listening to: buffalo daughter – mirror ball
I think I just found one reason that I should not have been allowed to study music theory.
Warning: This blurb contains excessive amounts of blabbing in theoretical music crap. Though the ideas are not exactly advanced, they may end up boring you anyway. So, you know the drill.
Okay. I heart this song. I tried to upload it for listening pleasure, but ftp clients and OS 9 suck, so here is like half the song. I just sort of fell upon it, since I’ve heard nothing of Buffalo Daughter’s latest album (note: Buffalo Daughter consists of three members; two Japanese girls who play guitar and bass, and then Dr. Moog, whose name explains everything. They were one of the original bands that were on the Grand Royal (you know, Beastie Boys) label and…I lurrve them. Epitonic does a better job explaining their deal than I do). And it goes on for seven minutes doing practically the same thing over and over again but building, which tells you a little about how my brain likes to work musically. Stupid minimalistic brain.
And, this song has something in its harmonic motion about it that I immediately recognized was present in other songs that I like, too, and I think it’s something that has attracted me to music since I was younger, in fact. I’ve noticed it in other pop-ish songs I’ve listened to, but I’ve never really sat down and asked myself “how do the chords move” until now, even though the movement isn’t really subtle.
So anyway, the basic root chords of this pattern go like this:
Major I, down to a Major V, Major VII(natural) and down to a Major IV, or for easy reading, I V VII IV.
This pattern can appear in similar forms, maybe with chords in different inversions or with alterations. Even this song is a little wonky, in that there are some extra notes that might not strictly be a part of those chords.
I don’t know how obvious it is to the ears of most people how this takes the first movement from I to V and then repeats it a whole step down, from the VII to the VI (which could just be considered another I to V, a whole step down from the original, or tonicized. It’s pop music and nobody’s grading me, so I can refer to things however I want, hah).
So if you played all those chords in their root positions, you might notice a pattern of notes in the chords themselves that move from the first note, down in half-steps. That could actually be a bass-line, interestingly enough. It just takes the root chords (I V VII IV) and changes the V and IV chords so they’re up a third (otherwise known as V6 and IV6 chords). It doesn’t even have to be in the bass, really. I think for me, if it’s brought out in any way, I’ll notice. With this song it’s G-F#-F-E.
I don’t know what it is about this pattern that I enjoy so much. Because sure enough I know it’s in other music I like. Such as, Phish’s Bouncing Around the Room, R.E.M.’s King of Comedy, or the Cranberries’ Linger (even though I actually have never cared much for that song so much for other reasons, somehow). I think maybe I like the fact that the second motion echoes the first, but just a whole-step down. It’s simple, not very subtle, but nice. Sort of wishy-washy or melancholy.
I wonder what Professor Nez would think of my sad over-analysis of bizarre rock. She’d probably say something along the lines of “I do beleive I’m going to have an 18th-century faint!”
Note: I think I just need to mention that I am awesome because I heard the song once before I went to the piano and transferred the thing to keyboard in a form identical to the original. Yay! I love perfect pitch again now that I don’t have to sit in a class-room of singing people with NO pitch, fricking aural skills.