From the category archives:

Simple music analysis

One of the more perplexing moments for beginning music theory students are musical events that are somehow not logical. You ask: what is “logical” in music? The progression of a V chord, also called the dominant, to a I chord, also called the tonic, is the foundation of functional tonality. Every chord in the diatonic […]

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We have a very hip Dean in the Arts at UCLA. Dean Waterman shared this great YouTube clip on his FaceBook wall. Randy Bachmann reveals how that opening chord to “Hard Day’s Night” was put together. I took out my 12-string guitar and couldn’t get that F-chord with the G’s on top and bottom to […]

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Rondo limits

April 12, 2010

A rondo, for the sake of my readers who do not know the term, is a musical form used in songs, but usually instrumental compositions. The rondo form is: ABACADA…. Imagine a catchy, pithy theme–we’ll call it the RONDO THEME– that section we’ll call A. It’s sticky, memorable, something we want to hear again. Now, […]

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Today I lectured about Maurice Ravel’s “Pavane pour une infant Défunte” (1899). The title was chosen primarily for its assonance: say it over and over; it has a lovely lilt. Reminds me a bit of the Webern piano variations. I digress. The piece made Maurice a lot […]

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Today I lectured about what I’m now calling “chord cycles”–a series of chords that repeat over and over. In the Baroque, these types of compositions were called “chaconnes.” Composers think of any repeated set of chords as a chaconne, but historians are sticklers about that progression being a set progression. There are more arguments about […]

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It always seemed to me that you can tell Paul McCartney’s lyrics as he has a penchant for couplets. Not sure that exactly works here, but this graph is a damn fun analysis of the logic of the lyrics to Hey Jude. I think… [Thanks to my old pal from Green Bay, Rick Larson for […]

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V I V I V I V IVIVIVIVI V I!

December 2, 2009

Yesterday in lecture, my colleague Robert Winter took his turn in imparting the core of functional harmony: the tonic-dominant relationship, or V-I. He pointed out that the tritone–once banned by the church–now had rules of how it is to be resolved: augmented fourths expand out to sixths, and diminished fifths contract into a third. He […]

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Last December, Marc Hirsh wrote a terrific article for the Boston Globe called “Striking a chord” about how a chord progression [think: Joan Osborne's "What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us?" and you'll hear the progression] that has shown up […]

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I struggle writing my book analyzing songs by Rufus Wainwright because I keep forgetting who I am writing the book for. I simplify the language so that regular music lovers can appreciate it, but then I address issues that are more appropriate to graduate music analysis seminars for composers or music theorists. What is it […]

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Back to Rufus

August 9, 2009

Having finished my composition projects for the summer, I am finally returning to finishing my book on Rufus Wainwright. Having bought Robert O. Gderdingen’s terrific publication “Music in the Galant Style” I have found the book format that I’d like to have for my book: one with relatively large type, but most importantly, a hardback […]

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