Friday, February 25, 2011

Colourmusic's "Yes" - The song that only needs 2 notes to be amazing, plus bonus "Tog"!

 Among Dr. Tymozcko's 5 principles of what makes music sound good to the typical western listener is this:  "In 30 seconds of a song, you will hear 5-8 different notes."  He forgot one extremely important Jimi Hendrix quote:  "With the power of soul, anything is possible."  My band, Via Audio played at Union hall about 4 years ago, and the band after us was Colourmusic.  I was an immediate believer.  They brought an amazing amount of energy to the stage.  Their whole set was excellent, but the most memorable song was the most simple.  That song was "Yes".  That song sounds great to the typical western listener - as evidenced at every Colourmusic show by the ecstatic masses of people.   From :32 to about 1:14 there are only 3 different notes.  (Take that, Dr. T!) From 1:50 to 2:14 there are only 2 notes! (no background vox)
Lead vocal is only on B (1) 
Background vocal on G# (6)
Guitar and Bass are on B(1) then E (4), so the implied chord progression is I, IV.

After every IV, we go back to I so we have the plagal (Amen) cadence happening constantly.  The feeling of the cadence mirrors the affirmative lyrics.

    Then at 2:14 there's a rainbow-like arpeggio that comes in containing the notes of a B7 add 9 chord.  Whenever you see a dominant 7th chord, you can watch out for the authentic cadence.  We western listeners are conditioned to expect 7th chords to resolve to the major chord a 5th down.  That is the case in this song, as the chords resolve from B7 to E.  Your western music conditioned brain is being given exactly what it wants over and over in this song.  It's brain candy!  This I7 to IV device is quite common, especially in blues influenced music but I've never heard it in such a pure form, and executed to the fullest as it is here.

 "Tog" from Colourmusic's album PINK is also worth checking out!
"Tog" is quite a rare type of song, tonally speaking, because it is neither in a minor key, nor a major key.  It just... exists.  The Key is A.  Most of the notes are A(1), B(2), D(4), and E(5).  By avoiding the 3rd note of the scale, they avoid minor (if there were a C played) or major (if there were a C# played) classification.  At a couple of points in the song, the bass hits the major 3rd, but then it's immediately followed by the minor 3rd.  Another element to note is the eerie IV chord played on the keyboard in the background.  It's happy in a displaced way. 

Here's another great track by Colourmusic... also from PINK!  This one might be my favorite!

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