Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mixolydian mode -- Grateful Dead, bebop, trad Irish sessions; links to definitions of tonality, modality, etc.

Links posted here so: (1) I can start pulling together my scattered reading on the Mixolydian; and (2) so I'll sound like I know what I'm talking about as I edit my article on "Roll Jordan" -- pe

BBC GCSE Bitesize "A secondary school revision resource for students studying their GCSEs featuring written content, interactive content, audio, video and games." The GCSE (short for General Certificate of Secondary Education) is the high-stakes exam taken by 14- to 16-year-olds in the UK. "Revision" refers to studying or cramming.


Notation -- Revise Notation -- Test yourself on Notation Instrumentation -- Revise Instrumentation -- Test yourself on Instrumentation Harmony and tonality -- Revise Harmony and tonality -- Test yourself on Harmony and tonality Melody -- Revise Melody -- Test yourself on Melody Rhythm and metre -- Revise Rhythm and metre -- Test yourself on Rhythm and metre


The character of a piece of music is related to its key centre or tonality.

  • Tonal music is in a major or minor key.
  • Atonal music is not related to a tonic note and therefore has no sense of key.
  • Modal music is in a mode. A mode is a seven-note scale.

See the typically informative discussion on The Session on the way the Mixolydian works in trad Irish music at http://thesession.org/discussions/2993. Especially:

Re: mixolydian….??

There is a psychological feel to the modes. The mixolydian mode, which has the flattened 7th, tends to have a slightly more minor key feel to it than a true major key. The lydian mode, on the other hand, which has a sharpened 4th (so, in effect, two leading notes), tends to sound more agressively major than a major key.

Quite some time ago I did a fairly thorough analysis of this aspect of the modes, but I don’t remember what the thread was. Anyone out there remember? Zina?


# Posted by Trevor Jennings 9 years ago.


Various interpretations of the "character" imparted by the different modes have been suggested. Three such interpretations, from Guido of Arezzo (995–1050), Adam of Fulda (1445–1505), and Juan de Espinosa Medrano (1632–1688), follow:

Name -- -- -- Mode -- D'Arezzo -- Fulda -- Espinosa -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Example chant
Mixolydian -- VII -- angelical -- of youth -- uniting pleasure and sadness -- Introibo (listen)

David Malvinni. "The Modal Basis of the Grateful Dead’s Jams and Songs." The Grateful Dead World: A Musicological Exploration of the Grateful Dead. Oct. 21, 2010. http://gratefuldeadworld.blogspot.com/2010/10/modal-basis-of-grateful-deads-jams-and.html.

In rock history the Grateful Dead pioneered long, probing, and psychedelically oriented improvisational jams, best represented by their song “Dark Star.” However, most of these jams were not free form but actually highly organized musical structures, and followed the lines of exposition found in modal jazz of the late 1950s and 1960s, especially Miles Davis, John Coltrane (names well known to Deadheads) and their followers.

* * *

Taking this idea of modal soloing a step further, I will try to show how modal linear thinking in turn also influenced the Dead’s vertical thinking, that is, the kind of chord progressions used in their music. As an obvious example, the main “Dark Star” vamp can be heard as having two chords, A and G (with the caveat that in modal jamming, the chords are not of the first order of relevance, and sometimes the chords are ambiguous or only casually present in the accompaniment—sometimes the E minor substitutes for the G). Here the G chord is built on the defining lowered seventh degree of the A Mixolydian scale. “Wharf Rat” is similar, and indeed this song seems closely related to “Dark Star.” Here the Mixolydian note “G” is the third of the E minor chord, where the main verse of the song is sung to an oscillating A chord and E minor chord. A song permeated with Mixolydian thinking is “Althea,” where the tonic is E (Bm>A>E, a minor twist on the standard blues V-IV-I, ), but the B minor (the opening chord of the song) also has the third, D, which is the Mixolydian 7th scale degree in E; finally the song’s chorus and bridge state the VII chord, or D major.

MUSICAL TRADITIONS Of Scales and Modes By Stewart Hendrickson http://www.stolaf.edu/people/hend/VictoryMusic/Sept-MusicalTrad_OfScalesAndModes.html

Mixolydian and Hypomixolydian modes correspond to the element earth (cool, dry) and govern the Melancholic humor, the most complex humor. These modes are associated with the physical body and promote solidity, firmness, and steadfastness, but also a certain indolence and tenacity.

So when you say modal it can mean many things depending on your culture, what you are used to hearing as normal, what feeling or mood the music evokes, and where the music has come from. The more we listen to music of other cultures and understand the structure, the more enjoyment we derive. **** Stewart Hendrickson is Chemistry Professor Emeritus – St. Olaf College, Research Professor Emeritus – University of Washington, and in his new career, an unemployed folk musician (voice, fiddle, guitar; http://www.stolaf.edu/people/hend/music.html ). Reprinted from the Victory Review, Sept. 2006

Essays in musicology: a tribute to Alvin Johnson edited by Lewis Lockwood -- Claude V. Palisca, "Mode Ethos in the Renaissance" -- Google eBooks.

"... There is some agreement also concerning the Mixolydian, which Plato called mournful (Republic 398d), Aristotle plaintive and restrained (Politics 1340B), and pseudo-Plutarch passionate (De musica 1136D)."

Table 3: Ethos of the Modes: Classical and Renaissance Compared
VII Mixolydian -- Classical, threnodic, lamenting -- Gaffurio 1518 exciting, withdrawn -- Aron 1525 mixture of modesty and joviality -- Glarean 1547 suitable for praises


Music theory is the study of the structure of constructed music.[citation needed] Music theorists look for patterns and structures in composers' works across or within genres, styles, or historical periods. Music theory distills and analyzes the fundamental parameters or elements of music—rhythm, harmony (harmonic function), melody, structure, form, and texture. Broadly, music theory may include any statement, belief, or conception of or about music.[1] ...

Notes can be arranged into different scales and modes. Western music theory generally divides the octave into a series of 12 notes that might be included in a piece of music. This series of twelve notes is called a chromatic scale. In the chromatic scale, the interval between adjacent notes is called a half-step or semitone. Patterns of half and whole steps (2 half steps, or a tone) can make up a scale in that octave. The scales most commonly encountered are the seven toned major, the harmonic minor, the melodic minor, and the natural minor. Other examples of scales are the octatonic scale, and the pentatonic or five-toned scale, which is common in but not limited to folk music. There are scales that do not follow the chromatic 12-note pattern, for example in classical Ottoman, Persian, Indian and Arabic music. Arabic and Persian classical traditions often make use of quarter-tones, half the size of a semitone, as the name suggests.[citation needed]

In music written using the system of major-minor tonality, the key of a piece determines the scale used. (One way of showing how various keys relate to one another may be seen in the circle of fifths.) Transposing a piece from C major to D major will make all the notes two semitones (or one full step) higher. Even in modern equal temperament, changing the key can change the feel of a piece of music, because it changes the relationship of the composition's pitches to the pitch range of the instruments that play the piece. This often affects the music's timbre, as well as having technical implications for the performers.[citation needed] However, performing a piece in one key rather than another may go unrecognized by the casual listener, since changing the key does not change the relationship of the individual pitches to each other.

A melody is a series of tones sounding in succession. The tones of a melody are typically created with respect to pitch systems such as scales or modes. Melody is typically divided into phrases within a larger overarching structure. The elements of a melody are pitch, duration, dynamics, and timbre.

Musical texture is the overall sound of a piece of music commonly described according to the number of and relationship between parts or lines of music: monophony, heterophony, polyphony, homophony, or monody. The perceived texture of a piece may also be affected by the timbre of the instruments, the number of instruments used, and the distance between each musical line, among other things.

Timbre, sometimes called color, or tone color, is the quality or sound of a voice or instrument.[10] The quality of timbre varies widely from instrument to instrument, or from voice to voice. The timbre of some instruments can be changed by applying certain techniques while playing. For example, the timbre of a trumpet changes when a mute is inserted into the bell, or a voice can change its timbre by the way a performer manipulates the vocal apparatus, (e.g. the vocal cords, mouth and diaphragm). Generally, no common musical notation speaks specifically to a change in timbre, (as pianissimo indicates very soft for a change in dynamics).

Joe Craig, jazz guitarist of Anchorage @ jacmuse.com

Index at http://www.jacmuse.com/041708trc/101706trc/index.htm

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