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General Harmony/Orchestration/Theory Questions


Dixon Hill
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Hi Guys,

 

I am currently studying Fawkes the Phoenix and I am totally stuck by the harmony played during the bridge. I got the score signature edition but I am wondering if it is not wrong.

 

 

Measure 34 and 35

 

The harmony is divided beetween the lower range (CB, VC and horns) and the upper range (Piano, va, woodwinds)

 

If we look at the lower range, they are playing : Dmajor7 (D in the bass and C D F# A by the horns) in measure 34 and alternate the next measure between AMajor7M (C# E G# A) and CMajor7 (C in the bass and Bb C E G by the horns)

 

At the same time, in the upper range : measure 34 we have  AbMajor7Maj (C Eb Gb Ab) and measure 35 : C#minor 7 (B C# E G#) and C major (G C E)

 

So I would analyse it as a polychord in measure 34 : Ab / D and in measure 35, I wonder if I should consider the AMajor7M = C#minor7 with some added notes (B here considered as a 9) and then the C.

 

Now if I am using only my ears. I can clearly ear the DbMaj especially the A played by a vibraphone but no clash with a Ab. Then I can hear a chromatism between C#minor and C.

 

So I think the lower part is ok but the signature is totally wrong with woodwinds.

However, If I look a the complete score, those polychords are also there.

 

I don't know what to think (my ears are maybe not yet trained).

 

Thanks

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/31/2020 at 11:48 AM, Fabulin said:

But at least we have quite a mystery solved! I bet there are not many people who know the most probable scenario behind both the Throne Room and the Main Title the way we do now :lol:


I can’t believe I missed this whole discussion. (Also, cc @Falstaft!)


So, I noticed another bit of supporting evidence that the throne room version of the main theme B-section was indeed the original. Apart from the main title, every other time this theme shows up, it uses the rhythm from the throne room version for this descending scalar passage:


BFF8DAF1-297D-4C78-A2C4-B2217636431D.jpeg

 

 

Rather than the “tripletized” version from the main title:

 

9AE57276-5107-4D81-AAA8-46EF75DF1CC4.jpeg

That’s even true for its uses in the Episode IX “Dunkirk” cue, which points to this being the canonical version of the melody in JW’s head, and the main title actually being a variation. That cue notably has a mostly 6/8 feel, where the triplet version could have easily fit.

 

The end credits, which were written as part of the same cue as the throne room (12M2), even reuse an accompanimental figure not found in the main title:

 

1ADFD6BE-264E-480C-BA31-AA12C15B5414.jpeg

 

0B88EEA4-2281-40BB-8EF4-26F01F394C98.jpeg

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28 minutes ago, BrotherSound said:


I can’t believe I missed this whole discussion. (Also, cc @Falstaft!)

 

Woah, same here. Guess I gotta check the General Discussion forum more regularly. This is fascinating stuff.

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1 hour ago, BrotherSound said:


I can’t believe I missed this whole discussion. (Also, cc @Falstaft!)


So, I noticed another bit of supporting evidence that the throne room version of the main theme B-section was indeed the original. Apart from the main title, every other time this theme shows up, it uses the rhythm from the throne room version for this descending scalar passage:

 

Rather than the “tripletized” version from the main title:

 

That’s even true for its uses in the Episode IX “Dunkirk” cue, which points to this being the canonical version of the melody in JW’s head, and the main title actually being a variation. That cue notably has a mostly 6/8 feel, where the triplet version could have easily fit.

 

The end credits, which were written as part of the same cue as the throne room (12M2), even reuse an accompanimental figure not found in the main title:

Nice that Star Wars can now be listed as another example of Williams composing finale-first, planting incomplete forms of the main theme in the film, and presenting the main theme in a complete form only at the end. This, plus the "Dunkirk" cue being a representation of the pure version of the theme, actually change perceptions a bit :) 

 

The only thing I have to add at this point is a comparison to whom is Williams' composition most related to. Williams' compositional thinking had Dvorak and an Elgar march as a starting point, and also followed the "Austrian" fanfare tradition once imported to Hollywood by Steiner and Korngold.

 

There was once a very gifted composer, who was a student of Dvorak, a student of the father of Austrian brass music, Joseph Franz Wagner, and the contemporary of Elgar...

 

I know that to Americans this composition tends to sound supremely funny, so maybe I will just add that I am being totally serious :lol:

 

Here is a direct Williams-J.F. Wagner link:

I'm not saying that it matters, but just for clarity - Williams was likely aware of this composition as of 1977, before Pops tenure, because he would use the same Moscheimer arrangement Leonard Bernstein did in his 1972 album "Great Marches".

 

I love seeing music as one great extended family dinner.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Found this list that gives every major and minor scale attributes and emotions:

 

https://ledgernote.com/blog/interesting/musical-key-characteristics-emotions/

 

Do you think this is valid? I have a hard time that any major scale would give a sense of "rage, wild and harsh". 

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I'm starting to try and teach myself music theory fundamentals in a systematic way.  As I'm starting (using a textbook on archive.org), it goes back and forth between reviewing what I already know from over the years and filling in the gaps between.  Without the time limits of an actual course, it's nice to spend as much time as I want on a chapter/concept.

 

Anyway, in going over beat and meter I'm taking music pieces I already love, following along with the score, and practicing counting out the meter aloud.  This odd metered section of Appalachian Spring that goes back and forth between 2/4 and 5/8 was really fun to figure out how to count out loud along to :D 

 

"1 and 2 and / 1 and a 2 and / 1 and 2 and / 1 and a 2 and / 1 and 2 and / 1 and a 2 and / 1 and a 2 and / 1 and a 2 and" etc.

 

13:16 - 13:46

 

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16 hours ago, gkgyver said:

Found this list that gives every major and minor scale attributes and emotions:

 

https://ledgernote.com/blog/interesting/musical-key-characteristics-emotions/

 

Do you think this is valid? I have a hard time that any major scale would give a sense of "rage, wild and harsh". 

 

So this is kind of a complicated topic...(!)

 

These kinds of lists of key characteristics all date from centuries ago, and the biggest factor affecting these lists was the tuning system used. For the past couple of centuries or so, equal temperament has been the standard, meaning that the octave is divided into 12 equal semitones. But before that, most tuning systems were unequal temperaments, meaning that the semitones don't divide equally, so the intervals in every key literally sounded different even though they are written the same on paper. So each key lended itself to emotional interpretations due to the differences from the unequal tuning. Some tunings done in a chain of 5ths meant that the 5th going from the top of the chain to the bottom again sounded horribly out of tune and had acoustic "beats" in them that sounded to people like the howling of a wolf. So it was named the "wolf" interval. You can hear it here.

 

This is why they say that some major keys sound "harsh" or full of "rage". Keys that stray far from C major will sound more out of tune, so these are generally ones with four or more sharps or flats that were not generally in common use, and these are the major keys that get negative descriptions: Ab, Db, B. Even E and F# describe fighting and struggling.

 

This is actually quite a complicated topic, but there are other factors as well, like physical factors of instruments, e.g., open strings of string instruments resonating more than stopped ones, so sounding more "joyful". This is why you'll see major keys that can use many open strings have that description: D, A, E.

 

Then there are psychological factors like the jagged nature of the sharp sign vs. the softer rounded nature of the flat sign (not kidding!). So keys with many sharps tended to be called energetic while those with many flats tended to be called calm. Other things too, like C major with no sharps or flats has a "purity" or "child-like simplicity". Or Eb major with its 3 flats is thought of as symbolic of the holy trinity, so you get descriptions about conversing with God, etc.

 

As you can see, this is all pretty complicated, so much so that one academic devoted a whole book to it.

 

One last thing, probably the most well-known list like this was by a guy named Schubart (not Schubert!) in the late-18th century. Here's a reproduction of his list. I only mention it because Beethoven saw the list and agreed with it, which is in many ways corroborated by many of his pieces (e.g., the Ode to Joy in D Major, the key of joy, or the Pastoral Symphony in the "calm" key of F major).

 

But today, equal temperament has gotten rid of the tuning distinctions between keys, so one key sounds like another, just higher or lower.

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2 hours ago, Ludwig said:

One last thing, probably the most well-known list like this was by a guy named Schubart (not Schubert!) in the late-18th century. Here's a reproduction of his list. I only mention it because Beethoven saw the list and agreed with it, which is in many ways corroborated by many of his pieces (e.g., the Ode to Joy in D Major, the key of joy, or the Pastoral Symphony in the "calm" key of F major).

 

Let's try Williams!

 

The Imperial March: Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike [note from Loert: those are actually 3 words...]

Hedwig's Theme: Naïve, womanly innocent declaration of love, lament without grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears; this key speaks of the imminent hope of resolving in the pure happiness of C major.

Force Theme: Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood.

 

.....!

 

Allow me also to chip in with a book by Deryck Cooke called "The Language of Music", where he delves quite deeply how particular sequences of notes bring about particular emotions. Very interesting and I believe fairly unique study.

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43 minutes ago, Loert said:

The Imperial March: Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike [note from Loert: those are actually 3 words...]

Hedwig's Theme: Naïve, womanly innocent declaration of love, lament without grumbling; sighs accompanied by few tears; this key speaks of the imminent hope of resolving in the pure happiness of C major.

Force Theme: Melancholy womanliness, the spleen and humours brood.

 

.....!

 

Let's try some more! (from Schubart's list)

 

E.T. (C major): innocence, simplicity, naïvety, children's talk

Star Wars (Luke's Theme) (Bb major): Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world

Anakin's Theme (A major) - declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one's state of affairs; hope of seeing one's beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God

Rey's Theme (A minor): Pious womanliness and tenderness of character

 

Hmm, I think you may be on to something...

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  • 5 weeks later...

I frequently spend time listening to lots of Richard Wagner music, and reading along the conductor scores, and I wonder if someone might be willing to summarize a few points about what makes his harmonic language. I searched online, but found not a lot, all I find is endless discussion about the Tristan chord. It was new, I get it. 

What strikes me is that musical sequences seem to be sometimes based on just one chord for pages, or little more. Like in Das Rheingold, there's a sequence in there somewhere that's nothing but a C diminished stretched over pages. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Is this being played by two subsections of violas double-stopping the dyads? Or are the violas divided even further playing these as four separate lines?

 

If it's the former how difficult is that? Also how negligible would the difference in sound be between those two possible methods?

 

 

image.png

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  • 8 months later...

This isn't a question, just pointing some cool harmony/modulation stuff.  I've been in a big Scott Joplin thing this year and have really come to love his "A Breeze from Alabama" especially for its lurch of a key change from C to A-flat at 1:39 below, then the cool modulation to E at 1:49 (the music below).  It's the rare rag that changes between anything other than tonic and subdominant or dominant, let alone changing key in the middle of a section too.

 

My big take is that in some ways Joplin's style of ragtime, often called "classic" ragtime, was sorta like the prog rock of its day.  Working within the form of popular music (despite our perceptions today, most ragtime was actually in the form of vocal songs) but more ambitious and mostly instrumental within the form.

 

 

image.png

 

 

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