Saturday, January 29, 2011

Funkytown, Knights of Cydonia

Funkytown started it all. A friend asked for a "merits of funkytown" discussion on facebook. Then another friend on the thread asked for Knights of Cydonia. Then another friend said "You should make a blog!" So I did. Anyway, here are the 2 that started it all.


It's appealing because it plays with some very basic musical elements. The rhythm of the first melodic phrase is a series of four 8th notes, (1+2+) followed by two syncopated 8th notes (,+,+), and then the four 8th notes again. (1+2+) So ...rhythmically, that first little synth line (1+2+,+,+1+2+) is a palindrome, which happens to be quite satisfying in line with the human subliminal desire for pattern. Then when you keep repeating and embellishing those four 8th notes throughout the song, you really catch people's attention!


For Muse, I'll do harmony, because it seems like the more important element in this song. Muse's appeal is a lot like Bach's. They use canonical phrases and counterpoint, like the first phrase...

Part 1 Part 2
Voice: E     E    D   C# C#  B
Bass:   E    F#   G  A    A    B

That phrase follows the rules of classical counterpoint exactly. You can also play parts 1 and 2 simultaneously (Canon). Muse also often uses the "Authentic cadence" which is the 5 chord going to the 1 chord. They also use the "Plagal Cadence" also known as the "Amen Cadence" (4 chord to 1 chord) quite often.

In the following verse section, they use "Pivot chords" followed by plagal and authentic cadences to change keys 3 times per phrase of chords and make it sound natural to the audience. Each phrase of chords starts in a different key, and follows the same harmonic analysis. It starts on Em, then Cm, then G#m. At the end, we are back to Em, and able to go back to the intro section, which is also in Em.

Here are the chords in the verse along with my harmonic analysis:

 i    III  VI(IV)  I   III  IV  bVI   I     vi    I(III)  IV     I     III  IV  I(bIII)  V      I Em  G    C       G   B    C    D# G    Cm   G5     Ab   D#    G  Ab    D#    G    Cm
Cm   Eb Ab     Eb  G    Ab  B    Eb Abm  Eb5     E     B     D# E      B      D#  G#m
G#m B   E      B   D#   E   G    B    Em    B5     C     G     B   C      G      B    Em

The number at the top of each column of chords indicates the harmonic function in the key for every chord below it. For example... the number atop the first column... "1" refers to Em, Cm, and G#m. Those are the starting chords of each of the three phrases in the verse. The "1" means Root note of the key. "5" would mean 5th note in the key, for example, G is 5 in the key of C. (CDEFG, 12345.)
Each key change is indicated by parenthesis. When you see a number followed by a number in parenthesis, the first number is the chord's function in the old key, the number in parenthesis is the chord's function in the new key. Those are the Pivot chords.
You can see there are plenty of "Amen cadences" (4 chords going to 1 chords), which are especially useful to confirm the new key to the listener. We end each line with the most satisfying cadence, the Authentic 5 to 1. Also satisfying is the grand resolution of the three verse phrases back to Em, from where it all started.
And that's as professorial as I've ever gotten on facebook.

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