- Jun 27, 2019
Another month and another collaboration with りくりくり. Once again the music was written first and the lyrics written second. りくりくり claims that writing lyrics after-the-fact is not his area of expertise, however, I think he did a fantastic job for this project.
This time the music is pop punk meets 18th/19th century voice-leading. Sorta like Shonen Knife meets Haydn. (Although the lyrics are 100% りくりくり in style.)
Apart from one small exception, I stuck to the voice-leading rules that J. S. Bach would’ve followed. The small exception is a moment where the vocal melody leaps up a fifth, but instead of immediately changing direction, it moves one step higher before descending. Bach occasionally did things like this in his instrumental music, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find examples in his vocal melodies. Having said that, my fifth leap is broken up by a rest, so it’s more like rule-bending rather than rule-breaking. And all the great composers bent the rules, so I’m in good company.
An interesting thing about pop punk is that it mostly sticks to power chords, which are fifth intervals rather than true chords. This is because high-gain guitars create a lot of distortion overtones, and the more filled-in a chord becomes, the more dark, muddy, or ugly the distortion becomes. Dark and ugly is fine for black metal, but not for pop punk. Unfortunately, 18th/19th century voice-leading dictates that consecutive fifths are undesirable, which means that power chords are off the table.
With this in mind, I began experimenting to figure out how best to make common practice voice-leading rules work with high-gain guitars in a pop punk setting. I first used a single guitar with the idea that it would play no more than two notes simultaneously. This was fine for perfect fourth, perfect fifth, and octave intervals, but major thirds and sixths were darker than I wanted, and minor thirds and sixths sounded downright awful. (At least as far as pop punk is concerned.) The solution was to have two different guitars playing on two different amps, each playing a different single note of the desired interval. This worked wonderfully.
The problem with a single guitar is that if one plays a minor-sixth interval on two strings simultaneously, and then feed that signal into a high-gain amp, the amp adds distortion overtones as if the signal were a single complex waveform rather than two individual waveforms. This results in unnecessarily cluttered overtones. (Perfect intervals are mathematically tidy, so-to-speak, so the resultant distortion overtones are not as cluttered.) In contrast, two separate guitars fed into two separate amps, each performing only a single note of the desired interval, does not generate the same cluttered sound. Even after blending the post-amplified signals together, the sound remains distorted yet coherent. This phenomena is, of course, exploited by metal bands that use two more more guitarists, such as Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.
Going forward, all my future high-gain adventures will treat guitars as monophonic instruments rather than interval/chord-capable instruments. This may not be 100% guitar-like, but it does allow me to stay true to my voice-leading obsession.
And for those that care, there’s also bit of Mahler in this song, specifically progressive tonality as the song begins in F major yet finishes in A-flat major.