PDA

View Full Version : Are there *any* mainstream-ish songs wholly or mostly in an odd mode?


Jragon
08-14-2012, 11:06 AM
Meaning other than ionian, aeolian, or mixolydian (which is used a bit in Jazz). Are there any interesting semi-mainstream (define however you wish to, doesn't have to be Top 40 or anything, just not some John Cage monstrosity or something only played by an indie band only one guy in Louisiana has ever heard of) songs that are 60% phrygian or locrian or... something?

I'm mostly just curious for no particular reason.

Jaledin
08-14-2012, 11:16 AM
Good question. I bet some prog fans are going to have some fun with this. Well, I think of blues as it's own tonality; maybe you could call it mixolydian.

But for radio stuff that people have probably heard at some point, obviously common ones are So What (Dorian) and Milestones (Aeolian and dorian I think) but also stuff like the intro to Spain I guess most people have heard. Call that phrygian I guess, kind of that Spanish sound with the lowered second degree.

I'm guessing you're looking for stuff with words and stuff, though.

Jragon
08-14-2012, 11:22 AM
I'm guessing you're looking for stuff with words and stuff, though.

Not really, the opening theme or incidental music in a show or movie works fine too. I was mostly just trying to exclude stuff like "Oh, god, you *have* to listen to my garage band, Flaming Zombie Teddy Bear! Our bassist Mike wrote the totally sick song we play that's in locrian! I mean, we haven't even had a bar gig yet, but we wrote a song in locrian!"

In addition to attempting to exclude modern or post-modern music that's peddled as merely a curiosity intentionally attempting to break modal trends (hence "John Cage stuff"). I guess I'll go out on a limb and specifically ban really, really old stuff like actual Gregorian Chant too.

Ichbin Dubist
08-14-2012, 12:17 PM
Modes are not my strong suit, but I think the intro/verse parts of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" are in Phrygian mode.

I believe Dick Dale's surf instrumental "Misirlou" is in a double harmonic scale that doesn't fit one of the traditional modes.

Biffy the Elephant Shrew
08-14-2012, 12:20 PM
Everybody knows "Hava Nagila," right? That's in the phrygian dominant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phrygian_dominant_scale) mode, a/k/a the "Spanish or Jewish" scale.

Speak to me Maddie!
08-14-2012, 12:30 PM
I remember telling someone that an Enya song on that we were hearing was in Dorian. I can't remember which one or if I was correct. New Agey stuff would tend to lend itself better to unusual modes I think.

Speak to me Maddie!
08-14-2012, 12:34 PM
In addition to attempting to exclude modern or post-modern music that's peddled as merely a curiosity intentionally attempting to break modal trends (hence "John Cage stuff"). I guess I'll go out on a limb and specifically ban really, really old stuff like actual Gregorian Chant too. Well even excluding John Cage and other avant-garde composers and chant I can still list tons of stuff in the classical tradition that use "unusual" modes. I thought you just referring to pop music and such.

Sicks Ate
08-14-2012, 12:38 PM
Can someone explain modes real quick? It's been a few years since music theory class, and I'm not even sure I grasped it then.

Jragon
08-14-2012, 12:38 PM
Well even excluding John Cage and other avant-garde composers and chant I can still list tons of stuff in the classical tradition that use "unusual" modes. I thought you just referring to pop music and such.

Remember, I'm not talking about "using" odd modes, that's not uncommon. What is, I think, more uncommon is a song that's written almost entirely in another mode.

But sure, if it's that common let's limit ourselves to blockbuster film music and pop music.

(I'm especially interested in the locrian mode, because it's so dissonant).


Can someone explain modes real quick? It's been a few years since music theory class, and I'm not even sure I grasped it then.

You know how you have a "key" in music? You know how that key can be major or minor? You know how which it is depends on what note/chord it starts on, and the typical prograssion of chords from one to another? Well, major and minor are just modes. Major is the ionian (1st) mode. Minor is the aeolian (6th) mode of that same scale. Dorian is 2nd, Phrygian is 3rd, Lydian is 4th, Mixolydian is 5th, and Locrian is 7th. They're characterized by the chord progression and starting notes of the song. There are also, as noted above, modifications of these modes like "Phrygian Dominant" just like you can have "harmonic minor" etc.

Frylock
08-14-2012, 12:55 PM
I wish I could think of some specific examples, but I can't. I'm almost certain some popular music that wears celtic influence on its sleeve is in the Lydian mode. (Assuming I'm remembering right that Lydian is the one that goes from F to F if played on the white keys.)

Would music from a popular musical count? Isn't "Maria" from West Side Story in Lydian?

ETA: No, it sounds like just the first couple of bars is made to sound like Lydian.

Sicks Ate
08-14-2012, 12:58 PM
You know how you have a "key" in music? You know how that key can be major or minor? You know how which it is depends on what note/chord it starts on, and the typical prograssion of chords from one to another? Well, major and minor are just modes. Major is the ionian (1st) mode. Minor is the aeolian (6th) mode of that same scale. Dorian is 2nd, Phrygian is 3rd, Lydian is 4th, Mixolydian is 5th, and Locrian is 7th. They're characterized by the chord progression and starting notes of the song. There are also, as noted above, modifications of these modes like "Phrygian Dominant" just like you can have "harmonic minor" etc.

Oooohhhhhh. Ok, I get it now as much as I am able :cool:

Balance
08-14-2012, 01:16 PM
"Hotel California" is at least partially in phrygian mode, isn't it? It's got that Spanish flavor. I'm rather vague on the modes, though. I think maybe some of Loreena McKennitt's stuff uses phrygian mode, though not--oddly enough--"Beneath a Phrygian Sky".

Random note: The phrase "melancholy flamenco" went through my head no less than five times while composing this post.

Speak to me Maddie!
08-14-2012, 01:18 PM
I can't think of any popular song written in locrian. Its got a diminished 5th in its tonic triad, a sound that most people find unpleasant and that makes harmonizations very difficult. There are song parts in locrian. Metallica has several guitar solos in it. I'd love to hear a whole song in locrian that sounds good. But that's akin to saying I love to hear a song played on the bass harmonica that sounds good. The two may be mutually exclusive.

DCnDC
08-14-2012, 01:20 PM
"Spanish Caravan" by The Doors.

fachverwirrt
08-14-2012, 01:22 PM
I don't know how "mainstream" it is, but Scarborough Fair is in Dorian.

DCnDC
08-14-2012, 01:34 PM
Speaking of The Doors they used dorian mode quite a lot ("Light My Fire," "Riders on the Storm," "The End"), as did Carlos Santana ("Oyo Como Va," "Evil Ways" "Black Magic Woman," etc.)

I believe that Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" is in phrygian.

Tanbarkie
08-14-2012, 05:27 PM
This isn't pop music, per se, but the music of the "Halo" series of video games is almost entirely written in Dorian mode. Here's the main (and best-known) theme (http://youtube.com/watch?v=QaE0HHN4c30) from the series. Apparently, the composer was originally given little more than the words "adventure" and "ancient" to go off when coming up with the theme. A Dorian melding of monastic chant, eastern-influenced drums, and soaring strings fit the descriptor nicely.

picker
08-15-2012, 08:30 AM
Blue in Green by Miles is purely modal, all the tonalities are derived from the modalities of the melodic minor.

Most everything on Kind of Blue is modal, and also check out the album Explorations by Bill Evans.

Small Clanger
08-15-2012, 09:42 AM
This is what's known as a modal tune...

Which means I play a wrong note every now and then.

Going beyond modal, Frank Zappa sometimes used the whole-tone scale - which basically sounds wrong over everything :)

Off the top of my head a typically um... interesting example is the guitar solo from Sheik Yebouti Tango.

BigT
08-15-2012, 01:15 PM
I don't know if it stays that way throughout, but Louie Louie starts out in Mixolydian, as its chords are I, IV, v, IV, repeating over and over. In C that would be C, F, Gm, F, hence C Mixolydian.

Then again, Mixolydian is so common that it's practically cheating.

Gagundathar
08-15-2012, 01:20 PM
I came on here to mention the late great Frank Vincent Zappa.

WordMan
08-15-2012, 06:06 PM
You know how you have a "key" in music? You know how that key can be major or minor? You know how which it is depends on what note/chord it starts on, and the typical prograssion of chords from one to another? Well, major and minor are just modes. Major is the ionian (1st) mode. Minor is the aeolian (6th) mode of that same scale. Dorian is 2nd, Phrygian is 3rd, Lydian is 4th, Mixolydian is 5th, and Locrian is 7th. They're characterized by the chord progression and starting notes of the song. There are also, as noted above, modifications of these modes like "Phrygian Dominant" just like you can have "harmonic minor" etc.

Isn't an easier way to say this: you know how a Major scale = Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do? Well, what if you started with Re = Re Me Fa So La Ti Do Re? That's a different mode. And so there is a mode which starts on each note - from So to So, from Ti to Ti, etc. so the gaps in the scale fall in different places.

At least that's how it was explained to me...but as for songs that use them, other than the stuff on Kind of Blue I have no clue ;)

alphamatix
08-15-2012, 08:39 PM
Wiki says Paint It Black is in chromatic minor but I'm too lazy to verify this or check if it qualifies under the conditions of the OP.

Small Clanger
08-16-2012, 04:39 AM
...but as for songs that use them, other than the stuff on Kind of Blue I have no clue ;)
OK, the Tom Lehrer quote didn't help then :)

Some explaining. A modal piece of music will only use notes (for tune and chords) belonging to a given mode. “Traditional” songs, y’know Cole Porter, Hoagy Carmichael, Lennon/McCartney, Barry Manilow ::shudder:: use notes from all over the place. Although they’ll be an obvious key they will modulate temporarily to other keys. So a song in C major will use some (in keyboard terms) ‘black’ notes, and chords borrowed from other keys. Some writers (we’re looking at you Becker ‘n’ Fagan) and jazz types like to pile on the modulations until you can’t make it through a whole bar without multiple changes. Which leads to...

Sometime (in the fifties, you do the googling) some jazz guys got tired of playing over changes all the time and decided that (for example) This piece is in D dorian. All the way though, start to finish. No changes for us thanks.

I guess that rock musicians* probably found modes by accident, I doubt that Pink Floyd sat round in the studio and decided that Careful With That Axe Eugene should be modal. They just based it on a moody scale. They definitely didn’t with Set the Controls… ‘cause that was a Roger Waters tune (go on Rog, what mode is that in?)


* Those that use modes at all, and I mean the old school not the modern educated bunch, If Radiohead or Muse use modes (don't ask me) they know exactly what they're doing

gaffa
08-16-2012, 11:37 AM
I'm totally at a loss about the technical aspects, but Todd Rundgren's song "Don't You Ever Listen" is a 12-Tone pop song. He demonstrated it during his guest professorship lecture at Indiana University.

A musician friend was very amused the first time he heard Madness' "House Of Fun" which is composed of "forbidden" changes.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Best Topics: pronounce boehner peel zucchini shortest jury deliberation fucking contest deep knee bend george hayduke books tcb tattoo meaning mayonnaise raw egg thomas guides dental record database j element sell grit why is s rank better than a how many calories does pho have can you get wood cut at lowes how much does change weigh penalty for putting something in mailbox british shilling to dollar walmart garden center associate job description funny responses to who are you taking child out of country why do you get hot and cold when sick can you drive from north america to south america sims 2 freetime expansion pack