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Sweet Melody

This cheeky guitar melody from The Sweet Clementines is in C major with a bunch of blue notes to give it that clownish vibe. C major is far too clean a key and should be covered in flats and sharps.

Our melody begins on a major 6, which is always a good sign. After establishing the chord with a C major 3rd, a couple minor 3rds are thrown in, snarkily. The symmetric tritone (Diabolus in Musica) stands firmly in the center of the 4 bars because John Burdick worships Satan and always makes his music Illuminati-friendly. Next comes the minor 7th, bended up from the 6th, a brief nod to the figure from a measure earlier, before sashaying chromatically to a D Major triad (the secondary dominant II chord). Finally, our melody resolves on the major 3rd, a very smooth, clownish and picardy-style resolution after all that came before it.

I hear this melody in my mind’s ear with a kazoo chorus, some whistlers, and a ‘70s falsetto guy. It kinda reminds me of “Bath Tub Gin” by Phish and a little bit Ravel.

Here’s bars 5–8 of The Sweet Clementine’s melody.

Our melody begins with the same 2 bars from before, another spin on the Coney Island carousel as it were, but this time the F# leads into the dominant. Here on the G major chord, we find the classic ascent with the maj.3rd moving up chromatically to the 5th, which sounds so damn fine on an electric guitar. Notice how important the quaver rests are to the melody (music is between the ♫), with the blue notes on the off-beats, evoking the feeling of being stabbed by a clown with a retractable knife. The whole section is nicely complimented by fluid groovy basslines and simple syncopated drumming. I’m no musicopsychologist, but my reading is that: As a boy, John Burdick visited Coney Island and had a traumatic carousel experience that led him to write this song.

Actually, I have know idea what it’s about because I’m lyric-deaf. But I do like this song the more I hear it. There’s a lot of chords and chromatics, which is typical of the Clementines. Spoilers: the end resolves and fades on a pure C major 7th vocal collage, which is a nice picardy-like change of pace after all them blue notes. Good tune, go listen to it. Listen for this 8-bar guitar theme which only occurs a few times throughout the song, as if there were only so many quarters to spend on carousel rides before heading home.

Listen/download “You Don’t Have to Go to Brooklyn” by The Sweet Clementines.

See The Sweet Clementines live this Saturday in Kingston at BSP, opening for Burnell Pines.

Pedestrian Signal

The NY pedestrian signal plays a high F#, like the chirp of some mechanical cricket. It’s about 15 cents flatter than a real F#, but you can still tune to it if you’re busking by the crosswalk. The F# clashes with the usual open keys of our buskers, and even our crickets don’t go that high. Usually, the volume of the signal is such that if you were already blind you’d go deaf crossing the street, but at my intersection, they keep it on the nice crickety setting. Just look to the incandescent man. I♪NY

MTA Melodies

the E train

There’s a place in New York City where the subway sings a recognizable tune. Since the early 2000s, commuters have noticed a musical screeching coming from certain trains like the first 3 notes of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. The first interval is a dominant seventh and resolves down to the major sixth just like in the Leonard Bernstein tune, although Bernstein stole it from Beethoven. Drag over the noteheads to listen to the MTA melody.

It begins on an F#, jumps up to a higher E, and then down to a D# to quote the Bern. The first 3 notes are in the key of B Major. Some of the trains have a few extra notes at the end, modulating down a semitone to B-flat, because this is New York City baby, and there has always been jazz underground.

The MTA says the melody is accidental. Senior subway officials claimed to had never head it before. The Canadian company responsible for the trains said that the newer trains have power choppers. These power choppers emit the tones while generating the necessary voltage to push the train forward.

Yeah, I’m sure it’s all a coincidence that the trains running through the Upper West Side sing a song from West Side Story and not some massive musical conspiracy. Just like that song we all remember by Leonard Berenstain.


flyer rockwood

We’re playing Rockwood Stage 1 next week!

Musical Video: Abracadabra

Musical Cryptography

Composers love to sign their own names in musical cryptograms, because they’re super lonely. Bach signed his name in German notation: B♭, A, C, B♮(H), and this melody can be found throughout his work, just in case you forgot whose fugue you were listening to. Below I have created a cryptogram of my own name. Can you guess me? Typically, only the relevant note letters are used. Here’s another hint: E-flat is often used for the letter “S.”

Go ahead. Rumple my still skin!

(Flip your computer screen for the answer)

˙S u∀ʌƎ ɹoɟ(S ‘∀ ‘Ǝ=) ʇɐlɟ-Ǝ ‘∀ ‘Ǝ

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Delilah is love; Delilah is life. She helped me through my divorce. She talked me down from my suicide. And each time she spins the perfect song. But the best songs in life are the ones you don’t need to request; they’re played like bells on the top of the hour. Click on the score below to hear the Delilah radio bumper.

This particular bumper is in B-flat Major with tertial harmonies, although Delilah comes in many flavors, and often in D as per her namesake. In whatever key, it’s a delightful melody sung in harmony by man and woman. Was this the way Delilah’s parents called out to her baby ears?

I’m not sure if Delilah is a fictional entity, or if like Casey Kasem she’s been in radio limbo for years, not quite alive nor dead but rather in some thanatoid state. Of course, ghosts are known to possess radio waves, and radio hosts being disembodied voices are essentially ghosts themselves, though it is said that video, a poltergeist, once killed the radio ghost, but I digress.

Did you know that Delilah has adopted 13 kids so far; would she consider adopting Los Doggies in her quest to right the Biblical betrayal? We’re three good Christian boys in a Christian rock band. I know we can’t write a song in her honor quite like The Plain White T’s, but we’ll do our best. Her delectable name is on the lips of all creatures. It is too delicious to speak; it must be sung as God intended—by a man and a woman in concert B-flat.