Archive for October 2007
I’m heading back to Greeley today after spending the weekend with my parents in sunny Los Alamos, New Mexico… the premise for my visit was actually to attend a rehearsal of the Los Alamos High School “Encore” Choir, who will be performing a piece I wrote in 1992 on their October 30th concert.
They sound fantastic, of course, and the concert should be wonderful; I won’t be attending, though, since that’s the week my wife is due. They have promised me a recording and I will post it here when I get it.
A bit of theory nerdiness to start off the month. Download a purdied-up version if you’d like…
in fact, he was young, and his young heart was set
on a woman, Maria, he’d long ago met
and his wife he did want her to be.
The way to her heart was to show off his knack
For music, he chose as his plan of attack
To woo her with music theory.
The key was not major, you may be dismayed
to learn, but instead all the notes were arrayed
in a minor mode centered ‘round C.
Just stay on the white notes the whole way along;
The half-steps, you’ll find, are right where they belong:
From C to B, and F to E.
The B, E, and A in our scale, and use
Notes Bb and Eb — and Ab debuts —
But we still start and end it on C.
And I’m sure that some future composer profound
Will write beautiful music that leaves ‘em spellbound
But it’s just not the scale for me.
Is not that the scale is nasty or lewd,
But an interval causes it to come unscrewed:
A whole-step from B flat to C.
But this one is in a place hard to ignore:
The final two notes of the scale. Therefore
There’s no tension before the release!
But the chords that we build from it also derail.
Our strong major V chord turns weakly and pale
Because it’s spelled G–Bb–D.
This ‘Natural scale’ can be rid of this kink
If we change the B flat back to just B — (wink, wink!)
And bring back our half-step to C.
That half-step between B and C just sounds swell
And our V chord is once again major as well
So the tension beefs up the release.”
And said with a sigh, “This is good, but alas
There’s a problem with it that one cannot bypass.
When you hear it, I think you’ll agree.”
And he said, “Now, remember, we don’t have an A
In this scale, but A flat, and of course, that’s okay
But the problem is going to B.
The interval’s large, and it makes it sound queer
As if written by some old Ummayad Emir
On the shores of the Caspian Sea.
The tension in dominant chords is divine
But for melody-making, it doesn’t quite shine
With that augmented second, you see.
We altered one interval, why not alter more?
This time, we’ll take that old A flat we abhor
And we’ll raise it a half-step toward B.
We’ll notice the augmented second is gone
It’s just whole-steps and half-steps, from C and hereon:
D, Eb, F, G, A, B, C.
In a scalewise passage where minor applies
You can use this new scale where strong tension pries
But where augmented seconds won’t be.
You do recall, I hope, the reason we chose
To so quickly and gladly and deftly dispose
Of that flat to the left of that B?
From the leading-tone up to the tonic. But what
About going the other way round? I think not—
We don’t need tension from C to B!
And imagine a scalewise melodic descent
We can use the same scale that we did just invent
And add flats back to A and to B.”
I mean, Claude Monteverdi can’t think up this stuff.”
Then she stood, and replied, as she straightened his cuff,
“Oh, Johann… you had me at ‘key.’”