MUSI 112: Listening to Music

Lecture 8

 - Bass Patterns: Blues and Rock


In this lecture, Professor Wright teaches students how to listen for bass patterns in order to understand harmonic progressions. He talks through numerous musical examples from both popular music and classical music, showing the way that composers from both realms draw on the same chord progressions. The musical examples are taken from Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Wagner, Gene Chandler, the Beach Boys, Badly Drawn Boy, the Dave Matthews Band, and Justin Timberlake.

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MUSI 112 - Lecture 8 - Bass Patterns: Blues and Rock

Chapter 1. Review of Chord Formation [00:00:00]

Professor Craig Wright: I do want to talk about chords. Last time we worked through this idea of the scale and how you can build triads on each of the members of the scale. And we talked about a triad being a configuration of three pitches where you take the first, the third and the fifth. The first of the triad — this is a term that we’ll be going over today — is called the what? The root of the triad so if we have [sings] C, E, G, the C is the root of the triad. The lowest note of this aggregate of three is the root of the triad.

So we can build triads on each of the members of the scale, and we said that some of these chords tend to be used a lot more than others, that the tonic (I) is very important, the dominant (V) is important, the sub-dominant right next to and below the dominant is important, and we’re going to be talking about the VI chord today. We could give that a name. We could call it the sub-mediant but that’s probably getting too technical. We’ll just call it the VI chord. So we’ve got a I chord built on the first degree of the scale, a V chord built on the fifth degree of the scale, a IV chord built on the — a IV chord built on the fourth degree, and a VI chord built on the sixth degree.

Now I had an interesting discussion in section this past week and a couple of really good questions were asked. I started by saying, “Could you come up with any kind of — well, you tell me in fifty words or less what I said in lecture yesterday about harmony. How does harmony work? Can you come up with a visual image of how harmony works?” So we tried out a couple of things.

One of the things that we discussed was this type of imagery here where you have vertically these pillars, if you will, or we could even call — the more I sort of looked at this — sort of call them tree trunks almost. And these tree trunks were the chords and at the base of each of these chords at least conceptually, theoretically, is this thing called the root. So I like this tree metaphor here. So we’ve got the root here of the — and then the trunk and then up above, of course, this florid canopy would musically be the what? The melody. Okay. So we might think about that.

Now in the course of this, a student asked a very good question that I should have pointed out a long time ago, and that is: when an orchestra plays or an ensemble plays and they’re looking at their music and they’re reading their music, do they play a chord? Does the violin play a chord and are the trumpets — each trumpet playing a chord and the viola — is it playing a chord? What do you think? No. It’s just playing one note — one note of a chord. And once again we, our ears, hear this aggregate of sound and then we say, “Oh, it’s got that, that, that, that,” and we extrapolate out of that information that it is this particular chord. But if you were to look at what the YSO has on its stands nobody’s playing the chord. They’re just playing individual notes that all together form a chord. And we pointed out, however, that one individual has a — the music that has all of these parts on it — and that, of course, is the conductor who has the full conducting score — the full score — in front of him or her. So that was one interesting question that came up, so keep this in mind if you’re wondering about this idea of chords.

So we could say this is the root, maybe this is the third and that’s the fifth. These other instruments are filling in these things at various spots to produce this aggregate of the chord. Supposing this — we mentioned this also, this idea — supposing we had other things kind of running around there. Without those other things running around we would have a good sort of model of homophonic texture, sort of block chords changing in that fashion. If you put in other little strands of melody, it changes it more toward polyphonic texture.

Let’s review another point and I’ll get to a second question that was asked. Why do we have to change chords? We talked about this last time. Why do we change chords? Yeah.

Student: [inaudible] Melody?

Professor Craig Wright: Because the melody changes and not all harmonies are concordant with every note. Someone asked me, “Well, why are some notes consonant and why are other notes dissonant?” And the answer has to do with ratios and string sizes and lengths of pipe and things like that, but generally speaking, pitches that are right next to each other — very close to each other — are dissonant. If you get a highly irrational ratio like nine to eight, which is the whole tone, or seventeen or eighteen to seventeen — which, just depending upon your internal tuning, is the half step — those irrational ratios are very dissonant, [plays piano] or [plays piano] that kind of sound, but if you allow a little space in there — Let’s say you go to a three-to-two ratio or a six-to-five — even a six-to-five ratio, it gets more consonant.

Let’s see how this would play out. Here for example we have the pitch C and either note above or below it is dissonant. These are very close together. Now let’s play this on the piano. So here is a C. [plays piano] If I play the D above it, [plays piano] it’s dissonant, [plays piano] the D below it, it’s dissonant, but let’s say I go down to the A below it, [plays piano] allowing a little separation between the two pitches now. [plays piano] What about that? Consonant or dissonant? Sounds a lot better. What about this, now going down to the G against the C? [plays piano] Yeah, it sounds fine, [plays piano] sounds well, kind of bland or revving in neutral there. What about this? [plays piano] Yeah, it sounds sort of nice. What about this? [plays piano]

Yeah, not so much, but if you think about it — so it’s not that — if you — it’s not that we’re allowing even more space here. What we’ve done is taken this pitch and played it all the way down an octave below it so we’re actually getting back to this configuration of the pitch right next to it, and we could — then of course we could go down one more step [plays piano] and we would get the octave, which is a duplication of two-to-one. So that’s a very wide sort of ratio there. So that’s something to think about. The closer these pitches are together, the more likely they are to be dissonant — and the desire to have some space added there. Questions about that? Okay.

Chapter 2. Chord Progressions and Harmonic Change [00:06:44]

Let’s go on now to talk about chord progression. Anybody want to do — what’s your understanding of what a chord progression is? If I said “chord progression” — I think we have that term up on the board today. What is a chord progression? I — let’s see. Are you going to? Yeah. Fire away.

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Nice and loud, a little bit louder. I couldn’t hear.

Student: A sequence of chords that sound good together?

Professor Craig Wright: Okay. Good. Excellent. A sequence of chords that sound good together, kind of make sense together; we could say [chords] that sort of march along in a purposeful fashion. [plays piano] — that kind of make sense together. All right? They seem to be going somewhere and there’s this sort of force of pull or gravity in music having to do with some chords wanting to go to other chords. So we’ve got a chord progression. We’ve talked about the root of the triad. [plays piano] The root of the triad is the bottom-most pitch of that triad. [plays piano] Supposing we didn’t go [sings] C, E, G, but we decided to start with the [sings] E, G and then put the C up on top, [sings] C, E, G, C. Well, that’d be what’s called a chord inversion. We’re not going to get into that ‘cause that takes us into heavy-duty music theory, but it’s — if we don’t have root position then we’ve got some other note of the triad in the bass, and we’ve got some kind of chord inversion, so that’s what that particular term means up there.

What are we going to do to hear these chords? How do we hear chord progressions? How do we hear harmony? What are we listening for again? Obviously, we’ve talked about it again and again and again. We’re going to be listening for the bass. Okay? And all of our musical experience tells us to listen to melody; melody’s beautiful — that’s what we want to hear, but now to get a sense of harmony we’re going to listen to the bass. And we said last time we want to do two things. We want to figure out if the harmony is changing, and if it is changing whether it’s changing at a regular or irregular rate. By regular rate we mean that the amount of time that each chord holds is exactly the same; every chord holds for the same length of time. If one chord holds twice as long or only half as long, then we have an irregular harmonic change — irregular rate of harmonic change.

So let’s begin with our first example here this morning. It’s from Richard Wagner. It’s the beginning of his Ring cycle and we’re going to listen to this. Well, how do we hear the bass? How do we tell if the harmony is changing? What I do is try to sing the bass. I don’t know whether it’s easier for gentlemen or not because our voices are sort of in the bass, but maybe this is payback time since ladies are always singing the melody. So we’ll focus on the bass and we’ll try to sing the bass, and if we find that in singing the bass our voice is not changing, probably the harmony hasn’t changed. If we have to sing a different pitch, then probably the harmony has changed. So let’s try that as an initial modus operandi here and we’ll see how it works. So here’s an example from Wagner. [music playing]

See if you can find the pitch. Sing it. I want to hear the sound. Louder, please. [sings] Did it change? No. He just keeps that same E-flat chord for about six minutes at the beginning of the Overture to Rheingold, and on the basis of that you know there’s going to be a very long opera. If he’s going to sit there on one chord for that amount of time, it’s going to go on for a long period of time. Okay.

Let’s listen to an example from the realm of pop music this time. What about this one? Is it changing? I think this is Dave Matthews Band. What about this one? See if you can sing the pitch. [music playing] Sing it. [sings] What about that one? Did it change? No. So that one didn’t change either. We’re going to have some that change, and we’re going to work through this progressively in just a moment. I want to make one other point before we launch into that, and that is the following: that composers use the rate of harmonic change — whether it’s changing or not changing — to sort of make us feel different ways about the music that we are listening to. It gives a sense of what this music is all — really all about and since, as we were saying, so much classical music doesn’t have a text with it we’ve got to have some markers in there to know what the composer is trying to communicate to us.

Here’s a famous example from Mozart’s G Minor Symphony. [music playing] And so on. So if I separated this noodling here, [plays piano] which is just a kind of arpeggio [plays music] patterning of the chord and just have the chord stay there — [plays piano] [sings] All right. So those are the chords underneath. You notice at the beginning [plays piano] one-two, two-two, three-two, four-two, one-two, two-two, three-two, four-two. At the beginning [plays piano] these chords are holding for four measures or a total of eight beats. Then as it goes on, [plays piano] what happens here? [plays piano] Change, change, change, change — changing on every beat — then [plays piano] change, change, change, change, change. Then we’re getting two changes per beat. So what’s happened to the rate of harmonic change here? Is it regular or irregular?

Students: Irregular.

Professor Craig Wright: Highly irregular, and what is happening to it? It’s getting faster and faster and faster. So here in the G Minor Symphony we feel as — oh, it’s so full of tension, angst, anxiety, perhaps passion, it’s driving somewhere, and one of the things that’s driving it is its accelerating rate of harmonic change. The amount of time that each chord is holding is getting shorter and shorter and shorter as we drive into that cadence. Now the cadence is [plays piano] — cadence is simply the end of a musical phrase, particularly in this case the end of a chord progression, where we are at a point of arrival; the cadence brings us to a point of arrival. So that’s a piece of Mozart.

Let’s turn to a piece of Beethoven now, his Symphony number Six, the Pastoral Symphony. Let’s listen to just a bit of it. [music playing] Can you pick out the bass? Can you sing the bass pitch? Now we can. [sings]

Professor Craig Wright: Well, it’s difficult; it’s not easy. Can you pick out the — no. I was having trouble picking out the bass. They’re so — sometimes you can do it, and sometimes you can’t do it. We’re going to focus now on some passages where we can do it, and we’re going to see how Beethoven is setting up some chord progressions here. So here we’ve got — let’s see. We’ve got some chords set out and we’re going to — we’ve got some chords set out here and we’re in the key of C at this point, and we’re going to hear Beethoven go to a tonic chord, then a sub-dominant chord, then a tonic chord, then a dominant chord and so on. We’re just going to watch and listen to — maybe even sing along with — the bass as he changes chords. [music playing] [sings]

And let’s work — we’ll hear that again, but as you can see [sings] and then hold on that [sings] and then the changes came a little bit faster and faster. So let’s listen to that again. And we will then get over to here, where he’s sitting on the tonic chord, and we want to see how long he’s going to hold this tonic chord. Okay? [music playing] [sings] Irregular, huh, because we held a long time there. Now, moving faster. [music playing] Sing. [sings] Sing with me. [sings] Okay.

So he’s up to something here with this rate of harmonic change. We almost fell asleep on that tonic chord. He’s doing the opposite of what Mozart did. He’s trying to relax us here by slowing down the rate of harmonic change here. That held for about thirty seconds, that tonic chord. Almost all classical music involves irregular rates of harmonic change, a point I think will become apparent later on, but that is perhaps why this is the Pastoral Symphony — this idea of being relaxed, being outdoors among the — amidst nature and being in a very relaxed sort of state of mind. The rate of harmonic change has slowed down considerably here. Okay.

Chapter 3. Popular and Classical Music Chord Progressions [00:18:23]

Now for the rest of the session today, what I’d like to do is take examples from the realm of pop music and use them as paradigms for what happens in the world of classical music. Why would I do that? Why, when dealing with harmony and bass lines, do I want to start by focusing on popular music and then apply those principles to classical music? What does pop music do for us that’s very helpful? Marcus?

Student: It’s, like, very regular.

Professor Craig Wright: Okay. It’s not like; it is very regular, Marcus. I’m always telling my kids, “Don’t like” — no. It is indeed very regular — So it is indeed very regular so that’s one thing, and by regular we mean these patterns keep repeating again and again. So Marcus is absolutely right. That’s the big-ticket item — it’s regular. It oftentimes repeats and it can be symmetrical in that sense. Another observation? Roger?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Okay. Yeah. It’s — that’s another point. It’s more obvious because there are probably fewer lines there, so that you can focus on the primary line, the basic line — the bass line. Yeah. So there’s — it’s probably simpler in that sense. Any other observations? Well, here’s one other that you might not have thought of, and that is that most of the chords in rock music in particular tend to be root-position chords, and for that reason they’re easier to hear. When you start getting inversion, “what note is it, what chord is it,” that obfuscates the issue. So because so much popular music and particularly rock music has those chords in root position we can track them more readily. And then finally we could add that — the idea that maybe with a lot of electronic basses and things like that that they play — they tend to play the bass just louder. Okay? So all of these factors, particularly the idea of regularity and repetition. So let’s take a couple of examples here.

Okay. I think we have something. I’ve chosen something called Badly Drawn Boy. I had this in my collection. Anybody ever heard of this? Is — okay. One, two. This is not — okay, three. So this is — is that — is it “Badly Drawn Boys” or “Boy”? Boy. What? Singular. Okay. We’re going to hear just a few seconds of this. See if you can determine how many chords we have here — whether we have a chord change. If so, how many chords are involved in this chord change and are they changing at a regular or irregular rate? [music playing] What about that? Regular or irregular?

Student: Is it regular?

Professor Craig Wright: Regular, yeah. [sings] And then we go on to the next one. And how many chords were involved there? Difference of opinion. So how many — well, let’s hear it again. [music playing] [sings] So two, yeah. Regular?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: So we have just two chords here, just changing back and forth between two. Here is another example: Justin Timberlake. Sorry, but it’s a good example. Let’s listen to this. How many chords are involved? Regular or irregular? [music playing] [sings]

Regular or irregular? Hmm? How many think regular? Raise your right hand. Raise your left hand if you think it’s irregular. Yeah, it’s regular, and with — each chord was holding for two beats there in duple meter. How many chords were there altogether? Yeah, I think there were four chords there so we had change. Yes, there was change. It was regular and it happened to involve four chords. Okay. Pop music — we’ve been using some pop music here. We’ve talked about why we use the pop music.

Let’s talk about what the difference between pop and classical music is. We’ve touched on this a little bit before but let’s play with this again. Let’s say you go home for Thanksgiving break and your grandmother says, “What have you been doing at Yale?” “Well, I’ve been taking this course on music and we’ve been studying classical music and some popular music,” and she says, “What’s the difference? Tell me. What’s the difference between popular music and classical music?” How would you explain to your grandmother what the difference is? Maybe six, seven, eight different bullet points here. Who can get us started?

We’ve talked about some of these already, having to do with the nature of the harmony — that pop music tends to have simpler harmonies, and that those harmonies tend to be more repetitious, that they tend to have harmonies that have chords in root position. And here is one other thing you might not think of and then I’m going to stop and I’m going to let you add things here. They tend to be just triads whereas in classical music [plays piano] we can have a triad but we can also add a seventh note with [sings] one, three, five, seven, nine, eleven, that kind of thing. It gets more dissonant, the more notes that you add there. So classical music does involve more complex chords. Okay. What else here? Oscar.

Student: Pop music tends to have a vocal part?

Professor Craig Wright: Pop music tends to have a vocal part. Why?

Student: Maybe it wants to be popular.

Professor Craig Wright: Well, because it wants to be popular. [laughs] There may be a circular argument there. Well, okay, but if you’re going to have a singer, what’s that singer going to be singing?

Student: A melody.

Professor Craig Wright: A melody? Well, but classical music has melody. We have a violinist play a melody. If we have a singer, the singer’s going to be singing a text. Right? And we talked about this before — that classical music, probably eighty-five percent of it, does not involve a text, and that’s a whole different ballgame because then you have to communicate meaning in a completely different sort of way. Maybe you communicate meaning by slowing down your harmonic motion to make us feel relaxed so that each of these — with pop music you have — you know what the thing means principally because of the text, but with the classical music you’ve got these sort of subliminal symbols in there, subliminal signifiers that we got to pick up on. And we’ll be talking more and more about that. So we do have — that’s a very important point that Oscar raises there. We’ve got text in pop music that tells us what this music means. Anything else? Carolyn.

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Okay. If you go to hear a symphony of mid-Beethoven, on — each movement will probably last fifteen minutes. If you put on a CD, we could have — what’s the timing on the Justin Timberlake thing there or any one of the tracks? Pick up the “Duke of Earl” one there. Do they give us timings? Okay. I can’t read it but two minutes and fifty seconds, two minutes — this one’s only two minutes, three minutes and twenty seconds, that kind of thing. They’re short, whereas Beethoven, as mentioned, is much longer. What does that opportunity of length provide us? It provides us the opportunity to be more diversified in terms of the mood of the music. So in classical music you can have rather wide mood swings. Remember we had in that one piece [plays piano] and then [plays piano] there was a modulation tying them together, but those were completely different sentiments. Usually, with a piece of popular music you get a single ethos, a single feeling, a single mood associated with the piece, and the piece will tend to be shorter. Any more that we could push on that? Yeah.

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Okay. That’s — yeah. Most classical music is written down. We’ve talked — we spent a lot of time talking about that — the most popular music, virtually all of it — although after the fact people try to write it down. You can go buy a score of the Beatles, for example — although they didn’t design this initially with [written] music, but after the fact, people sort of listen to it and make written — put in written form what had originally been just an aurally conceived artistic statement. Anything else? Roger?

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Yeah. Oh, so we’ve got the difference between acoustical instruments, which are sort of natural wood and strings and that sort of thing, and electronically amplified sound in which it might be sent to a mixer or perhaps a synthesizer that could play with those partials that we talked about, and maybe turn a clarinet — somebody playing at a keyboard and you want that keyboard to sound like a trumpet, well, you just turn a mixing board and you can get those pitches to sound like a trumpet. Or, for example, let’s say you’re Cher and you’re getting in to your early sixties and you really can’t hit that high note anymore; you can get electronically that particular sound to be enhanced. And let’s say you can’t hold that. Let’s say Pavarotti at the end of his life couldn’t hold notes as long as he could when he was recording in nineteen seventy-eight. Well, you can just — an engineer will just sit there and isolate that second of sound and then give a “times three” command and “boom,” well, look at Pavarotti hold out that note. Well, it’s the miracle of the engineer and not the singer. So there are a lot of acoustical things and sort of tricks of synthetic things going on in pop music. Yeah.

Student: Well, not just the chord progression but also the structure of the piece. Like in popular music there’s often a couple of verses and a chorus and a bridge and you can predict each different movement of the piece, and that’s more regular than —

Professor Craig Wright: Couldn’t say it better myself. Say that nice and loud so everyone can hear it.

Student: The structure of a popular piece is often more predictable in pattern and verses and bridges and choruses whereas with classical music you really can’t predict what part of the movement you’re at as well as you can with —

Professor Craig Wright: Right. Exactly. It’s not [varied] — and that ties in with the harmony also, which is also a lot more predictable. And so generally speaking what we end up with classical music-it’s much more diversified. It’s much more varied. It’s much more complex. We’ve got contrapuntal lines operating in it. It has the capacity for expansion. It can take us through the full panoply of human emotions within one particular composition.. And it perhaps allows the opportunity for more personal interpretation, “exactly what does this music mean,” more personal interpretation, because we’re not tied to a text; we’re not linked in to a particular text that tells us what it’s about. So those are just a few ideas as we pursue this.

Chapter 4. Three-Chord Progressions [00:31:12]

Well, what I’d like to do now is move here to a couple of additional pieces, and we’re going to use an example of pop music now with a three-chord chord progression. We’ve heard I guess it was Badly Drawn Boy — Boys there with a two-chord chord progression. Now we’re going to hear Beach Boys, I guess, with a three-chord chord progression and it’s going to be sub-dominant (IV), dominant (V), tonic (I). Is it regular or irregular? [music playing] And try to sing the bass.

Can you sing that bass? You sing it for me. Here’s the tonic. [sings] [singing] Good. Good. Louder. That’s it. [singing] Okay. So that’s all you got to do, and you can hear the [sings] holding for twice as long as the other, so you got irregular rate of harmonic change. So that’s I, IV, V, I.

And let’s go to a little bit more of Beethoven. We’re going to go now to the last movement of his Pastoral Symphony, and I keep hitting on the Pastoral Symphony ‘cause in two weeks — or maybe three weeks — we’re going to go hear, I guess, the Saybrook Orchestra play the Pastoral Symphony. So I’m spending a little extra time on the Pastoral Symphony here. And the last movement opens with this sort of sound. We have these pitches [plays piano] and all listen and then you can tell me what instrument is playing it.

So we have those sorts of sounds [plays piano] and then another instrument will come in with [plays piano] and play that. It’s all — these are all notes of a C triad, [sings] C, E, G, C, E, all notes of a C triad. Now we happen to be in the key of F here so that means he’s starting out with the dominant, which gets us to the point that all pieces have to end in the tonic one way or another, but not all pieces begin with the tonic. So this one happens to begin with a sort of dominant chord. So this is a little bit of dominant preparation. [plays piano] So tell me what instruments are playing here. [music playing] And then the strings come in.

So what was the first instrument? Anybody pick that up, on that one playing? On the quiz or test next week or — on Thursday — we’ll give you three — at least three plays. Robert?

Student: Clarinet.

Professor Craig Wright: Clarinet. Yes, it was a clarinet up there, nice and high, and then another instrument came in with [plays piano]. What instrument was that? French horn, yeah, but notice that if we take this aggregate — [plays piano] and we’re back to that same idea of the octave, the fifth, the fourth and the third, sort of, so it’s again sort of primordial, this particular acoustical basis of so much of music.

So that’s our dominant preparation and then the melody starts, so let’s listen to this. Let me play it here a little bit. [plays piano] So it has a kind of antecedent-consequent phrase structure with the [plays piano] chord. Once we get up there, that’s sort of the end of the antecedent phrase and we have a chord change. What we’re working with here are the same chords. We’ve sort of gone from the Beach Boys to Beethoven here. We’ve got the same chords operating. It’s going to be a I chord, then a IV chord, and we’ll drop down to the IV chord. Then we’ll come to a V chord, to a I chord, to a IV chord, to a V chord, to a I chord, just as we were doing with the Beach Boys.

Chapter 5. Four-Chord Progressions [00:37:46]

We’ll resuscitate Beethoven here. [plays piano] How many of you have ever heard this before, while Lynda’s getting this set? Let’s see if we could sing it together because we’re going to do this in a different way in a second. Let’s sing [sings] Okay. So let’s sing this. That’s the melody and we’re going to sing [sings] beneath — we’re going to sing Beethoven’s bass beneath Beethoven’s melody. [music playing] Okay. This is the intro. That’s fine. We’ll listen to it. Here comes the horn. [music playing] [sings] Okay. So that’s an example of a classical composer, admittedly in a pretty straightforward situation, using the same three-chord chord progressions we find in the Beach Boys. Let’s enlarge this further. Let’s move to a four-chord chord progression. We’re going to switch the board.

And we’re going to go to the kind of music that I grew up with as a kid. It’s always fun. This is Gene Chandler and the “Duke of Earl” so we’re going to listen to a little bit of it and we’re going to chart the bass here. I’m trying to remember. I think actually it’s in the same key as Beethoven. [plays piano] And then we’ll see exactly what it is that he’s doing here so we’re going to try to lock in on the bass. Here we go. [music playing] [sings] So sing the bass with me. [music playing]

So we’ve got four chords operating here and they’re changing regularly. What are those four chords? Well, we talked a little bit about this before. Now we have what’s called a VI chord and we’re not moving directly to the IV chord; we’re moving to another chord — here a VI chord, [plays piano] which happens to be a minor chord. [plays piano] There’s the IV chord [plays piano] and there’s [V} — [plays piano] back to the I here. So you sing this nice and loud for me, please. [sings] There’s the tonic. Ready, go. [sings] [singing] Good. One more time. [sings] Louder. [singing] [sings] Okay. Now watch what happens as we continue with this I, VI, IV, V, I progression. Do we have a regular or irregular rate of change here? Let’s go on to the next section. [music playing] [sings] I, VI, IV, V, I, VI, IV, V. So what happened in that middle section? Yeah.

Student: [inaudible]

Professor Craig Wright: Good. Yeah. If we are [sings] and then it went on and on and on, longer, longer, longer, and then [sings] but it was the same pattern. They just elongated each measure by its same amount so we had harmony changing on each measure, and then in that middle section each chord was changing at the rate of two measures. So the whole piece, then, would be a piece involving irregular rate of change — the entire piece. Okay. So that’s the “Duke of Earl” progression: the basic I, VI, IV, V, I.

Now we’ll play a passage of Mozart — a symphony by Mozart here that he wrote at the ripe old age of nine years. This is Mozart at age nine. He had actually written a couple of symphonies by this time. This is his Symphony No. 5 in B-flat so let’s listen to this. We’re just going to listen and see if anything strikes you as interesting. [music playing]

I think we just should keep right on going just to get the point across. We’ll just let it run. [music playing] So you can sing this bass. [sings]

So that’s Mozart using the “Duke of Earl” harmony — not really. This is a point I brought up in my section the other day. There are lots of legal cases where people try to sue somebody else for stealing a song; they try to sue them for stealing a bass line or something like that. You can get away — you can sue people for stealing melody. You can never — there’s a strong legal precedent for not being able to make a claim about stolen bass, because these basses are limited in number, they involve rather simple harmonic progressions, and they’ve been used over the centuries. It’s not as if Gene Chandler sat around here studying Mozart symphonies. I don’t know. Maybe he did, said, “Oh, I like that harmonic progression. I’m going to use that here.” No. Everybody’s been using that, sort of since time immemorial or at least since the sixteenth century.

Now let’s go on here to listen to some music of Rossini — composer Gioachino Rossini — coming after Mozart, and he likes chord progressions too, so we’re going to listen to a passage of Rossini and see what he does by way of his chord selection. So the point of this is: once you get these kind of progressions locked in your ears, you go to a concert and you can begin to chart what the piece is doing in terms of its harmony. Yeah, you’re not going to be able to hear all of it and, indeed, you may not be able to hear most of it. I don’t hear most of it. But there are moments, and they’re moments that give me pleasure [laughs] when I can say, “Oh, yeah. That’s what he’s doing there.” I might not know what key he’s in. I don’t really care what key he’s in ‘cause I don’t have absolute pitch, but I can find well, maybe it’s a I, VI, IV, V, I chord progression or a I, V, I progression or I, IV, V, I. We — you get different kinds of patterns. A Pachelbel bass pattern is another one. So let’s listen to a pattern that Rossini is using here in this opera overture. [music playing] So the first thing we got to do is sort of lock on to the tonic. [music playing] [sings] And it’s taking me a while.

It’s taking me a while to lock on to that tonic. I don’t know. The bass isn’t as loud as in some of the pop music [sings] but I think it — [sings] but I think that’s what the tonic is. So don’t be — don’t despair if you don’t initially land on the tonic here. It takes a while so — but I think we’ve got it identified. [sings] All right. Let’s go on. [music playing] [sings]

So he went [sings]. What would you guess those two chords are? We said this is the tonic. [sings] The other one’s probably going to be the dominant. If you ever hear music rocking back and forth repeatedly between two chords, it’s probably tonic, [sings] dominant, tonic, dominant. Remember we had that even with the Strauss. [plays piano] The timpani played that tonic, dominant, tonic, dominant, tonic, dominant. So if you hear two chords rocking, it’s probably tonic and dominant.

Okay. Let’s see how he expands this a little bit. [music playing] [sings] So what was that? Well, that’s the “Duke of Earl” passage. Right? So we are sitting there in Woolsey Hall with New Haven Symphony or whatever, New York Philharmonic. “Oh, yeah. That’s the ‘Duke of Earl’ passage.” So yes, it was the [plays piano] I, VI, IV, V, I progression. All right. Let’s see what happens next. [music playing] Okay. So what happened next was he then started to run that faster, [sings] twice as fast as it had been before, changing rate of harmonic pattern. Okay? [music playing]

What was that [sings]? What chord’s there probably? Daniel, what do you think? What chord’s there?

Student: Dominant.

Professor Craig Wright: Just dominant time, [sings], going faster and faster, and then what happens? [music playing] Sing the tonic. [sings] The end of that was all just the tonic. He just sat there on the tonic forever. It’s a good example of sort of real time and psychological time in music. You knew it was time to start clapping as soon as that chord hit that, [plays piano] it stopped going back and forth, tonic, dominant, just sitting there. That piece is over. The rest is just a big mud pie in your face. Okay? It’s just [sings] tonic or maybe throwing an anchor overboard to bring this ship to an end — whatever sort of analogy or visual imagine you want to bring to it, but it’s — the piece has ended. Even though we are continuing to hear sound, harmonically, psychologically, we know we’re finished when he hits that particular tonic. Okay. I think our time is up. I’ll see you Wednesday evening. And look for an e-mail early this afternoon about individual help tomorrow afternoon.

[end of transcript]

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