"Chicago has effectively become John Luther Adams City" | Bleader

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Chicago has effectively become John Luther Adams City"

Posted By on 10.27.10 at 05:38 PM

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So sez Marc Geelhoed and Alex Ross; the latter will interview the composer tomorrow at Northwestern in advance of his Dark Waves being performed at the CSO.

Speaking of Alex Ross, I have a Critic's Choice in this week's paper for his appearance tonight at Stop Smiling. I highly recommend his new book, Listen to This, especially if you haven't been following his writing in the New Yorker. Here's my favorite part, on Radiohead's "Creep"; it's a good example of what Ross brings to the table as a critic:

What set "Creep" apart from the grunge of the early nineties was the grandeur of its chords—in particular, its regal turn from G major to B minor. No matter how many times you hear the song, the second chord still sails beautifully out of the blue. The lyrics may be saying "I'm a creep," but the music is saying, "I am majestic." . . . When Beavis of Beavis and Butt-Head heard the noisy part, he said, "Rock!" But why, he wondered, didn't the song rock from beginning to end? "If they didn't have, like, a part of the song that sucked, then, it's like, the other part wouldn't be as cool," Butt-Head explained.

"Creep," as Butt-Head must have noticed, was the first of many Radiohead songs that used pivot tones, in which one note of a chord is held until a new chord is formed around it. (In the turn from G to B, the note B is the pivot point.) "Yeah, that's my only trick," Yorke said, when this was pointed out to him. "I've got one trick and that's it, and I'm really going to have to learn a new one. Pedals, banging away through everything." But a reliance on pedal tones and pivot tones isn't necessarily a limitation: the Romantic composers worked to death the idea that any chord could turn on a dime toward another.

Here's the song, for comparison.

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