Forums > Queen - Serious Discussion > Theory stuff for Sebastian and others interested

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Boy Thomas Raker user not visiting Queenzone.com

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Posted: 06 Jul 07, 21:30 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Given the recent conversation on the Beatles vs. Queen, and who was capable of writing what, I came across this tonight, and thought it was very interesting. The writer is an American instructor of music history discussing musiocally challenging pieces:

"One piece I use (in the classroom) probably more than any other is, "The Prophet's Song" which is the first track on side B of "A Night at the Opera."

1) From an orchestration perspective it opens with a great example in popular music on how to crescendo by shelving in instruments.
2) The break begins with a 3-voice strict canon, which leads into
3) Cori Spezzati (nice if your room is equiped with a true stereo system for playback)
4) The split choirs even provide us with an example of a "hocket" in English.

This last example has probably had the greatest impact on my instruction of isorhythmic motets. Since most of my 1st year students (who could care less about medieval music anyway) do not understand French, they have a difficult
time perceiving hockets. This example has a very simple hocket with choir 1 singing "Come...Hear..." with choir 2 singing"...I...You"

The studio wizardry on this album is also fantastic and makes a great
starting point when discussing the techniques of Les Paul and Stockhausen."

So my question for Sebastian, and others who know a lot more about music theory than I do, is, are we underestimating Brian and Queen's musical IQ when we say that they are incapable of writing certain pieces?



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Posted: 06 Jul 07, 22:49 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Personally, I think we're underestimating their musical IQ when limiting them to just what they have accomplished thus far. You have to understand that Queen didn't follow the rules when writing their music, it's not like they knew what isorhythmic motets were when they recorded The Prophet's Song. That being said, just because they weren't knowledgeable of all the aspects in music theory doesn't mean they couldn't actually improve themselves in being better and more capable composers. Some artists, like Queen, demonstrated such things as deceptive cadences and didn't even know they did it! It's always better to have some backround knowledge in music theory when composing, but when it's all said and done music theory is simply a 'theory.' You don't have to abide by it, although it's more professional if you do.


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Posted: 07 Jul 07, 04:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Funnily enough i was playing ANATO last night and i've come to the conclusion that the prophets song to me is the best ever song they have done.

It has everything thrown into it classical, choirs,heavy rock,acapella etc.. a real group song in my opinion.

I often wonder if this came after Bohemian rhapsody or before as the ideas are similar.


Yes we'll keep on tryin

we'll tread that fine line

oh oh we'll keep on tryin

till the end of time

till the end of time.



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Posted: 07 Jul 07, 07:13 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Well, for one, you gotta remember that the Beatles came at a time where you didn't need to know as much theory to be a pop star (Just a blues progression and some "licks"). I most likely see the Beatles knowing the basics (Paul's father was a jazz musician)such as what chords went with what scales and George doesn't stray from the Ionian mode (always exceptions though in certain melodies like Norweign Wood is in D Mixo). In compositional techniques, though, most of the orchestrated Beatles stuff was written by George Martin such as violins, horns,the pipes, and etc. They played what sounded good to them. They did do some goofy things but nothing incredible(THEORETICALLY SPEAKING). They basically had a catchy melody, some twists and turns and some love for variety. In a The Playboy Interview, John said "him and the boys" used to laugh at theory because they used to regard them as genius with "Aeolian cadences" and such. They most likely got a riff, built around it, and made some of the best music in our time and of the 1960s. They knew harmony and used diatonics alot.Though as Brian says "Noone will be as good as them" and you have to love them... they rock. To tell you the truth, the Beatles in sales are amazingly better than Queen and more well known.
You have to remember Beatles were only the business for 7 Years(62-69)before breaking up and STILL have more hits than Queen who have been around (73-91).
I am not bashing Queen either but in the end in all ends up in sales. Frank Zappa and Al Di Meola know more theory than Queen twice fold did but as many of the naive will say "WTF OMG LOL who is Zappa" "ROFL AL DI MEOLA"

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/awp-notes_on.shtml
That is a good read

Seeing how Brian is a physics major (in college at the time) and Freddie had lessons you see they know more theory. Freddie did compose and Brian solos with a contrapunctal motion. Seeing how I just woke up and dont want to write a page

http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME03/Queen_anomaly.shtml
That has some cool info about Queen vs. The Beatles

Funny you say this thou because I am soon to analyze Freddie techniques and trademarks. Sorry for my spelling and grammar I just woke up :P.

You also know that what people are doing here is like "March of the Black Queen vs I Want To Hold Your Hand" which is unfair because if MOTBQ was released at the same time. They would've been brushed off to the impact of the Beatles.





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Posted: 07 Jul 07, 08:33 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

> and who was capable of writing what

If you (partly) say it for my comment of 'Rhapsody' being beyond Paul's, George's, Lennon's, Deacon's, Brian's, Roger's and of course Ringo's boundaries, I'll expand on that later (or on my website, which will become more analytical than factual now that Queenpedia has the same as I do but better).

> From an orchestration perspective it opens with a great example in popular music on how to crescendo by shelving in instruments.

Indeed that's something that needs common sense more than musical theoretical knowledge. And definitely Brian (and Lennon/McCartney) were geniuses at that. Note other nice crescendos on Bri's tracks like 'Show Must Go On', 'I Want It All' or 'Teo Torriatte', where each instrument is gradually joining and before you know it the orchestration is huge. Even 'Fat Bots': first verse with only guitar, then guitar, bass-slides and floor-tom, then guitar, a more melodic bass-line and a rock drumming.

> Cori Spezzati

Indeed Brian knew his way with canons, as he'd demonstrated previously with guitar tricks and the intro of 'Now I'm Here'. Obviously 'Prophet' is more advanced, yet it's not something Gioseffo Zarlino would have said "wow" to IMO.

> are we underestimating Brian and Queen's musical IQ when we say that they are incapable of writing certain pieces?

No. For a number of subtle details, Fred wouldn't have written 'White Queen' or '39, and Brian wouldn't have written 'Black Queen' or 'Love Of My Life'. 'Prophet's Song' is indeed a masterpiece, and should be more respected, yet it's *not* as complex as one may think (most people tend to assume that long=epic=complex and that's not always the case). Clever as it is, it's "outdone" by some other May things like 'Procession' in terms of complexity, and it's certainly below 'Bo Rhap' in that matter. Still a masterpiece and I love it (as I'm sure most of the forum does).

> I often wonder if this came after Bohemian rhapsody or before as the ideas are similar.

They're not THAT similar actually. 'Somebody To Love' has always been another target of comparison with 'Bo Rhap' but they're like chalk and cheese.

> Well, for one, you gotta remember that the Beatles came at a time where you didn't need to know as much theory to be a pop star

Yes but that's not an excuse.

> They did do some goofy things but nothing incredible(THEORETICALLY SPEAKING).

I disagree. The modulation in 'Lucy' is very clever and the way it's done is a first-class thing for composers. Same for 'If I Fell'. What about the prime-numbered phrasing in 'Yesterday', the polyrhythm in 'Warm Gun', the crazy harmony in 'Dr Robert' and 'Because' and the phrasing details in 'Walrus'? Those are things not related to orchestration (thus done without George Martin's assistance) and they're still very advanced compositional gambits.

> They basically had a catchy melody, some twists and turns and some love for variety.

IMO that's unfair with them. For some songs, yes, such as 'Day Tripper' or even 'And I Love Her'. But that'd be as if we said that Queen were only 'Break Free', 'Ga Ga', 'Magic' and 'Another One Bites The Dust'.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 07 Jul 07, 09:59 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Thanks Sebastian, I always find your stuff very interesting. When I read your song analysis of Drowse, a song I've heard thosuands of times, I'd never even noticed the rhythmic change in the way Roger sings the final verse. For me, info like that only adds to my appreciation of the music.


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Posted: 07 Jul 07, 13:47 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

I didn't remember I'd done an analysis of 'Drowse'. Great song indeed, and wonderful vocal by Mr Taylor there!


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 08 Jul 07, 12:36 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Most people underestimate Brian's musical capabilities, I think because he is usually, IMHO, 'lazy' in that he is content to write and play stuff waaaay below the summit of his capabilities.

I liked the part about isorythmics and hockets. I hadn't looked at it like that yet.

Having said that: Stockhausen I can see (hear?), but Les Paul I disagree with.


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Posted: 08 Jul 07, 13:19 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

<font color=FF0033 face=symbol>Freddie wrote:

Personally, I think we're underestimating their musical IQ when limiting them to just what they have accomplished thus far. You have to understand that Queen didn't follow the rules when writing their music, it's not like they knew what isorhythmic motets were when they recorded The Prophet's Song. That being said, just because they weren't knowledgeable of all the aspects in music theory doesn't mean they couldn't actually improve themselves in being better and more capable composers. Some artists, like Queen, demonstrated such things as deceptive cadences and didn't even know they did it! It's always better to have some backround knowledge in music theory when composing, but when it's all said and done music theory is simply a 'theory.' You don't have to abide by it, although it's more professional if you do.


Few points I agree on here. First off, they *did* know the elementary concepts of music theory. They were not ignorant fucks like Atheist, you know. No, they were not classically trained experts, but I doubt they wouldn't recognize a term like plagal cadence.

"It's always better to have some back[g]round knowledge in music theory when composing, but when it's all said and done music theory is simply a 'theory.' You don't have to abide by it, although it's more professional if you do."

Yes, it is handy to have background knowledge. In fact, if you are not only composing but also arranging, it is nigh on vital. It is, however, not 'simply a theory'. WESTERN music theory is a SYSTEM of music that covers the entirety of what ears used to our concept of equal temperament will find pleasant and unpleasant, and how tension and release ought to be used. When you follow the rules completely, you are writing classical music. When you do not, you are writing what is known as 'light music'. So it's not a difference of 'professional or not', it is a difference of genre.


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Posted: 09 Jul 07, 11:02 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

ThomasQuinn,

By 'classical music' do you refer to the approximate years 1750 – 1820 or the broad categorization of all the classical music eras from 476 a.c. onward? I'm only saying this because if you meant by the classical era (1750-1820) alone you might be right, although your use of the term 'light music' didn't help you (I'll explain that later). However, if you were referring to the classical music eras from 476 a.c. onwards you are indefinetly wrong. It must be understood that one of the greatest and most influential classical composers did not follow music theory word for word, he was a man who went by his own interpretations. His name was Johann Sebastian Bach and I can assure you practically all of his musical scores were not done with music theory 100% in mind. I highly doubt that one could really say Bach was not a classical composer because he didn't follow music theory as if it were the precious Bible. Even at that many composers after the classical era didn't follow music theory by the book, in fact a few of them even bent the rules to the extremes during the early 20th century. However, starting at the time of the post-world war and climaxing during the mid-20th century was that 'light music' you were talking about. Light music, by it's very definition, is a generic term applied to a mainly British musical style of "light" orchestral music. It took it's initial origins in the 19th and early 20th century in the seaside orchestras that flourished in Britain. It's interesting to note that the music in it's repertoire was in fact not only arrangements of popular songs and ballads of the time, but also classical music. Also, I've recently learned that even serious composers such as Sir Edward Elgar wrote a couple of popular works in this medium. That being said, and please don't take offense, you're probably incorrect.

If you have anything to add please do, ThomasQuinn. I admire your input here on Queenzone.

Ramirez




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Posted: 09 Jul 07, 12:53 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

<font color=FF0033 face=symbol>Freddie wrote:

ThomasQuinn,

By 'classical music' do you refer to the approximate years 1750 – 1820 or the broad categorization of all the classical music eras from 476 a.c. onward?


Good one! I refer to the music of the Classical era, and should have capitalized my word to make it recognizable. However, I understand that term in the broad sense of the music of that era itself, augmented with later music abiding by its rules, music which is thus Classical in all but its date.


I'm only saying this because if you meant by the classical era (1750-1820) alone you might be right, although your use of the term 'light music' didn't help you (I'll explain that later).


I completely understand, as I said in the above response I should have made my definition of the term clear (and I should be ashamed! It's practically my bloody *job* to write research papers, and thus define my terms!). I use 'light music' as a contrast because I was looking beyond the time frame of the Classical Era, but I do agree that what I described is by no means a division between 'classical' and 'light', as many types of folk music, modern classical music and the more serious jazz are also among those included in the 'light' camp, as I inadequately put it. In my defense, I was just trying to keep things as simple as possible for those with no background in music theory.

However, if you were referring to the classical music eras from 476 a.c. onwards you are definitely wrong. It must be understood that one of the greatest and most influential classical composers did not follow music theory word for word, he was a man who went by his own interpretations. His name was Johann Sebastian Bach and I can assure you practically all of his musical scores were not done with music theory 100% in mind. I highly doubt that one could really say Bach was not a classical composer because he didn't follow music theory as if it were the precious Bible.


In fact, he wrote the rulebook with his music :) He was the inventor of sorts of the equal temperament (the division of the octave into its 12 parts as used today), too. I agree, he used to bend the rules quite a bit, but you will find that he never actually *broke* them. With Bach's clever moves it'd be like the difference between, say, writing 'Bb' and 'Cbb'. I'm sorry I cannot put this any plainer, all you fine laymen, but I'm sure the musicians will understand me, and perhaps one of them can make this clearer. Having said all that, your point is still very good, Bach was stretching the limitations of Classical theory to (and some would indeed argue beyond) their logical limits.

Even at that many composers after the classical era didn't follow music theory by the book, in fact a few of them even bent the rules to the extremes during the early 20th century.


You are referring to men like Sergey Rachmaninov, Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schönberg and Alban Berg, I take it? Yes, you are completely right. They fall under the 'modern classical' header. In fact, Berg and Schönberg completely tore down Classical theory and built a new system up from the foundations, like later classical composers such as Yannis Xenakis and John Cage would also do.
I'd like to add the 19th century Romantic movement as being the first to actually 'bend' the rules on a large scale, and their successors the Impressionists even more so (I name Debussy, but don't let him hear that I called him an Impressionist). The four I mentioned earlier would fit in the EXPRESSIONIST category. While the Impressionists were willing to rejuvenate the old, the Expressionists threw the old away and started anew. Of course, there is no rigid black-white divide between them, but the general idea is clear. The point I'm getting at is, that these actually belong to a completely different genre musically than people like Bach. W


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Posted: 09 Jul 07, 14:34 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

That's some interesting stuff you've just said there, ThomasQuinn. Thanks for the chance to discuss something rationally.


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Posted: 09 Jul 07, 16:14 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Sebastian wrote:

I didn't remember I'd done an analysis of 'Drowse'. Great song indeed, and wonderful vocal by Mr Taylor there!


Along with Tenement Funster, it has to be my favorite Roger track. I remember listening to it when I started junior high back in 93 and feeling nostalgic about having recently moved from my hometown. Now I listen to it and remember about that time.

I love that sliding intro and Roger's vocals are top notch. And the lyrics, man, just great.

I would like to check your analysis of that song, Sebastian. Is it on your website? I will check it later. I should get back to work now! hehe :).

Wiley

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Posted: 09 Jul 07, 18:41 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

*If* I ever analysed that one, I must have deleted it during one of the updates. But you can read Denes' marvellous comments here: http://www.queensongs.info/analysis/drowse.html


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.
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Posted: 09 Jul 07, 20:07 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Yes, it was Denes, fabulous stuff, and yours too Sebastian.


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Posted: 09 Jul 07, 20:39 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Speaking of Queensongs.info, who is the creator of the website? Is he or she a member of Queenzone? A couple of days ago I registered to be a member, but he or she has yet to confirm my account. It's kind of annoying.


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Posted: 10 Jul 07, 03:45 Edit this post Reply to this post Reply with Quote

Libor maintains QSI, but he's probably on holidays since he hasn't posted on the forums for a while.


John hated HS. Fred's fave singer was not PR. Roger didn't compose 'Innuendo.' Witness testimonies are often inaccurate. Scotland's not in England. 'Bo Rhap' hasn't got 180 voices.