what I can hear, Eb(first melody note)+Ab, then Csus4 (inverted Fsus2). Given the context of the notes immediately preceding (and the reverb), it feels and effectively functions (I would think) as either Fmadd9 (a rather miserable chord), or Fm9 -- this has a major in it, but in context it still "feels" much more minor, again probably due to the top chord being minor. It does contain an Abmaj7, though.
    Now this song doesn't feel like it ends on a fully resolving "end" to the story (and it isn't the end). The album is an introspective, sorrowful work that does eventually move up into hope through the idea of conquering and coming out of sorrow, but this individual piece seems only has a glimmer of the ending hope (the lyrics encourage the seeking of it).
    In this case, is the ending simply intended to not feel completely resolved, or is the Abmaj7 in Fm9 providing this? It gives me the impression that either the story will finish being told in the future, but this is the end for now.

    Last example:

    Progressive rock/metal song.
    The actual song ends on a pretty bleak note. There's a little outro after the distorted and acoustic chords in minor(ish) that ends with (I think) a Gm chord with a 9 somewhere in there. This is the most extreme example, and I have a hard time finding the "major" in here.
    Again, is this simply artistic intent? There are famous stories that are tragedies (i.e. Children of Hurin) -- while they're not the most popular, and typically fall within a larger body of work that does contain a more "complete" arc (Tolkien's stories do), is this effectively a musical "tragedy"?

    As an aside, I find the "absoluteness" concept fascinating. My 2 year old daughter just told us a song we played her was "a very sad one", and was a little weepy for a bit -- a relatively sorrowful song in minor. She has zero context (other than the music she's heard), socially, lyrically or otherwise, for minor being "sad". She hasn't watched any TV or film and doesn't have those connections either.
    *Edit* -- The song actually wasn't all that "minor", I didn't realize which one it was. It was a song that really impacted me emotionally but it wasn't an especially mournful song, and upon hearing it again this morning she burst into serious tears. This is precisely why it's not simply reducible to mere frequencies.
  2. I'm not 100% sure how to distill your questions down, but I think none of us can know the artist's intent, merely the result, although the Winter Bird example in particular is quite obviously not designed to feel "complete," and harmonically engineers that. There are pieces which end on every conceivable type of chord, obviously, each producing a different response, or dramatic/emotional conclusion. But more than the fact that not only are not all chords equal, it's that there are undeniable preferential biases and associations made with them that we're free to explore/exploit in a deliberate, controlled way we may not have realized.

    Your experience with your daughter is universal. My own son demonstrated blatantly obvious, consistent emotional responses to particular harmonies long before he could communicate verbally.
  3. Reminds me of this video that demonstrates exactly what you are saying:

    Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  4. is there somewhere composition 3 or is the 4 really 3?
  5. Rohann van Rensburg likes this.
  6. #6 Rohann van Rensburg, Feb 10, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
    While the surface level of this concept is obviously basic to music and something both taught and implied in your other classes, the deeper implications of this (obviously what Comp 4 is about) is really what I've been trying to internalize and contemplate (I'm a ways off from applying this, and need to re-watch as I missed a significant chunk): both that there's a certain inherent absoluteness to their qualities (and the qualities of the intervals that make them up) probably universally, and like you say, that their effects can be controlled more deliberately and subtly than previously considered. I always assumed the former had a lot to do more with culture, but I'm more convinced of their absoluteness than before and their inherent qualities as standalone chords (especially as they relate philosophically to us and nature). And while, again, chord quality associations are obvious, the available exploitation and sheer depth of preference found in these is something I'm too inexperienced to have observed.

    Pertaining to the examples, I only had the collaborative notes to go off of and I assumed when you talked about minor music, or ending cadences on something other than a major chord, that it wasn't a case of straightforward prescription but of understanding and control (a fundamental concept here). I also now wonder how different endings and people's associations with them are perhaps exploited in ways I'm not seeing -- learning how this happens practically is something I'm eager to do. The Winter Bird example is a bit more obvious, as you mentioned, as well as the ending of White Cluster -- the results in myself, upon hearing them, are consistent with what I've heard the artists say and in the case of White Cluster, one expects that lack of obvious "hopeful resolution" as an audience member.
    I'm a bit less clear on how it works in the Bond theme ending, as that would be an example of an extremely popular and well-loved theme with an ending now associated with a genre, specifically because of that theme. I don't know if there's something inherent to the chord and note choices, or if it's to do with the era in which it was established. I assume these are things I'll see more easily as I advance and internalize these ideas; until then your summary here provides enough understanding.

    Indeed -- it's not the first time I had encountered it with her (like your son and most kids exposed to a wide variety of music, she showed consistent emotional responses as a baby). Something about the timing of the class and her saying it simply made it "click" that the effects are more than just "nurture", in the sense of social connection (i.e. mother and baby), contextual experience and comparative repertoire. There's something fundamentally reflective about nature and human experience (hope, despair, the desire for resolution, etc) found at the micro level as well as the macro level. Difficult to explain, but the way you articulated it in class solidified it in a new and important way.
    Thanks for your response, as always.
  7. I haven't taken the Comp 4 class, so excuse me if this either has been said already or is totally not applicable, but I have the theory that some of the "universal truths of music", that even children can feel, are coming from the intervals of overtone frequencies in human voices. Things like laugther, screams of pain, a frustrated sigh, weeping etc. can all be easily made and understood by all humans, so there must be something universal in there that is already encoded on a genetic level.

    One of Hindemith's books that I have goes over different intervals that are present in the overtones of a string instrument, that's what nudged me on to that line of thought.
  8. #8 Rohann van Rensburg, Feb 10, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
    I have no doubt that this is reflected in the human voice and is an important component of it, but I think it's important to consider this role within the context of a defensible metaphysics, namely Aristotle's.
  9. Sounds like an interesting class. I'll have to get it very soon, and I look forward to watching it.

    I'll have to dig up the book to give you a detailed answer, but Rameu's treatise on harmony covers this pretty extensively.

    When I had to do 100 harmonic analysis of Bach we always had to indicate the "ur". So if the piece was G minor, Bb would be the "ur"

    How did you arrive at Aristotle and not Pythagoras ?

    I have not watched comp 4, so I can't really comment other than to say it seems like you are taking the first step towards the most intense and wacked out/crazy field in music theory which is the fight over tuning systems. 1/2 of them are very scientific math oriented only. The other half are too.....but there is a whole lot extra.

    It goes from 1 right to 10. Nothing in between.

    Kinda seem like the time to suggest one's time is better spent composing your own works, or transcribing and learning an instrument.

    Attached Files:

  10. It really is!

    Interesting. Ur?
    I'm talking big-picture metaphysics, namely Aristotle's, which reductionism unfortunately attempted to replace without defense; not necessarily music specific.

    I think it will likely make more sense. The universality concept is more relevant to the idea that the western ear is heavily biased to major, and the inherent qualities of chords are quite fixed in their strength as well as people's preference towards one over the other. I'm likely butchering this summary, but I missed a big chunk of the class.
    And fear not, philosophy is a relatively separate interest, not really interested in analyzing this too far from a mathematical or otherwise perspective. I am interested in the Bach Chorale you posted though.

    I apologize for that somewhat rambling response, but in short what I was interested in getting at here is mainly whether or not songs are using the exploitation you're mentioning in ways I'm not seeing. The Bond example is probably the most pertinent in this regard.

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