Monday, December 12, 2011

Subtle, but AWESOME!!!

Been busy playing The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword recently and I noticed something that is really cool about the music component of this game.  When you play the harp, it actually plays harmonies that fit with the environmental object music.  It changes with the harmonies as well. 

So for anyone interested in doing a transcription of environmental objects, you can do a quick recording while Link is playing the harp to get a clear harmonic picture of the object.  I can’t wait to use this in my analysis of the game’s music… when I get around to it (only a dozen Zelda games to get through before I can start to think about this one).

Let me say I also appreciate that when Link plucks the harp during the specific harp moments in the game, the animation is sensitive to the rhythm and pitch of the object.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - The Ballad of the Goddess

In honor of the release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword today, I bring you an analysis of this theme. What is known now as the Ballad of the Goddess is the first harp song learned in the game, and also the theme that has been used for all promotional material leading up to this release. It is a beautiful piece, and harmonically very interesting.

(Update: 11/9/13 - had to find new youtube videos, so the notation may not match with the music, but the harmonic profile and melody are still the same.)

Here is a quick melody and bass line with a harmonic reduction I wrote out.  I’m 99% sure I got it right.
For those who have been reading up on Skyward Sword, you might have already heard that this melody is a mirror of Zelda’s Lullaby.  But I want you to see clearly that it is not just a pitch mirror, but a rhythmic mirror as well:

Pretty cool!
But really, the more interesting element of this object is the harmony.
There is an element of this object that really plays into a term that I am going to start using and developing as I continue my analysis, called the ZELDA SOUND.
The Zelda Sound started with the first game for the series and continues to this day and is evident in this object.  The Zelda sound is a particular way that the game’s composers have used mode to create harmonic variety in the music.  First look at a roman numeral analysis of the Ballad of the Goddess (don’t worry, I break it down below):
So the piece is centered around D as a tonic.  Can we call it D Major or D Minor?  That is hard to say.  Which chords in this analysis are minor?  Just the tonic chords?  The composer has borrowed from D major to have a predominantly major sonority with a minor tonic chord. 
Many of the objects in the Zelda series will liberally borrow pitches from parallel modes to create a sound that is distinctly Zelda.  Also there is a trend to use non-typical chords to fulfill a common function.  So, measure by measure, here is how I analyze this object:
For those who have been following by blog, you might notice how I hear the end of the object.  I see this object as transitioning from d minor to A major, and the A is emphasized by the “Mario Cadence.”  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click hear to read my article on the “Mario Cadence.”
After 25 years, there is a whole lot to talk about with this music.

Map Music: SMB3 – World 5

I love looking at the map music objects.  Because of their brevity, you can really dive deep into each object in a very short amount of time.

Notice that with this object, our second pulse wave track is significantly lower in pitch, requiring the use of a bass clef for notation.
The big question here is what key are we in????  Looking strictly at this object it is actually unclear.  In a later post, perhaps I will begin to examine some of the objects surrounding this one and looking at overall style to make a deduction, but right now we can either operate in the key of F (alternating V-I progression) or the key of C (a I-IV motion).
What I really love about this object is the heavy swing feel and the bass line, which steals the “melodic” element of the object.  Notice also that there is not a strong pulse on beat 1 of any of the top two lines and the bass only gets it on measures 1 and 3.  The harmonic motion between the two chords creates an overall pulse with significant downbeats on measures 1 and 3.
This is also the only object so far to have an introduction riff.  Why do you suppose the riff was included?  Well there are two possible explanations and I will leave it to you to determine which one or if both have any plausibility:
1) The introductory riff is included to give us a sense of pulse.  Since there are very few emphasis on the strong beats of measures, this riff allows us to feel this rhythmic dissonance by informing us as to the location of the meter.
2) This introduction draws our attention to the C major harmony as tonic with the non-pitch rhythmic introduction serving as a surrogate rhythmic dominant resolving to the tonic.  We can think of it as the end of a drum fill that resolves to the first measure of a new phrase, which is where tonic typically lies.
Now there is a thought… rhythms resolving… maybe there is somewhere I can go with that!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Map Music: SMB3 – World 4

Eight measure, short and sweet.  The object is harmonically simple as well, a textbook I, ii, V, I progression. (The melody does have some interesting use of non-harmonic tones…)


This is a great object however to talk about the rhythmic or metric complexity.  This simple eight measure object contains many layers of rhythmic activity that really can be quite interesting to examine.

Going smallest to largest, we will start with our eighth note layer. This is the shortest note value in the object and one which many ears are drawn to on first listen.  It is emphasized by the alternating octaves in the base and the rhythm of the white noise line:


The quarter note layer can also be heard in the bass line, considering each octave interval as one unit, but is also emphasized in the drum set (bass drum and snare):


One layer up, is the half note layer.  This relaxed feel is most obvious in the melodic line, but is also reinforced by the drum set line (considering the bass/snare as one larger unit):


The whole note layer is felt in the measures.  There is a larger sense of pulse at the unit of the measure created mainly by the time signature of the piece.

A double whole note, or two measure feel, can be felt in the harmonic rhythm  The harmonies change every two measures.  This remains true for the entire object if you consider the Cadential 6/4 and the Dominate chord on the last two measures as one harmonic function.

Lastly, there is a larger four measure pulse as the object is felt with a strong arrival on m. 1 beat 1 as well as m. 5 beat 1 (with the rather dissonance C# leading back up to the D).

One simple eight measure object includes rhythmic/pulse layers all the way from the eighth note to the larger four measure feel.  With everything in between included.  Remarkable!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Adventures of Link Analysis: Town Music


This object is relatively straight forward.  There is occasional modal mixture with the infrequent use of the F minor chord. 

The brief trip to Eb at the end of the object is perhaps the most interesting segment.  I am a little disappointed that the only chords we get in this key are dominant chords and we never get a firm Eb.  I would argue against a key change here, but the key relationships between C and Eb are interesting for us Riemannians (it is a stacked transformation: parallel then relative).

The most interesting harmonic shift is between the last two chords of the object.  A V7 in Eb moving to a V in C.  This is an amazing voice leading phenomenon that seems to parallel the key relationships between these two. Since we are going from the V in the key of Eb, to the V in the key of C, we have to perform the transformation in reverse (relative then parallel):

So our base triad the first chord it [Bb, D, F]

R[Bb, D, F] = [G, Bb, D]
In a relative transformation, the chord is transformed into its relative key.  So in the case of Bb Major, it is transformed into G minor.  This is done by having the top note moved up one step. If the chord were a minor chord and being transformed by a relative transformation, the bottom note would move down one step.

P[G, Bb, D] = [G, B, D]
A parallel transformation takes a chord and transforms it to its parallel major/minor by moving the third a semi-tone in the appropriate direction.

Now, the seventh of the chord, A, does what it naturally wants to do, drops to the G.  That release of tension combined combined with the smooth voice-leading in the rest of the chord makes this key transition smooth as butter.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Map Music: SMB3 – World 3

Slightly longer object than the World 2 map, World 3 (water theme) contains eight measures with a cut-time feel:


This one perplexes me a bit.  Each of the three pitched lines seems to focus in on a different pitch.  The bass line reduced works out as follows:


A simple pattern around a tonic C, emphasized by a chromatic descending line and typical 7-2-1 motion at the cadence.

The upper voice tells a different story, seeming to favor centering around A (quasi-schenkerian reduction):


Notice how the primary pitches shift rhythmic focus in the second half of the object.

Lastly, the middle tonal line uses chromatic grace notes to emphasize a line similar to the bass line, but around E as the tonal center:

image i

If you put these three reductions together, it makes:


Which makes NO SENSE!!!!!!

Ok… so if you take in a bit more information, ignore the top line and just look at the base line and the ornamented second line, you are left with something that you can hold onto harmonically:


So aside from measure 8, all we have is a slow decent upwards, and a return downwards… like the ebb and flow of the tide (wink wink).  Measure 8 establishes our tonic by using the leading tone triad to lead us back to C. 

So what about that melody line?  Over this interpretation, it is emphasizing the sixth over the bass in the first four measures, and then adds a seventh onto three of the chords in the last four measures (turning the chord in measure 6 into a dominant-seventh).

We could make a case for bi-modal, some quasi-Bartokean method, or bring in some other theoretical excuse for the melody line, but it works.  It does not feel dissonant, but it does make the whole object very interesting, and one of the reasons we typically do not get tired of hearing this map object when playing the game.

One last note about this object.  Remember, this is the map music for the Water Themed land.  Listen to the water music from the original Super Mario Bros.  Do you hear any similarities to this object? The chromatic lower-neighbor that characterizes this object’s melody is also very prevalent in the original SMB Water Theme.  Coincidence?  Doubtful.

You would almost think that the same guy wrote both of these objects… oh wait…

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Map Music: SMB3 – World 2

Two measures… that is all there is to this object.  But there is a lot of interesting information in these two measures!

First off, what key are we in?  Are we in a key?  Does it matter?!?!?!

Of course it matters!

Our ear is drawn to F as our tonic or central pitch.  Notice the bass line repeating the F and leading into it with a chromatic ascent.  Also the top voice always brings us back to F, first with the descending third, then with the semitone ascent.


Now that we have established F as our center, we have to deal with the tonality.  The first measure can be identified as minor, with the E natural used as the leading tone back up to F to solidify our root.

You can see the mirror used between the top line and the bass line, a decent of a minor third followed by an ascent. Provides a nice contour for the object.


What about the second measure?  It contains a B natural, not native to any mode of F.  There are two ways you can look at it.  Locally, this B natural serves as the leading tone back up to the fifth of the key.  But taking the whole sonic picture out of context, where else do we hear such a sound?  Blues!  The F blues scale contains both Bb and B.


It is also worth noting that, by respelling the accidentals in this object, the minor thirds become augmented seconds, a sound we attribute to the harmonic minor scale.  This sound is always associated with the exotic.  While I’m not going to posit a semiological argument here, the fact that this map is a world of desert sands and pyramids could be the reason these intervals were included.

Multiple levels of modal mixture, intervals interpreted multiple ways, semiology, a firmly established tonic… and I did not even touch on the rhythm.

Two measures… who would have thought could be so interesting!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Map Music: SMB3 – World 1

Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced the world map to us, an concept which was used again in Super Mario World and similar games, and has recently come back to us in New Super Mario Bros.

The World 1 map is probably the most recognizable of all the world map objects.  This one is just twelve measures (depending on how you transcribe it).

I chose to write the tune in 12/8 time, however, it could be transcribed in 4/4 with an indication to swing the rhythm. 


Super Mario Bros. 3 made use of the mysterious fifth sound channel.  This channel is a PCM channel (pulse-code modulation) which was able to take sampled analog signals and convert them into a digital sound.  SMB3 used this channel to incorporate a more realistic sounding drum set, complete with bass, snare, and toms.  The white noise channel is still used in the same manner as before, to provide a rhythmic backdrop.

There is a conflict between the two rhythmic lines.  The white noise line (line four) is setting up a nice four pattern that seems to compliment the rhythm of the three pitched lines.  However, the PCM Channel (transcribed on line five) seems to be setting up a large feel and more accurately emphasizes when the melody changes pitches. 

So how do you hear the piece?  Does it have an overarching two beat feel, or do you hear a lively four pattern?

And why twelve bars and not a full sixteen?  That would make a much better period.

Harmonically, it is also interesting that they are able to emphasize C as the root of the object, yet there is no emphasis on a dominant harmony.  The first and last phrases are centered on C and the middle phrase is centered on F.  Someone might even mistake this object as an F centric tune, but our ears tell us that C is the root pitch (the B Natural gives it away).

Lastly, notice that the bass line chooses to touch on the relative minor of the respective harmonies emphasized.  That would be a perfect place to drop down to the dominant, but the composer choose to stop short at the submediant.  It gives the object a nice color and does not seem so repetitive.  It really sounds like it could and should go on forever… and it will if you do pick a level.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

8-Bit Zelda Title Themes: A Comparative Analysis

This post was originally intended to be an analytical look at the Title music from The Legend of Zelda: The Adventures of Link, but in doing the analysis, there is just too much to discuss when looking at these two objects together.  As a refresher, here is the Title Music from The Legend of Zelda:

… and the title music from The Legend of Zelda: The Adventures of Link:

The LoZ title music is structured in the following format:

4 measure intro | 6 measure bridge | 8 measure Phrase A | 12 measure Phrase B

In contrast, the LoZ:AL title music breaks down as follows:

4 measure lead in | 8 measure intro | 4 measure bridge | 8 measure Phrase A | 8 measure Phase B

There are some similarities here.  Each object contains two primary phrases of music, with an introduction and a bridge from the intro into the main melodic statement.  On first listen, these two objects appear to have very little in common…

… however…

If you look at the harmonies implied in the introduction phrases, you get the following (harmonic rhythm is one chord per measure):

LOZ – Bb | Ab | Gb | F
LOZ:AL – G | F | Eb | D | G | F | Eb | D

Roman Numerals: I – bVII – bVI – V (– I – bVII – bVI – V)

Each of these objects is built on this descending sequence of chords through a modally mixed scale.

Each object uses this progression differently.  In LOZ, the pattern is used again at the beginnings of both Phrase A and B, but then moves to different related harmonies. 

LOZ:AL is entirely based on this progression.  Phrase A emphasizes I, using bVII as a dominant functioning chord, and Phrase B alternates between bVI and V. 

These harmonies are ingrained in the harmonic language of music written by or inspired by Koji Kondo.  I could reference other examples here, but I’ll save it for another day.

Now listen to the two objects again.  Can you here the remarkable similarities?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Super Mario Bros. 2 Analysis – Ending (Part 2)

Six months later and we finally get the epic conclusion of this analytical mini-series.

Well, I’m not sure how epic a conclusion it is, but we will make the best of it!

SMB2 Ending

This is a pretty straight forward excerpt.  There is a nice passing motion between the V and IV chord on the third line represented by a bVII, though functioning only as a passing motion.  Also, there is a nice sequence descending from V to ii early on in the excerpt.

What I want to draw your attention to here is the last eight measures.  Why do you ask?  Well the progression alternating from bVI to I ending in a secondary dominant half cadence is not new.  It may not sound familiar, but with a little bit of chord analysis, you will soon see:


This is the third formal section of the original Super Mario Bros. theme.  The exact same chord progression in the exact same key, with the same harmonic rhythm.

Intentional?  Maybe.  Pretty Cool? Absolutely.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review: Reale’s “Chaos in the Cosmos”

The first article I want to take a look at was recently published in a new journal based out of Germany.  This music journal ACT focuses on the relationship between music and performance.  Steven B. Reale published an article entitled “Chaos in the Cosmos: The Play of Contradictions in the Music of Katamari Damacy.”

This article was very interesting to me.  First off, the game examined is not one I would consider first for an analysis, mainly because the qwerty, cutesy nature of the games initial appearance.  However, fans of the game will be very familiar with all the contradictions in the game, from the King’s attitude towards his son and his subjects vs. the generally happiness that seems to pervade every angle of the game.

The article begins with an overview of the game’s plot and examination of some of the contradictions that occur in the story and dialogue of the game.  He also uses this point to examine the kawaii culture of the Japanese and how that plays into the game design.

The rest of the article focuses on examining the various music elements of the game.  He traces the use of a particular tune throughout many of the different music objects in the game, and also examines the reinterpretation of certain tunes.  He comments on the juxtaposition of acoustic and digital music throughout and gives us a great overview of the music throughout this game through an analytical lens.

The resulting conclusion of the analysis looks to paint a picture of the games contradictions as it is embodied in the music, from the terrible vs. kawaii, digital vs. acoustic, and overall right vs. wrong.  Steven’s article takes us much deeper into a game that on the surface does not seem to offer as much as is actually there.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Blast from the Past

IMG_2414I visited the Orlando History Center this past weekend.  They are hosting a special exhibit called “Games People Play” going through the history of video games.  Sadly, I was disappointed by the latter half of the exhibit.  I was hoping for more detailed exhibits on significant moments in games past.  The first three exhibits were fun though.  They had a working pinball machine from 1966, called Central Park made by Gottlieb.

What does this have to do with game music analysis?  Well not much.  This game has two sounds produced acoustically (not electronically!).  There is a bell that rings every time you score points.  For every multiple of 100 pointes, the monkey on the backboard rings the bell you can see in the picture.  The two bells are tuned very dissonant to each other and both have a lot of overtones.

I was intrigued by the sound of the score reaching 100.  An score-hungry player would be focused on the playfield and the ball so much that he would not have much of a chance to see the score board.  The use of a sound indicator at every 100 point mark gave the player some indication as to his progress in the game.

It goes to show that sound has been used in games very early on as an indicator to the player of an event or situation the player would want to be made aware of.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Changes coming!

So I have been away from analysis for a couple of months due to some other projects I have taken on.  However, recent events have gotten me excited about this blog and all the analysis I want to share with you.  The most exciting of which is an article I have published in a new academic journal in Germany: ACT, zeitschrift fur musik and performance.

Before I tell you about that, I would like to let you know what is coming around the corner (some of the changes you can already see).  I will be adding a pages bar at the top here with various resources the study and appreciation of game music theory.  This will allow me to get rid of all the extra fluff at the bottom of the page here and give a closer look at some of the terminology and analytical tools I use here or have come across.  Right now, you can see that I’ve posted a page with a list of books and articles discussing game music theory, with links when available.  This list is in its infancy and will grow extensively over the next month or two.  If you have a reference you’d like to add, you can comment below and I will include it.  I have many references already to add that I used in some of my articles and thesis but will be doing so when I have the time to format them correctly.

I will be finishing up my SMB2 series and will start on some other topics which I hope you will enjoy.  I will also be doing some reviews and commentary on game music theory publications as I come across them.  Until then, here is an the abstract to my article “Thematic Unity Across a Video Game Series” (you can read the whole article here):

Composer Koji Kondo’s music for both Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1984) and The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo, 1986) is among the most recognized video game music ever written. Through the use of motivic and prolongational analysis, this article demonstrates how Kondo created a unity across the entire Zelda franchise, while making each game’s score unique by examining one musical element, the overworld theme, from each of the main entries in the Zelda series. Schenkerian analysis is used to identify structural and motivic relationships between the various themes. This article concludes with an examination of semiotic implications of this analysis and its impact on other as-pects of the Zelda series and game music analysis as a whole.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chromatic Harmonies in Pac-Man

EDIT: Due to the original YouTube video being removed that this post was originally based off of, this post may be a bit confusing. I will attempt to get the music object notated and added to this post to make it easier to follow.

Yes, I said it: Pac-Man!  Not a game one would study much for music, since there is so little to be found in the game, but if you stop to look, you never know what you may find.  Below you find the introduction music from Pac-Man (at 0:20), which I am calling the “Game Start” object.

What I found was the interesting chords heard in the “Game Start” object.

Looking at the whole object, Roman numerals would make it I-bII-I-V7-I in B Major

Now there is a bit of logic to this if we dig deep enough (or I could just be making it all up).

In this case, the bII functions a bit like a dominant.  We can hear the E pulling down to the D# (E being the only diatonic pitch in this bII chord).  This allows us to establish B as our tonic pitch before hearing the implied V7 chord in measure 2.

On beat three of measure 2, we get ever so briefly an E over an F#, implying a V7, which re-enforces this idea that E is serving a tonally defining feature until the A# is heard at the very end of this object in the ascending passing motion between V7 and I.

So little music, but so much to uncover.  While I am primarily interested in analysis, a music historian might be interested in tracking the influence of such tonal devices through music of the 8-bit era.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The “Mario” Cadence

I will start off this post by saying that this cadence was not invented nor first used in Mario, however, it is found all throughout the music of Koji Kondo and others who were inspired by his music.
The cadence in question, is the one pictured above.  The motion of bVI-bVII-I.  The example above is given in C major with rather arbitrary voice leading.  For those of you who have memorized all your part-writing rules, you will notice this progression is nearly impossible to write without violating a convention or two (when writing in four parts).  You will notice from all the examples below, ascending parallel 5ths and Octaves are very common when writing out this progression.
In my master’s thesis, I briefly discussed the use of modally inflected harmonies used as substitutions for more traditional harmonies.  The following paragraphs are taken from that thesis, Examining Non-Linear Forms: Techniques for the Analysis of Scores Found in Video Games (Texas Tech University, 2009):
Walter Everett’s discussion of tonal systems in Rock music provides a great explication of the use of modal inflection in the language of popular music. He discusses six different tonal systems that he believes are prominent in the tonal systems of Rock music. The system that is dominant with the composers discussed here is his third system: “Major-mode systems, or modal systems, with mixture from modal scale degrees. Common-practice harmonic and voice-leading behaviors would be common but not necessary.”[1] This system allows for the substitution of chords from modally inflected scale degrees to function as their diatonic counterparts would.
For example, the music of the composers examined below frequently employ the aeolian bVII chord functioning as a substitute for a more traditional dominant chord, such as V or vii°. The bVII can be heard as a dominant chord because it retains the motion from scale degree four to scale degree three in a bVII-I progression. This is the same voice leading motion that governs the voice leading in the V7-I motion. The bVII removes the leading tone, but creates momentum through other voice leading tendencies.
We see the bVI lead often to the bVII in cadential motion. Björnberg acknowledges this cadential motion as frequently "replacing the iv-V-i cadence of ‘regular’ tonal minor.”[2] We see it often replace the IV-V-I cadence of “regular” tonal major as well. Not only that, but we also see an example of bVI alternating with I. Both of these are normal functions of a vi chord: substitution for the IV chord in a predominant function, as well as the expansion of a tonic area. The bVI makes a good substitute for vi because it retains the tonic pitch and interval relationship in size (though not quality). Its third relationship to tonic allows it to continue to function as a tonic embellishment. It functions in the cadence because it allows for a descending third progression from the lowered third scale degree. These modal chords retain the function of their diatonic counterparts, and can be understood as functioning like those chords, even though some of the voice leading conventions are removed or altered.
The most well-known example of this cadence in video game music is found in the Overworld Object to Super Mario Bros., hence the moniker “Mario” Cadence:

This particular cadence is used also in the fanfare for the end of each level:

In the last post, I showed this example of the cadence in Super Mario Bros. 2:

Used as a common device for fanfares in the Mario series, we now see it used in Super Mario Bros. 3 Airship Victory Fanfare:

This harmonic language was not restricted to the Mario games from the NES era, as we can hear in the Dire, Dire Docks object from Super Mario Bros. 64:
Harmonic Progression: I | bVII | I | bVII | bVI | bVII | I

In fact, much of the A section of this object follows that progression.  When the bVI enters into the progression, the sense of cadence, or at least tonal center, becomes solidified.
Finding this cadence all throughout this music makes us wonder about its power and how it works.  It lacks a clear leading tone and dominant/tonic relationship, yet it draws our ears towards tonic in a way that no classical cadence does.
Cruise Elroy posted on this cadence back in 2008, which can be viewed here.  He does an analysis of three Ocarina songs from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which have this cadence in them, and also shows us an example of this cadence in Super Mario Galaxy.
For now, this progression will be coined the “Mario Cadence” and will be identified as such until better nomenclature is developed or found.

[1] Walter Everett, “Making Sense of Rock’s Tonal Systems,” Music Theory Online Vol. 10, No. 4 (December 2004),
[2] Alf Björnberg, “On Aeolian Harmony in Contemporary Popular Music,” Typescript,

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Super Mario Bros. 2 Analysis – Ending (Part 1)

This object is in two parts, but there is so much to discuss about the first part that I am splitting up into two posts.

As a refresher, here is what the object sounds like:

Now that you have that in your inner ear, lets dive into the music, shall we?


This object is full of interesting harmonic shifts.  Right from the beginning, we notice the composers use of the bVII as a dominant substitution.  There is also a presiding C pedal throughout the opening from Measure 1 through Measure 8, until the unmistakable dominant chord in measure 8 is heard.

Measures 5-7 present an interesting shift of harmonies through chromatic voice-leading.  This motion connecting the a minor (vi) chord to the d minor-seventh (ii7) is accomplished through descending half step motion and one diatonic neighbor motion (C-D-C in m. 5-6).  This allows for some harmonic instability while maintaining a good sense of voice leading and interest in this three-part object.

The final cadence of this excerpt is also interesting, and one which I will devote a future post to, but it is a very popular cadence in Mario music from the first game up through Mario Galaxy.  This “Mario Cadence” consists of taking the Submediant and Subtonic chords from the parallel minor and cadence on a major tonic.

There are some distinctly classical elements to this object as well.  The chromatic voice-leading from m. 5-8 embellish what is a textbook chord progression ending with a cadential six-four motion into an imperfect authentic cadence.  This part of the object could be described as a contrasting period:

A: Measures 1-8
Ends in an Imperfect Authentic Cadence (melody ends on Mi, not Do)

B: Measures 9-18
2 Measure extension through sequencing.  Ends in a Stronger Cadence than (A) since the soprano ends on Do.  I would argue that the bVII serves as a convincing enough dominant substitution that this is infact a stronger cadence than the one before it.

Analysis of Part 2 of this object is forthcoming.  There is a dramatic change in register and style.  Also look forward to an examination of the “Mario Cadence” as well as some thoughts on Semiotics and Video Games.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Super Mario Bros. 2 Analysis - Boss

Now do a Harmonic Analysis…


Not that simple, is it?  The biggest challenge is to figure out which note in the second voice is the chord tone, and which one is not.  Lets look at the possibilities for measures 1-2:

[Upper Note is Non-Chord Tone] We have F#, D and A.  A perfect D Major Triad.

[Lower Note is Non-Chord Tone] We have F#, Eb(D#), and A.  The spitting image of a D# diminished triad, or F# diminished seventh.

If you follow this logic out, you have these tow possibilities for the progression:

imageProgression one is an alternation of Major and diminished triads.  Progression two is the alternation of Fully-diminished and half-diminished triads.

The fact of the matter is that neither of these options is satisfying.  This object hinges on the dissonance created by the half-step when combining these two option.

No description really does these chords justice.  They are set classes (0147) and (0136) alternating.  One certainly has a more “Major” quality to it while the other is more diminished sounding, due to the quality of the intervals present.

Either way, great way to represent the conflict of a boss battle, buy having the most dissonant interval define the quality of the sound.

And for those fans of Video Game Music Remixes: