Monday, August 03, 2015

trope alerts in music: just going through the scale like that's an idea (not that it can't work)

You may have read axioms about how music tames the savage beast or how music is some great mystery of expression and soul.

Yeah, well ... kinda.

See, music is also stuff you can build and sometimes a musical work draws such blunt-force attention to the nature of its construction you can't really miss it.

This post was originally going to get called "the downward dog in music" but then at the last moment a counterexample came to mind.  So first we'll just get a couple of things out of the way.

Just outlining the notes of whatever scale you're writing your music in, in a straight line, is something that can only work (if that) when you rely on a asteady pulse.  nobody's getting any sense that you're going anywhere exciting just going down the scale unless there is at least a pittance of rhythmic activity somewhere in that musical presentation of a scale.

Quite possibly the lamest way to announce the scale of things to come is starting at the tonic.

Witness Lita Ford ... in "Kiss Me Deadly".

Yup ... straight down the scale, introduced with an upbeat note.


Lest you snort that this is a weakness so typical of rock and roll Pachelbel beat Lita by centuries.

Follow that first fiddle

Pachelbel at least had the sense to recognize that you can't just go straight down the scale from the tonic if you've got no initial rhythmic spark.  You at least start at the third or fifth of your tonic chord, which is a strategy also endorse by ....

Weezer, in "Hash Pipe".

Start on the fifth of the chord, but jump up to the third and then downward dog.
Of course if you want to be drastically fancier in how you just roll down the scale there are other examples.

Try about 1:55 with this one

The subject of the closing fugue for Beethoven's "Hammerklavier".  Sounds pretty complicated and all, but he is, in a way, just taking an unusually fancy path down a scale.

Of course there's no reason you have to always go DOWN a scale.  You can go up a scale, too.
It can also sound totally awesome.  Take it away Stevie Wonder ...

Thus endeth the musical trope alert post for today.

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