Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Can't sleep, can't stop my brain

This evening I had some dinner with Jeff and Ian while we planned our camping trip for this weekend (right now it's a tossup between cold Yosemite and crowded Big Sur). Dinner was pretty good--crispy, earthy socca, rose wine, and an adequate vegetable soup that would have been a lot better had I not been too lazy to blanch the kale.

I always like to have a little background music under dinner conversation, so today I just typed "because" into iTunes, which created a playlist of "Because The Night" by Patti Smith, "Because" by The Beatles, and "Jolene" covered by Mindy Smith (from her album Just Because I'm A Woman). So we sat there for an hour eating dinner and talking about camping while these three songs played on endless repeat, until Jeff finally asked me to play something different and I switched to Abba.

Every time "Because" ended I noticed how weird and pregnant that final chord sounds, and how it's not at all satisfying if the next chord is anything other than the opening piano chord of "You Never Give Me Your Money." Is it just because I've listened to Abbey Road like 100 times that this progression seems so natural?

Well, not entirely. I cracked open my copy of The Beatles Complete Scores, put on my listening ears, and spent a couple minutes figuring it out. When you listen to the last two measures of "Because", the most prominent parts you perceive are the top line of the vocal harmony and the synthesizer line. The top line of the vocal harmony finishes the song by hopping up to a high B. You can hear it. It's really unexpected. When you sing along, you go, ahhh-ah-ah-ah-ahh-AHHHHH, because it just comes out of nowhere. Meanwhile, the synthesizer is on its way down a chromatic scale: G, F#, F# again, and then F on the final Ddim7 chord.

That means that the two most prominent notes are the B above middle C and the F above that. B and F. That's a tritone. It's dissonant. What's the first chord of "You Never Give Me Your Money?" It's Am7. And how is that voiced? A in the bass, and then, going upward, G, C, and E. That means the top two notes here are C and E, and they happen to be in the exact same register as the B and F from the end of "Because". So B-F goes to C-E. B-F to C-E. It's a tritone and it resolves. It's classic. This is exactly how these two notes should resolve. This is how music works. It's perfect. It's even the example picture given on Wikipedia for generic tritone resolution, that's how ubiquitous this idea is.

And the synthesizer holds over just a little longer than the voice parts, just so you can appreciate how it continues slinking down chromatically: G, F#, F, and then to E, the first note of the melody of "You Never Give Me Your Money". Is that an accident? I don't think so.

What's more, I never noticed that there was a C in the first measure of "You Never Give Me Your Money" until I went back and listened to it this way--it's quieter than the other notes of the Am7 chord, but it's definitely in there. And if it weren't there, the first chord just wouldn't work. This is amazing. John Lennon never wrote anything as harmonically complicated as "Because" in his life, and Paul McCartney couldn't read music, and yet this is absolutely the perfect transition between these two songs. This brings me such joy.

More joy than stupid vegetable soup for which I was too lazy to blanch the kale.

Anyway, now this is on the internet, now I can go to bed.

1 comment:

  1. So now that you have a food blog, you write about music.