4 for IV, Part II: IV Chords & Tonal Ambiguity/Modulation

In Part I of this series, I examined the secondary plagal progression, which is a unique way in which rock/pop composers have extended the established sound of a IV-I plagal progression. Another common technique that demonstrates the evolution of the IV chord is the incorporation of tonal instability through its presence in a harmonic progression. Generally, rock/pop music is not lacking for a tonal/modal center. However, some songs use the comforting and predictable sound of a plagal progression to introduce either tonal ambiguity or a full-fledged modulation.   Green Day, “Warning”   Despite its lack of overdriven electric guitars, “Warning” is very much a prototypical Green Day song because it only uses three different chords the whole way through. Yet these three chords (one of which is a secondary plagal chord) present an unexpected analytical challenge that lends a subtle sense of ambiguity to the song’s tonality.   Except for the song’s bridge and start of its third verse (which both simply vamp an A chord), the entire song uses the following progression. For those not familiar with my notation, vertical lines indicate barlines, diagonal slashes between chords indicate multiple chords in the same measure, and lead-sheet symbols and Roman more »

Is Opera for Everyone?

“[Elektra] will blow [teenagers’] minds!  Think of the anger expressed in this piece.  It’s about rage, matricide, disempowerment between generations.  It’s also about revolution and not accepting the status quo.  Very, very few people in the audience will find nothing to relate to in experiencing this opera.”  – Sir David McVicar, director of Lyric Opera’s recent production of Elektra, on the accessibility of the opera “I thought opera was for old farts, bourgeoisie and people in dinner jackets.  Opera’s for anyone who’s willing to submit.  Stick your nose in and find out what’s going on.” – Terry Gilliam   The answer to the titular question is, of course, no.  There are some people – possibly even a large faction of people – who will either never be able to experience an opera or abhor the experience regardless.  What this is really asking, though, is whether opera has a wider (and, more importantly, younger) audience than it currently has.  To this end, I think the response is resoundingly affirmative, and as these given quotes portend, I’m hardly alone on that. Two recent events have led me to ponder this dilemma.  My wife and I recently attended Lyric’s production of Strauss’ Elektra.  more »