Descending Chromatics

–Why I’m a sucker for this device, I don’t know, but if a piece has this as the motif, I’ll play it to death. I still remember the first time I heard Dido’s Lament When I Am Laid in Earth–it was in the auditorium of Matthews Hall during Music Appreciation class back in 1992 or so. In fact, it’s the only thing I remember about that class. The performance was a bit more industriously-paced than this (the aria proper starts around 1:10)–in fact, it could’ve been a polka–but there it was…that descending scale that fits in so perfectly with the last thing before Dido descends to the Underworld. And then a song I’m sure I never would have heard had I not been in Russia, the amazing Seven Seconds by Youssou N’Dour, which was one of the reasons I made sure I caught Euro MTV every evening in the hopes this video would be on.

It fell under my radar for a few months once I got back to the States, until I listened to Radiohead and Bossa Nova in the same day–it’s good to have things on shuffle occasionally. In the Joao Gilberto performance of Samba de Una Nota So (an amateur performance is here), I noticed a distinct similarity to the main motif of Radiohead’s Nice Dream. I was once again down one of those rabbit holes I mentioned earlier–The Cure has their 10-minute epic Watching Me Fall from Bloodflowers (here live, with modified bass line), and then on that new Annie Lennox album I mentioned earlier this week, her song Big Sky, the latter couple of minutes of which are among the most impressive vocals she’s laid down in years. There isn’t any link to the actual song, but snippets of it can be heard on Itunes. I’d swear I’ve got about 10 other songs that have this, but can’t think of them right off-hand.

There are only two other things that seem to immediately get my attention in pop music–the reasons for which I’m still unsure of: 6/8 time (Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears and, yes, I’ll admit, I even temporarily fell for Whitney Houston’s Be Your Baby Tonight for the same reason), and then there’s one other thing I can’t describe and will need to clear through someone with plenty of music theory so I know the term for it.

–pic from

~ by dblomenb on October 14, 2007.

5 Responses to “Descending Chromatics”

  1. Wha…? There’s something about music that you don’t know?! {swoon, faint} 😉

  2. I adore Dido’s Lament!! Its one of those pieces that I need to learn, but just haven’t yet. Not sure why…

  3. No 7/8th time? “Are We Not Men?” (observed by many prominent music scholars to be perhaps the most stirring composition of all time) doesn’t do it for you?

  4. Dave,

    I received your voice mail, but every time I call, your phone is busy. I hope to God that you are not still using dial-up service!

    I hope to chat with you soon. Drop me a line when you get a minute (


  5. Dude, you are so slacking again!

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