Thirteen Years Without Peter King – theoretical analysis

Don’t know what a Roman numeral is and why it matters in music? Go here
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This is one of my NEW FAVES(!!) off the latest World/Inferno Friendship Society album, The Anarchy and the Ecstasy. The album is a conglomeration of a bunch of tunes that, I feel, are wildly different from each other. So when I describe this song as a samba, please don’t think that the entire album is like one big ballroom dance album. It’s sooo not. But this one song.. it just makes me want to DANCE yo. But this is not really about dancing.

As far as World/Inferno songs go, this is actually pretty straightforward.

Verse: i iv III VI i
Chorus: iv VII III IIIM7* i iv V i

It’s in a very strongly established minor key. The majority of each verse is actually spent on the i chord, and then when it spends any decent amount of time on any other chord, it’s the iv chord. And before you return to the i, you hear a V, which is, what we call in the music world, an “authentic cadence.” Which basically is the strongest relationship between any two chords that could have ever existed.

Also, I want to point out the iv VII III IIIM7 i part of the chord progression. You can look at it like this:

iv VII III IIIM7* i

ORRRR you can also look at it like this:

V/V/III V/III III IIIM7 i

What’s with the slashes? Those, my friends, indicate secondary chords. We can even look at it like this:

V/V V I IM7 iv
OR
ii V I IM7 iv

Which assumes, that just for a brief period of time, we’ve modulated to a different key. The key, in fact, is the relative major to the minor key that we are in. Meaning, we haven’t really gone off anywhere to far. Major and minor keys that are relative to each other share DNA.. I mean.. they have the same key signature. So the chords all look the same, they just get shuffled around into a slightly different order. You put the emphasis on a different set of chords within the group and VOILA – different key.. sort of.

So for a brief period of time, the song changes to the relative major. In this new key, you have the I, and leading to it, you have the V (there’s that authentic cadence we were talking about earlier), and before that, you have something called V/V. That would be the V that leads to the V, or, like, another little authentic cadence. But since it’s not the end of a phrase, we’re not really going to call it that. But it’s important. V/V is like going down a one way street, which dumps you onto another one way street (the V), which can lead you only to one place, the I. V/V – V – I is a really strong pattern. the V/V can also be referred to as ii, as that is how it relates to the I. And so for a brief moment in time, the song is in the relative Major – not the relative minor. Don’t get your chords confused, dudes and dudettes! It’ll sound like a tonic (another name for that first chord in a key), but it’s MAJOR, not minor. We’re somewhere else! But then we go right back to the relative minor and all is well.

Another interesting note, for you musicians out there: A IIIM7 could also be mistaken for a V chord (with some added tones in it, yes), and what comes after the IIIM7? A i! I’ll have to look more into this one.

Of course, I haven’t yet told you what key we are in. HAHAHA! I AM EVIL! Jk. What I like about posting the roman numeral analysis first is that it allows you, the reader/listener/student/person who may or may not be familiar with the song/band/style of music/music in general to listen to the song from a more abstract point of view. Knowing chords is good – but since the point of roman numerals to begin with is to identify the functions of the chords, I want to present it this way first. So go pull up the song, keep this blog entry open (or print it out if you want, and take it with you, wherever), and give a listen while following along. For reference, I’ve included one verse and one chorus from the song so that I can attempt to illustrate the timing of the chords with the lyrics (because, as you may have already heard, or will, there is a LOT going on with this song). I wouldn’t want you to confuse passing melodies with actual chord changes.


i
The years are short just as the day is long
It was me on the corner
It was only men when you were looking
iv III V i
not to kneel to anyone else, get it Pete.

...
i
iv VII
And now it's far to late to go
III IIIM7 i
No one ever saw the show
iv
Blame the witches blame the saints
V
No one cares which ones are fake
i
And we'll never need to know.

So there you have it. You can find the song on YouTube (I did) here:Thirteen Years Without Peter King (album version).

Audience Participation Time
What do you think? Confused? Have questions? Follow up questions? Follow up follow up questions? I’ll be posting the actual chord progression, and additionally, a recording of myself playing the song, later on in the week, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too, and maybe that will answer some questions (or create some new ones).

*IIIM7 means it’s a Major chord built of the third scale degree, with a Major 7th added in. This is not commonly found in classical music, so there’s really no “classical” way to notate it.

Chris Cornell

consider this a mini post, a thought really, or a teaser.

i don’t know why, but this week i was inspired to add to my collection of music involving chris cornell. i’ve been a fan since high school – i’m sure somewhere there still exists in my house a cassette tape of the album superunknown.

(i was really really into my walkman in high school. if you give me a moment, and another post to do so, i could probably recount to you every single cassette i owned. there was just a small window of time between when i got my walkman and started buying my own cassettes and when CDs became popular).

i followed chris from soundgarden and temple of the dog to audioslave. i only recently took the time to get into his solo album, euphoria morning, which i think happened because i expected it to be more along the lines of “sunshower” from the great expectations soundtrack, and it wasn’t.

i kind of like the idea of being able to track an artist’s true musical identity through his or her body of work, especially when that person has been involved in more than one project.

one could do a similar study on maynard james keenan (tool/a perfect circle), tom morello (and anyone else from rage against the machine/audioslave), anyone in crosby, stills, nash and young, eric clapton (almost too many to list), scott weiland (stone temple pilots/velvet revolver), damon albarn (blur/gorillaz/the good, the bad and the queen), jimmy page (also, almost too many to name). and maybe some day i will. but for now, i’m not even doing that kind of study on chris cornell, just talking about it.

what does strike me about chris’ voice, is that it doesn’t change, really. if you zoom in on just his vocals in a song like “sweet euphoria” compared to, for example, “hypnotize” there isn’t that much of a difference in the quality of his singing. his singular voice is captivating whether it’s layered over tom morello’s crazy guitar work, or over cornell’s own single acoustic.

listening to a number of groups an artist has been in, particularly in chronological order, is a real treat for the ears, almost a game, especially with a prolific catalog to sample. not only do you hear the artist grow as the years play on, but you get to hear their influence in the various bands that they perform in. right now my chris cornell playlist is 7 hours long (and i’m sure it’s far from complete).

another fun thing i like to do from time to time is start my ani difranco playlist from “anticipate” (the first track from like i said: songs 1990 – 1991) and go all the way to “red letter year reprise” (the last track from red letter year). this is a great activity for long winter days when you are snowed in to your house, when life stops completely, because my ani playlist is just over 20 hours long.

the difference between ani and chris, though, is that i’m sure the projects chris has been involved in have always been more collaborative than almost anything ani’s ever done. when you listen to ani, you always know that that’s her, through and through. a chris cornell playlist is like playing hide and seek. sometimes he’s right there, not really hiding at all, sometimes he’s wearing camo and hiding half in shadows. you can always find him, and the game of doing so is a joy.

Only Anarchists are Pretty – Theoretical Analysis

Don’t know what a Roman numeral is and why it matters in music? Go here
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It has been my experience (in other words, this could be completely not the case), that only people who are a little dorky about music listen to the band World Inferno Friendship Society. Now, this doesn’t mean that they’re all crazy music majors, I mean, they’re people who take their music a little more seriously than the average bear.

So it takes an even bigger dork, perhaps an actual music major, or at least someone with competence at an instrument, to sit down and figure out the chord progression to one of the World Inferno’s songs.

But I think it is a completely different dork entirely that uses roman numerals to analyze a World Inferno song.

I am that dork. And I’m going to continue this conversation like you know what I’m talking about from here on in. If you don’t.. well, drop me a line requesting a blog about what the heck a roman numeral analysis is.

You can actually analyze Only Anarchists are Pretty two different ways. I’m going to do the quick and dirty way first.

The verse is in the key of Ab Major:

Ab: I V vi

The pre chorus is in the key of F Major:

F: V V2 IV I vi V/V

Chorus 1 is in C Major:

C: I IV vi V7/V

And Chorus 2 (the second time it comes back) is also in C Major:

C: I IV vi V7/V
I bVI IV V7/V

Three different keys, but with the majority of the song being in the key of C Major, considering how often you sing the chorus, and also that the solo at the end is also played over the chorus progression.

The funny part about all of this is: the reason why I switch between three different keys in this analysis is I was trying to keep it as clean as possible. Isn’t it shoved down our throats from day one that pretty much all of music is just all about the V – I relationship?

It’s a little rough, but by analyzing this song in the three different keys is the most obvious. But I wasn’t really happy with it, to be quite honest.

So I took another look at it, and analyzed the whole thing in the key of C Major. I’m a little happier with my results. Which are:

Verse:
bVI bIII iv

Pre chorus:
I I2 bVII IV ii V

Chorus 1:
I IV vi V7/V

Chorus 2:
I IV vi V7/V
I bVI IV V7/V

I like the use of the V7/V’s to keep the thing moving, I like that the verse which, in my opinion, describes a very tentative and cautious situation, is built over a very tentative (maybe not so shaky) chord progression – sounds like it’s going somewhere, but you’re not sure where, or when, or how.

I’m just a little uncomfortable with the borrowed chords, bVI, bIII and bVII, but that’s just me; I don’t deal with them very often. I like them, and maybe I do play more of them than I realize (I think Jimi Hendrix actually utlizes a few in some of his songs.. aah a smell another post coming on), but I guess I’m looking for a little validation out there. Do people do that? They’re only borrowed from the parallel minor, and I’ve already outlined another way you can analyze this song anyway. I’m just wondering if there’s still another way to wrap it all up with some i’s and v’s or whatever combination one may prefer that’s a little neater than analyzing it all in C.

I’ll have to look more into this whole borrowing chords from the parallel minor thing and get back to ya’ll.