4 for IV, Part IV: Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” and the IV Chord That Isn’t There

On its surface, Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” seems like an odd choice to include in an analytic series devoted to the IV chord, not to mention to devote an entire entry towards. The song does have a couple IV chords (two, though the section in which they appear returns later in the song), but it is not really an integral part of the song’s harmony. However, much of the song implies this chord (and, specifically, a plagal progression) without actually articulating it, which presents a use for this chord on a level not discussed yet.   In this inevitable, eponymous conclusion to my “4 for IV” series (Parts I, II, and III can be found at the provided links), I examine Van Morrison’s subconscious use of the plagal progression in “Into the Mystic”.   Here’s the studio recording of the song, followed by the functional harmonic (key of Eb Major) and formal analyses of the music:   A: Eb* (I) |     |     |     | Bb (V) |     | Eb (I) |     | *liberal mix of Ebsus   B: Gm (iii) | Ab (IV) | Eb (I) |     | Gm (iii) | Ab (IV) | Bb (V) |     |   more »


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 »