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4.   Analytical Findings


4.2.5   Cadences

A cadence marks the conclusion of a musical unit, whether a phrase, a section or an entire song. One could analyse the cadences used to end each phrase across the songs, but this task would require great time compiling and classifying the data. Furthermore, popular songs often avoid cadences, per se, at micro levels, such as when a verse is built upon a riff or other repetitive pattern. Such a progression does not provide closure and, therefore, cannot be analysed as a cadence.

For example, the first phrase of ‘Anchor Me’ repeats I-vii-IV-iii; similarly,

‘Tears’ is founded on a I-bIII-IV riff. Neither of these examples contains a cadence within the phrase — i.e. IV-iii or bIII-IV — nor does one necessarily hear a cadence across the barline into the next phrase. The verse of ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ is more problematic; I-vi-IV-III is heard twice before the chorus. With the leading-note present, III can be considered a dominant

substitute. The question is whether this signals an altered perfect cadence within the verse, or an interrupted cadence from verse to chorus.24 These issues are unhelpful when trying to draw large-scale conclusions.

Temperley argues that most popular songs are built upon “verse-chorus unit[s]”

(VCU); thus, the logical position for important cadences is the end of the chorus as this completes the larger-scale section.25 Temperley defines the “sectional cadence” by the approximate coincidence of a tonic harmony and the end of the vocal line, often occurring on “hypermetrically strong measures.” This

definition provides a normative, but flexible standpoint, “approximate” being the operative term.

One can often determine when the vocal melody concludes; by examining the concurrent harmony, one can determine what type of cadence is used. In some cases, the cadence occurs within the chorus section, such as in The Exponents’

‘Why Does Love Do This To Me?’; in others, the music cadences across the barline into the subsequent section, such as Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Loyal’ or ‘Lydia’

by Fur Patrol. In order to provide consistency, the cadences were first analysed only in terms of the former category. Consequently, a number of examples ended the chorus on a non-tonic harmony. The analysis was then expanded to include the latter category; this shows how the non-tonic harmonies resolve.

34 songs contained cadences within the choruses. The frequency of cadence types, and their associated chord progressions, is listed in Table 4.8.

24 If one treats III as V/vi, then III-IV is essentially V-VI in the relative minor.

25 David Temperley, “The Cadential IV in Rock,” Music Theory Online 17, no. 1 (2011), from http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.11.17.1/mto.11.17.1.temperley.html (accessed 10 September 2011).

Cadence Type Chord Progression Frequency

Perfect V-I/V-i/Vb-I 14

Plagal IV-I/IV-i/iv-i 5

Double-Plagal bVII-IV-I 2

Modal VII bVII-I/VII-i/V-vi 4

Modal III bIII-I/III-i 4

Blues V-IV-(bVII)-I 1

Supertonic ii-I 3

Other II-Ib 1

Table 4.8 Frequency of Cadences Within Choruses

The first four types are self-explanatory. The chorus of ‘She Speeds’ ends D-A/C#-D; this helps define the key, but without the force of a standard V-I cadence. The Modal VII cadences are Aeolian in nature. Dave Dobbyn’s

‘Oughta Be In Love’ ascends bVI-bVII-I, thereby combining Aeolian and major mode features. Graham Brazier’s ‘Billy Bold’ and Strawpeople’s ‘Sweet Disorder’ both conclude the chorus V-vi, which is technically an interrupted cadence. However, given the tonal ambiguity of the songs, floating between relative keys, this progression functions as VII-i of the minor key, thus it is categorised as such.

The Modal III cadence in ‘Private Universe’ is also Aeolian, although it is cleverly preceded by a local perfect cadence. The chorus attempts to find the relative major, C, progressing F-G-C (i.e. IV-V-I), before lapsing back to A minor. ‘Bitter’ is similar except in the Dorian mode. Mixed modes are used in

‘Nature,’ which, when combined with the high vocal harmonies, give the bIII-I ending an ethereal quality. The upper voice leading, Gb to Ab, suggests the Mixolydian mode, given the major tonic harmony. Yet this is undermined by the lower voice movement, Cb to C, which juxtaposes Aeolian and major modes.

Finally, ‘Jesus I Was Evil’ conforms to Everett’s fifth type of rock tonal systems, mentioned above.26 The bIII-I cadence should be considered, not in terms of voice-leading, but as parallel chords falling a minor third.

Regarding the remaining songs, the ii-I cadences in ‘French Letter’ and

‘Slippin’ Away’ appear to be substitutes for IV-I cadences. ‘Husband House’

26 Everett, “Making Sense of Rock’s Tonal Systems,” (accessed 12 September 2011).

gains its hymn-like character from the descending bass line within each phrase;

the verse concludes IV-iii-I, while the chorus is a related IV-ii-I. The cadence should be read, therefore, as a passing chord to complete the IV-I motion, similar, albeit stylistically different to The Beatles’ gospel-influenced ‘Let It Be.’

The bVII chord of ‘Good Morning Mr Rock ‘n’ Roll” has been bracketed because it embellishes the fundamental blues cadence, V-IV-I. Finally, the

“other” example is heard in The Chills’ ‘Pink Frost’ but can hardly be regarded as a cadence given there is no sense of tonal closure. The chorus alternates II-Ib

and there is no progression towards a harmonic focal point as is expected of cadences. This sets ‘Pink Frost’ in stark contrast to Temperley’s VCU model.

Four songs — ‘Can’t Get Enough,’ ‘Cruise Control,’ ‘Home Again’ and

‘Screems From Da Old Plantation’ — were not analysed here because the choruses contained only one chord. The remaining 63 songs end the chorus on non-tonic harmonies. These examples were categorised according to the chorus’

final harmony and then subdivided according to the subsequent harmony

directly after the chorus. The frequencies for each category and sub-category are presented in Graph 4.10. For example, nineteen songs end the chorus on IV and cadence to I across the barline.

Graph 4.10 Frequency of Chorus Cadences by Final and Successive Chords

Several points from Graph 4.10 require explanation. First, the subsequent chords are those of the next Verse-Chorus Unit and do not take into account bridge or instrumental sections. This allows for consistency and clarity, but, like ‘Pink Frost,’ several songs did not necessarily cadence at the end of the chorus. Dave Dobbyn’s ‘Naked Flame,’ for example, blends the divisions between sections so that the chorus flows into the bridge and back to the verse seamlessly; this is an area where the VCU model could be refined. Second, three songs — ‘1905,’

‘Blue Day’ by Mi-Sex and Straitjacket Fits’ ‘Down In Splendour’ — were counted twice because contrasting progressions are used in different choruses.

Finally, chords marked with an asterisk indicate a change of key. Thus, the first case, ‘Tears’ cadences from IV in A to I in C across the barline, as discussed in Section 4.2.4.

From Graph 4.10, non-tonic harmonies mostly resolve to the tonic. Of the eleven non-resolving examples, three were written by Tim Finn, and two, ‘I Got You’ (V-Ic) and ‘History Never Repeats’ (IIsus2-II), by Neil Finn for Split Enz.

Although these songs have clear Verse-Chorus structures, the harmonies are arranged sectionally, rather than driving towards a point of resolution.

‘Spellbound’ typifies this point; the chorus alternates between I and IV, while the verse alternates between ii and V. The cadence, as such, therefore occurs from verse to chorus, not as a concluding statement.

‘Rust In My Car’ (V-bVI) is similarly structured, while The Feelers’ ‘Pressure Man’ is riff-based, hence the vi-IV progression. Two Exponents’ songs are counted here, ‘Victoria’ and ‘I’ll Say Goodbye’; the subdominant harmony on both occasions reaches the tonic in the subsequent verse, but is delayed by intermediary chords, IV and vi, respectively.

The combination of Table 4.8 and Graph 4.10 provides an overall picture of the cadences used to conclude choruses.

Cadence Type Frequency

Perfect 33

Plagal 19

Double-Plagal 8 Minor Plagal 1 Plagal Descent 1

Modal VII 10

Modal III 7

Blues 1

Supertonic 3 Interrupted 1

Other 7

Non-Resolving 8

Table 4.9 Overall Frequency of Chorus Cadences

The results of Table 4.9, not surprisingly, tend towards plagal and perfect cadences, and their variations. For example, the double-plagal cadence is no different to the plagal cadence, however, the bVII-IV-I progression is common in popular music, compared to classical music, and is thus categorised

separately. The minor plagal cadence refers to iv-I, usually preceded by IV and with the voice-leading, 6-b6-5. ‘Down In Splendour’ cadences II-IV-bVI-I, however the aforementioned line is present in the lead guitar, implying that F major is a substitute for the minor subdominant, D minor. The plagal descent, iv-bVIc-ii7(b5), in ‘Julia’ is an extension of iv-I, but also alludes to the more conventional IV-iii-ii-I descending cadence.

If the minor plagal cadences are included, plagal cadences account for 29% of the total. The number of V-I progressions would also increase were ‘Jumping Out A Window’ (V-III-I) and ‘I Got You’ (V-Ic) counted; both rely on, but subvert the V-I relationship. As discussed earlier, ‘Don’t Fight It Marsha’

modulates using bV as the leading-note in the subsequent key; again, in a

skewed manner, this ‘cadence’ is founded upon leading-note to tonic movement.

Similarly, the final II-III ‘other’ cadence of ‘1905’ is used to modulate to VI, also relying on the dominant-tonic principle.

It is significant that perfect cadences are highest ranked, especially in light of the previous sections. The chord distribution outlined in Graph 4.1 and the variety of modulations listed in Table 4.6 intimated that the tonic-dominant

relationship was less prevalent in these songs. Within the chord distributions, IV appeared, on average, almost fifty percent more than V; similarly, movement to the dominant was less favoured compared to parallel and leading-tone

modulations. Table 4.9 paints a different picture. In comparison with the previous data, the number of perfect cadences suggests that the dominant harmony is deployed at structural junctures.

‘Four Seasons In One Day’ and ‘Distant Sun’ are good examples in this context.

In the former, the verse and chorus run into each other, which directs the music towards a chorus cadence point. When the chorus begins, the harmonies move by step between IV and iii; V is delayed until the penultimate bar where its tonal impact is most emphasized. ‘Distant Sun,’ another Neil Finn song, is similar in that the dominant is missing from the verse before entering in the chorus to reinforce the harmonic hierarchy.

Scanning through the list of songs with perfect cadences, it is tempting to label them “pop” songs. This is not to debate the fine line between “pop” and “rock”

but, arguably, only four songs — ‘She Speeds,’ ‘Gutter Black,’ ‘Andrew’ and

‘Dance All Around The World’ — would automatically qualify for the latter category.27 Everett intimates that pop can sometimes be distinguished from rock on the basis of its “tamer, perhaps simply more institution-oriented”

foundations, although this is a highly provisional definition.28

If Everett is correct about pop’s relative conservatism, one may expect a high correspondence between songs with perfect cadences, a relatively conservative technique, and chart performance. Seventeen of the 33 songs with a V-I cadence were top ten hits. But this proportion is almost identical to songs with IV-I cadences (ten out of twenty) and very close to the other categories. Whether this says more about the New Zealand music industry or the relative unimportance of harmony in popular music is a matter that could be explored further.

27 Even then, ‘Gutter Black’ has reggae overtones, such as in Brazier’s vocal.

28 Everett, “Making Sense of Rock’s Tonal Systems,” (accessed 25 September 2011).

The presence of perfect cadences should not be overstated, given they only account for a third of the sample. Plagal cadences and its relatives are prominent suggesting the IV-I relationship is fundamental to popular music. One can also note the high number of “modal” and “other” cadences, both of which

undermine, to some extent, conventional tonal relationships. That said, the

“other” cadences likely reflect the analytical method used here. They appear in songs with clearly demarcated sections — ‘Rust In My Car’ is a good example

— and thus, one would expect less impetus towards a harmonic focal point, as may occur when the sectional boundaries are more fluid.

As noted above, the cadence analysis is founded on a normative theory.

Temperley’s framework is sound but not always applicable. For the final piece of analysis, cadences were expanded to include all sectional divisions. The aim was to identify the songs using chromaticism at such points. Approach chords were excluded; thus, ‘Let’s Think Of Something’ which ends the chorus bVI-V-I is not counted. Rather, the chromaticism had to be a fundamental part of the cadence. This method had two benefits. First, the greater sample provided flexibility to Temperley’s model; second, it adds weight to ideas developed in Section 4.2.3. Assuming cadences are musical focus points, those with

chromatic chords obviously draw attention to their chromatic nature. It, thus, potentially indicates another degree of chromaticism.

23 songs contained chromatic cadences, ranging in degrees of complexity. A number were based on bVII-I movement, such as in the bridge of ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ or the chorus of ‘Sensitive To A Smile,’ or other modal variations — bVI-bVII-I or bVII-IV-I, both of which occur in ‘Blue Day.’ These are common enough in popular music that their effect is less remarkable. The same might be said of the power chord-laden bIII-I cadences of ‘Counting The Beat’ or ‘Jesus I Was Evil.’ More complicated examples, such as those by Don McGlashan and Shona Laing, have already been discussed above.

An unusual case is the ending of Fur Patrol’s ‘Lydia.’ In E major, the last chorus is slower as the band winds down to the final chord, A minor, effecting a IV-iv

cadence. The minor subdominant, to some ears, may convey a sense of open-endedness as it does not resolve to the tonic. Throughout the song, the narrator has addressed her partner, having caught him cheating with the titular “Lydia.”

Songwriter Julia Deans said the lyrics depict the gamut of emotions felt by someone in the narrator’s position, ranging from “oh right” to “no that’s fine” to

“how dare you” to the despairing “but why…”29 The final unresolved chord, perhaps, leaves the story unfinished with the listener unknowing as to the relationship’s fate.

Deans, however, wanted the song’s ending to signal the relationship’s end and felt the minor chord would deliver this finality better than returning to the major tonic harmony. This is a departure from classical music principles in which the tonic is equated with closure. That said, the minor subdominant had previously been heard in the bridge where the narrator is at her most furious. The A minor harmony, therefore, provides a subtle connection between sections, replicating the singer’s state of mind at each point.

Finally, ‘There Is No Depression In New Zealand’ has already been mentioned in terms of its inventive harmonic structure. Consequently, the final cadence, in all its bizarre glory, should be expected. Although ‘in’ E major, the song ends on F# major. The final cadence, however, is harmonically divorced from the local tonic, as the guitarist punches D#-D-C-F# in syncopated triplets. In relation to E, the chords read VII-bVII-bVI-II; in relation to F#, VI-bVI-bV-I. Either way, the Roman numerals are non-sensical and somewhat pointless given the song’s harmonic anarchy.