[Smt-talk] Queen's Harmonic Technique

Kopp, David dako at bu.edu
Wed Apr 10 15:59:57 PDT 2013

To follow up on Janet's comment, this is a typical technique of mid-19th century composers such as Schubert, Chopin, and Schumann. An example from Chopin containing stepwise rising chromatic voice leading (under a sustained F#/Gb) is the approach to the climax of the second section of the Db major nocturne, op. 27 no. 2, mm. 41-45. The voices define a succession of clear but non-functional triadic and seventh-chord sonorities until they reach the notes that, along with the common tone, define the dominant. As Janet notes, this is non-popular music, but it's part of the mix.

Best regards,

David Kopp
Boston University School of Music

From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org [mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of Schmalfeldt, Janet
Sent: 10 April 2013 17:58
To: Nick Braae; Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] Queen's Harmonic Technique

Dear Nick-

For an example from 1840 (non-pop, but "popular" to this day), see mm. 17-19 of Song 7, "Ich grolle nicht," from Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe.  Here the progression serves to prolong ("lengthen") dominant harmony (on the word "längst"), from the end of a contrasting middle section (B) into the reprise (A') within a small-ternary form.

All best,
Janet Schmalfeldt


Janet Schmalfeldt
Professor of Music, Tufts University
Granoff Music Center
20 Talbot Ave.
Medford, MA 02155
home: 50 Dartmouth St.
           Belmont, MA 02478
           (617) 932-1420

From: smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org<mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org> [mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of Nick Braae
Sent: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 4:42 PM
To: Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org<mailto: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                   G
Lower 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<mailto:braae.nick at gmail.com>).

Thanks very much,


Nick Braae

PhD Candidate
University of Waikato
New Zealand
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