[Smt-talk] Queen's Harmonic Technique

Michael Morse mwmorse at bell.net
Wed Apr 10 15:50:21 PDT 2013

Dear Nick,
  A few quick examples, not archaic, but definitely pre-Queen:
- John Coltrane, alternate ending to "Mr. Syms" (Coltrane Plays the Blues) - a slightly different formula- "Lady Madonna," the Beatles, coda- "One Note Samba" and "The Red Blouse"--more complex moving harmonies over pedal/quasi-pedal melody- measures 5-6 of Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You" in most arrangements (a possible inspiration for Freddie M? That's one standard he likely heard)
(pauvre monsieur Fétis!)
MWMTrent, Pbgh Oshawa
From: braae.nick at gmail.com
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2013 08:41:46 +1200
To: Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Subject: [Smt-talk] Queen's Harmonic Technique

Hi all,
I am carrying out some extensive analysis of British rock band Queen's music for my PhD. In a number of Freddie Mercury-penned songs, he employs a particular harmonic device/cliche, in which one note of the chord (usually the root or flat-seventh) acts as a pedal and two other voices ascend stepwise through a major third with a chromatic passing note. In C major, it would be something like this:
Upper Voice: 		 C			C 		C		C		Middle Voice:		E			F		Gb		GLower Voice:			C			D		Eb		E, resolving (probably) to F major.
>From a theoretical perspective, it's simple voice-leading with a chromatic passing note, and it can evidently be voiced differently (as Freddie did throughout Bohemian Rhapsody or as ABBA do in So Long, for example). But I wonder whether anybody knows the stylistic origins of this particular voicing (i.e. pedal note as the top voice)? I have a sense of it being a barbershop, or ragtime, or vaudeville piano technique, but if anyone had come across this before in older popular contexts, I would be delighted to hear about it (you can reply to the list, or to me directly at braae.nick at gmail.com). Thanks very much,
Nick Braae
PhD CandidateUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
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