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 Post subject: Self reference
PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:52 pm 
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I was listening to the lyrics of Cohens 'Hallelujah' (I especially like the cover by Pentatonix). In the first verse the lyrics seem to be describing the structure of the music. I say 'seem to be' because I did not think 'chords' contained 'minor falls' or 'major lifts'. Allowing for some artistic licence (describing the melody not a chord), is this verse describing the musical structure of the melody? Or is it 'musical-theory sounding hogwash' for the benefit of the audience who 'do not care for music'?

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:18 pm 
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The chords follow the lyrics exactly. Looking at the lyrics with chords, you'll see that the words are describing which chords to use (roman numerals, and lower case means minor, uppercase major).

I IV V
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
vi (a minor chord) IV (back to a major chord)
The minor fall and the major lift

The "fourth" and "fifth" describe the relation of the root note of the chords to the tonic of the key. So, if you're singing in C, the IV chord is F (C-D-E-F) and the V chord is G (C-D-E-F-G). The "minor fall" is because minor keys sound sadder or more down, and the "major lift" happens when a happier-sounding major chord comes in.

Pretty neat writing. Supposedly he had scores of verses for the song, and many popular versions have wildly different verses included. I've counted about 15 or so out there; Cohen undoubtedly had many more squirreled away.

EDIT: I can't make the formatting do what I want to make the chords and words line up! Hopefully you get the idea.


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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:29 pm 
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When John Cale announced that he was covering the song, he asked Cohen for the words. Cohen says that he ended up faxing 80 pages of verses through to Cale. Cohen also reports that at one point in the writing process, he was so frustrated that he found himself pounding his head on the floor of his room at the Chelsea Hotel, yelling "Why can't I finish this song?"

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:29 pm 
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bigsciota wrote:
The chords follow the lyrics exactly.

Thank you. I like Cohen's work - though mainly for the lyrics. I was hoping that the lyrics were describing the melody. I do not understand your notation but (assuming roman numerals) the V -> vi is described as a a minor fall but is not vi higher than V. Likewise vi -> IV would be a fall?

Apologies if I am being dense (or too picky)....

EDIT: Too dense, I guess. Reading your post more carefully I see you explained fall and lift. Doh.

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Last edited by DrPhill on Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:33 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
When John Cale announced that he was covering the song, he asked Cohen for the words. Cohen says that he ended up faxing 80 pages of verses through to Cale. Cohen also reports that at one point in the writing process, he was so frustrated that he found himself pounding his head on the floor of his room at the Chelsea Hotel, yelling "Why can't I finish this song?"


As in 'I remember you well at the chelsea hotel'?

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:40 pm 
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bigsciota wrote:
The chords follow the lyrics exactly. Looking at the lyrics with chords, you'll see that the words are describing which chords to use (roman numerals, and lower case means minor, uppercase major).

I IV V
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
vi (a minor chord) IV (back to a major chord)
The minor fall and the major lift

The "fourth" and "fifth" describe the relation of the root note of the chords to the tonic of the key. So, if you're singing in C, the IV chord is F (C-D-E-F) and the V chord is G (C-D-E-F-G). The "minor fall" is because minor keys sound sadder or more down, and the "major lift" happens when a happier-sounding major chord comes in.

Pretty neat writing. Supposedly he had scores of verses for the song, and many popular versions have wildly different verses included. I've counted about 15 or so out there; Cohen undoubtedly had many more squirreled away.

EDIT: I can't make the formatting do what I want to make the chords and words line up! Hopefully you get the idea.


Use the 'code' button. You get a fixed-width font which makes it easier. The default formatting diddles around with spacing. Assuming that this is what you wanted:
Code:
I                             IV            V
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
      vi (a minor chord) IV (back to a major chord)
The minor fall and the major lift


Geek stuff I can do.

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:44 pm 
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DrPhill wrote:
As in 'I remember you well at the chelsea hotel'?


Yes. He owned houses in Montreal and LA, but for many years the Chelsea Hotel was where he'd live when he had to be in NYC

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 4:39 pm 
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One of my favoritest songs ever.

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:42 pm 
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http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05mbc0p


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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:20 am 
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Thanks for the reference. I really like the song. The youngsters in Pentatonix do an enthusiastic version which I like very much.

But which is the 'secret chord'?

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 1:54 pm 
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DrPhill wrote:
But which is the 'secret chord'?

For my money it's that penultimate, heartbreaking Major third (if I have my chord terminologies right) at the end of the verse. Listening to different versions, it's evident not everyone has it that way, opting for the minor instead for some reason. To each their own, but to my ears the overall result frankly falls a bit flat without it. Cohen himself performed it with the Major third, and that's good enough for me, but I'm guessing it's not exactly what he had in mind by "secret chord" - although it does serve to suggest the idea, what with the way it stands out so. Rather, I think of the storied "secret chord" as something only the angels might know.

I'll be getting a harp with sharping levers some time around this upcoming new year, and Hallelujah is definitely one song that I look forward to working on, Major third and all. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 2:57 am 
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Just listened to Leonard Cohen singing it - beautiful. :) Then I tried Jeff Buckley. Oh dear ... :o

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 5:39 am 
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bigsciota wrote:
The "fourth" and "fifth" describe the relation of the root note of the chords to the tonic of the key. So, if you're singing in C, the IV chord is F (C-D-E-F) and the V chord is G (C-D-E-F-G). The "minor fall" is because minor keys sound sadder or more down, and the "major lift" happens when a happier-sounding major chord comes in.

DrPhill wrote:
I was hoping that the lyrics were describing the melody.

For me, while it's reasonably explicable and I like the song, Cohen has used language that's looking for melodic illustration...

So he's singing in C and has 'the fourth' to F (chord IV) and 'the fifth' to G (chord V), but when did you ever hear a musician describe the subdominant and dominant chords as the fourth and fifth? Chords IV and V (cardinal numbers), of course, but the fourth and fifth (ordinal)? Hmmm...

Think he'd be on more unarguable ground for the fourth and fifth if the melody took the F and G instead of A and B (which are the sixth and seventh of the scale or in both cases the thirds of their accompanying chords), but of course that would spoil it! And, while the minor fall and major lift fit harmonically if you buy into conventional concepts of sad minor and happy major (where actual effect is rarely that simple), DrPhill is not alone in not being wholly convinced by a melodically rising 'minor fall'. But then again I wouldn't be surprised if Cohen came up with the melody and chords first before concocting a crafty lyric to fit!

Nanohedron wrote:
For my money it's that penultimate, heartbreaking Major third (if I have my chord terminologies right) at the end of the verse.

Nothing very 'secret' about that, though! It's just E leading to Am, which is the bog-standard way of modulating to the relative minor. It's nice, and adds some colour (hence why extra-scale notes like the G# in that E chord are called 'chromatic'), but not secret... unless he's maybe crediting David with its discovery thousands of years before it became commonplace (but still nice)?

Whatever, we're all (not least me!) in danger of taking things too seriously and over-analysing here. It is what it is and I like it! :)

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:22 am 
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Peter Duggan wrote:
Whatever, we're all (not least me!) in danger of taking things too seriously and over-analysing here. It is what it is and I like it! :)


I agree that analysis is superfluous - the song/tune stands tall on its own merits. I am pleased that the lyrics are a (mostly) reasonable description of the melody because part of me delights in such self-reference. I am grateful for the explanations of how this is so, but I struggle a little with the chord notations and names - I find a lot of music impenetrable.

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 Post subject: Re: Self reference
PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 8:26 am 
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benhall.1 wrote:
Just listened to Leonard Cohen singing it - beautiful. :) Then I tried Jeff Buckley. Oh dear ... :o


I never did appreciate Jeff Buckley's voice/style. Plenty seem to though, so each to their own. Did you listen to the Pentatonix version? I think I like it as much as Leonard Cohens version(s).

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