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These same ostinato's open the song and this, of course, adds its spice to the whole ensemble of harmonic surprises. Many years after the fact, this chord still comes as a surprise for most Beatles' experts. They characterize it as an aborted modulation or a deceptive cadence. MacDonald 76 rightly chooses the minor chord iii, but also experiences the introduction of this chord as a "plunge from the home key of G Major onto an unstable B minor. O'Grady too explains the chord as a secondary dominant V-of-vi and Pollack arrives at the same conclusion. Volkert Kramarz and Tim Riley 86 both are less impressed.

To them the trick is effective but only more of the same, as the Beatles had introduced their easy use of relative minor chords already in their previous songs.

Paperback Writer by The Beatles

As Kramarz observes, the use of incidental chords in popular music is not new in itself. The unusual amount of these chords, however, certainly is innovative, as are the chord sequences themselves. In the first few years of their career the Beatles discarded the support of these cadences Kramarz, At the start of their career as songwriters their favorite way of doing this, was by inserting unexpected chords.

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Later on, as a result, in their hands the cadences crumbled into pieces. Sometimes by turning into unpredictable chord sequences; sometimes to the effect of becoming "harmonic ostinato's," repeated combinations of just two chords Middleton, At the end of , the songs on the album "Beatles for Sale" show that the Beatles could do without the support of these cadences.

Piecing chords together seemed their way of composing. Or, as MacDonald 10 says: "In short, they had no preconceptions about the next chord, an openness which they consciously exploited Improvising on what they had done before and adding new variations the Beatles' next chord always seemed to be arbitrary. Their choice of chords, of course, did not taper away totally at random, as this would have made their songs incomprehensible to their listeners.

Every style of music needs some underlying structure and here the Beatles' songs are no exception. The first outlines of their style of composition are indicated by the very relative minors we've observed in "I Want To Hold Your Hand. The parallel minors iv, i, v form another cluster of chords the Beatles, seemingly arbitrarily, interjected into their chord progressions. Next to these, we sometimes even hear the relative minors vii, iv, i of the relative Majors themselves. To this, of course, we can add the seventh chords, so popular in blues, country and rhythm and blues.

Except for the last one, all these chord clusters can be fitted into a diagram by adding them to the diagonal structure. As a result a grid emerges in which chords sharing two tones with each other can be substituted for each other figure 2 — see also the Appendix.

The greater their distance from the tone center or key, the more these pure tones do deviate from their counterparts in even temperament. That is why the key is so important in harmonic music, as is a restricted use of chordal material. Too sudden transitions summon the danger of sounding false.

Therefore conventional harmonic music is usually restricted to the three basic chords, whose tone material can be expanded by means of standard cadences and more or less conventional modulations. The Beatles showed it could be done otherwise. By arranging their chord clusters into a diagonal relationship, they effectuated an equivocal positioning of chords and tonal material. As a premium the stock of chords in the diagonal grid — counting six notes on each horizontal line — offered the composers no less than 24 different tones for their melodies see figure 3.

The new chords are employed for bewildering enharmonic changes or innovative modulations, like the minor fifth we encountered in "I Want To Hold Your Hand. These notes, however, were not always exactly the same. Often they jump through the tone grid to their enharmonic equivalents, causing subtile tonal differences. The expanded tonal material also accounts for the many false relations between adjacent chords in the Beatles' chord sequences by offering unsuspected, but fine leading notes.

The difference between both tones amounts to 71 cent, less than three quarters of a tonal distance. As Kramarz observes in his analysis of "Help! Next to more undefinable characteristics like form and tone color, the three main aspects of each musical composition are rhythm, melody, and harmony. Maybe it is too simple to take music apart into just these three constituents, like George Martin did in his recent television documentary "The Rhythm of Life," equating rhythm with the movements of the body, melody with the speaking voice, and harmony with the surrounding context.

This splitting up of musical components may seem to miss what a specific composition makes into an excellent piece of music, but there are many text books and theoretical studies putting this distinction to good use. The sociologist Max Weber and, following his footsteps, the philosopher and musicologist Theodor W. Adorno based much of their best analyses of musical evolution on these distinctions. For Martin — extracting his examples out of the whole history of music, including classical and folk music — harmony refers to context as a human universal.

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But, as both Weber and Adorno indicated, social contexts do change historically and so does the language of music. Moreover, not all styles of music refer to the same contexts. The idiom of popular music mainly is conversational and therefore the harmonic context of popular songs can be equated to the context of conversation between peers.

In this respect the songs of the Beatles are no exception. Most of them are designed as conversations and dialogues.

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This makes it difficult to analyze them, because as elements of conversation, the words of a conversation acquire their meaning by their position in the context in which they are uttered. The first dimension, agency, refers to the self image of an actor as capable of deciding between alternatives.


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It concerns the process of making personal choices. The second dimension, display, covers the divide between public and private spaces as the locations in which these choices are deliberated, discussed with others and in which commitments are made. The third dimension, realization, covers the aspect of warrantability, the readiness to commit oneself to one's choices. The movements on the dimension of agency shift between the poles of thinking or acting, between being passive — still in the process of thinking choices over — or being active — declaring or interrogating a decision.

On the dimension of display in the private context opinions can be voiced in a more emotional and direct way. In the anonymous context of the public domain on the other hand conversations have to conform to the rules of a more polite discourse. At the individual level the speaker defines his speech acts as private utterances, just meant for one self as an interior monologue.

At the collective level — in the company of peers and outsiders — the speaker is obliged to phrase outspoken and clear-voiced opinions. All three dimensions imply a movement from inner to outer voices. Of course this interacting of dimensions will strengthen their characteristics. Combinations of "passive" agency, "private" display and "individual" realization will sound uncensored by permitting the expression of personal and intimate feelings and doubts. Combinations of "active" agency, "collective" realization and "public" display will be sounding more censored by being the result of personal legitimations, the restrictions of a polite discourse and the necessity of positioning oneself in the company of peers.

Semantically, in short, conversations develop along the lines of three dimensions, indicating the context which give words their meanings. If harmony really does refer to the contexts of conversation, one should expect a correspondence between these dimensions and the use of chord material. For the first dimension, "agency," such a correspondence can easily be shown to exist. As we have seen "agency" regards the personal aspects of conversation. Here three basic acts can be identified: thinking things over in the back of your mind, grounding a decision within your self, and acting on it.

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For most popular music these three acts can be equated with the subsequent positions of the subdominant, the tonic and the dominant. In the songs of the Beatles these chords generally serve the same purpose. Look, for instance at the simple cadence of the last two lines of the verse of "Hey Jude. At the same time the Beatles sing: "Remember to let her into your heart, and then you can start to make it better," following a process of thinking, grounding, acting and grounding again.

It is just one example, but almost any Beatles' song will show the same pattern concerning the relation between dominant, tonic and subdominant. To demonstrate the role of the specific chord clusters we have to turn our attention to the other two dimensions figure 5. For that reason their songs often are called "modal" songs.

An excellent example of their way with these chords can be found in the quoted twelve measures above from "I Want To Hold Your Hand," where Lennon and McCartney sing the lines: "Yeah, I'll tell you something, I think you'll understand. When I say that something: I want to hold your hand. Hearing the lyrics, one can easily imagine the boy and the girl walking together outside, but at the same time guarding their own personal universe. This positions the context of conversation midway between the private and the public.

The dialogue itself moves from the left to the right on the dimension of realization, where our protagonist start saying something neutral, that everyone around them may hear and next addresses his girl friend in a more confidential way, confiding her in his personal feelings. Also note that the song's title words get a different meaning, depending on being accompanied by relative minors or Major chords, as in the concluding lines of the verse. Here the confidential message "I want to hold your hand" turns into an open confession for everybody out there to hear.

The role of these chords in the matrix of conversation is to create a public, collective context for the song's words.

The song's protagonist is in the public location of a dancing, voicing his admiration amidst the collective of his peers. His message may be heard by everybody in the public and is phrased in polite wordings. In this case the words sound cheerful as the sevenths mostly are natural sevenths. In many of their songs the Beatles play an intricate play with these added sevenths, changing them into other kinds of blue notes as for instance in "I Wanna Be Your Man. In the abundance of these chords in the Beatles' songs Steven Porter 72 finds evidence for a strong Classical influence on the group's compositions.

He has to admit, however, the flat-VI is behaving quite otherwise — indeed, according to its role in the diagonal grid, as a substitute for the iv. Just like the flat-VI in "I Saw Her Standing There," this chord turns the context of the lyrics toward the private side of display and the individual side of realization, thereby making the word "true" coming from deep within, sounding sincere and privately voiced. These chords supply their own surplus of meaning to the lyrics.

We already observed the supertonic in "I Want To Hold Your Hand" — the first time the Beatles applied this particular chord in their compositions. In "Eight Days A Week" the Beatles use this same chord more boldly, taking a direct step from the tonic to the supertonic at the start of a song. For once they were not the first ones to introduce an harmonic novelty.

The Lennon' composition "There's A Place" shows how these relative Majors were applied semantically in the Beatles' songs, underlining an individual utterance, that's being felt so strong that it escapes from the confines of the private into the openess of the public, for everybody out there to hear example 4. It illustrates the function of parallel minors in locating a semantic position in the matrix of conversation. In this particular case the work is done by the minor subdominant.

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Semantically this chord has the same function as the minor fifth that's facilitating the modulation in "I Want To Hold Your Hand. The "sadness" of parallel minor keys is still a standard in music theory. It does apply to the work of Mahler or Schubert, often referred to in this context.

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