In 1990, hip-hop trio Bell Biv Devoe released Poison. B.B.D. was the first concert I ever saw. Gerardo and C+C Music Factory opened. B.B.D. came on stage in those tubes from the end of E.T. I’m not sure why I was listening to such sexually-charged music in grade school, but songs like “Do Me” seem wholesome in comparison to today’s music.
“Poison” features the classic B.B.D. melody courtesy of the East Coast family. They used this melody everywhere. It’s a harmony of voices bending down and up in a minor key. Here it is in F# minor:
The great thing about this melody is it works for almost any word—Nintendo, Spider-Man, Iesha, precaution, poison.
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Anyway, “Poison” is a great song with a mystic cave zone bass-line. It also has that upbeat shuffle so popular in old school hip-hop.
Never trust a big butt that smiles indeed. Notice in the notation above, the slurs and ties between the noteheads form smiling butt cheeks.
Steve Vai has a melody. It’s his favorite melody. He uses it everywhere. It sounds like something Frank Zappa hummed in the shower and Vai transcribed for electric guitar.
Vai’s melody is made of major thirds. It’s in the key of A above and makes an A Major seventh chord in passing. It first appeared in “Little Green Men” on Vai’s debut album. The melody is found at the very end.
Vai liked it so much he made a whole song out of it on Passion and Warfare. “Answers” is a toe-tapper that opens with a phantasmal beat. At around the 1:59 mark, Vai’s melody takes over and dominates the final minute of the song in various keys.
Gee Steve, why don’t you marry that melody?
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Steve Vai told a story in an interview. He played guitar for two days straight and fell asleep with his instrument. In his dreams, he continued to play guitar. The music he made was more beautiful than any of this world, but unfortunately, Steve Vai wasn’t able to remember it or it was impossible to play. Either way, he got Kubla Khan’d hard.
I would link to the article with the interview, but I’m not really interested in the internet anymore. I like imagination and boredom, faulty memories and synesthesia. Sitting around on the floor like Beethoven in a pile of orange peels. This is what we do.
When I bought Passion and Warfare from Sam Goody in the late ’90s, the cashier convinced me the album was satanic. He said nice-looking kids were the biggest satanists in terms of musical purchases. Anyway, it kind of scared me into not listening to the album for a while.
Now I’m not sure why all music needs to be satanic, but I guess Christian rock is kinda lame. “Devil’s got the best tunes,” as the preacher says.
Here’s Thomas Tracy’s song from Tracy’s Tiger by William Saroyan, published in 1951. It’s a wide-interval diddy in C major so I thought it would sound nice on a glockenspiel.
Try it at home: E C B C E B E F G
However, Tracy didn’t think too fondly of it:
The three lines of Tracy’s turned out to be as so many other things turn out to be, dirt. The song faded away, the very scrap of paper on which Tracy had so carefully written the words were lost, the melody was forgotten.
Well, I like it. I want to make a pop song out of it with intervals sung wide. It’s got the major third lead-in like the bell song and the door bell, but it jumps an octave down to a low C. It would make an interesting vocal melody.
I think music is too small; we need to widen it up a bit with big intervals.
Occasionally, this blog is relevant—really relevant. Like shilling for a new Netflix Original series relevant.
Stranger Things is a comfy creature feature throwback to the glorious ’80s with a strong Speilbergian vibe. The music also has a nice Carpenteresque feel to it.
John Carpenter often composed the music for his movies, with several iconic electronic soundtracks to his name such as Halloween and The Fog. In the ’80s, Carpenter was King of the Arpeggiator, as can be heard in The Thing and my personal fave, Big Trouble In Little China.
The Theme from Stranger Things opens with a synth heartbeat just like The Thing (actually written by Ennio Morricone to sound Carpenteresque), and there’s a nice smooth arpeggio of a C major 7th chord. I’ve often called this chord, the Chord of Love, but context is important. It takes on some of those qualities—mystery and longing, but the lack of progression, also gives it a stalking, foreboding quality like being pursued by a hungry CGI monster. The overtones of the 7th, the B, add some Lydian flavor to the theme with an implicit F#, even though there are no fourths provided. The Lydian mode is often used to evoke the far reaches of outer space and inner dimensions.
(Click on the score to play/stop. Sorry, I couldn’t make a perfect loop in Flash.)
Simple. Haunting. Effective. Very Carpenteresque. No melody. Just arpeggios. His soundtracks were sound-oriented rather than musical.
The ’80s now seem like how the ’50s seemed in the ’80s. Anyway, Stranger Things was a good watch. I definitely recommend it, if you’re going to Netflix and chill with that special someone. It captures that wonderful magic of youth and adventure from The Goonies and E.T., which kinda makes me think I missed out on something, like young hot teen love. Or maybe just D&D with the bros. Or Winona.
Stately, the UK ringback tone plays a whole tone chord. So soft and yet so dissonant.
The North American ringback tone also features the chord with a G and A, but the rhythm is different; it holds for a half note and then rests. In the UK version above, the double tap is reminiscent of our busy signal. It’s arguably more musical than the North American version and is therefore featured in many classic tunes.
You can hear the UK ringback at the end of Pink Floyd’s “Young Lust.” Such a dank, rank tune! The G and the A of the UK ringback tone work well over the E minor pentatonic key.
Another musical use of the UK tone can be heard in the keyboard part to Space Hog’s “In the Meantime.” It’s not the same notes, but I think it was probably inspired by it. Check it out in the intro.
I like the piano coda in that song. Piano codas were really popular for a hot minute in the 90s, because of Faith No More’s Epic—one of the finest piano codas next to the Rach Two. Not sure why they had to kill Björk’s fish for the video though. Oh well, ooppa dobba deeba dobba, I guess.
I remember still—the memories and melodies of home.
As a band of brothers, we’ve always loved popular telephone songs such as “867-5309/Jenny” by Tommy Tutone, and so we thought: Wouldn’t it be neat to sing the actual dial string from a landline phone, harmonies and all? Our new single, “Homebody” (hōm’bŭd’ē), features the band’s childhood phone number sung in this manner. The two tones of a DTMF phone signal make for some unusual chord progressions in the chorus, slowed-down and dancey, while the verses are upbeat and Beatlesesque, describing the dank basement which gave birth to the so-called “phoney songs of home.”
To stay thematically consistent, “Homebody” was recorded at our home studio in the mountain valley town of New Paltz, New York (featured in the song). While phone songs may be naturally catchy, the melody of “Homebody” is like sonar to our ears, reminding us of our lost suburban home on Long Island (also featured) with its quintessential American ’80s upbringing: Divorce, Cults, and Videogames.