4 for IV: Introduction

Rock musicians just can’t resist a plagal progression, and I think I know why.   Perhaps it’s part of their nonconformist nature. Classical/concert and rock/pop music share more in common than most people from either side would be willing to admit, and whether it is done consciously or subconsciously, rock music contains several of concert music’s established traditions regarding melody, rhythm, and other musical elements. There are obvious differences, particularly regarding timbre and orchestration, but one of the more subtle points of departure between the genres is their approach to the chord built on the fourth scale degree of the given key (consisting of scale degrees 4, 6, and 1), which will be referred to hence forth as a IV chord (traditionally, diatonic triads are referred to by Roman Numerals, using upper case for major chords and lower case for minor).   In classical music, the IV chord is, outside of the tonic (I) chord, the most versatile diatonic harmony, but it is most frequently used as a predominant chord. A predominant chord, as its name would imply, introduces dominant (built on scale degree 5; a V chord) harmony. However, the IV chord is used less commonly as a predominant more »

Structural Dissonance in John Zorn’s “Spillane”

“The overhanging sonorities, as one section bleeds to the next, help give my pieces a sense of unity; you can almost feel the sections growing out of one another. It is much more organic that way, and so, easier to listen to.” – John Zorn, Spillane liner notes “As for the listener, ultimately the most subjective response is the best response. Eventually, total subjectivity becomes total objectivity. That’s the way I see the world.” -Zorn ***** Perhaps the most interesting thing about music from the past hundred years is the expansive diversity of styles, genres, and independent voices that have emerged.  It is virtually impossible to organize various trends in music from this past century like musicologists have done with each preceding century without using the broadest of brushes.  However, regardless of specific end results that each composer achieves, there are some general musical concepts that most either confront directly or react against.  Arguably the most vital of these concepts is that of dissonance. This is a concept that has evolved throughout music history – after all, what seemed dissonant to Mozart would be relatively consonant to Wagner.  Yet the climax of composers’ willingness to embrace all facets of dissonance more »