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VG Music Analysis (Come on down! Discuss Theory!!)


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Another 2 week hiatus... Damn, I seem to be making a habit of that. I'm doing something different today, studying a technique that a specific composer likes to employ. Nobuo Uematsu (from the famed Final Fantasy series - if you didn't know that I'd be very surprised, considering the forum your on :tomatoface:) is who'll share the spotlight, today :).

Let's listen to some music for a moment. Check out this, this and this for a second and listen to them. Listen to the common meter that Nobuo uses throughout each of these songs (12/8, in every case). Does it sound like that common meter? Not really, since the conventional use of that meter dictates that normally it should subdivide into three eighth-note, but Nobuo instead subdivides the meter into two divisions of three followed by three divisions of two.

Subdividing common meters in unconventional fashions isn't anything new, to most people (as it's pretty common to do things such as this in popular music and other video game music), but many people don't understand the power of subdividing music differently. Nobuo Uematsu uses the subdividing technique masterfully, creating suspense and interest throughout the music, but how does he do it?

First, let's look at the FFIX example - listen to how he constantly changes how the meters are subdivided. Changing meters is inconvenient, but is very handy if you want to create tension in music, since the listener will not know where the music wil go next. Subdividing the music in different ways constantly will achieve the same effect as changing meters would, except your not changing meters (which is convinient when composing, believe me). Unconventional changes in the meters, when done right, can create a sense of urgency in music in a more effecient manner than changing other things up (such as changing meters, for example).

FFVIII takes advantage of another aspect of unconventional subdivision - it's constantly placing two subdivisions against each other at once. Listen to the background and the melodies - they are never together using the same subdivisions. Some parts use straight quarters to subdivide, while parts use the motivic beat from the beginning of the piece, while still others use straight dotted quarters, etc., and often does all of this at the same time, creating a complicated texture that is still very listenable.

Another technique used by Nobuo Uematsu is salient in FFVII - the changes in the actual meter being masked by the effects of different subdividing. Listen to the example at 0:06 - 0:22. Notice that there is an extra beat slipped in at one part. Listening to it without really analysing it, you'll miss that interesting extention of the meter. Because Nobuo is constantly changing how each measure sounds in this song, it's hard to identify when the meter is actually changing, so it becomes possible to take advantage of this by mixing in irregular meter patterns periodically without having any adverse effect on the audience.

I will note that the FFIX track also mixes in irregular meters, but it's a bit more difficult to catch.

Nobuo Uematsu loves his uncommon subdivision of common meters, and he uses them to their fullest in his classic video game music. We're all the better for it :).

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  • 3 weeks later...

Yes, I haven't updated with anything in 3+ weeks (sorry for those who've waited!), but I have a monster analysis to present to you all. Special thanks goes to Moseph for pointing out the peculiarities of this song earlier in this thread - since it authentically baffled me, at the time, I promised to do a more complete analysis of the song someday. Today is that day, ladies and gentlemen; may I present the first full analysis I've ever given in this thread (everything else up to this point has gone into detail over a single point in a song). Bear with me, as there's a lot to look at in here, and be aware that there is some pretty hardcore music theory in here.

Today's song comes from Zelda: A Link to the Past, and it's specifically Zelda's theme.

This will be broken into five sections - form, motivic, melodic, harmonic, and general analysis. Each area has many points of interest, and they all add up to make a very interesting whole that may change how you listen to the music. Let's dive into some music theory in ACTION!

ZeldasTheme.jpg?t=1254381927

Form Analysis

The form of the music is the common structure AB, in it's essence. Given some more detail, it is actually an intro (not included in the score for the sake of simplicity), followed by A for eight measures, then a variation of A (commonly referred to as an " A prime " or " A' " section) for another eight measures, followed by the final B section for the last eight measures before repeating. Pretty basic stuff, at first glance, but it's important to understand the direction of the music - Kenji Kondo has done some very interesting things within this structure.

The A and A' section form an antecedent/consequent phrase, as I've discussed it in the Mario analysis. However, this deviates from the normal antecedent/consequent phrase - the consequent does not end with a resolution, as it should. Instead, the entire B section prolongs the supposed resolution of the music, finally completing the resolution in the last two measures of that section before repeating. Strangely, at the same time it also creates a tension at the same time. How can something create both tension and a resolution at the same time? I will explain this in more detail in the melodic and harmonic analysis.

Motivic Analysis

Motives.jpg?t=1254382073

There are a few choice motives that threads the entire song into a unified whole. The first motive shown is the descending step motive - it is the primary basic motive of the piece, and everything in it is based on that single motive. The next motive is the leap of a third up, followed by the leap of a fourth down. You'll notice that I color the first and last note of that motive differently, as that accents the fact that this is a variation of the first motive (it inserts a leap in the middle of it). The reason that I include it as a separate motive is because the music often plays off of the leap in significant ways - thus, it's prudent to include it as it's own separate motive.

The third motive isn't any different from the first motive - in fact, one could rightly say that it's simply the first motive repeated twice in order to create a descending progression. It is used so often in the music in this very fashion that I included it as a separate motive. It has some significance to the harmonic development of the piece.

Melodic Analysis

Melody.jpg?t=1254382133

In order to present each motive in a clean fashion, the motivic and harmonic analysis do not present rhythms - instead, barrings and hollow notes will represent something important in the music. Be aware of that when looking at the analysis.

Almost anybody who listens to this piece could tell you that it's a tonal piece of work. However, I can assure you that asking them what key it's in would baffle people (like it did for me and the others involved in the discussion of this song earlier in this thread). That is because it, in fact, often uses properties from two keys simultaneously. Melodically it makes sense to analyze it in one tonal area, while harmonically it makes sense to analyze it in another tonal area. This is called 'Bitonality', and it was common in neo-classical music (developed around 1920 - 1940). In this case, the two keys are 'C' and 'F', which are related by perfect fourth/perfect fifth, so they do not sound too harsh. However, the further along the circle of fifths you make your bitonality, the more extreme the sound will be (for example, 'C' and 'F#', because they are seven perfect fifths apart, would sound very harsh, while 'C' and 'D', two perfect fifths apart, would sound mild, in comparison). Because of the bitonality, I will analyze the music in both keys and explain why I favor one analysis over another.

The intro has an interesting combination of motives as well as an interesting combination of tonalities. The general shape of both the melody and the bass is a retrograde of the leaping motive (meaning it's the same as the motive, except it's backwards), and the shaping of the melodic line repeats the descending stepwise motive. Another very interesting point is the very interesting voice exchange that takes place with the melody and the middle voice (represented by the arrows) - the melody moves from the C to the F while the middle voice moves from the F to a Bb. The melody used the voice exchange to complete the retrograde motive explained earlier (leading into it using an inverted leaping motive, by the way). The middle voice, however, takes advantage of the descending motion it has created with the melody now and completes the third motive I discussed above - the longer descending motive. The intro of the piece combines all of the motives together in a very interesting fashion that paves the way for the rest of the piece.

Unfortunately, you'll have to take my word for the intro (or listen to it yourself) - it seems that I'm lazy and didn't include it anywhere. The picture above begins in the beginning of the A section.

Looking at the A section, we'll see two very obvious motives immediately - the stepwise motive (which I mark with a slur) and the motive with the leap in it (which I mark with the bar above the notes). Kenji Kondo made these motives very salient in this part of the piece - many classical era composers introduce bare motives in the beginning of a piece that they're going to elaborate on later so the listener can follow the music easier, and it looks like Kondo is doing the same here. Continuing past the repeat of that part (a repeat except for the lower neighbor in the second measure), the phrase moves into a complicated network of motives that I've outlined. Notice that I do not mark the leap as such in the analysis - I've instead opted to use the octave equivalent to emphasize that nothing has changed motivically. Due to the change in the shape, however, Kondo has managed to include two of the same motive overlapping itself while at the same time effectively creating the antecedent.

The A' has very little that is different from the previous section, with one very large exception - the consequent melodically answers the antecedent. However, instead of simply resolving it creates even more tension (as I mentioned before). If one analyses this in F melodically it makes no musical sense, but if it's analyzed in C it makes perfect sense - the A section noodles around from tonic to dominant areas, then settles on the second scale degree (which is the fifth of the dominant chord). The A' section makes the same motions, except instead of landing on the second scale degree it lands on the fifth scale degree - leaving us once again with the dominant area. This doesn't resolve the tension - the listener needs to have a tonic in order to have a resolution. Motivically speaking it is also left unresolved, so this adds to the tension already built into the music.

The B section melodically makes more sense if analyzed in F, especially in relation to the harmonies below. I'll go in more detail with that in the harmonic analysis, but let's look at it from the 'C' scale, for a second. Essentially, while using the descending motive heavily the melody hangs around the fifth scale degree, finally leaping up to the tonic note that we were expecting at the end of the A section at the end of the B section (thus, the resolution has been found). Also, the motive that was incomplete in the A section is completed at the end of the B section. However, due to the harmonic context of the song, it doesn't sound like a resolution at all - in fact, it has another tension that leads us back to the loop point. How can that be - the melody resolves the consequent, yet creates another tension? Let's take a look at the harmonic analysis.

Harmonic Analysis

Harmony.jpg?t=1254382264

Interestingly, the harmonies do not coincide with the melody in the beginning - they make much more sense when analyzed in the key of 'F' - a pretty basic motion throughout the 'A' section, noodling around the tonic and dominant areas. It ends with a dominant of the dominant in both the A and the A' section (marked as a major supertonic, for the sake of a clean roman numeral), meaning it needs to lead into a dominant somewhere in the song.

The B section of the piece (beginning with the IV9 in the key of F) capitalizes on the descending motive in the bass, but it's really an extension of the tonic harmony (notice it's prevalence throughout the section) that leads back into the dominant of the dominant, towards the end. Unlike the A sections, this harmony resolves into the dominant (which, in turn, resolves into the tonic once again when the music loops). Dominants create tension, which is a conflict to the resolution that occurs in the melody at the end of the song, interestingly enough.

Other than the interesting chord clusters created by the juxtaposition of the melody against the harmonies, there isn't much else happening there.

General Analysis

Overall, there are quite a few tensions and resolves that are being toyed with throughout this song, but there is a particular tension that sticks far above the rest of them - the bitonality between F and C. Because of the bitonality, there are simultaneous tensions and resolves that occur throughout the music (something that really can't be done and sound well in regular tonal music). Kondo masterfully weaves these tensions and resolves throughout the music seamlessly while never allowing the music to resolve completely. This gives the music a real ethereal quality.

The motives that are used heavily throughout the textures, melody and harmonies keeps the music unified despite the conflicting ideas, though, and the use of larger motives keep the sections together. The structure, while simple, creates some very interesting tensions that are both accented and subverted by the music within it (thanks to the bitonality of the music). In short, Kondo uses bitonality in such a way that he can make wonderfully simple sounding music that simultaneously pulls the careful listener in multiple, conflicting directions.

*whew* Well, although I have a few ideas for the next few weeks, I'm very open to some suggestions for music to analyze. It's difficult to come up with something different for each analysis, so I could use all the help I could get. Throw some ideas out - I'd be more than happy to take a stab at whatever you guys can come up with (and I'd be even happier to hear any analysis you all may have).

Have a great one, everyone!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Bumpity bump. Apologies for taking so long to respond. I've had a hectic week, and I've only just now gotten the time to give this the attention it deserves.

Form Analysis:

Not a lot to say here beyond what you've said. AA'B, although I do think the fact that the music is designed to loop is an extremely significant formal point. It generally doesn't come up in analysis, because most pieces eventually end, but when you're dealing with something like this, the question isn't "When and how does it end?", it's "When and how does it continue?" I think the subject of non-resolving cadences in a looping context would make an extremely interesting study. As I mentioned a while back, Green Hill Zone does this, too, and I'll bet you could find other music that does it.

(Tangentially, I'm going to the Society of Music Theory conference at the end of this month, and I'm really excited that there are a lot of papers on popular music being presented. It's great that people are starting to take these sorts of things seriously instead of saying, "Oh, it's just pop music".)

Motivic Analysis:

I know you're not taking rhythm into account with the motives, but it may be worth pointing out that the way the descending motive is used in the B section creates eighth-notes in the melody on the downbeats of many of the measures, which never happens in the A section. Combined with the continuous eighth-notes in the accompaniment and the harmonic deviation, it helps drive things forward.

Melodic/harmonic analysis:

You've got a lot of interesting stuff here. The only thing I really object to is the notion of bitonality. I'll try to explain my approach here.

A SECTION

I don't think the A section makes much harmonic sense if it's analyzed in F. Excluding mm. 1-3, mm. 4-8 look in C like a pretty clear vii - I - diminished(passing) - ii7 - V7, which is standard harmonic motion and completely reflects what the melody does. Placing it on a secondary harmonic level (having it end on V/V in F) implies a departure from the original harmonic region (mm. 1-3) that I'm not hearing. At issue here, of course, is the question of whether the starting sonority is better analyzed as a IVM7 or a IM7, the former causing us to remain in the key in the second half of the A section and the latter implying some kind of harmonic departure in the second half. A bitonal reading like you use has to concede that even if the melody and harmony disagree in mm. 1-3, they come into agreement in mm.4-8, where we have normal harmonic and melodic motion leading to a dominant. In fact, it is only the FM7 chords that seem to disagree with the melody.

Rather than calling these FM7 harmonies bitonal, I would look at them as legitimate subdominant chords within the melody's key. I think a key factor in establishing them as non-tonic is their juxtaposition with diminished chords that are foreign to the key of F. The diminished chords imply resolution to C major, resolution which in fact occurs in m. 5. The behavior of these FM7 chords, then, is exactly what we would expect from subdominants -- progression to dominant, then tonic.

Your point about harmonic disagreement between the melody and harmony at the opening of the A section still stands, but I think calling it bitonality exaggerates its effect. If it were truly bitonal, the melody and harmony would each tend to progress toward different tonal centers, whereas I hear them both moving toward a C major center, although they may both be in different positions in their progress towards that goal at any given time.

I will address the implications of beginning a phrase on the subdominant after I talk about the B section.

B SECTION

I'd agree that this makes more harmonic sense in F than in C, although the harmonic motion isn't strongly directed -- for the first four measures, it simply steps down from the subdominant with root position harmonies (your reading of the second B section chord as I65 doesn't account for the prominent G, which sounds like a 7th to me rather than a 9th in the chord because the chord is arpeggiated in the accompaniment the same way as the other seventh chords in the B section -- I'm inclined to call it iii7 and view the melodic F as an accented neighbor tone to E). Even though it's weak harmonic motion, there's a nice parallel to the IV - I harmonic motion in the A section.

I rather like your analysis of the B section melody in C and the resulting large-scale relations to the melodic trajectory of the A section, but I don't see bitonality in it. The B section melody doggedly avoids the B/B-flat distinction that would push it toward one key or the other; while it can be analyzed in C, it's easier to hear it in F, since F is suggested by the immediate harmonies, and C is only plausible with an appeal to the far-flung melodic construction.

So how about going from the B section back to the A section? I think it's significant that the non-repeating intro establishes CM7 (i.e. tonic in the key) as a point of stability for the A section before the main body of music begins. Coming from CM7 reinforces my inclination to hear the FM7 that begins the A section as a subdominant harmony rather than a tonic harmony. On the repeats, coming from the B section, this FM7 is approached with a Gm - C (essentially ii - V of F), which works as a modulation back to C major through the brief tonicization of C's subdominant. Although this subdominant of C is acceptable as a harmonic goal, the melodic dissonance and subsequent vii in C establish that C, in fact, is the proper key and not F. The fact that this modulation occurs across a cadence like this is somewhat odd, and it is this contrast between cadence and modulation to which I would attribute the simultaneous tension and release that you mention.

So within the context of the entire piece, there is never a clear-cut cadence that results in a stable harmony. My assumption is that this is because the music loops and reaching a stable position would be heard as an ending of sorts. Regardless of the reason for it, the effect of beginning a phrase mid- harmonic progression (as in the A section), whether coming from the tonic chord of the intro or from the modulation out of the B section, is one of instability and forward motion.

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Well, this is one of the most sophisticated responses on the subject I've received in years, so I feel obligated to reply, now (thanks for the response :-P).

I think the subject of non-resolving cadences in a looping context would make an extremely interesting study. As I mentioned a while back, Green Hill Zone does this, too, and I'll bet you could find other music that does it.

Yeah, a lot of video game music does this, especially, and I forgot to mention how this music connects from B to A again. Read my Jackal analysis, though - it in fact focuses on a variant of that exact phenomena.

(Tangentially, I'm going to the Society of Music Theory conference at the end of this month, and I'm really excited that there are a lot of papers on popular music being presented. It's great that people are starting to take these sorts of things seriously instead of saying, "Oh, it's just pop music".)

I envy you - I really want to go to that (I have for five years, now), but I don't have the finances to do so :(. I sent a topic the present once, but I don't think they give analyses of modern pieces the same attention as new development in music theory, though.

I should try again with some more recent developments that I've come up with.

I know you're not taking rhythm into account with the motives, but it may be worth pointing out that the way the descending motive is used in the B section creates eighth-notes in the melody on the downbeats of many of the measures, which never happens in the A section. Combined with the continuous eighth-notes in the accompaniment and the harmonic deviation, it helps drive things forward.

I kept things simple with the motives rhythmically because... well, to be frank, I did the analysis in a few hours, so I got lazy with that aspect. Nice find with the rhythmic motive, though :).

As for my notion of bitonality (which I still hear as such), look at the analyses together and realize that (according to the analysis) the melody and the harmonies imply two different tonal centers - F and C.

Excluding mm. 1-3, mm. 4-8 look in C like a pretty clear vii - I - diminished(passing) - ii7 - V7, which is standard harmonic motion and completely reflects what the melody does. Placing it on a secondary harmonic level (having it end on V/V in F) implies a departure from the original harmonic region (mm. 1-3) that I'm not hearing. At issue here, of course, is the question of whether the starting sonority is better analyzed as a IVM7 or a IM7, the former causing us to remain in the key in the second half of the A section and the latter implying some kind of harmonic departure in the second half. A bitonal reading like you use has to concede that even if the melody and harmony disagree in mm. 1-3, they come into agreement in mm.4-8, where we have normal harmonic and melodic motion leading to a dominant. In fact, it is only the FM7 chords that seem to disagree with the melody.

I did something a bit risky in the harmonic analysis and included the melody into the harmony and generally left out the figured bass, and now realize that it was a big mistake to do so. Very quickly I'm going to take out the melody and show the harmonic motion in F...

(A/A') I53 - IV64 - I53 - IV64 (in the key of F this is a very simple set of neighbor tones - I'm even tempted to say it's misleading to label the IV chords as chords, here) V63 - passing motion (which really has no harmonic purpose) - (V64 - V53)/V. It ends on a V/V, but it isn't as if the dominant wasn't heard, and it's safe to say that the applied dominant functions as such (it never goes to C, like it should). Harmonically, I'd say that the music doesn't leave F major - the second half of the A and A' sections is just an embellished double neighbor motion in the bass (F (from the measure before) - E - G - F (the start of the next section). Of course, as you know I'm a Schenkerian freak, so of course I don't hear actual harmonic motion there :P. This is why I consider the harmonies in F there (C isn't nearly as convincing for me, even though I interpreted the music in C, at first).

The progression that you present is, in fact, a common progression in C, but there's something important missing with that progression - what comes first and last. If we were in the key of C, we would need to start in C and end in C (or at least follow the progression with a C chord) if it was to be considered tonal, at all - the progression you presented starts in vii (which is diminished and can never be considered the beginning of a tonal progression) and ends in an unresolved dominant (which, because it remains unresolved, actually tears the music away from C - like you said, the music doesn't sound like it resolves into a new key, but in C it doesn't sound like it resolves into the old key, which is a bit more unsettling). Personally, I hear it as a series of contrapuntal lines rather than a harmonic progression, which seems to flow with the music better, anyway.

As for the B naturals that appear, they are countered by the B flats that occur in the intro of the music (which I did not include in the analysis), as well as the B flats that occur in the B section. I don't believe the naturals are functional - they can also serve to provide flavor to the music (although I understand why you hear the music in C - your explination is in fact often the case in music, but I argue that it's not, in this case).

Finally, I'd actually say that because the B section ends on a dominant of F it would make more sense that the F in the A section is, in fact, a tonic - the resolution is very strong, and solidifies the key as F, not C, for me.

I agree that the bitonality is a bit weak in this song because the keys are so heavily related (F and C are related by a fifth, which is pretty damn strong). Then again, I hear the piece functioning in two keys in a very strong fashion (well, strong for my ears) so I hear it as bitonal, despite the relatively weak bitonality.

Hey, thanks again for looking at the analysis with a strong analysis of your own - I understand and respect where you're coming from (the points you made are quite valid and correct). I just felt I needed to elaborate my harmonic position a bit because of what you pointed out (since my analysis doesn't quite make it clear, as it was presented). It's funny that in theory two people can be opposing and correct, at the same time - we just hear the music differently, and hopefully you can hear what I hear while I listen to the music as you hear it. That's what music theory is all about :-P.

Music theory, FTW.

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  • 7 months later...

Bump. Branching from this thread.

Strange thing about the overtone series is that the only thing that generates it is the vibrations from a straight line (like a string). Most other objects make unique harmonics and overtones (a triangle, for example, divides into tritones, for it's series). So in reality one can't really rely on the overtone series as the real 'reason' harmonies sound 'good'.

Gario, could you explain what you mean about triangles having a tritone-based overtone series? Do you mean that the prevalence of tritones above the fifth partial in a triangle wave is emphasized by the complete lack of even partials, or am I misunderstanding you?

My background knowledge of inharmonicity is not great, but don't we hear things as distinctly pitched only to the degree that they are not inharmonic, which is to say, only to the degree that their harmonics conform to the overtone series?

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Hmm... can't say for sure about inharmonicity (or enharmonicity?) - I don't know about that tidbit (something new I gotta look up and learn about, I guess). The fact about the triangle was me parroting what I've heard from a couple of teachers + in a few lectures, but the basics of it was that the triangle (and, for that matter, basically any other vibrating shape that isn't a straight line, such as a spoon and a snare) resonate in such a way that they do not create nor tune to the classic overtone series, but other unique series instead. The triangle's partials are not the octave, fifth, fourth, third, etc., but something like tritone, third, etc. (I don't remember what the series was, exactly - those names are made up - but it was something tonal that you could hear, if you listened for it).

There's a song I heard performed where someone beats on a triangle for 15 minutes. Amazing sound to it - when you listen to it long enough, your brain separates the partials into all of it's parts, ignoring the root sound, then the first partial, then the second, etc., so if you have a triangle + the time (and know how to use it) give it a couple of whacks for some time and listen to what notes are produced. It's quite interesting what you get.

Now I'm eagerly awaiting the Mario Schenkerian analysis from you :<. Don't disappoint in reducing Mario to the Three Blind Mice :tomatoface:.

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It's interesting, though, that even though we perceive the triangle to have a pitch, it's treated as an unpitched percussion instrument in the orchestra in that you don't select a specific triangle that will complement the key of the music. (The Wiki entry for triangle goes as far as to describe it as having an "indeterminate or not settled or decided pitch," which I think is an exaggeration, but it illustrates the point.) That's kind of what I was getting at with the inharmonicity thing -- pitch isn't a binary. It's quite valid to say that one sound is more strongly pitched than another, and the determining factor for this distinction is the degree to which the sounds are congruent with the overtone series.

I haven't thought at length about the implications of pitch not being binary. I imagine that if the issue of standard vs. non-standard overtone series had come up, Schenker would have argued that the standard overtone series is the true basis for harmony because it produces the most pure pitches.

The Mario analysis will be forthcoming, but first I want to post a crash course in Schenkerian theory in the hope that anyone who's interested but isn't familiar with the theory might still be able to kind of follow what I talk about in the analysis.

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In preparation for a Schenker-style analysis that I hope to post here in the near future ... CRASH COURSE IN SCHENKERIAN THEORY! This post explains Schenker's general theory in a ridiculously small nutshell for those of you who aren't familiar with it. (Schenker is pretty difficult to understand at times, but at this level anything that doesn't make sense is probably my fault and not Schenker's.)

The lowest (and therefore strongest) partials of the overtone series of a given pitch create a major triad with that pitch as the root. Because the major triad is inherent in any given pitch, the major triad is the basis for all harmony (the minor triad is seen as a variant). Any pitch in isolation will tend to be interpreted as the tonic of some key because that pitch exists in itself as the root of a major triad. If a pitch exists in context with other pitches, its tonic tendencies will be more or less mitigated by the conflicting tonic tendencies of the other pitches. Ultimately, every pitch/harmony in a piece is thought of in its relationship to the true tonic pitch/harmony of the piece.

Music plays out over time, so there must be some way to relate things that come after with things that came before if a piece of music is to be coherent. With respect to this, Schenker was concerned with linear (melodic) expression of the tonic triad in addition to vertical (harmonic) expression. Building off of traditional counterpoint procedures, Schenker identified ways in which melodies could project harmonies (e.g. if the melody moves by step through the space of a third, it implies a triad that involves that third). Since the tonic harmony is the underlying basis for a piece of music (at least in western classical music), the overall melodic motion of the piece can be interpreted as a large-scale projection of this tonic harmony. This essentially means that the melody begins on a pitch in the tonic triad and comes to rest at the end of the piece on the tonic pitch itself. This melodic motion, called the Urlinie, is accompanied by some sort of tonic-dominant-tonic (I V I) movement in the bass, called the bass arpeggiation. This motion in the melody and bass, which taken together is known as the fundamental structure or Ursatz, is a linear expression of the piece's basic harmony. It provides a starting point for discussing large-scale harmonic/melodic coherence in the piece. There is a very limited number of ways to move through the tonic triad, so there is a very limited number of possible ways to construct an Ursatz.

urlinieexample.png

Example of an Ursatz. The Urlinie can descend from the eighth, fifth, or third scale degree.

It bears emphasis that the point of Ursatz reduction is not to make assertions about how the piece was composed (because it certainly wasn't composed by literally expanding from the Ursatz); the point is to explicitly show long-range connections in the music. The longest-range connection in any piece is the relationship between the opening and closing tonic triads; hence, the most abstract level (the Ursatz) of a Schenker graph deals primarily with this relationship while subsequent levels show increasingly short-range connections.

Full Schenker-style graph

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I'll pipe in real quick on Schenkerian Analysis and add that the purpose isn't to emphasis the Urlinie and reduce tonal music to those three notes (since, technically, all tonal music reduces to the Urlinie & Ursatz, it's not that interesting), but to show how the tonal song in question breaks away from it in cool, interesting ways. At least, that's what I've come to understand, anyway.

'Course, showing that all tonal music reduces to that three note / three chord pattern is interesting, too, if you've never seen it before :wink:. Here's looking forward to your next post, Moseph :-o.

(Makes me wish I could find a joke where someone did an analysis of Mary Had a Little Lamb - Ma ---------- as snow. Priceless :razz:).

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  • 5 years later...

It's an older thread from a few years ago that fits the new forum we've created. BardicKnowledge is the moderator for this new forum which will be focusing on ludomusicology, and Gario's theoretical analysis of certain VGM pieces fits the goal of this forum. Ryan (Bardic) will be updating this forum tomorrow with a goals/guidelines post about what types of threads belong in here, but the gist of it is that this forum is dedicated to a more academic discussion of existing VGM, be it historical, analytical, etc.

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If you're looking for a killer analysis (though not Schenkerian -- given the jazz elements in the score I'm not convinced Schenker is super useful for it anyway) of Mario 1-1 check out Andrew Schartmann's book.  It's only $12 for a very nice, pocket-sized edition that neatly looks at the entire score to the original game.

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This thread seems like it's got a lot more potential, if there were more people that contributed. I doubt it's /that/ popular of a subject, but then again I'm one of those weird guys who's into the gritty details of theory and comp. If anyone else wants to bring this thread back to life, I think it could be a fun general hangout for some of us music nerds, studying comp and sound design of vidya music.

Props to OP as well; I'd never heard the Silver Surfer OST before today. I am a changed man. 

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  • 7 months later...
  • 1 month later...

I suppose a good question is what you'd like to know about it?

The form of the track is pretty standard; Intro - AABBC : repeat. Chord structure for the A section is I-bIII-ivb-bVI-v6b, B is I-bIII-ivb-bVI-vb(-I) and the C section II#-v.

There is an interesting tidbit for the A section in that the chords are mostly open, so whether they're major or minor is up for debate. Due to the harmonization of the B section, though, I argue that it's a major tonic with a good deal of primary mixture throughout (that's how you get the bIII-ivb-bVI-v6b combinations; in minor that'd just be III-iv-VI-v6), though I could see the argument that the B section opens up with a primary mixture I# chord instead of the rest of the track utilizing primary mixture. Intentional or not, that's ambiguous - there's a strong argument for both cases. There are no real cadences throughout the track, as there is never a motion V-I(or i); if you're a first year theory student you might find it interesting that a lot of modern music doesn't utilize the true V-I cadence (root on scale degree 5, raised 7th scale degree), instead opting for a v-I (lowered 7th) or bVII-I pseudo-cadence instead.

The production is decent for the NES. It's no Follin track, but it does utilize nifty tricks like reverb to give it life. It's uses a staple KONAMI sound, which isn't surprising since ULTRA was a branch of Konami. I don't catch any particular themes of interest (like references to the Turtles theme, for example) - it just seems like a self-contained little tune. Well produced, but self contained.

There's my theory contribution of 2017!

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On 9/22/2016 at 3:13 PM, DS394 said:

Oooh this looks like my kinda place :D Don't have the time to post a giant analysis so far, but I got some little tidbits on modal structure and leitmotif continuity in the Star Fox OSTs from 1993 to 2016, maybe I'll write it down sometime

May I add that I am actually interested in what you have in mind? Now you've got TheChargingRhino requesting Star Fox analyses, as well, so you have an audience. ;)

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  • 2 weeks later...
On ‎17‎/‎01‎/‎2017 at 2:52 PM, Gario said:

May I add that I am actually interested in what you have in mind? Now you've got TheChargingRhino requesting Star Fox analyses, as well, so you have an audience. ;)

One more for your audience - I've also been curious about your analysis, @DS394. :)

On ‎17‎/‎01‎/‎2017 at 4:14 PM, HankTheSpankTankJankerson said:

Yo man, in my arranging of Meteo, check this out - the B section modulates to a Lydian bII key signature.  So the tonic moves up a half-step and raises the new 4th scale degree.

When you were speaking to me about this track, you also referred to the 'mixed meter madness,' or the variation in time signature in the different parts of the track. You've already discussed this with me, but since we have this educational thread to discuss, could you please break down how the time signatures are applied in your track?

I also would like to know more about the Lydian bII key signature and why you chose to apply this to your track - just cuz I'm curious and unknowledgeable about this. :D

@Gario, if you have some insight on this, I'd be curious to hear your opinion on these points too.

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On 1/26/2017 at 4:33 PM, The Nikanoru said:

 'mixed meter madness,'

Well, that only pertains to my arrangement of Meteo for the album.  HOWEVER, in the original, the "da-ga-da, DA" accents happen on beat three of each measure (all 3/4 meter), which threw me off.  It took me a couple listens to figure it out, so I decided to play on it, which gave birth to the current WIP that you have.

In my WIP, which I can't really link here (very sorry), I keep the A sections in 4+3, with the final bars of it in 5.  The B section is in 5+6 (so I actually compressed the melody by 1 beat).  I have nearly decided that the C section will be in straight, easy 4/4.

Soooo thats a rough metric breakdown of my WIP, I guess.  Its both easier and harder to arrange source material that has static harmony throughout whole sections.  I like playing with time and groove, but it takes a lot for me to inject more creativity on top of that, which unfortunately shows my hand in terms of arranging.

In terms of key changes - I was INCORRECT in my last post
What actually happens is, lets say the tune starts out in E minor.  It modulates to EITHER Eb Major, OR Ab Lydian (those two have the same collection of pitches).
If it goes to Eb Major, then the chord changes during the B section are ||: IV - V - IV - V :||  or  "AbMajor - BbMajor"
If it goes to Ab Lydian (has a raised 4th scale degree), then the chord changes are ||: I - II - I - II :||  or  "AbMajor - BbMajor"

In either case, the chords are completely diatonic which is pretty cool.

And truth be told, I REALLY would like a second opinion on that analysis.

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