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4.   Analytical Findings


4.2.4   Tonicizations and Modulations

me now // I’m head over heels // And I’m turning in circles” and concludes each verse, “You see you are the one I love.” The extensive chromaticism, perhaps, reflects the overwrought emotions not expressed by the narrator’s words.

It is not surprising that ‘Julia’ was the only song to contain thirteen different chords. Furthermore, there appears to be a general relationship between the number of chord types used and the chromatic score. This is not revelatory, but it suggests those songwriters who are keen to expand harmonically are likely to do so in a range of ways. This situation also highlights the potential benefit of a weighting system. Such a system would help to further distinguish between songs that feature extensive chromaticism in a diatonic framework and songs that have a stronger chromatic foundation. This issue is taken up further in the following section, which moves from surface to structural harmonic


The opening bars indicate an Aeolian i-VII in A minor, but from Bar 8 onwards, there is a tonal shift. The final five bars are in A major, with a II [V/V]-V-I cadence, but Bars 9-11 are more problematic. The opening phrase ends with a G major chord (Bar 8), which is succeeded by C and D, potentially IV and V in G major.

This is not, however, a modulation. First, the vocal melody in Bar 8 lands on B, yearning to resolve upwards to C, which duly occurs in Bar 9. Second, when the

‘tonic’ harmony, G, is reached at Bar 11, the music is propelled towards B major in Bar 12, the focal point of the phrase. Thus, even though the IV-V-I progression into Bar 11 suggests G, its placement does not lead the listener to G as a new key, but as a well-prepared tonicization, following the earlier

tonicization of C major in Bar 9. Although long-winded, this explanation should clarify how such judgments were made.

It is not necessary to note every applied dominant as an example of tonicization;

Table 4.5 lists, chronologically, the twenty songs in which a different tonic area was emphasised without being fully established. Those marked with asterisks also contain full modulations and will be discussed further below.

Song Tonicized Key Area/s Section/s Let’s Think Of Something Flat Leading Note* Verse/Bridge

Nature Subdominant* Verse

Out On The Street Dominant* Chorus

April Sun In Cuba Subdominant Chorus

Stuff and Nonsense Subdominant/Tonic Minor* Pre-Chorus/Bridge

Words Subdominant Chorus/Bridge

Rust In My Car Subdominant Bridge

Maybe Dominant Bridge/Instrumental

Sierra Leone Tonic Major Pre-Chorus/Chorus

Forever Tuesday Morning Relative Minor Instrumental Bridge

Room That Echoes Tonic Major Verse/Chorus

Better Be Home Soon Flat Leading Note Bridge Sensitive To A Smile Flat Mediant* Instrumental Bridge

Andy Major Supertonic Bridge

Four Seasons In One Day Relative Minor Verse

Distant Sun Relative Minor Bridge

Sweet Disorder Relative Minor Bridge

Anchor Me Tonic Minor Bridge

Private Universe Relative Major Bridge

One Day Ahead Tonic Minor* Bridge

Table 4.5 Examples of Tonicization

In eight of these examples, the harmonic transition in the bridge serves to heighten the musical tension, a standard songwriting technique. Sean Sturm stated that ‘One Day Ahead’ was a “musical experiment” in moving

“unobtrusively” away from the tonic so that the subsequent dominant had greater impact.14 Thus, the first four bars of the bridge progress to the flat-side harmonies, bIII-bVII-IV-i, leading to the tonic minor; the second four bars vary the pattern so that bVII falls by step, rather than a fourth, through bVI to V. The same principle is at work in ‘Maybe,’ ‘Rust In My Car,’ ‘Forever Tuesday Morning,’ ‘Anchor Me,’ ‘Better Be Home Soon,’ ‘Four Seasons In One Day,’

and ‘Distant Sun,’ the latter three written by Neil Finn.

The Front Lawn’s ‘Andy’ can be regarded similarly, however, the tonicization of G major is more effective because of the lyrics it accompanies:

A man gets angry But what can you do?

Don’t know why I’m telling all this to you, On Takapuna Beach…

14 Interview.

The first line is anticipated by a six-bar D major harmony, the longest dominant of the song. When the chord resolves, the lyrical tension also breaks, as the narrator expresses his despair at the urbanization of Takapuna on Auckland’s North Shore. As discussed earlier, G major itself is undermined by the vocal melody, which contrasts G Mixolydian and D Dorian modes. Therefore, although G is strongly suggested, one can hear the conflicting harmonies in conjunction with the narrator’s anger at losing his brother and losing his hometown.

Other examples are straightforward. In ‘April Sun In Cuba’ the chorus

transposes and adapts the verse progression, Isus4-I in A, up a fourth to bVIImaj7 -IV, or IVmaj7-I in D. ‘Out On The Street’ utilizes a similar technique, with the initial chorus progression repeated up a fifth. Finally, ‘Words,’ ‘Sierra Leone,’

‘Room That Echoes,’ ‘Sweet Disorder’ and ‘Private Universe’ float between two keys. ‘Words’ could be considered in C Mixolydian or F major; ‘Sierra Leone’ uses a major tonic harmony to accompany a change in lyrical perspective during the pre-chorus and chorus; ‘Room That Echoes’

indiscriminately juxtaposes C major and C minor; ‘Sweet Disorder’ contains jazz-inflected harmonies that blur the boundaries between C minor and Eb major; while ‘Private Universe’ emphasizes C major at the start of the bridge, but without any strong cadences.

Nineteen songs contained modulations, summarized, again chronologically, in Table 4.6. Keys in brackets indicate a tonicization prior to a modulation. The hyphens indicate where in song the modulation occurs.

Song Modulation/s Section/s

Let’s Think Of Something Am-(G)-A // G-A Verse // Bridge

Nature Abm-(Db)-Ab Verse-Chorus

Cheryl Moana Marie Ab-A Final Chorus

1905 C-A Verse-Chorus

Out On The Street E-(B)-A Chorus-Coda

Slippin’ Away C-D Final Verse-Chorus

Stuff and Nonsense Ab-(Db)-Bb // Bb-(Bbm)-Bb

Verse-Chorus // Bridge-Chorus

I See Red F-C Chorus-Verse

Tears A-C-Eb-Db-B-Db

Verse/Chorus-Verse/Chorus-Bridge-Chorus-Verse-Chorus I Hope I Never B-Dm-Em // Em-D Verse-Pre-Chorus // Chorus Don’t Fight It Marsha Dm-D-G-Dm

Instrumental-Verse-Chorus-Instrumental Six Months In A Leaky Boat D-Dm Final Chorus-Coda

Maxine Dm-Ebm Chorus-Instrumental Bridge-Verse

Fraction Too Much Friction D-B-D Introduction-Verse-Chorus

Poi E E-F Final Chorus

She Speeds E-D Chorus

Sensitive To A Smile F-(Ab)-F // F-G Bridge // Final Chorus

Bitter Dm-F Chorus-Bridge

One Day Ahead Eb-(Ebm)-Eb // Eb-Bb Bridge // Instrumental Coda Table 4.6 Examples of Modulations

Five songs feature a “truck-driver” modulation in the final sections, whereby the music modulates up a semitone or tone and retains the same chord

progression.15 The device often has a powerful rhetorical effect, giving the impression of a new tonal space and heightened intensity, but is considered to mask a weak structure.16

The modulations in ‘Slippin’ Away’ and ‘Poi E’ occur immediately after an instrumental break, while in ‘Cheryl Moana Marie’ the shift up is preceded by the new dominant. In ‘Sensitive To A Smile’ the vocal line, instead of

descending F to D at the end of the chorus, ascends F to G, anticipating the new tonic by a quaver. In these cases, the tonal change is unprepared, somewhat unexpected and rather simple. They are, therefore, textbook examples of the

“truck-driver” modulation.

Sharon O’Neill’s ‘Maxine’ is more sophisticated. The music modulates during a saxophone solo between the second chorus and third verse, from D minor to Eb minor. The solo has been transcribed below in Figure 4.1.

15 Everett, “Making Sense of Rock’s Tonal Systems,” (accessed 1 September 2011).

16 Ibid., (accessed 1 September 2011).

Figure 4.1 Saxophone, 'Maxine,' Solo, 2'37"-3'12"

The bridge has been tentatively analysed, first, in Bb and then in Eb, although the initial saxophone melody could be read as quasi-pentatonic on F. The harmonies repeat a IV-I pattern in the first ten bars in Bb and Eb. The Bb minor chord in Bars 5-6 appears to act as a pivot — the tonic minor in the initial key, the minor dominant in the new key. This is supported by the melody, which moves closer to an Eb hexatonic scale from Bars 8-11. The scale is then transformed into a minor hexatonic scale, first by way of blues licks (Bar 12), and then supported by a shift to Aeolian harmonies (Bar 14). In the final four bars, the Bb minor chord shifts up to Db, a simple chord substitution, which then resolves upwards to the new tonic. This movement recalls the Aeolian VII-i present in each verse and chorus. The distance moved is only a semitone but with the elongated solo, O’Neill avoids the clichéd character of such a modulation.

The remaining songs can be split roughly between sectional and transitional modulations; that is, those occurring across a single barline and those involving an extended progression, respectively. Guy Capuzzo discusses sectional

modulations in terms of “sectional tonality” in which “each section projects a distinct key.”17 He argues that keys are not necessarily related or connected through pivots or other modulation techniques. This idea is applicable to the

17 See Guy Capuzzo, “Sectional Tonality and Sectional Centricity in Rock Music,” Music Theory Spectrum 31, no. 1 (2009), pp. 157-158.

Nature’s Best songs, as explored below. The techniques used to effect sectional and transitional modulations are more varied than the previous examples. It is worth examining each case individually.

The sectional modulations tend to be more abrupt and unexpected. Thus, in Shihad’s ‘Bitter,’ the bridge utilizes a new chord progression in the relative major without any preparation for the shift. Furthermore, although using the same key signature, there is little overlap of chords — Dm-F in the verse, compared to Ab-Eb-F in the bridge. This technique can be compared to, for example, Crowded House’s ‘Private Universe’ in which the same harmonies, drawn from A minor and C, are used in the verse and bridge sections but differently ordered.

As stated above, the verse of ‘Nature’ uses a descending Ab Aeolian progression, i-IIIc-IVb-VI, which moves to i-III-VIIb in the pre-chorus. The chorus then switches to Ab Mixolydian, bVII-IV-I, with an ethereal bIII-I cadence. Thus, the same chord, Gb, links the pre-chorus and chorus, albeit in different inversions; however, there is no indication of the impending change in tonality. When returning from the chorus to the instrumental, the tonic chord switches from major back to minor. The same process occurs in the coda of ‘Six Months In A Leaky Boat.’ With the chorus ending in D major, the instruments fade out. The synthesizer maintains a solitary D and when the piano re-enters, the key is suddenly D minor.

‘I See Red’ modulates between F and C for each chorus and verse respectively, with no real harmonic connection between sections. The chorus concludes on a D minor chord; the verse then begins with G7, the new dominant. One could read D minor as a pivot chord, effecting an extended ii-V-I progression in C;

however, the significant textural contrast between chorus and verse distorts any sense of a cadence. The verse ends with a four-bar G7, which ‘resolves’ to F major, again emphasizing the self-contained nature of each section.

‘Stuff and Nonsense’ also modulates into the chorus with a dominant that does not resolve as expected. Having begun in Ab, Db is tonicized by implication in the pre-chorus — the second phrase progresses iiio[viio/IV]-IV-V, anticipating a perfect cadence in Db. Instead, one hears a skewed interrupted cadence as the harmony lands on Bb major (VI of Db), which suddenly becomes the new tonic.

At the end of the first chorus, the key simply changes back to Ab for the second verse. Of ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ and ‘I See Red,’ both Tim Finn songs, one could conclude that the first modulations have a twisted logic, a slight subversion of tonal ‘rules,’ but, overall, their effect is predicated upon an element of surprise.

Finn’s ‘Fraction Too Much Friction,’ which alternates between D major and B major for the choruses and verses, respectively, combines a conventional

technique and the interrupted cadence heard in ‘Stuff and Nonsense.’ Each verse concludes with an F# pivot chord — it is the dominant of B and a dominant substitute in D, as it contains the leading-note, C#. At the end of the chorus, in D major, two bars of VI are added, fulfilling a quasi-interrupted cadence, that is, IV-V-VI. The vocal melody exploits the tonal ambiguity, lingering on a C#, but instead of rising to D, it falls to the subsequent tonic of the verse, B. This technique, therefore, appears to be a songwriting fingerprint of Tim Finn’s, however when asked about this feature, Finn replied, “I just follow my instincts and do what feels right.”18 One might find a source for this technique in George Harrison’s ‘Something’ which cadences G7-A, or V7-VI, into the bridge.

Shona Laing’s ‘1905’ and Blam Blam Blam’s ‘Don’t It Fight Marsha’ feature both unprepared and prepared modulations. ‘1905’ begins in C major for each verse and, ending on Imaj7, moves straight to A major for the chorus. This section concludes with a D minor chord, iv in A and ii in C, and, thus, acts as a weak pivot back to C. The same relationship is exploited in the second chorus, in A, when progressing to the bridge, in C. At the end of the bridge, Laing gets lost in her own thoughts, repeating the lyric “Time, oh Time” in a rising line. The harmonies at that point ascend in parallel motion, C-D-E, mirroring the singer’s

18 Email.

sense of floating away from reality. From a harmonic perspective, the latter chords function as IV-V in A, ensuring a smooth final modulation.

‘Don’t Fight It Marsha’ modulates from D minor to D major to G major. These keys correspond to the instrumental, verse and chorus, respectively. Each change occurs across the sectional barline; of most interest is the return to D minor following the chorus. Given songwriter McGlashan’s propensity for adventurous harmonies, it is not surprising when the I-IV-I progression is replaced by a directionless bIII-bVII-bV. The Db (C#) harmony contains the leading-note of the new key, D minor and thus, the chord acts as a highly unusual pivot. Like Finn, McGlashan was quick to note, “I’d be claiming too much to say it [the modulation] came out of any theory.”19 It may be unwise to stress these complex explanations; that said, the presence of the leading-note explains the glimmer of logic within this progression.

Space Waltz’s ‘Out On The Street’ likewise modulates using a pivot chord, but in the abrupt manner that marked the earlier examples. The final chorus ends on IV in E, which, across the barline into the coda, is reinterpreted as I in A. The coda then alternates between Amaj7 and Dmaj7, I-IV, before coming to rest in A major. Like ‘Nature,’ ‘I See Red’ and others, the modulation is unexpected, however, the change is smoothed partially by the A major pivot which connects both sections.

The final example of sectional modulations, ‘Tears’ by The Crocodiles, is the most unusual. The verse and chorus of the song are built on a simple

progression, I-bIII-IV; the difference between sections is the halved harmonic rhythm in the chorus. After the first verse and chorus pair, the music modulates up a minor third, from A to C, for the second verse and chorus without any pivots or other harmonic devices. The same modulation occurs into the bridge in Eb major, suggesting a possible harmonic motif of ascending minor thirds, at local and structural levels.

19 Interview.

When asked about this feature, Fane Flaws admitted he was stuck during the songwriting process. Lacking inspiration for the bridge, he tried his favourite

‘rule’: “when in doubt, go to Eb.”20 Such a simplistic explanation is, perhaps, a little facetious; however, the modulation works well because it continues the upwards trajectory of the music.

Moving out of the bridge, Flaws felt that Db major followed by B major were the logical choices given the vocal melody. The vocal line and chords of the bridge passage are notated in Figure 4.2.

Figure 4.2 Vocal, 'Tears,' Bridge, 1'58"-2'12"

Jenny Morris finishes the bridge on a Db that slides up to the natural; the initial note pre-empts the new tonic sung by Morris an octave higher. The shortened chorus — “If this is love, I’d like to kick it” — descends Cb-Bb-Ab. Although rising on “it” to a half-sung Bb, the fourth verse begins on F# (Gb) in B major, a natural continuation of the falling line.

Figure 4.3 Vocal, 'Tears,' Chorus, 2'51"-3'15"

For the final choruses, Flaws wanted to experiment with the melodic-harmonic relationship. Across the barline, the harmonies move up an enharmonic second

20 Interview.

to Db major, but as Figure 4.3 shows, the main melodic note (on “Tears”) remains the tonic from B major. The dotted barline in Figure 4.3 shows the flattened seventh ‘resolving’ up to the tonic in the third phrase of the chorus.

With the exception of, perhaps, ‘Nature,’ the particular modulations do not explicitly connect with the lyrics. That is, while the minor/major contrast in

‘Nature’ reflects the narrator’s psychological shift21, there appears no reason why ‘1905’ or ‘Fraction Too Much Friction,’ for example, should move to the major submediant over any other keys. One can say the same of the multiple modulations in ‘Tears.’ There is no particular pattern; instead, one hears a songwriter exploring different tonal landscapes and, consequently, transforming a simple chord progression into a well-crafted pop song.

The examples discussed so far modulate at easily identifiable points during the songs, often demarcating the various sections. The four remaining songs —

‘Let’s Think Of Something,’ ‘I Hope I Never,’ ‘She Speeds’ and ‘One Day Ahead’ — contain transitional modulations, occurring within a section and often with pivot or other modulatory techniques.

The modulation in ‘One Day Ahead’ is achieved primarily through force of repetition. In the coda, a new harmonic idea is introduced, Gb-Ab-Bb, which is a condensed version of the flat-side progression from the bridge. Over time, Bb is established as the tonic; with no recourse to Eb, the chords appear not as an imperfect cadence, but more as bVI-bVII-I, à la ‘Lady Madonna,’ in the new key.

21 I am grateful to Graeme Downes and Ian Whalley for both making this point.

Figure 4.4 outlines the three main chord progressions of ‘She Speeds.’

Figure 4.4 'She Speeds,' Harmonic Reduction

The vocal line of Figure 4.4 opens the verse and highlights the descending line, D-C#-B; this line is emphasized by the lead guitar in subsequent bars. The chorus reverts to the ominous introductory riff, E-Bb-A, before modulating across the barline to D major, with a D-A/C#-G progression. Implied in the two chorus progressions is the voice-leading from the verse, as shown by the raised stems in Figure 4.4. The modulation, from E to D, is similar to other sectional modulations in that it occurs at a single point; however, it is also comparable to a common-tone modulation with a continuity between sections.

‘Let’s Think Of Something’ has already been discussed above with regards to the tonicization of G major in the verse. The subsequent transition to A major happens quickly; the vocal melody lands on B with a G harmony in the eleventh bar of the verse. With the melody note maintained, the harmony switches to B major, functioning as an applied dominant in A. In the bridge, the harmonies fall G-F-E. The first two chords can be read as I-bVII in G, heard in both the verse and chorus; the F chord then acts as a pivot, leading to a drawn-out bVI-V cadence in A, also used to conclude each chorus. ‘Let’s Think Of Something’

relies, therefore, on textbook execution of common-tone and pivot chord modulations.

Split Enz’s ‘I Hope I Never’ also utilizes pivot chords. The opening rocks between I7 and bVII7 suggesting a Mixolydian or Dorian inflection in B major.

At the end of the verse, A7 pivots the music into D minor, where the tonic/flattened leading-note relationship is maintained. The pre-chorus

concludes with a variation on the circle-of-fifths, C-F-B-Em, or VI-bII-V-i. The